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Filtering by Tag: Chris


Cindy Maddera


I was almost twenty years old when I finally lost my virginity. ‘Lost’ is a funny way to phrase that. Gave away, willingly let go of, out grew, donated. Let’s go with willingly and enthusiastically let go of my virginity. Letting go of my virginity in the back of a car with some high school boy just wasn’t an option for me. I was not desirable to high school boys. Mom brought some of my senior year pictures on her last visit. Michael was looking through them and said “Oh…you’d have been in trouble if we’d gone to the same school. I’d be all over this.” I just quietly nodded my head, but what I wanted to say was “not true.” I knew guys like him in high school and they’d be interested for about two minutes until I opened my mouth and said something truthful and honest. So while all my high school girlfriends were having sex or had had sex, I was reading books about sex.

And promoting condom use.

Then in college, I met Chris. Five years older and experienced. He’d lived a life before committing to college. And he was not enthused about being my first sexual partner. Virgins are work. There’s all these preconceived notions of what that first time will be like. Will it hurt? Will I get pregnant? Should it be super special with roses and candles and a fancy hotel room? Chris was unwilling to cause me any pain. So I willingly gave away my virginity in stages until one day, it just happened. In every one of those stages, Sting’s Fields of Gold was playing in the background. I hear any song from that album and I’m immediately transported to Chris’s dorm room. We’re laying on his twin bed, made up with his original Star Wars sheets The room is dark with just the tiniest amount of light peeking in through the window blinds. Sometimes we’re talking. Sometimes we’re silent. Sometimes we’re even laughing. That album would be playing the first time we said “I love you” to each other.

I remember one evening around the fire pit at Misti’s old house. Losing virginity stories were going around the campfire. When I told my story everyone just sort of shook their heads and Misti said something like “well done, Chris.” I recognize that my first time was not a typical first time experience for most women. I recognize that the relationship I had in general with Chris was not typical. Fortunate. I have been fortunate.

I never made promises lightly and there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left we'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

For a while, not long enough, but for longer than I should hope for, we walked in fields of gold.


Cindy Maddera

Chris blindly reached his hand over to grab his favorite pen, except the pen was not there. Chris felt certain he’d left that pen there on the side table. He continued to blindly pat around on the table, searching for his pen. Finally he got up and looked over the top of the side table. He picked up his books and papers that he had stacked there. Still, Chris did not see his pen. He frowned as he set the books and papers back onto the side table and scratched his head. He was almost certain that was the last place he saw that pen. Maybe it rolled off the table, Chris thought. So, he got down on his hands and knees and started rummaging around on the floor, looking under the table and that corner of the couch. He was really starting to frustrated when Cindy walked into the living room. “What are you doing?” she asked. Her question startled Chris enough to make him jump and then bump his head on the bottom of the couch. Chris replied through gritted teeth “I’m looking for my favorite pen.” Cindy tilted her head to one side and said “which one?” Chris sighed heavily, “You know. The metal one with the orange ring around the top. I know I left it on this table, but it’s not here.” Cindy walked over to the coffee table and picked up one of Chris’s journals. She opened the journal and extracted Chris’s favorite pen. “This one?” she said as she held the pen up. Chris smiled and reached to take the pen from her hand. “Yes! That one!”

It’s a story I wrote on Saturday, in the Fortune Cookie journal. The prompt had something to do with writing your hearts desires or dreams or something like that. It’s the first time since I’ve started writing in that journal where I used Chris and I as characters. The story is fiction, but could have easily been something that really happened. You did not have to know Chris long to know he had a thing for pens. And journals. I have a superpower that I mostly never mention and that’s an ability to just know where stuff is. This is why it was so weird that I couldn’t find my scooter key after Chris died. I might not know exactly where everything is, but I can usually give you three locations of possibility and whatever it is you’re looking for is guaranteed to be in one of those three spots. I’m not saying that I can do this all the time, but it happens just often enough for some people really close to me to notice my abilities.

It’s quite possible that I only thought I was writing a fictitious story about a moment in the day and life of Chris and Cindy. That’s the thing about these memories. As time passes, the memories start to feel like dreams or wishes. No one here got a chance to really know Chris or even meet him. When I talk about my life before, the life when Chris was still alive, it sounds like I’m talking about a pretend life. Sometimes I feel like Christopher Robin explaining to a grown up about the existence of his best friend, Winnie the Pooh. Chris is some imaginary person. If only I could just walk down the street to Madame Foster’s and hang out with him. Oh, the shenanigans we’d get into or the movies we’d watch. You know what’s dumb? If that was at all possible, that is exactly what we’d end up doing. All those questions I have for him? I’d completely forget to ask any of them. The answers wouldn’t matter anymore.

I’ve been working hard at being present in this current life. When I find myself in a small-talk kind of conversation with a stranger and they ask me how long I’ve lived in Kansas City, I’ve started saying that I moved here about seven years ago (or is it eight?). I don’t say “My late husband and I moved here about seven years ago.” I’ve stopped including Chris in my story of the move to Kansas City. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s just easier, less confusing. Leaving him out of it ensures that I will not get that look of sympathy that usually makes me cringe and I don’t have to answer any follow up questions regarding how he died or what life is like as a widow. I don’t have to explain anything. For a moment I can pretend to be someone else, someone without a sad backstory. Only for a moment. Eventually I slip up and say something about a late husband.

I’d make a terrible undercover agent.


