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DAY 6: NEKO CASE & HER BOYFRIENDS, FURNACE ROOM LULLABY

Cindy Maddera

My Dad was a country music listener. When I say ‘country music’, I’m talking about the old time country music. Grand Ole Opry country. Roy Rogers and Dale Evens country. Saturday nights were for Mom’s homemade pizza and Hee-Haw. The day he found the classic country radio station on Sirius XM, he called me to tell me all about it because he was overjoyed that this station existed. Once, well before we knew he was sick, I took Dad to see Riders in the Sky at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. You might recognize their voices from Toy Story 2 where they performed “Woody’s Round-up”. Dad was so happy to be at this concert that it leaked out of his eyes. He was the one that gave me my appreciation for good country music. He taught me all about Patsy and Loretta and Johnny and Willie. He introduced me to Minnie Pearl and cowboy campfire songs. I had an appreciation for Dad’s music, but I did not care to listen to it. It just wasn’t my go-to choice of music, particularly in my youth. There’s nothing more embarrassing or annoying than your parents’ music when you are that age.

I came across Furnace Room Lullaby the year Chris died. It’s an album of Neko Case singing twangy country songs, each one resonating in some way with my state of mind. Every word in South Dakota Way could have been written by me in the days after Chris’s passing. I felt all the aching truth of grief in that song. Then I had to have Hooper put down and Set Out Running moved to the top of my anthem list.

And if I knew heartbreak was coming, I would've set out running. Past the city houses
And the ditches on the highway.

This album stuck with me as I entered the crazy world of online dating (Guided by Wire) and into the early days of my relationship with Michael (Twist the Knife). And I am always in the Mood to Burn Bridges.

So if you have moral advice, I suggest you just tuck it all away

This album didn’t just open me up to all things Neko Case, it opened my ears to that music my Dad loved so much. My appreciation for that genre has moved beyond mere appreciation. I now tuck a few songs into a playlist and seek out new artists with that old sound, artists like Margo Price and Yola and even Kacey Musgraves. I listen to this music and I think about my Dad’s western style shirts with the pearl snaps and his bolo ties. I think about how Dad had cowboy boots that he called “work boots” and a fancy pair of cowboy boots that he called his “dress boots”. The same was true for his cowboy hats. He had one for riding his tractor and one for fancy occasions. He had a way of getting as close as he could to things he wanted to do in life. He wanted to be a pilot and when he failed the physical to become one, he became an airplane mechanic. Those cowboy clothes and his music and his red tractor were Dad’s way of being the cowboy.

And I feel like I finally understand that.

RETURN

Cindy Maddera

We’d planned to take a bunch of stuff out to Michael’s Mom’s for the neighborhood garage sale on Saturday. The two of us spent the week sorting through the remaining collectables in the basement. Michael sorted through boxes and boxes of baseball cards. But when Friday morning rolled around, the weather report was predicting rain for all of Saturday. Michael called his Mom and cancelled. He went ahead and did the grocery shopping on his way home from work on Friday. So Saturday turned into one of those days where we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. Saturday was our usual day for errands and now we had no errands to run.

We went and got pedicures.

We headed over to the Westside neighborhood for lunch at a place we’d never been to before. Then we dashed across the street to a little shop selling Kansas City made t-shirts and antique jewelry. From there, we made our way over to the crepe place for dessert and ran into Kelli and her Groove Crew. As we sat, sharing a dessert crepe, we discussed what to do next. I said “why don’t we go down to the River Market Antique?” We hadn’t been down there in ages. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been back there since the last time Michael took me there about six years ago. Michael agreed that four stories of antique perusing was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday.

Michael doesn’t remember this, but this is where he took me at the end of our second date. The night before, we had had dinner at nice little farm to table place and then ice cream in Westport. Afterward, Michael took me to the observatory that sits on top of the Physics building at UMKC. He took me to see the stars. Then we laid on a blanket in my backyard, drinking wine and talking until two in the morning. He stayed the night and the next morning, he followed me around on my errands. Then he took me to River Market. That’s where I was when Chad called me to ask how my date with Michael had gone. I remember pulling the phone away from my ear as he laughed after I said “we’re still on the date.” Michael bought a giant wall map that day and I left with two prints, one a map of New York City and the other a map of the U.S. Those prints are framed and hanging in my bedroom. I sometimes look for my favorite spots in New York City and trace the length of Broadway as far up as I can. The map stops before I can get to Talaura’s house.

There is a booth at the antique market filled with bins of things like name patches pulled from uniform shirts and California Raisin figures. One bin is filled with scrabble letters and another filled with random game pieces. For a minute, I got lost going through the bin of name patches. I found a ‘Mike’ and a ‘Randy’ and a ‘Stephanie’. I put them all back in the bin and moved on but not before noticing that someone had taken game pieces and spelled out ‘2nd DATE’ and left it on a shelf in the booth. I smiled and thought briefly that maybe Michael had left that there. I asked him about it later and he confessed to not remembering that we’d gone to the River Market Antique that time. The message had been left by someone else. Someone on their second date. I guess rummaging around through booths of antiques and collectibles is a second date kind of thing to do.

I hope their second date was nice.

DAY 5: BELLY, STAR

Cindy Maddera

The truth is, I could write and write about albums that influenced me or that are linked to my memories. Soundtracks to life. Chris and I would spend hours listening to one CD on repeat. A few months would go by before we’d change it and move onto something new and different. I think there was a good solid three months where we listened to the soundtrack to Chess. I sang along with Elaine Page with a dream of maybe, just maybe, getting the chance to play the part of Florence. Chris and I would discuss set designs and lighting. We’d break down the production of this musical as if we were actually going to be a part of putting it all together for the public. Other times, we’d lay spooning while listening to Les Miserables, weeping together at the beautiful sadness of it all.

For a while we were obsessed with Mercury Falling, an album released by Sting our junior year in college. Our copy of In My Tribe by the Ten Thousand Maniacs was the rare copy that included their remake of Cat Stevens’ Peace Train and Chris and I both would ooh-awe-ee with Natalie as we drove down country lanes. We were constantly latching on to musical artists. While Chris was introducing me to artists like Pink Floyd, I was introducing him to the Flaming Lips. I would discover a new artist and write it down on a sticky note for Chris to find. Months later he’d start playing a CD and say “hey, I found this new band I thought you’d like.” I’d punch him the arm and tell him that I pointed that band out to him months ago. Then we’d laugh. Chris was the one to introduce me to Belly. He had their album, Star. I ended up finding every one of their albums in the used CD bin at Hasting’s. But Chris just didn’t give me this band, he gave me a key.

