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Filtering by Tag: stories


Cindy Maddera

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

I know. The word ‘meow’ says a lot.

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

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

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

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


Cindy Maddera


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

My Dad was a veteran.

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

That was his way.

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

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

To remember.


Cindy Maddera

I took the small square, slightly faded prints from the trip we took to Hawaii when I was six or seven. We must have made that trip soon after Janell had famously cut off all her hair because in the pictures, she sports a mop of close cropped jagged hair. All these years later and my mother will tell anyone who will listen how Janell had the most beautiful hair until she took a pair of scissors to it and ruined it. In the Hawaii pictures, the both of us are all arms and legs. At any given day of the trip, you will see one or the both of us wearing American Airlines T-shirts. There are blurry pictures of us standing in front of giant banyan trees or hamming it up on the beach. My swimsuit is the swimsuit my sister wore the summer before. I know this because I also have the small square print of the two of us playing in the rain. Janell is wearing that green swimsuit with the yellow ruffled top that I am wearing in the Hawaii pictures. 

We look happy. We look like we are having the best time. I remember having the best time. Vaguely. I remember in that foggy way that memories come back to you. There is one exception to our happiness. In every single picture that my mother appears in, she looks miserable. She doesn't even pretend to smile. Janell and I stand grinning with wide cheesy smiles while my mother stands just to the side with a look of pure annoyance on her face as if she'd rather be any where else but there. This is the first time I've come across pictures from that trip. In all the rounds of cleaning out the old house, I never looked through half of the rubber-made tubs of pictures. I didn't even realize pictures of that trip existed and now I almost wish that my foggy memories where the only mental photographs I had of that trip. 

So many of us tell our stories in pictures now. We are all peeping at each other's lives through a different kind of window, but it is no different than before. We still only see the life the other wants you to see. I only show the good moments with the idea that you just know that every moment of every day doesn't all look like that. It is harder to tell the whole truth of the story about ourselves. No one thinks to pick up the camera when their day has just fallen to pieces. I see more of this truth in the picture I take every day for my 365 day project mostly because I don't have the energy to do otherwise. Maybe that's why mother made no effort to hide her unhappiness in those vacation photos. After keeping track of two young girls, carting all the things that mother's end up carrying around with them, and putting up a man she was so unhappy with she was just too tired to pretend to smile or look like she was enjoying herself.

I remember a time when I didn't have to pretend for a photo, when I didn't need all kinds of energy for smiling and grinning. 



Cindy Maddera

I started a project early this year that involved organizing my pictures into some kind of an album with notecards and descriptions. I did four pages and the set all of it in the roller cabinet under the TV. It's been sitting there ever since. Meanwhile, the pile of pictures that need to be organized just keeps growing. Sunday morning, I got up and went through my usual Sunday morning routine: breakfast, CBS Sunday Morning, laundry. Whenever I would settle into the couch with a mug a of coffee, I'd end up with animals laying on me. Not such a bad thing, but they made it difficult to want to move. It was raining and dreary outside and it was just easier to turn the couch into a raft and play a movie. So that's what I did, but I also pulled out the photo project and worked on it some while I watched the movie. 

I started with a stack of pictures I had found while cleaning out the attic of my childhood home. They had been in the bottom of a box lid that was inverted and holding old bits of notes and mostly trash. I started to just toss the whole lid into my garbage bag when I paused and decided to flip through the debris. I was surprised to find these particular pictures in with a pile of trash. There was an old picture of my Grandmother, Nellie with her sister and one of Pepaw in his Navy uniform. There were several old square black and white prints of my brother when he was a child and three photos from his wedding with Katrina. There was one of all of us sitting around the dining room table. My Dad's parents, Mom, Janell, Randy and Katrina. This was before J and it looked like Thanksgiving. I recognized the Pyrex dish of sweet potato pie and the tan Tupperware pitcher that I am sure was filled with sweet tea. The table was blanketed with the red calico tablecloth that always adorned that table. It is present in the picture of me blowing out candles on my third birthday cake, another picture from the stack of salvaged pictures.

Then I came across a picture of no people. There's nothing written on the back to hint at where or when the photo was taken. I took a photo of it for Instagram and my mother later commented on it saying that it looked like the lake Pontchairtrain Bridge. When she said it, I knew that she was right. I figured that someone had taken it the year we traveled to New Orleans for Randy's senior trip. I have no memories of that first trip to New Orleans. I was way too small to form lasting impressions. Not like Disney Land. I was small then too, but I still have hazy images in my head of the Dumbo ride and our odd encounter with Donald Duck. I only have memories of stories told to me of that family vacation. My mother tells a story of how she made me a harness with a leash so she could keep track of me. She said that some old man yelled at her and gave her grief about putting her baby on a leash. He followed her the length of the French Quarter Market before she turned around and yelled back at him to leave her alone. 

That's the only story I know from that trip. I remember coming across a picture of the my brother, sister and I posing next to a cannon. My brother is sitting in the photo, his long legs made longer by the bell bottom jeans he's wearing, and he has his arm wrapped around my middle. It is obvious he has been put in charge of holding the toddler still for the picture. I know this picture was taken in New Orleans only because at the time of finding the picture, my mother looked over my shoulder at it and said so. Yet the picture tells more of a story than that. I suppose that is why I am drawn to photographs. Each one tells more of a story than just "we were in New Orleans" or "that was the time we visited your great Aunt in California."