Cindy Maddera

In the very early morning hours on Thursday, well before my alarm went off, I had a dream. Chris was in this dream. He just showed up and he was alive and well. The two of us were in Portland at one of their food truck halls. Someone placed a crepe with ice cream and fruit down on the table in front of us. I looked at Chris and asked “Did you order this?” He shook his head and replied “Nope.” So we looked around and noticed the people at the crepe place were waiving at us. They had sent it over to us for free. We smiled and waived back then dug into the crepe and we were talking and laughing as usual. Then I said “Wait. How is it that you are here?” Chris shrugged and said “I don’t know. I’m just here.” I nodded my head and said “That’s cool.” We took a few more bites from our crepe and then I said “Oh my gosh! We totally forgot to tell Todd that we were in Portland. I’ll text him and tell him to come meet us.” Chris said “Okay.” and then left to find the bathroom. Todd showed up while Chris was in the bathroom, so I said to Todd “Okay, listen. This is going to sound really weird, but Chris is here. He’s alive and everything and we sat here and ate on this crepe. He’s in the bathroom now, but I’m serious. Chris is really hear.” Except Chris never came back from the bathroom. So I was left trying to convince Todd that I had not completely lost my mind.

By the time I woke up, Todd still was not convinced that I hadn’t gone totally mental. Usually when I have dreams that involve Chris, I wake up crying or angry or both. This time I just woke up. I did want to text Todd and tell him “no I’m not crazy; Chris was here.” I refrained because I know that you should never send a text or email that obviously proves you are crazy. That way it can not be used against you later. Like in a court of law or something. This dream did not leave me feeling sad. Actually it was probably the best dream involving Chris that I have had since he died. I don’t remember what he said or if he actually really did say something, but it felt like he was talking and we were chatting about just regular stuff. Chris has never just chatted with me about regular stuff when I dream of him. He pretty much says nothing at all and the dreams are not pleasant. I also did not walk away from this dream and spend the rest of the day clouded in sadness. Though I did harbor a craving for crepes with some ice cream and fruit for the rest of the day.

On March 14, 1998 Chris and I said “I do” in front of my parents, Stephanie and a couple we knew from college. The ceremony took place at the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas. That was twenty one years ago. I like to think we had a good run while it lasted. Sure, his hoarding tendencies drove my insane and I could get really frustrated with his lack of action. I tried to be more understanding with the later because I know that most of his inaction was due to self esteem issues. We are our own worst critics. But for the most part, we listened to each other and were equally matched intellectually. We spoke the same language and felt comfortable saying what we meant to each other. Our marriage was such a stark contrast to the marriage I was exposed to growing up. It almost didn’t seem like we were married so much as we were best friends who happened to have sex with each other and lived together. So, I guess I’m glad I let Chris talk me into getting married.

I do miss him.

I’m not crazy. Chris was here.


Cindy Maddera

It’s happened twice now. Michael and I will be in bed, either starting or in the middle of sex and a song will start playing that reminds me of Chris. It was that Mumford and Son’s song that hit first, the one that Chris used to sing like a muppet. I closed my eyes and willed the memory of his ridiculous muppet impression to go away. Not forever. Just for that moment. The next one was the Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize, which is one of the songs we played at Chris’s service. It was a little more difficult to will those memories away. In both instances, I feel like I deserve a God Damn Oscar for my performance. Also, crying while having sex is never a reassuring thing for your partner. I don’t tell any of this to Michael or talk about it or mention it. The man already refers to himself as second Darin, even though he’s nothing like the first Darin. Besides, Michael has his own demons to fight with. I try to be respectful of this and not add to his discomfort. I am not so much bothered by Chris’s presence in the bedroom as Michael would be. Michael is just more conservative when it comes to sex. I figure Chris is enjoying the peep show.

Sometimes it feels like I am in two relationships. One with Michael and one with a dead guy.

I made it through the first ten days of February without having a complete meltdown. I told Dr. Mary on Tuesday that I feel like I am working really hard at tuning out the memories of the bad part of Chris’s final days. I’m choosing to send that focus to the good memories. I told her about teaching my yoga class to one student last week, on what would have been Chris’s 48th birthday. It would have been so easy for me to cancel my class that evening and spend my night sulking on the couch. Instead, I pulled myself together and went to teach one of the best classes and I continued to keep myself busy and moving. I subbed a yoga class on Saturday. I went grocery shopping and managed to get those groceries into the house. Our front yard has been a literal ice rink since Thursday. On a slope. Every morning, getting to our vehicles looks like every YouTube video you have seen of people slipping and sliding on ice. I parked my car last night at the top of the drive, put it in park and set the emergency brake. My car slid backwards down the drive six inches. Michael was in the process of parking his truck behind me. I did not hit him. This time.

These nudges or hauntings from Chris sometimes make me wonder if he thinks I’m forgetting him. As if he’s still a conscious being or trapped in a closet somewhere. It would kind of be great, but also super complicated, if he ended up just being trapped in a closet somewhere. Chris and I were married for fourteen years. He has now been gone for seven years. Half the amount of time we were married. I am not forgetting him. I still talk to the jerk every single day and he still says nothing in return. I am just finding better, healthier ways of coping with the fact that he’s never going to say anything in return. Last night, I got in my car to head home. I started the engine and the first sound to greet me was the opening theme to Star Wars blaring from the radio. Starting right from the beginning note. The Bridge let the song play for a good two minutes before the DJ broke in to announce their Oscars Episode. I almost muttered “leave me alone” but then I shook my head.

At least I was in my car and not naked in bed with another man.


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.


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. 