Chris and Traci were best friends. Best. Friends. I came along and I was an outsider. Though Traci never ever treated me like an outsider, I still felt like I was intruding on that relationship. I doubt to this day that Traci had any idea how intimidated I was by her. I thought she was so cool. I still think that. Her relationship with Chris was so important and vital for the two of them. I didn’t want to mess it up. I didn’t want to be the girlfriend that Chris would bring over that would make Traci roll her eyes in annoyance. Knowing and loving all the songs from that band was my in with Traci. I remember one time the four of us, Chris, me, Traci and her boyfriend Chris (now husband), drove to Dallas for a concert. Traci and I were in the backseat and the guys were in the front, flipping through radio stations. The radio tuned into a station that was playing Feed the Tree by Belly. Traci and I screamed from the back seat “LEAVE IT THERE!” and then proceeded to sing along and bounce around in the backseat of the car. Traci would end up being my concert buddy for concerts when Chris wasn’t interested in going. Belly was the band that started that.

At least it was for me.

DAY 4: DORIS DAY AND HOWARD KEEL, CALAMITY JANE

Cindy Maddera

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Day four of the album challenge coincided with the passing of Doris Day at the age of 97. I was bound to pick something by Doris Day and Calamity Jane trumped the soundtrack to Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. It was a close call. I went with Calamity Jane because it has one of my favorite actresses playing one of my favorite Historical women in a musical. It’s a trifecta of greatness.

In the summer, you're the winter, In the finger, you're the splinter. In the banquet, you're the stew, Say, I c'n do without you!

I mean, seriously.

My mom was the person to introduce me to the wonderful world of musicals. I don’t know if it was PBS or some other random channel, but Saturday and Sunday afternoons they would play old movies and musicals and I would soak them up. It was not uncommon to hear Mom belt out some random line from a musical or have the dial set in her car radio to the station that played classics. I had a very diverse musical education. This is one of the reasons why you can flip to just about any station and I will be able to sing along to the song. It’s a weird trick. Stephanie, my best friend from high school, said once that I was basically a radio.

I didn’t have access to cable channels until college, unless I was at my brothers. At his house, it was MTV all the time. Once I had my own TV with cable, I flipped between Turner Classics and AMC. Sometimes one channel would do movies with one certain actor all day. There’d be Carrie Grant day or Rock Hudson or Betty Davis movies playing all freaking day. It was awesome. My favorite days were when they played Doris Day movies all day long. I would watch them all from Lullaby of Broadway to April in Paris to The Man Who Knew Too Much to Please Don’t Eat The Daisies. She was simply lovely. She was pretty, but attainable. Serious, yet funny. Doris Day was just a joy to see on screen. I wanted to sing like Doris Day. I wanted to be as charming and graceful as Doris Day. Then you have Doris Day as Calamity Jane. I know the musical is not a true representation of history. It is historical fiction. Calamity Jane doesn’t fit the gender norms of that time. She dresses like a man, drinks and swears like a man. She shoots a gun better than most men. Calamity Jane is a feminist! She’s a woman living her life on her terms. At the same time, she just wants want we all want. She wants to be desired. She wants to be loved. She wants to be loved and desired for who she is. We’re all a little bit Calamity Jane.

To say that Doris Day will be missed is incorrect. The truth is, Mrs. Day has been out of the public eye for quite some time, well before her passing. We’ve been missing Doris Day for a while. Hearing the news of her passing at age 97 just makes me marvel at a life well-lived. She lived her life on her terms. Just like Calamity Jane.

DAY 3: STING, FIELDS OF GOLD

Cindy Maddera

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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.

DAY 2: NEIL DIAMOND, THE JAZZ SINGER

Cindy Maddera

Erica Mullin was probably one of my best friends when I was in elementary school. Her grandparents were close family friends. I suppose these people were my parents’ version of framily. Rena and Don helped take care of me when I was a super tiny baby. Don worked for Meadow Gold Dairy and brought us milk and ice cream all the time. My Mom likes to tell a story about when she was in the hospital, recovering after my traumatic entry to this world. She received a huge, beautiful bouquet of flowers. All of the nurses oohed and awed. When my mom read the card she laughed and said “it’s from my milk man.” Which every one thought was funny. Rena and Don were like surrogate grandparents. Erica, their granddaughter, was the closest thing to a cousin that I had nearby.

For a while, Rena and Don’s daughter and granddaughter lived in a house on the hill just above Rena and Don. Erica practically lived at our house because my mom would end up taking care of all of us during the day while Erica’s mom was at work. We went every where together. Roller skating, movies, bike rides. Erica had the best toys. She had the Darth Vader case holding all of the Star Wars figures and Hungry Hippo. We traded plastic charms and played dress up with Katrina’s old disco clothes. Our families camped together on what seemed like every weekend. We would take over the RV section of Walnut Grove campground on Keystone Lake with potluck meals and hikes down to the lake to swim. We would spend forever watching a giant ant colony near the playground and hours swinging as high as we possibly could go on the playground swings. That playground had a great big metal swing set. I can still hear Rena warning me that I’d gone high enough and to take it down a notch.

Sometimes we’d all ride to the lake in Erica’s mom’s car. Me, Erica, and Janel, all crammed into the front seat of her mom’s El Camino. At least, I think it was an El Camino. Was there another model of car that looked like an El Camino? I don’t know, but we’d pack ourselves into that car with the windows rolled down because the air conditioning didn’t work and the radio blaring. The air conditioning may have been on the fritz, but the eight track worked just fine. I remember flying down back country roads with the wind blowing our hair all around and all of us singing at the top of our lungs to Neil Diamond’s Coming to America. We were practically glued together from heat and sweat. I can still feel Janel’s prickly leg hairs scratching the side of my right leg. I’ve memorized the motion of pulling hair free from my face as the wind forever twisted my long hair across my cheeks and eyes and mouth. “TODAY!” we’d all shout together.