I suppose that is why I feel such a need to get my photographs and stories in order. 



Cindy Maddera

When I was little, Mouse Soup was one of my favorite books. I read it over and over. Each story the mouse tells the weasel is funny and enjoyable, but my favorite line is in the beginning of the book. The weasel captures the mouse and takes him home to make mouse soup. The mouse tells the weasel "Wait! This soup will not taste good. It has no stories in it. Mouse soup must be mixed with stories to make it taste really good." I was thinking about the mouse and the weasel and mouse soup while I was making a pot of stew for dinner on Sunday. When I planned our meals for the week, I knew that Sunday was going to be a rainy miserable day. I couldn't think of anything more comforting than wrapping my hands around a warm bowl of hearty stew with maybe some cornbread on the side. It is something that I have done many times on days such as these my whole life. 

I remember winter evenings with bowls of hot stew and plates of cornbread. The fire would be going in the fireplace and I'd have my Strawberry Shortcake blanket spread out in front of the hearth. That's where I'd be, picnic style, watching something on TV and pretending to drink my glass of milk which I would set next to me so that Bitsy (our little terrier) could drink it for me. I will always link the meals my mother made us with the seasons like Taco Salad is summer and camping. Stew is winter, warmth and home. I don't know the origins of Mom's stew recipe. I assumed it was something she picked up from her mother. It's not a fancy soup. Meat, potatoes, carrots, bag of frozen veggies, bag of frozen okra because they never include that with mixed veggies, large can of diced tomatoes, Italian spices and some water. Mom would put all of this in a crockpot and cook it all day. I would walk through the door at the end of a yucky school day and smell the wonderful smell of soup as I pulled off layers of coat/scarf/hat. I was usually the first one home. I was probably what you'd call a latchkey kid but without the key because we never locked the door then. If it was locked, the garage door was always unlocked. Any way. It was a comfort coming home to a warm house that smelled of home cooked stew even if it was an empty house. Because the house wouldn't be empty for long. Dad would be home not too long after and then Mom and the three of us would fill our bowls and settle in the den. Sometimes Janel was there, mostly she'd be off doing teenage girl stuff though. 

These are the things I was thinking as I lugged my enamel cast iron stew pot out of the cabinet. I thought about the stories that would go in this pot to make it taste good. Something more than onions and garlic and potatoes and carrots. What's my stew pot story? I do not have a fireplace. The Strawberry Shortcake blanket is long gone. I do not need to pretend to drink milk and in fact rarely remember to buy any for Michael and the Cabbage. There is still the comfort of holding a warm bowl of stew in the palms of my hand, maybe even more so now that those bowls were made by Mom. I will admit to sneaking crumbs of cornbread to Josephine. The stew still fills the house with that oh so familiar smell of home cooked goodness. My stew pot story is not very complex. There is simplicity in the ingredients and in the eating and sharing of the meal itself. It is this simplicity in a complex life that makes this soup taste so good. 

Maybe I'll throw in some crickets next time for good measure (or not). Happy Love Thursday. 



Cindy Maddera

Earlier this week I had a work related dinner and I ended up sitting across the table from one of the guys that works in our office, but not in our department. We were talking about cars and I  mentioned that I had finally bought a new car just a few years ago. I said that after Chris passed away, my old car just didn't seem safe. Brian, the guy sitting across from me, knew a little of my story, but he didn't know the whole story. So he asked me about Chris and I found myself telling the story of how Chris died for the third time in the last two days. My first thought was "holy goats! how can I still be telling this story?!?" I mean, come on. The whole me being a widow is so passe. My second thought was "man, this story has gotten really easy to tell."

When I was telling Brian this story, I could hear myself explaining Chris's illness and death in such a matter of fact way, like this is no big deal. People go to bed with Food Borne Hep A and wake up with inoperable tumors on their livers all the time. Except I could see Brian turning slightly red as tears began to well up in his eyes. In that moment I knew exactly what he was thinking. He had done the math. We're about the same age. I was married to Chris for almost fifteen years, the same length of time Brian and his wife have been married. He's thinking that this story could easily be his story. I looked directly at him and said "I have zero regrets. I cannot look back at a day with Chris where we did not laugh. We were happy and yes it sucks, but it is an unchangeable and unfixable event. I had a choice. I could give up on my life too or I could honor Chris's memory by truly living my life now. And then I met Michael. I fell in love and I am happy. Every moment matters."

I said those things to Brian for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the honest to gods' truth. Every single word of it. In between times when life has been punching me in the face, I have had (still have) some beautiful, hilarious, happy moments over flowing with love.  My life has worked out in a very yin/yang sort of way.  Also, the poor man was on the verge of a melt down. He had not been prepared for the full impact of my story.  I was making an attempt to calmly and rationally extinguish that melt down. Maybe it was a little bit on the cliche side to say that every moment matters, but at the very least Brian went home to his wife and told her how much he appreciated the life they share. Without it being an anniversary or a birthday or some other holiday. 

I've said it before that I can not tell a story of how I came to this place without mentioning Chris. Terry pointed out Saturday night as we hugged for the millionth time while I was trying to leave the party, that all of this is because of Chris. The good parts and the bad parts. For a while there, I had to tell that story and end it with "it sucks, but I'm fine." Now I can tell that tale and tie it up with "I fell in love. I am happy."