Cindy Maddera

Some times, as I make that long drive from Oklahoma City to KCMO, I start sobbing. I say some times because really I only do this when I've made the trip alone. It's just too many hours of endless road time trapped with my own thoughts. I know that I could listen to books or podcasts, but my brain still wanders off. I start crying. I cry about how much has changed. I cry about how much has not changed. I cry about how I never feel like I spend enough time or see all of the people. I cry because I feel guilty for not making enough of an effort to see all of the people. I cry because I'm tired and probably slightly hungover. I cry because I've stretched myself too thin. I cry because Chris isn't with me. 

Old life. New life.

I spent a weekend visiting friends in OK recently. I drove all the way down to Chickasha first, helping Misti with the finishing touches for the Listen Local event at our college and meeting Amy for dinner. The trees on the oval are now towering beauties. Buildings that were once closed are now open. I don't recognize any of the professors in the biology department. I ran into my old chemistry professor by chance and he told me he had retired. He new me instantly, told me I still look the same. Maybe that's what happens when you step back onto the campus. You morph back into the person you were then. I certainly saw everything as it was then. Same sidewalk Chris and I walked  a billion and one steps on as we traveled back and forth between dorm rooms. I spent most of that weekend with friends I would not have had if it hadn't been for Chris. Friends that Chris made into our family. He's the glue. I've noticed places where that glue has started to weaken and I feel responsible, like I need to reenforce those weak spots. I could be better at that some how. 

I am a filer. I talk about getting things organized, but I already have things organized. I just feel they could be organized better. My photos fall into the need better organization group, but if you ask me for the instruction manual to the fridge I can pull that right out of the filing cabinet for you. I like to compartmentalize shit. I don't just do this with the tangible. My life before Chris, my life with Chris, my life after Chris...these all have their own shoebox stacked inside my brain. Things happen, like earthquakes or bicycle wrecks, and boxes get jumbled and messed up. That shit spills out. [Off topic but speaking of earthquakes. I either had an encounter with a poltergeist or an earthquake while I was sleeping over at the Jens.] Some times the things I put into boxes do not stay in their boxes. Compartmentalization is hard. Thus the sobbing.

I came across an envelope containing Chris's driver's license and a death certificate as I was cleaning out the mail catcher on my desk. They were gathered in one place with the intention of fixing his Facebook account. A year went by. Then another. Time passing. I picked up that envelope and thought maybe I should finally do something about that. So I did. Chris's Facebook page is now a memorial page. This is me, trying to reenforce some weak places. 


Cindy Maddera

I came home from work to find the picture sitting on my home desk. Blurred and faded. Chris in the act of impersonating a jelly fish or reenacting a scene from the Simpsons. It could be either of those things. I recognize the room. It is the room where we all spent half our days hanging out, the student government office in Trout Hall. Is it even still called Trout Hall? For some reason I don't think so. I vaguely remember them moving the student government office too after we all graduated. God, this image is from a hazy lifetime ago, back when we were all so young and not so jaded by life's disappointments. That school was our Hogwarts. I don't think any of us even thought about what we'd do next, when we finally graduated and had to leave. 

I think we were all surprised and a little shell shocked when we realized that we would one day leave that place to stumble through to the next thing. Some times I wonder and dream about what it would have looked like to never leave. Not necessarily staying on as students, but moving into teaching. The only time teaching has ever crossed my mind was if I could teach there. I have no desire to do it otherwise. I wonder what we would look like, how the group of us would have changed if we had all stayed put. Would we just be older versions of our idyllic selves? Chris and Amy would have turned the UFO Independent Study into a yearly event. I would have taken over Dr. MaGrath's campus gardening project. Jen would be dragging a group of art students around to various places to sit and draw. Basically we would be the lost boys to Chris's Peter Pan. Never growing up.

Was I his Wendy?

I remember how it felt like we were not grown ups. Not even when we moved on from graduate school and entered the so called 'real world'. We still seemed to be just playing at adulthood. Like it was a game or a theater production. We watched cartoons and collected toys. We had hand-me-down everything from cars to couches. We still scavenged home decor from thrift stores and garbage dumpsters. The idea of being able to buy a house was so far out there that we thought it would be easier to buy land on the moon. We bought scooters and lived with his mom. We were children right up until the day we moved to Kansas City. We moved in an actual moving van for the first time, not a horse trailer borrowed from a neighbor. We bought a lawnmower and we bought a house. Our couch was still a hand-me-down couch and our furniture was still an eclectic mix of thrift store and IKEA, but it was our house with a garage and a fenced-in backyard. 

We were better off never growing up. 

The Cabbage was the one to find that picture. It had been tucked inside a book and had fallen free when she pulled the book from the shelf. There is always an odd tug and pull that I feel whenever my current life runs into my past life. Michael and the Cabbage are always respectful of my past. They placed that picture on my desk instead of back in the book it fell out of because they thought I might want it. Which was nice and sweet. But it still feels odd for them to run across such a random and totally honest picture of Chris. Like a science fiction show when dimensions in timelines cross paths. For a moment my timeline gets twisted into a loop and the now meets up with the then ever so briefly. Just enough to feel the oddness of it before it flips back into place. Like a twisting rubber band. 

We are better off never growing up. 




Cindy Maddera

Chris turned forty one and then died one hundred and three hours later. This is the first thing I remember when I wake up on February sixth. It is the beginning of the losing. If this were a normal day and there were no such things as tumors or cancers, Chris would be turning forty seven, but this isn't fantasy land. Tumors happen. Cancer has been a thing since the dawn of man. No one lives forever. I can't even image what we would be doing to celebrate his birthday this year. Movie? Dinner? Maybe have Amy, Roger and Charolette up for the weekend? Traci, Chris and Quinn? Maybe we'd go there? I don't know. The only birthday of Chris's that we celebrated after our move to KCMO was the one before he died. It had only been a year since our move. 

One year. 