Erica and her mom moved to Tulsa while I was still in elementary school. Tulsa wasn’t really that far away but the distance and her being a year older changed us from best friends to acquaintances. We drifted apart. Don retired from Meadow Gold and he and Rena upgraded their camper. They spent the rest of his life traveling south during the winter and when Rena settled down in Oklahoma City after Don passed away, the distance changed her relationship with my mom. They sort of drifted apart as well. Any time I hear Neil Diamond singing though, I remember that space in our time line when we were all together, before the great drift.

DAY 1: THE CURE, DISINTEGRATION

Cindy Maddera

Somewhere around my sophomore/ junior year in high school, I discovered the band The Cure. They released the album in 1989, but it would take two years for any of it to reach my ears. That was the way of small towns. We were always behind. Movies hit the one-screen theater on Main street about a year after release. The latest fashion and trends hit us two or three years later than they did in big city areas. Music was no different. It didn’t help that I lived in a radio void. None of the local stations played the music I wanted to listen too. Late on Saturday nights, if the skies were clear and the wind was blowing at just the right speeds, I could pick up an hour or two of a college station that would play indie/alternative music. In those brief two hours, I learned about punk bands like the Police and the Ramones. I learned about another famous Elvis and the Flaming Lips. The Talking Heads and the Pixies and Echo and Bunnymen were frequently played and I soaked it all up.

A friend introduced me to the Cure. She handed me Disintegration and I took it home and copied it. God, remember coping tapes and CDs? Or recording radio stations? I did all of those things. I played that album over and over and over. I listened to that album so much that I was able to mimic a British accent. That new trick got me an important role in a short play we were doing that year. If you were to ask me now why on earth this was the only album I listened too for months and months, I could not really tell you why. Something about that music just hit a target with my teenage soul. The music alone just felt big to me, meaningful, important. It was that time in my life when I was young and ridiculous and believed I could be just like Molly Ringwald in any John Hughes movie. I wanted to be cool and wise and different, but I wanted to be just like everyone else too. If I’m honest? I still want all of those things. Pictures of You can still feel like tiny needles poking my heart, more so now then in my youth. Funny how the songs we love morph in meaning as we age.

Steven tagged me in a Facebook game to post a top ten album for ten days. When I posted my choice for Day 1, my friend Sarah commented on how she wished these games came with an explanation. Why this album, Cindy? This game isn’t easy for me. I don’t listen to music this way, albums at a time. Usually I listen to an artist, not a particular album. My current addictions are Lizzo, Yola, and Neko Case because we just saw her in concert and it was the best show I’ve seen in ages. I can’t get enough of her music right now. Andrew Bird has been playing frequently in my playlist, along with Father John Misty and Arcade Fire. The National. The soundtrack to Hamilton because I’m resigned to the fact that I will probably never get a chance to see this musical. Morrissey. Courtney Barnett. The First Aid Kit. My music is all over the place. My musical taste is undefinable. So when asked to pick my top ten albums, I struggle. I started choosing albums for their nostalgic value. Specific memories are tied to these albums and this album triggers memories of me driving along back roads to get to this or that. It reminds me of those times I felt lonely and isolated.

It was the album of my teenage angst.

THAT TIME I GOT REALLY HIGH AND TOLD THE TRUTH

Cindy Maddera

My friend Michelle, who is also childless, asked me what it was like to be a step-mom. She posed this question after I’d eaten a quarter of the most potent marijuana laced cookie. That one cookie ruined four adults. I was trying to keep up with our game of Exploding Kittens while trying to focus on the words Michelle was saying to me. I don’t know what I said but I have a sinking suspicion that I told her the truth about my role as a step-mom. I’m not so certain that my truth about my role is all that flattering or positive and I feel a little embarrassed for what may or may not have fallen out of my mouth that evening.

I think there is some illusion that I am doing any actual parenting now that there is a child in my life. I’m sure that this might be true for other step-parents, that they take an active role in parenting, but that is not how it works in this relationship. The term ‘step-mom’ is purely a descriptive term that the Cabbage uses to explain who this woman is that her dad lives with. I do not discipline. I do not shop for. I do not attend PTA meetings. I do not stay home for sick days. I do not make her lunches. She comes over, plays with her toys or watches YouTube and sometimes we all go to Science City or something. I might suggest a book or a piece of fruit but only rarely because 99% of all of my suggestions are met with disdain and skepticism. I am the person to whom the Cabbage asks “where’s my dad?” when she walks out of her room wanting something. Occasionally she will ask me for something, but then she always waits to ask her dad the same question because she never likes the answer I give her. Her dad most of the time will give her the opposite answer to what I gave her. So, yeah, she’s eating candy at 9 PM.

And I don’t care.

When Michael told me that he had a three year old daughter on our first date, I didn’t think “Oh sweet! I finally get a chance to ‘play mommy’!” What I did do was nod my head and say “that’s nice.” without any thought about what that would mean for me or us as a couple. I did not enter the relationship with any idea of being a pretend weekend parent or finally getting a chance at motherhood even if that was a part time opportunity. Outside forces might want to contradict me here and push for that parental connection, but it just does not exist. At least not in this relationship. I know many a blended family where all four parents actually do the parenting. I’m just saying that it does not apply here. Maybe because I never had any delusions of motherhood. In fact, I am almost resentful when I am given a knowing look that comes with a nod followed up with words that refer to some inferred motherly instinct on my part. Particularly when I have just done something that any adult would do for a small child. Like grab that thing down from a tall shelf or open that packet of crackers. I’m never opening packages for others because I can barely open them for myself, but you get the idea.

This Mother’s Day, I will send out cards to the women in my life who raised me. They did actual parenting and chose to be mothers. I am awed by any woman that chooses to be a mother, but I’m impressed by any woman who chooses not to be a mother. Mostly because society just doesn’t understand this choice. We’ve been programmed to think that having babies is the thing we’re supposed to do and stepping away from that programming can be isolating and cruel. Those who are fully devoted to the programming may think that I will regret not having children or experiencing parenthood. Maybe I will; I don’t know. I know that I don’t have any regrets right now. I also know that if I do have regrets later on, that it’s nobody’s problem but my own.