2011 was a year of great change. 2012 was the black hole that sucked up all of that greatness.

I keep thinking that there really is going to be a day when I don't dwell on this day. Facebook reminded me to share a Thankful Friday post from February sixth where I wrote about being thankful for the time Chris and I had. I read through it and rolled my eyes. What a load of sugar coated bullshit. Of course I am grateful for that time, but come on. I'm the Pollyanna of grief. Oh look at me! The person I expected to grow old with died before we were old, but I'm doing so great! Sometimes I think this attitude I have where I try to show everyone (mostly myself) that I'm doing just fine, diminishes Chris and what we had. I mean, if it was all so great, how is it that I've been able to move forward so quickly. What I don't always tell you or anybody is just how much I have to work at staying in forward motion. 

Do you watch This is Us? I don't know why Michael and I watch it. It makes us both cry every damn episode. The latest episode was the hardest for me but at the same time, a little validating. Twenty years later and each family member is still grieving. Each member of the family spends the anniversary of their Dad's/Husband's death dealing with it in their own way. Mom makes lasagna. Kate watches a home movie. Randall goes all out for the Super Bowl, Dad's favorite thing. Kevin...usually does nothing, but that changed this year. We see him start his own tradition. I feel like each of those characters represent my years of grief. I made everything jambalaya the first year. I got lost in all of our old photos. I haven't gone all out for anything or started a new tradition. Those are for years to come I guess. 

I have removed 90% of his junk from this house. Mostly garbage. Some toys. All of his clothes with the exception of a T-shirt that I still wear and his old bath robe. I still wear that too because it's big and soft and he didn't really wear it but once or twice. I never got around to fixing his Facebook account. It requires a photo ID and I've put all of that stuff someplace so organized that I don't remember where. Also it's for selfish reasons. The daily onslaught of messages to his timeline is too much for me. So I've let it slide. I'll fix it eventually. I owe it to the others who loved him. Just not today. Today I am too busy being split in two between the life I had and the life I have. 


Cindy Maddera

It was when the woman made eye contact with me that I realized I had been staring. She was sitting in a group of four at table by the window, just diagonally from where I also sat with a group of four. I lifted my menu up and looked away, but I continued to glance over at her while trying to stay focused on the conversation happening around me. It's just that she looked just like my college roommate, Jenese. I was too timid to go over and say anything because the woman looked just like Jenese from 1998 and I guess it's possible that she hasn't aged, but I would have expected some aging. I sent Amy a text telling her that I just saw a woman that looked exactly like Jenese from 1998. She replied that maybe it was her and I should have asked. Stranger things have happened.

Then I got to wondering about what ever happened to Jenese. A quick Google search brought up nothing. No Facebook. No Instagram. No twitter. I felt bad about not staying in touch. Jenese and I were paired up into a room of four girls our freshman year at USAO. By the end of the first semester, one of those girls had dropped out. By the end of the second semester, Jenese and I were the only two left in that room. Eventually I would get my own room when I became a resident assistant and Jenese would move into a single dorm room, but we remained friends. I guess I stopped noticing her presence when Amy, Chris and I moved out of the dorms our senior year, but I could have sworn that she was at many of our breakfast night feasts. The more I looked for her online, the more it bothered me that I had let myself fall out of touch with her. What was she doing now? Is she teaching? Did she get married? I bet she's a mom. Jenese was mom material. Did she still live in Oklahoma? 

Then I wondered if she knew about Chris. She had been there when Chris and I started dating. She had witnessed it all really, just like all the others in our group. Did she know that Chris is no longer with us? I think about these things on occasion. I wonder if people we've lost touch with know about Chris, people like Jensese. Even Melody, the woman who owns the coffee shop we loved in OKC. We sent her a Christmas card every year and she'd put it up on cork board above the sugar and cream counter. Did she know about Chris? I can imagine scenarios where I run into these people and they ask "Where's Chris?!" and I have to say "Oh, he's dead." Then I have to watch the look of shock and confusion on their faces as they try to make sense of what I just said. Sometimes the person I'm having the imaginary conversation with even cocks their head to one side like a confused puppy. "Did you just say, 'he's dead'?!?" Yeah...yeah, I did. 

Any way, Jenese if you're out there some where reading this, email me! We should catch up! 


Cindy Maddera

Michael and I use a calendar app called Cozi to organize dates because it is a calendar app that we can use on multiple devices. When I add something to the calendar through my iPhone, it shows up on Michael's Android (or whatever phone he has). Cozi also pulls from a Random Act of Kindness calendar and we get little reminders to do things like buy a homeless person a meal or be nice to a strange and then it reminds us to take out the trash. Sunday, Michael said "According to Cozi, tomorrow's Laugh Out Loud Often and Share Your Smile Generously Day." My reply was "That sounds about right because tomorrow would be Chris's birthday." Meaning today. Today would be Chris's forty sixth birthday. 

I am usually bombarded with Facebook notification to wish Chris a Happy Birthday! or someone has wished Chris a Happy Birthday. That's not happening this year because I have managed to fuck up Chris's Facebook account. Back in December, maybe even Christmas Day, I discovered that Chris's Facebook account had been hacked. I know his account was hacked because Chris sent me a message through Facebook. Getting an email from a dead person is creepy and not at all helpful during the holiday season. Any way in my attempts to hack into Chris's hacked account, I ended up locking his account. I thought I had gone through the process of unlocking that account, but I noticed a few weeks ago that Chris was no longer in my friends list. When you search for him, he doesn't exist. Which actually makes sense because Chris doesn't really exist any more. Chris is dead. I am working on getting his account unlocked so we can at least turn it into a memorial page. 

I woke up at 3:00 AM Sunday morning to the Cabbage screaming. I opened the door to find her standing in the living room, yelling at Michael to wake up and crying because she had a nose bleed. She looked like she had just stepped off the set of the latest slasher film. I took her into the bathroom and cleaned her up, calmed her down and got the nose bleed to stop. I put her back to bed and then went through the process of trying to wake Michael up to go lay with the Cabbage. After the fifth time of telling Michael about the Cabbage's nose bleed he finally looked at me and said "Well..I didn't know any of this." He got up and went to the Cabbage's room. Later in the day, the Cabbage squirted soap into her eye during bath time which brought on another round of screaming along with a nose bleed. Micheal started getting mad because he couldn't tell why the Cabbage was screaming because she was incoherent. I made him step away and once again found myself cleaning her up, calming her down (so I could rinse out her eye) and stopping a nose bleed. Once she was dressed, she sat whimpering while I brushed her hair. She let out a loud whining "Am I going to die?!?!?". 

My first instinct was to tell her the truth but then common sense clicked on. I figured that it wasn't a good idea to tell a six year old that, yeah...someday, you're going to die. Instead, I explained that soap in the eye is not life threatening, it just stings a whole lot. I continued to brush her hair in an out of body sort of way, letting my brain float somewhere far away. It's a practice I perfected during the summer when their complaining would reach a limit I could no longer bare. I would imaging getting in my car and just driving away somewhere. Wow, my life sure is different then it was five years ago when I was frantic to make Chris's birthday a good birthday for him, seeing as it was his last and all. He never complained about it, but Chris was not one to complain. The guy had a tumor on his liver, blocking his bile ducts for more than two months before he would finally admit that his pain was bad enough to go the emergency room. Maybe that's why I have a low tolerance for complainers and this entry feels a little derailed.  

Laugh out loud often and share your smile generously. I might be struggling with that today, but on most days I think I share my smile with others. I admit that I don't laugh out loud as often as I used to, but I still laugh daily. Some time I purposefully think back to a moment where Chris said or did something that made me fall over with laughter. I never have to think too hard, because it was pretty much a daily occurrence. I take a moment to contain a fit of giggles over the memory and then I go about my day a little lighter.   


Cindy Maddera

There was a break for lunch during the conference and Sarah and I walked up to Chinatown. Along the way, we stopped for a berry ice cream crepe from a food truck that was in a line of food trucks that made us regret our lunch choice. We made it to the Chinatown Gate where we stopped to take pictures and to check the time. After checking the time, Sarah and I decided to continue up the street. The street running up through the Chinatown Gate is the touristy side of Chinatown. This street is lined with tourist trap trinket shops and stores filled with elaborately gaudy crystal/glass chandeliers and sculptures. 

I didn't mind this walk. I knew that I would be back and that this was just a toe dip into Chinatown. We passed by shops with their wares spilling out onto the sidewalk. Racks of postcards. Tables of plastic snow globes. Racks of cards with names written in Chinese. I spotted Chris's name in passing and snapped a quick picture. It was later, while I was sitting in on talks about cell migration, when I looked back at the pictures I'd taken during that walk to edit them and maybe post some of them that I noticed it. That quick snap of Chris's name written in Chinese included me. There it was. Chris and Cindy, sitting right next to each other on the card rack. I whispered "fuck you, Chinatown" under my breath. 

Later, Heather and I were driving around California in the rain. Our plan was to some how sneak some of Chris's ashes onto Skywalker Ranch. As we buckled up, Heather asked "is Chris with us?" I paused with an eyebrow raised and then remembered that she meant Chris's ashes and replied with a chuckle and a "yes". I thought for a minute that she was asking if Chris was present on a spiritual level, hovering somewhere in the car. The image of it and the idea of Chris as a ghost made me laugh. You know Chris would be the most silly, ridiculous ghost. He'd be the kind of ghost that would make a slurping sound every time you went to drink something. Because that's the kind of thing he did when he was living. I'm pretty sure I heard is Dr. Zoidberg impersonation as I hopped out of the car to hastily dump his ashes at the gate of Skywalker Ranch. Heather pretended to read a map because we knew there had to be hidden cameras watching our shenanigans. It's the worst leaving of Chris picture I've taken. 

Is Chris with us? Fortunately and unfortunately. Even when I'm not thinking about it or expecting it, Chris shows up some how in some tiny way. It is equal parts lovely and hateful. The true definition of bittersweet. Mostly, at least lately, things seem more sweet than bitter. 


Cindy Maddera

Michael has gotten real hipster with his beard and mustache. If he uses enough beard wax, he can twirl his mustache up into a curl on either side of his face. Yes, it's a little bit ridiculous, but I cannot express how much I love it. It's a little bit hilarious and a little bit sexy. Lately he's been thinking about suspenders and adding them to his work clothes. He wears dress clothes to work with a tie and everything. Over the weekend, he bought himself a set of suspenders and this morning he put on his blue and white checked shirt with his pink paisley tie and his new suspenders. I can't even. I came undone. I mean, usually I get a little turned on when he's all dressed for work, especially when he rolls up his dress shirt and his forearm is showing, but add the suspenders and well...I of course returned the favor by saying something about slowly taking all of that off him and rendered him speechless. 

That's something I'm really good at. Michael can talk quite a bit, but I can take a handful of words and say them just right as to turn him into a stammering rendition of Porky Pig. 