You do you.

GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

Cindy Maddera

Nine hundred and ninety eight miles. That’s the number of miles to get from Kansas City, MO to Oklahoma City, OK and then to Weatherford, OK and then to Duncan, OK and then to Norman, OK and then back to Kansas City, MO. And it was miles worth traveled. So much of my drive took me down two-lane highways with little signs of civilization for miles and miles. There was very little traffic and often, it seemed like it was just me, the prairie and the cows. If I felt like pulling off the road to take a picture, I just did it. I didn’t let myself worry about the delay it might cause and since I was all alone, I didn’t think about inconveniencing the driver with my request to stop. When I wasn’t stopping to take pictures of the vast landscape of nothing, I was building stories in my head. At one point I even thought up my own stand-up comedy act.

I met Stephanie for breakfast one morning and got all caught up on her life. I got to squeeze Robin’s new grand baby. I soaked in a hot tub. I ate hipster street tacos with Traci, Chris and Quinn (who is more obnoxious now than ever) and we laughed and laughed. I attended a college graduation at a small rural Oklahoma College where I listened to a speech that both surprised me and gave me hope. The young man spoke about his white male privilege and how he intends to use that privilege for social justice. He told his fellow graduates that it was not enough to have conversations on race, but to be active in the fight against racism. No one booed him off the stage, but applauded and cheered and I thought “maybe we’re going to be okay.” Maybe. I sat on the couch in Amy’s library office while she spilled her guts on the last few months of her crazy busy stressful life. I drank too much wine while sitting on Misti’s porch talking about ways to help college graduates prepare for all the possibilities available to them after undergrad. I told Mark something that I have not told anyone. He’s the only person right now who can hold me accountable.

As I made the long drive home on Sunday, I caught the tale end of the TED Radio Hour on NPR. Dr. Robert Waldinger was talking about what makes a meaningful life. Dr. Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. His team and his predecessors have been tracking the health and lives of 724 men for 75 years. Actually the study has now moved on to the children of these men. It is the longest running study of its kind. One thing that has been made very clear from this study is the answer to the question of what makes a meaningful life and the answer is simple: “good relationships keep us happy and healthy.” Those relationships are not confined to marital relationships. Just having people in your life who you could count on in times of need, laugh with, cry with, is enough. These relationships keep us happy and healthy. It’s been proven by science that we need each other.

Yet, relationships for me can be difficult. I have always spent so much time alone, as a child, as a teen, in my adult life. I have to push myself to be in the presence of people, but I have never once regretted that push. Mostly because I feel like I’ve nurtured the best relationships with the best people. I am happier and healthier today for the weekend spent listening and laughing and commiserating and just being present in the company of all of them. Maybe Michael’s right about me and his prediction that I’m going to live to well past 100. Those good relationships will hopefully out weigh the bad genes and I’ll be the 90something old lady, doing yoga and zipping around town on a Vespa.

CRAVINGS

Cindy Maddera

I woke with a start in the early morning hours to the loud crackling booms of thunder and listened for the rain. I don’t know if I will ever get used to it, the way the thunder crackles, like breaking wooden bats. Thirty something years of hearing the thunder roll in over the prairies and pastures tuned my ears like tuning forks. It became a lullaby even though I knew that thunderstorms could change quickly into a tornado. There were no flashes of light to warn of this cracking thunder. That’s different too. Spring thunderstorms are usually accompanied with fantastical displays of electricity. Here, not so much. The lightening is subtle. I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep only to jolt awake at the next crack of thunder. This is how I would spend the next few hours before sunrise, sleeping fitfully between breaking baseball bats.

Sometimes I get cravings. Not for food. Though I do think fondly about Indian tacos on occasion. It’s just a very rare moment when I think obsessively about a certain food and think “I HAVE TO HAVE some cheese!” I tend to crave moments and landscapes. I want to be in other places, fully immersed. It could be standing on a thick bed of pine needles in the middle of a forest, surrounded by pine trees so tall that it makes me dizzy to look up. Sometimes I think that if I don’t feel sand squishing between my toes and the crisp damp wind hitting me from the ocean that I will shrivel up and disappear into nothing. Sometimes I am surprised how much I crave open rolling fields with tall prairie grass bent from the wind. I think about all of those times I carved out a shelter in the tall grass and would spend the day huddled there sitting on an old quilt. I would have a stack of books, a jar of water and a kite that I would get going so high up in the sky, I was almost certain it was in danger of colliding with an airplane.

I never expected to crave the landscape of the places where I grew up, where I lived for thirty five years. The monotony of prairie and urban sprawl and trees that lean to the east sounds like something I have seen enough of. Except, there is something to that not quite flat land that sort of slows the beating of my heart. I feel my thoughts roll out and float away on the winds. Traveling down the highway, there will be nothing but the land stretched out for miles and for a moment you can pretend to be the only person on the planet. I crave these moments of isolation and solitude provided by the vastness of this landscape. Right now, I’m craving warmth and sunshine. Dry cracked red dirt. Bare feet on a warm back patio. Tracing lines of condensation running down a cold beer bottle. A thunderstorm I can see coming from miles away.

Right now, I am craving a road trip.

NO DOGS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE

Cindy Maddera

When I got home from work on Friday, Josephine was still not better. She’d had diarrhea all over my bed. Michael said that she drank a bunch of water and the puked it back up on the rug. She was still lethargic. So I called the veterinarian’s office and they told me to bring her back in. I explained to the vet how Josephine seemed to get worse after her visit on Thursday. She stopped drinking water and she would bury herself in leaves next to the fence outside. She behaved like a dog that was holing up to die. Even Michael was worried. As I talked to the vet, I had to pause and say “I’m sorry, but I’m barely keeping my shit together right now.” Then I started crying. The veterinarian and the technician did their best to comfort me, but they were concerned too. The medicine they gave Josephine on Thursday was supposed to last twenty four hours and was known to be the best anti-nausea medication on the market. The next step was X-rays and blood work and fluids.