Then, I get a phone call reminding me of a life before this one. I sent in paperwork weeks ago to close out an account that Chris had had. I didn't know about the account until recently. I had supplied them with a death certificate and a notarized family tree starting and ending with me and Chris. Yet the place still had to call and ask me if I had obituary. I went blank. Obituary? I stumbled around online looking for one. I finally came across one that was in the Chickasha News. It contained a bad photo of Chris and a short paragraph announcing the memorial service. The whole thing made me wince. I can't believe I didn't write or have someone write and submit a proper obituary when Chris died. I didn't even think about it at the time. I didn't really think about a whole lot of anything at the time. 

"Couldn't pay my respects to a dead man. Your life was much more to me." - Neko Case

I could only imagine what the woman on the other end of the line thought as I sent her a link to this homely obituary. I wanted to tell her that she should have heard the things his friends said about him at his service or to go read through his facebook page. We all thought (still think) the world of Chris. We were just too surprised by his death to write about him. When I hang up the line, I'm perturbed that they would even be calling me to ask about an obituary. Don't you think a death certificate is enough? What about that whole depressing little family tree I sent in? The woman did ask about that. "No children?" said in a voice dripping with pity. I wanted to respond "thankfully, no." but instead I just replied "no." A widow is sad enough on her own without the added element of children.

This is almost a typical day. There's always a trigger. Some triggers are worst than others, like that phone call or when that one Mumford and Sons song starts playing. I see Chris, throwing his head back and opening his mouth wide to sing like a Muppet. This image is replaced with an image of Michael making a bad motorcycle sound as he drives us down the road and then watching him crack himself up over it. I'll read some political crap in someone's feed on Facebook and think about how Chris would write a response so sharp you wouldn't know you were cut until you noticed the blood and fallacy of your own statements. I always look at Michael when getting ready to leave a tip because he does the math without even really thinking and it is always correct. Chris genuinely laughing at something, probably the Simpsons. Michael laughing while twirling the ends of his mustache. The memories I have swirl together with the memories I'm making.

It is not a bad blend of colors.  



Cindy Maddera

There it was. The Appalachian trail. I knew it was in Maine. I know the trail starts and or ends in Maine, depending on which direction you're walking. I just hadn't planned on venturing near any part of the trail. Too far north. Too far inland. Too little time. So I left Chris on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the first place the sun hits the US in the mornings. We shared a sunrise, something I can't remember doing with him when he was alive. Well, not unless you count that time we were attacked by the raccoon and sat the rest out of the night out at the table, staring bleakly into the woods and jumping at any sound. This spot was a nice spot blocked from the wind on a rock ledge that faced East. There was still a good portion of ashes left when we returned the next day for a stamp. Then Talaura and I got obsessed with seeing a moose. So we started driving West in search of moose, taking us into the mountain forest region of Maine. 

Talaura saw the sign for it first and asked if I wanted to stop, if I needed to stop. We were eating chili cheese dog flavored potato chips and they all started to gum up inside my mouth as I said no. Hot tears filled my eyes and I suddenly felt like I was drowning in a wave of indecision and self doubt. Why didn't I split my supply of ashes? Why didn't I check with Talaura ahead of time about going near the trail? Am I honoring Chris the way I should be? Am I doing the right thing? Then I started sobbing because all of it made me angry. Chris, the Appalachian trail, his stupid ashes, livers and tumors, my self doubt. And I shook with the struggle between pushing the sobs away and just letting them come. In the end I said "OK...OK tears, you get one minute. Sixty seconds. Then you dry the fuck up." I didn't make a bargain with myself. No ultimatums. I just let myself have a minute. 

I am constantly swimming in a pool of self doubt. I'm a good swimmer and I can tread water enough to keep my head out of water, but it's exhausting at times. I never see that getting out of the pool is an option. Instead, I see that I have three choices. I can keep swimming, I can stop swimming and let myself sink to the bottom of the pool, or I can lean back and just float. In that minute, I floated. When my minute was up, I started swimming again and this time, I swam to the edge and got out of the pool. I started thinking about my choice to leave Chris on Cadillac Mountain. It was a good choice. I left him in a good spot. I stand by that. This trip was not about the Appalachian trail and it wasn't the time for me to leave Chris there. I still believe the Appalachian trail is something Traci and I have to do together. I think this is the most confident I've ever felt about places I leave Chris. 

I suppose it's about time I got out of the pool since I've been in long enough for my fingers and toes to become all pruny. 


Cindy Maddera

I opened my Fortune Cookie journal to the next open space. "You will have a deep, meaningful conversation with an important person that will be life changing." I blinked at the prompt and tapped my pen against the paper. I set the pen down and picked up my phone, but then I set the phone back down because it was February sixth. I picked the pen up again and stared at the blank paper below the prompt. I was stumped. I didn't know if I should write something true or make something up. Girl meets the Dali Llama seemed too obvious. I made a sideways glance at my phone. I would not get on that sorrow train. I said this to myself as I once again picked up my phone to just take a peek to see if anyone had said anything about Chris's birthday. There was one "Happy Birthday" in Chris's timeline from someone I did not know. 

It was seven thirty in the morning. The day was young. I was sure that there'd be more birthday wishes to follow. I was curious about this first birthday message though. This stranger's "Happy Birthday!" seemed more like the kind you'd leave for a living human being. Maybe this person didn't know Chris was dead. Of course that's dumbs. How could this person not know Chris is dead? I'm in this limbo of feelings: sad that no one else has posted on Chris's timeline even though it's 7:30 in the morning and relieved that no one is making a big deal that it's Chris's birthday. I am slightly annoyed by this stranger's generic "Happy Birthday!" Way to make your birthday wishes so personal and heartfelt, Dude. I put my phone down and stopped trying to stalk a dead man, but I knew that I would end up checking Chris's timeline throughout the day. 