The veterinarian went over Josephine’s X-rays with me. I got to see Josephine’s insides, which looked good except for the empty stomach and her tiny irritated colon. Blood work came back with flying colors. My puppy was really dehydrated and tired from not getting any rest from all the up and down to the backyard to use the bathroom. They gave her fluids and medication for her colon and sent us home. Michael and I forced her meds down and then I made her some chicken and rice. She still was not interested in it, but she did drink some water. At around three the next morning, she woke me up to go outside and walked right over to her food bowl. It was the moment I knew she was going to be okay. We had one more incident of upchucked water all over my bed (I have done so much laundry since Thursday) and that was it. She’s still not 100%, but she’s definitely feeling better and Michael and I have sighed with relief.

Part of me wants to say that I was slightly over reacting to Josephine’s illness, like maybe I was panicking. The more rational side of myself knows that I behaved appropriately in the given situation. Trust me when I say that if you could have seen Josephine, you might have panicked too. The last dog I took to the vet who was behaving as sickly as Josephine, was Hooper. Hooper ended up being full of tumors and had to be put to forever sleep. That was the icing on the shit cake of that year. 2012 was the year I became a true country western song. I lost my husband and my dog. I did my fair share of crying and drowning sorrows in wine. I guess I’m just lucky I didn’t lose my house. That’s usually how those songs go. This scene with Josephine was just way to familiar to a tragic scene I’ve been a part of before. It was stressful and scary and all of that has to leave the body in some shape or form. This time around those wonder twins took on the form of ugly crying in the veterinarian’s office.

We’re starting this week on the upswing. And as long as I can ignore this patch of poison ivy on my wrist, we plan to end the week on a high note. Go Monday!

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED

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. 

SURVEY SAYS

Cindy Maddera

Every once in a while, Anthropologie wants me to tell them what I think about stuff. I just have to say that I was never really super interested in clothes until I learned about Anthro. Now, I’m a fucking addict. I also have very bipolar feelings about that place mostly because everything is SO EXPENSIVE! I love the clothes and vehemently hate the prices. My shopping strategy is to wait until there’s at least a 40% extra off of already sale items. Most of the time I don’t even walk around the store. I head straight on back to the clearance racks. I also try every single item on to make sure it fits properly or if it is something I am actually going to wear. Of course I am an Anthro member which means I get 20% off of a full price item during the month of my birth. It also means I get notified early about sales and sometimes I get an extra something percent off when I do the occasional survey.

In this latest Anthro survey, they wanted to know how I felt about different months of the year. The very first question was: “What are the first three words or phrases that come to mind when you think about the month of January?” Then they wanted to know the same thing about February and March. This was the first page of the survey. I sat there, staring at the screen with my head tilted to one side wondering if I should tell the truth or put in sugar coated lies. I told them the truth. I didn’t know what else to do, honestly. I couldn’t think of one sugar coated lie to fill in those blanks. I did type ‘birthday’ as one of my answers for January which could be taken a number of different ways. Some people love their birthday months. So I thought that was actually something nice to put down for January. It’s something a stranger can interpret as ‘joyful’. The rest of it all included words such as ‘cold’ and ‘sad’ and ‘bittersweet’. Then I decided that Anthro didn’t really want to know how I felt about those months and closed the survey without finishing it.

And this is why I do not try to do sponsored blog entries or develop a brand or make money from this blog.

I’m a terrible liar but my honesty can be sharp and painful. If I have to choose between my pointy, stabby honesty and faking something, I tend to choose neither. The inside of my brain is a constant swirl of conversations of what I would say if I was bolder, did not care about the impact of my words on others, or had any kind of backbone for standing up for myself. It’s really hard to have good posture when you have an actual pasta noodle for a spine. I do a lot of core exercises. There was a time when I could always just say what I meant or wanted to say or at least there was a person I could say all of that too, but that time doesn’t exist anymore. I have to be on guard about what I say and how I say it and if I say it. It gets pretty exhausting and some times it gets pretty frustrating because I don’t think I get the same sort of consideration. At least it doesn’t feel like as much thought is going into it as I’m putting out. I’m tired of having these conversations in my head. It’s too much chatter.

I went back to that survey and I finished it. I told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. January makes me feel a little bit happy that I’m a year older, but cautious because this is when disasters strike. February makes me feel cold and sad. March is only marginally better. There’s a turn around in April when I start to feel like skipping and things progressively just get better as the months move forward. We are so close to that turn around month; I can almost taste it. I can definitely smell it. The air no longer smells of cold. It still feels chilly in the mornings, but the air smells greener. I look around me and think I just might actually make it. I also think I can start choosing differently and start having those conversations outside of my brain. Maybe be more mindful in my honesty, but still tell the whole truth.

I mean…really what’s the worst thing that could happen?

THINGS I'VE LEARNED AS AN ADULT

Cindy Maddera

Fancy cheese is not as expensive as you think it is.

Seriously. If I could pass on any words of wisdom these are some of those words. It took me years to conquer being intimidated by the cheese monger and it wasn’t until I was in my mid thirties before I made my first timid inquiry about cheese. I wanted something nice to go in my potato soup but I didn’t want to break the bank. This is when I learned that I could choose the amount of cheese I was buying, thus controlling the amount of money I was spending. I realize that many of you probably knew this all along. I didn’t because I have always been pinching pennies, which means my grocery lists are streamlined. When you look over at the fancy cheese area, you see all kinds of price tags sticking up like flags. These prices always seem too exorbitant for my budget. Those little flaggy price tags are prices per pound. You do not need a pound of fancy cheese to make whatever it is you want to make. This means you will be paying less than whatever the price flag says. Do not be sticker shocked by cheese.

Another bit of wisdom that I could pass along is that mushrooms do not weigh anything.

This one is a recent discovery. We were in Whole Foods on Saturday to pick out some fish to go with our risotto that was planned for our dinner and to rummage through the cheese under five dollar bin (see? cheap fancy cheese). Along the way to the seafood section, I noticed a small crate of morrel mushrooms. They were thirty dollars a pound. I gasped at the price tag, but then I picked up one of the mushrooms. Michael noticed me holding the morrel with an inquisitive look on my face and I said to him “How much do you think this mushroom weighs?” Michael grabbed a handful of mushrooms and headed to the scale. Those six or so mushrooms weighed about 0.06 lbs. We picked out a dozen or so mushrooms that turned out to be about four dollars and was plenty of mushrooms to add to our risotto. Neither one of us had eaten morrels before because they were too expensive and about the only place you could get them was at a farmers market; if you were lucky to find that one vender who had them.

That’s it. That is about all of the wisdom I can pass on to a young person. Do not be intimidated by the prices on fancy cheeses and mushrooms do not weigh anything. Okay. I might have a few more tidbits like know how to pay your bills and manage your finances. It is not necessarily a bad idea to have an end of life plan because life is unpredictable. The unpredictability of life makes every day kind of important. College isn’t for everyone, but you should still have a career plan. Do not be afraid to spend money on good shoes that are good for your feet. Always pack at least one sweater because the weather is just as unpredictable as life.

But I really think you’re going to get the most value from the cheese and mushroom advice.

ATTENTION

Cindy Maddera

I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book for three months. I finally finished it this week, but it took me forever. It was not a difficult read or a boring read. I just lacked the attention span for reading anything more than a paragraph. I should say ‘lack’. It took me a whole day to read an article on Split-Sex animals in the science section of the New York Times. Sure, there were times I was actually doing my job, but one article should only take a few minutes to get through. I am distracted easily and unable to focus on just one thing. If I’m staring at the blinking cursor for more than a minute while trying to write anything, I’m off scrolling through the list of “people I might know” on Facebook and saying to myself “How do I know that person?” It is a very inefficient use of my time. I even double booked myself for events on Saturday because I can’t pay attention to dates.

I told Dr. Mary all of this last night and she did that thing that therapists do and asked me “why do you think you think that is?” Except when I was unable to answer that question because I was suddenly distracted by the fact that her orchid that sits on the windowsill is still without blooms, she answered it for me. She said “It seems to me like you’ve entered this year differently than most. You usually have an agenda for the year, like your picture a day or a task of some sorts. But you didn’t make a plan for this year.” So…this is what I look like without a plan or an agenda. My whole life has been about plans and agendas. As a child, I knew what I was doing down to the minute of every day. Piano/music lessons on Mondays. 4-H on Tuesdays. Wednesday was church and youth choir. Dance on Thursdays. Fridays were free days until I started marching band. Most Saturdays were planned out as well with contests and 4-H events. My first year of college, I tried to convince my advisor to let me take sixteen hours of classes. I had a plan. He refused to let me take a class at lunch time. He said “You’ll need to eat lunch.” He had a different plan.

Even after college and graduate school, I mapped out my days on a notepad that would eventually get transferred to a lab notebook. I always had a plan. I have always had some sort of agenda. And it feels really odd to be without either of those things. I read something in Yoga Journal once that said “You should practice your least favorite yoga poses regularly.” I am always encouraging students to take their practice off of their mat and apply it to their daily lives. Except I’m thinking about the physical aspects of the practice. How we stand. How we sit. How we tend to cross our arms in front. I forget to consider the mental side of the practice. Maybe being without a plan is the mental yoga pose that is my least favorite pose and since I have never really practiced it at all, it is the hardest pose and I hate it. I don’t really hate it. I am just not comfortable in this pose of no-plan-asana. Two months into it kind of feels like holding forearm plank for three minutes.

This is what I have noticed. When I do my usual Saturday routine of breakfast and writing in the Fortune Cookie journal, I end up writing so much that I fill up the page and the margins. Most of the time I haven’t even gotten to the point of the story before I have run out of room. These are mornings that I don’t get my phone out of my bag or have a computer in front my face. I am without my usual convenient distractions and I end up spinning a yarn with such focus that my mug of coffee goes cold. What if plans and agendas are also convenient distractions that I am just so accustomed to that I don’t see them as distractions? Maybe I am learning something about convenient distractions. Maybe I am learning to settle into something other than the couch. Holding forearm plank for thirty seconds used to be torture. The same was true for holding it for an added thirty seconds. Building up to two minutes was work, but my body got used to it. That’s what I need to do. I need to get used to being without an agenda or a plan.

Then maybe no-plan-asana will get to be a bit more comfortable.

IMPULSIVE

Cindy Maddera

Saturday, after filling up a page of the Fortune Cookie Diary, I headed out to do the weekly food gathering. Since I was still too early for Aldi (they really should open before 9 AM on Saturdays), I drove out my way to the only health food store that carries mung beans in the bulk bins. One of the store clerks realized I was buying mung beans and asked me about this new bottle of vegan egg substitute they’d just received. Mung beans are on the ingredients list. I’d only had one cup of coffee and I struggled to clean off the cobwebs around my brain to give this guy an answer. All I could come up with is that the mung beans are the protein source, which this is true. But then the guy asked “Why would they use that for their protein source?” and I was all “ughhh…they wanted too?” The scientific answer is that the mung bean mimics the same reaction that happens to egg molecules when heated, giving that pretty yellow fluffy egg look.

None of this is important.

I went to Aldi and got most of the things on our list. Then I went to Trader Joes to get the rest of the stuff on our list and that’s where I saw Eric and decided that he should come home with me. Eric is a fern and I told him that he probably has six months before I kill him. So Eric, enjoy your new view! This impulse buy ended up being the cheapest impulse purchase of the day. I took Eric home and Michael helped me unload the groceries. He praised my shopping skills because I had stayed within the grocery budget, even with the purchase of Eric. Then Michael and I went to the Nelson to catch the Napoleon exhibit before it ends next week. We learned a lot about art and propaganda and exile. We saw Napoleon’s hat! There was also a chamber pot that was supposed to be his, but the English Council said that the designs on the pot were too fancy to send to a man in exile. Then I dragged Michael to the other side of the museum to show him John the Baptist’s finger. This will never get old. If you want to see John the Baptist’s supposed finger bone, come visit me. I will be more than happy to take you to this holy relic.

Later in the day, Michael had an eye appointment at a place on the Plaza that happens to be right next to Tiffany’s. We had to walk by the front door to Tiffany’s and I pretended to reach for the door. Michael said “Don’t even think about it.” So I stopped pretending to reach for the door and just opened the door and went inside. Tiffany’s is the mostly lovely store to visit and it had been a while since I’d been in to look at the scooter charm. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since Tiffany’s released the charm. I go in on occasion and look at the charm. This time though, I did not see the charm when I first looked around the charm section. A super sweet employee asked if I was looking for something. I told him that I was looking for the scooter charm. He gave me a look of doubt, but then I saw the scooter charm on a display bracelet. The super sweet employee said that this particular charm is now discontinued. I was holding the last one in the store in the palm of my hand. Michael was talking with another employee and I practically yelled across the room at him “Can I have it?!?” Then the super sweet employee asked “Can she have it?!?” And Michael said “Buy it!”