I returned my focus back to my journal. Conversation with an important person. The whole "important person" is a relative term to me. Anyone and everyone can be an important person at any given time. It just depends on the conversation and if this so called important person is saying words that you need to hear in that moment. I've had a number of deep, meaningful conversations with Terry in his backyard church. I consider Terry to be an important person, but that guy over there walking down the sidewalk would think otherwise. There was that time I gushed all over Brene Brown about how I was so dang happy, but that was less of a conversation and more of a vomit of emotions. After that, I learned to never admit just how happy I was. I could be happy, but I could not be stupid happy, because I learned that disasters follow those kinds of confessions.

In the end, I decided to write something honest, a conversation with Chris. I still want to talk to him. I want to know what he thought about Star Wars and how Deadpool will pan out. It would be nice if he finally told me what he wanted done with his ashes. It would be nice if he told me that he approved of the way I've handled myself in the years since he's been gone. I'd love to ask him who this guy was that left a Happy Birthday message on his Facebook timeline. I'd love to hear him say something that will make me laugh. He has not come to me in a dream in ages and maybe that's his way of saying "Move on. You will never know the answers to your questions." Except, I don't want to move on. I'm not ready to move on. I'll move forward. I have been moving forward. There's a difference. Moving on sounds like something you do after breaking up with a bad boyfriend. 

I know you're sitting over there reading this and thinking "Good God, are we going to hear her whine about her dead husband every year?!" Yes you are. So just assume that this blog comes with a warning label in February: Warning! Contains sadness and grief! May not be suitable for those not ready to talk about or are tired of hearing about death. It's going to be a topic around here probably every year around this time. Because that's when the memories of the horror of it all haunt the loudest. That's when I force myself to remember Chris as he was before he got sick so I don't remember the last morning. So I have the good memories clanging against the bad memories in an epic sword fight, poking my brain, my heart.

February is the worst. 


Cindy Maddera

I took Monday off. I needed a day of re-entry after our weekend trip, to do laundry and buy groceries and lay on the couch. Michael always wins the sleeping game on these trips, meaning I lost. I needed a nap. I used my couch lounging time to watch Wild. I'd read the book. The movie wasn't a surprise, but I still ended up crying with the main character as she dealt with her memories of her life and dealing with the death of her mother. "The doctors gave us a year. It's been a month." Cheryl Strayed says this to a nurse outside her mother's room as her mother laid dying of cancer. I hear ya sister. They gave us six months; it was weeks. Doctors are about as good at predicting life and death as weathermen are at predicting the weather. 

As I rubbed my snotty nose on my sleeve, I thought "Traci and I should hike the Appalachian Trail. For Chris." If you knew anything about Chris, other than his Star Wars obsession, you knew that he always wanted to hike the AT. He talked about it constantly and was always picking up some sort of camp gear with the intention that he would need it for his hike. Why else would I have ended up with half a dozen titanium sporks? We watched documentaries about the trail. We read books about the trail. One night we even had dinner as if we were on the trail, cooking up dehydrated meal packs on a camp stove. I say "we" because Chris included me in his plans for the hike even though we both new that hiking two thousand something miles was not very appealing to me. It was never the idea of walking that distance that turned me off. It was the weeks of carrying everything I would need on my back, the weeks of being dirty and the idea of attempting to poop in the woods. I barely can manage that activity when camping at a campground with actual toilets. I included Traci in this idea because before I came into the picture, Chris and Traci where going to hike the AT together. 

I had that thought of walking the AT and then I imagined what that hike would actually look like. The average time it takes to walk the AT from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia is six months. If you left Mt. Katahdin as soon as the snow melted, hopefully April, you could be in Georgia by Fall, just in time to carve a pumpkin depicting your travels on the trail. I get two, maybe three, weeks of vacation a year. My boss is cool, but I'm not sure how cool he'd be about me taking a six month leave of absence. But whatever. Let's say I could take off six (or seven, let's be honest) months of my life and put everything I needed in a pack on my back to walk my way through eleven states. While we're at it, let's say I convince Traci to do the same thing. Though convincing her would be almost as challenging as the hike considering she'd be walking away from her kid for six (or seven) months. Quinn is on the cusp of that age where hanging out with your parents is so roll your eyes Bo-ring. We could wait until he's fully into that stage before heading out and tell her that her absence will make him really appreciate her more. The prospects of being around a moody teen may be enough for her to dig out her back pack. 

I'd like to think I'd start off just fine. Walking is my thang. I walk all the time. I just don't walk while carrying a bunch of stuff on my back, but how much harder could that be? I know. I am not delusional. There's a scene in the movie where Cheryl makes it to one of the camp sites and a guy there helps her thin down her pack to something more manageable, a metaphor for dumping the stuff in your life that serves no purpose. I know the one thing in my bag that would weigh me down and make the daily hike more exhausting would be the bag of Chris's ashes. Human ashes weigh more than you'd think and they do not serve me well. That would be the thing to dump. I can imagine the two of us doing a lot of cursing as we hiked along. Cursing our tired, blistered feet. Cursing the mosquitoes and the rain. Cursing the endless sound of our boots making one step after another. Cursing Chris for leaving us to do this ridiculous pilgrimage with out him. 

Occasionally Michael talks about doing the AT. He's talked about doing sections of it a time like my Uncle Russell has done over the years. Sometimes I am included. Sometimes not. Sometimes it's something he wants to do on his own and I encourage this. The idea of Traci and I doing the hike for Chris is just a fleeting hallucination. Dump the things that do not serve you a purpose. I don't need to walk two thousand miles to dump the things in my life that are not serving me well. Our accumulations are on a constant loop. We collect. We collect stuff that's good and bad and eventually we get weighed down by those collections. So we purge. Collect and purge. Collect and purge. As long as it has nothing to do with my basement, I'm pretty good at purging. I don't need to prove to Chris that I can do something I never really wanted to do in the first place. I think that sentence is the bottom line or the line drawn in the sand. Crossing the line in this case comes down to figuring out if I'm living my life or trying to live Chris's life. I don't want to cross that line and I know Chris wouldn't want me to cross that line. We all have ways of figuring these things out on our own. Some people need to walk two thousand miles to do that. Some don't.

I fell like maybe I've already walked my two thousand miles.



Cindy Maddera

I am hesitant to say the things that I am thinking today. Chris would be forty four today, if he were still walking around on this planet. When I think of Chris's birthday, memories go immediately to his last one. I hate that.  Not that it was particularly horrible. Chris was surrounded by friends. There was everything jambalaya and cupcakes. There was plenty of laughter. It's just that all of us knew that this was his last birthday. It was a bitter sweet celebration. Instead of letting my thoughts travel back to that day, I will send them to a different birthday.

When we were in graduate school, we spent almost every Friday evening at Stonewalls. We all met there right at five o'clock. The first one there claimed a table and a pitcher. Chris's birthday rolled around and I decided to have a little surprise party for him at Stonewalls. It was of course Star Wars themed. I had a table cloth and plates and napkins all with Star Wars stuff on it. Even the cake was a Star Wars cake. The only thing I had to do was figure out a way for everyone else in our group to get into Stonewalls before Chris. I gave Tiffany the task of stalling Chris. She came up with some story about how I was pregnant and afraid to tell him. Why this was the story I have no idea, but I can imagine the two of them standing in the alley next to Stonewalls deep in discussion while all our friends passed by one by one to enter the bar. Finally, every one was there that needed to be there and Tiffany brought Chris into the bar.  We all yelled "SURPRISE!" and he was thoroughly surprised. Then I had to explain to Chris that I was not pregnant. We all had a lovely time drinking beer and eating cake for dinner. 

This year I'm not so sure that it is not a coincidence that Chris's birthday has fallen on a day that I choose to write about gratitude. I can look at this day with dread and sadness and depression. I can remember the last moments when things were at their worst or I can look at this day and reflect on all of the good times. The time for sadness is over. From the moment Chris passed on from this world, we have talked about celebrating the life he had. We do not celebrate with tears unless they are happy tears. We remember with joy the greatness, the laughter, and the love that was Chris. I am grateful for every birthday I was able to share with Chris. I am grateful to have been a part of this man's life. I am grateful for all of those people who love Chris. We were all very lucky. So say we all.

I am thankful for play time with puppies, time spent on my mat and cuddles on the couch. I am thankful for the warmer temperatures and weekend full of promise. And I am always, always, thankful for you. Here's to a wonderful weekend and a special Thankful Friday.


Cindy Maddera

Last night I dreamed that Chris and I were preparing for a big move. I interviewed with a strange group of people that reminded me of characters from Real Genius, but it was an amazing prestigious place and I was thrilled with the idea of working there. As we packed up boxes, Chris told me that he was dying. He said that he didn't have much longer and we needed to hurry and find me a place to live. The dream is a bit hazy after that. I remember walking with Chris, my hand in his. I remember us both being happy about the new job. I remember crying a lot and wondering how I was going to do any of this without him. 

It's funny that there are times still in my subconscious that wonders how I can go on and be after Chris. Obviously I am doing just fine and dandy. I guess sometimes when I'm having those Chris dreams, I'm looking for some sign or words or something from him to reassure me that I'm doing things right. I know that everyone out there would say "of course Chris wants you to be happy" and "he wouldn't want you to be alone". These are things that we think the dead would want for us living folk. The truth is I don't really know what Chris would want for me. We never discussed it. In those final weeks, we laid in bed talking and laughing about everything not important. We talked about cremation but not what comes after. That's it really. We didn't talk about how my life or what life was going to be like after him. For all I know, Chris is furious that I've moved forward so well, so quickly. Maybe not furious. Disappointed. Hurt that I could love another. 

As painful as these Chris dreams are at times, I'm thankful for them. I don't have them often. At the end of the day, I don't have much left of him but the version of him that comes to me in my dreams. In every dream there's a chance he'll tell me something important. There may come a day when he looks at me and finally says "Cindy, I approve of all of this". It's not that I need his approval really. It would just be nice to know, to really know, that he's happy for me. And not through some random sign like a scooter key. It would be nice to hear him say the words. I'd probably be happy with any words one way or another even if he's saying "I don't approve". Because this is a thing I know about Chris. He wasn't much for disapproval. It was more like whatever, it's your life, I don't really care. Any way. One day, whether he cares or not, he'll visit me in a dream and at least say "I'm happy for you". That dream will probably come the day I finally allow myself to be happy for me.

Happy Thankful Friday


Cindy Maddera

Last week I parked my scooter and even considered covering it up for the winter. It has just been too cold in the mornings for me to ride. But today, they are expecting above normal temperatures and I am riding my scooter to work. Perfect end to a not so perfect week. Riding in to work hasn't been too bad though. It's given Chris the gumption to get up and back to the gym and join my Thursday night yoga class. This is something that not only am I thankful for, but makes me happy. I have lots of plans for the weekend that I probably should share with Chris, but haven't. I want to go to the Farmer's Market, work in the garden, and make cheese, this on top of all the usual chores of laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning house. My biggest plan though is to take a nap at least once a day over the weekend.

Of course I am always thankful for the usual. I am thankful for you. Have a wonderful weekend!