I still don’t know how I’m going to wear it. Right now it is temporarily riding along with my wedding rings. Eventually I will get a bracelet that fits my wrist well enough to not slide around too much and I will send the bracelet and charm off to be soldered onto the bracelet. But as my friend Elizabeth said, that scooter charm was made for me. It was an impulse buy at least two years in the making.

LEMON MERINGUE

Cindy Maddera

I grew up in the age of Strawberry Shortcake and I can probably say that I owned every single Strawberry Shortcake doll. My sheets and bedding, including a canopy, was all Strawberry Shortcake. I had Strawberry Shortcake clothes, pajamas, a quilt, a sleeping bag and a metal lunch box. I had the Strawberry Shortcake baby doll that blew scented kisses when you squeezed her. My mother made me a tablecloth with napkins out of Strawberry Shortcake material for my little table. If there was something Strawberry Shortcake related, I owned it. My mother also made me an exact replica of Strawberry Shortcake’s dress for Halloween one year. Thinking about it all now, makes me feel like I had/have some obsessive compulsion issues. I eventually moved on to other popular toys of the 80s, but I think that the only other thing I collected with such obsession were elephants.

My favorite Strawberry Shortcake character was not Strawberry Shortcake. She’s nice. I still own one of these and occasionally hold her head up to my nose, but my favorite Strawberry Shortcake character was Lemon Meringue. She just smelled the best of all of them. Lemony and sweet. Her hair was also wild and curly and bright yellow, which was something I loved so much about her. I have a sweet tooth for lemon desserts and I attribute all of it to my Lemon Meringue doll. There is a restaurant that Michael and I have been too a few times. The food is okay. It’s a little pricey and the service is kind of terrible. The only reason we go there is for their lemon meringue pie. The meringue on this pie is like marshmallow cream and for a while figuring out how to make it became yet another one of my obsessions.

Then I came across an online article where the pastry chef of this restaurant posted the entire recipe for their lemon meringue pie. Boy, that was dumb.

I have made this pie twice now in the last month or so. Lemons are cheap. Eggs? Well, that’s probably the biggest expense because the recipe calls for six whole eggs and ten yolks. Left over egg whites go into making the meringue. Most of the work time is spent standing over a double boiler while stirring. And stirring. And there’s more stirring. The lemon filling has to reach a pudding like consistency without cooking the eggs into scrambled eggs. It is not the kind of pie you just throw together and is very much a lesson in patience. You stand at your double boiler setup stirring and stirring while nothing seems to be happening. This goes on for several minutes. Then just when you think you’ve done something wrong like your butter was too cold or you didn’t do a good enough job separating your eggs because the mixture is not getting any thicker, it starts to coat your whisk. The shift from liquid to pudding is quick. It all comes down to heating the eggs to the exact right temperatures to unfurl tightly packed proteins in the yolk and then coat those molecules with sugar so that the proteins remain unfurled.

The reward for your patience is a bright, tart, lemony filling. Once the pie is completed, it smells exactly like my Lemon Meringue doll from 1980. It is a bright slice of sunshine during a season of very little sunshine.

NOW WHAT

Cindy Maddera

I don’t really know what to write right now. My goto topic for writing material is grief and usually I have a lot of material for this time of year. I’m not saying that all is well and that I don’t have plenty of grief material; it’s just not new material. Grief is the day to day grudge of missing a person that is just my way of life. Some one posted a clip of the news footage of the Challenger exploding because it was the anniversary of the event that would haunt us generation Xers for the rest of our lives. I still can’t watch a shuttle launch without holding my breath. My grief for the last seven years has been like watching the shuttle explode every single day. After a while you just get used to seeing it all disintegrate into a cloud of dust. A moment here and there spent crying in the stairwell is perfectly normal.

To tell you the truth, the year 2019 has already started to leave a stale old taste in my mouth. The month of January has been the longest and the coldest month I can ever remember experiencing. I saw a meme last Thursday that said “why does it feel like it’s January 74th?!” I had strong feelings for this meme because, holy hell yes. January is the never ending month and I don’t ever remember it being like that before this year. Not that there’s anything wrong with January other than the obvious memories of watching Chris die and the fact that the weather is the most awful weather that causes me to yell out profanities when I have to step out into said weather. I’m just saying, let’s move along. It’s not that I have somewhere to be, but I am kind of curious to know if those tulip bulbs I planted in the front yard last Fall are going to pop up out of the ground.

I heard a nasty rumor that the temperature on Wednesday is going to be four degrees. FOUR. Fucking. Degrees.

In other news, Albus has started doing this new thing he thinks is really fun. He brings a live mouse into the house and then let's the thing go. Weeee! Josephine spent one day fixated on the drawers under Michael’s bed and then the next morning I got up to find Michael sleeping on the couch. When I inquired about his sleeping arrangements, he said “there was a monster in my room.” The monster was a mouse. The same mouse that Albus had brought into the house the day before, casually batted around with his paw and then promptly allowed to run off to safety. Michael said that Albus did eventually recapture the mouse and decided to eat the whole thing while sitting next to Michael who then struggled to go back to sleep over the sound of crunching bones. The cat eats the whole mouse. Albus repeated the catch and release game with a new mouse the very next day. Michael and I managed to capture this one as it climbed up the curtains. We trapped it in a mason jar and had a long discussion about what to do with the mouse. I don’t keep bottles of chloroform around because I’m not serial killer and slow suffocation just seemed awful. The Cabbage thought the mouse was cute and I had to agree that it was a very cute disease carrier. In the end Michael let the mouse go. He released it in a wood pile across the street.

It has been nine days since this last incident. I feel like I need one of those Days Since Last Accident signs.

43

Cindy Maddera

Michael walked into the kitchen Sunday morning as I was washing dishes and asked “So…do you feel thirty three, forty three, or fifty three?” I paused and thought about this for a minute before replying “Well…I don’t know what fifty three is supposed to feel like and since forty three is still pretty new, I don’t really know what that’s supposed to feel like either. So, I guess I feel thirty three.” The numbers are arbitrary really. Having never before experiencing this age, I can’t tell you if I feel older or younger. Maybe I feel younger, but wiser. Michael also mentioned how he liked the salt and pepper thing that is happening with my hair. I will say, that in the last two or three months, I’ve noticed that there’s a bit more salt in my hair. I don’t mind this either. When Michael asked the Cabbage if forty three was old, she of course said ‘yes’ because she’s eight and when you’re eight, forty three is a BIG number.

We spent my birthday weekend working on a puzzle and cursing the outside temperatures. Michael made me a strawberry cake that very much resembled Devil’s Tower but with sprinkles. We went to see the Cabbage’s band from School of Rock perform. Michael had my olive branch ring fixed so that I can wear it on my right ring finger. He also gave me a gift card to Anthropologie which I used to buy a dress that reminds me of my youth. In fact, if I still owned a pair of combat boots, I would own an outfit almost identical to one I wore in 1992. Michael and I ate a fancy dinner at the Pressed Penny Tavern amongst a crowd of people wearing Chiefs colors and yelling at one of the six TVs positioned on the wall. Reservations had been made for this dinner way before we knew the Chiefs would be heading to the NFC Champion playoffs game. We spent the rest of the evening at home, watching the rest of that game, with all of the animals piled on me and a fancy tea cup of gin and tonic in my hand. The weather kept me from witnessing and photographing the lunar eclipse and the Chiefs lost the playoffs. Win some, lose some.

Mostly win some.

I think many people would now put me in the category of ‘middle aged’. I have been receiving newsletter style emails lately for things related to women over fifty, things like skin care routines and exercises. I’ve been slightly obsessed with stories of women ninety and older who do things like teach yoga and run marathons. I have a very clear image of myself in my old age. I expect at age ninety that I will be living some where warm and riding my scooter around to run my daily errands. Those errands will include morning yoga classes on the beach, followed up with catching some sweet waves on my sweet surf board. After rinsing the salt and sand from leathery old lady skin, I will strap my yoga mat and surfboard to the scooter and head to the market where I will purchase fresh veggies and fish for my lunch. I’ll spend the rest of my day puttering around my cottage, maybe working a garden. Maybe I’ll learn how to use a loom or maybe I’ll just read trashy romance novels while swinging in a hammock.

I’ll be ninety. I’ll do what I want.

OFF KILTER

Cindy Maddera

I had made it through the toll booth and almost to that McDonalds that straddles the interstate when I realized it. My hand went subconsciously to my collar bone and I could feel the missing pieces. I had left all of my jewelry at my mother’s house. My tiny elephant earrings that I had bought myself for my fortieth birthday, my metal J bracelet and my silver chain holding mine and Chris’s wedding rings. Of course it’s the wedding rings that I miss the most. This is what sent me into a panic as I sent a text to Mom. Then she called me and I frantically told her where to find them as I sat in the McDonalds parking lot next to the interstate, semi trucks blazing through so loudly that I couldn’t hear Mom on the other end of the line. I hung up the phone and then she sent me a text telling me that she had found them and they were packaged up for shipping. I should get them Wednesday.

I spent the rest of my long drive home, fretting over the rings and worrying about the state of things in Kansas City. Eleven inches of snow fell on the city while I was away. I was coming home to snow and possibly a house still without power. The power went out on Michael sometime Saturday afternoon. He’d heard the crack of several tree limbs falling as well as a loud boom as a transformer blew. He’d been alternating between staying wrapped up in blankets on the couch to sitting in his truck with the engine running, charging his phone and listening to the radio. I started seeing a light dusting of snow when I was about a hundred miles from Kansas City. That dusting just progressively got deeper and deeper the closer I got to the city. Occasionally there would be a car abandoned in the median, snow piled high on the roof. The roads were clear. That’s one thing this city knows how to do. Main roads are cleared pretty quickly around here. It’s the small neighborhood streets you have to worry about. We live on a snow route, so it’s never been a problem except when the snow plows push all the street snow in front of the driveway.

I pulled my car into the end of the driveway that Michael had managed to clear. Then I hauled my suitcase out of the car and started making my way up to the house, stepping into the footprints that Michael had already made. He was sitting in is truck and because his windshield was still covered in snow, he hadn’t seen me arrive. He looked up in surprise and then made his way out of the truck and around to greet me. I walked into a cold, dark house with a desperate Josephine jumping up and down. I set my bags down and then picked her up so she could lick my face and I could bury my face into her warm fur. Then I set her down and got to work. Michael needed help shoveling the rest of the drive so he could get his truck out in the morning. We had things we needed to do while we still had some daylight like make lunches (mostly salads) and I unpacked my bags and put things away. Somewhere during all of this I lost all feeling in my toes and we decided to find a restaurant where we could sit and linger over a hot meal with hot drinks. We lingered over dinner and talked with the couple in the booth next to us who were also without power before heading back to our cold dark house.

I slept warm enough, wearing two layers of everything and a dog tucked into one side and cat on the other. We are still playing the waiting game as are many people. There were three of us women in the gym locker room this morning all in the same boat. My supervisor was in Hawaii at a conference all last week and came home to thirty degrees and no power. We have all shared our power outage stories of past and present. There’s a certain down trodden look about all of us and I keep refreshing the outage map for the power company in hopes of any new developments. We say things like “maybe when we get home” or “at least by Tuesday”. We’ll see. Everything is slightly off. Laundry is in an in between state of things with some things still damp in the dryer and some things stopped in the middle of a wash. Meal plans have been tossed out the window for the week and we’re hoping the contents of our refrigerator stay cool enough. The chickens need food. The dog is not into going outside to use the bathroom. She does it, but she runs right back inside.

The thing is, this snow is probably the most beautiful snow fall I’ve ever seen. There have been so many times I wanted to pull over and take pictures on my drive home, but there were not safe places to pull off the highway. It is also brutally cold. But it looks like something made up by Hollywood outside. It is achingly beautiful.