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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Cyndie

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We enjoyed the day after Cyndie’s performance with a sigh of relief over her having accomplished the feat she had devoted so much time and energy to.

With the time-limited storytelling out of the way, I’d like to add a little behind-the-scenes context to the drama of that moment when the wedding cake crashed to the floor. Yeah, she wanted to scream. Consider these added tidbits…

  • Cyndie had taken a full day off from work to bake the cakes on the Friday before the wedding. She hadn’t planned on having a distressing day at work on that Thursday triggering a decision to seek an immediate change of employment. That decision was linked to an opportunity with an application deadline of 9 a.m. Friday morning. Cyndie started her day at 4 a.m. to update her curriculum vitae and compose a cover letter by 8 o’clock for a courier to deliver in the nick of time.
  • Then, she started baking cakes for the planned 12-hour project. Random interruptions pushed that allotted time to nearly 18 hours. Somewhere in there, our daughter, Elysa came home feeling unwell and I crashed with her in our bedroom. When Cyndie came up to sleep, she found Elysa in our bed so she moved to Elysa’s room instead. A short time later, after midnight, our phone rings and Julian answers. His young cousin is sick and wants to talk to Cyndie.
  • Julian comes into our room looking for his mom and is totally confused about not finding her there. We get the phone to Cyndie in Elysa’s room and find out her brother’s kids are being watched by a grandparent with limited English skills while the parents are traveling. The boy is suffering a terrible bout of flu and asks if Cyndie would come over because grandpa’s only solution is to go to the hospital.
  • Cyndie drives over and is basically up the rest of the night assisting with bouts of vomiting.
  • She finally makes it home early on Saturday morning to thoroughly shower any and all sickness off her before preparing to depart with cakes for the wedding venue.

She had reasons to scream before she even started assembling the wedding cake that day.

Only a few people enjoying Cyndie’s storytelling at The Moth slam on Wednesday night knew the full detail of how stressful that dramatic disaster really was for our hero.




Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2023 at 6:00 am

Cyndie’s Story

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about us attending a Moth story slam in advance of Cyndie’s plan to submit her name for an opportunity to tell her wedding cake story at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul. For those of you who weren’t able to hear her tell it in person last night, she has allowed me to post a written version for you.

Cyndie’s name was selected tenth –the last slot, out of twenty that had signed up for the chance.

Imagine Cyndie walking up on stage, standing under the lights in front of a microphone, and addressing a packed house. She is allowed only 5 minutes…

When my niece got engaged, she asked her mother to sew her wedding dress, and her grandma to knit a shawl and asked if I would bake a simple wedding cake. Thrilled, I said yes immediately… even though I’d never made a wedding cake before. Friends expressed concern over the huge responsibility I’d taken on given my lack of experience with wedding cakes. But I love to bake and was inspired by my niece’s invitation. I embraced this cake-baking opportunity with equal measures of optimism and naiveté.

That year, I baked dozens of practice cakes to test out on family and friends. I was blamed for inches added to waistlines and my reputation for baking in excess soared to new heights. It took me about 40 hours to mold sugar paste into candied pearls and colorful, edible flowers. With all that practice, my confidence grew and so did the cake. What started as a simple wedding cake had become a five-tier, white chocolate, lemon-raspberry layered masterpiece, stuffed with extra love.

Days before the wedding, my friend asked me how I planned to transport the cakes to the venue. I’d been so focused on baking, I hadn’t given it a thought. I quickly discovered that my mustang convertible with bucket seats is NOT the car for the job. My friend bails me out by loaning me her practical 4-door sedan as long as I drive and relieve her of any responsibility for the safe delivery of the cakes. 

On the big day, I load up the car with boxes of cakes, buckets of extra frosting, edible decorations, and fresh flowers. I’m so nervous about transporting the cakes that I drive like a Sunday driver, on a Saturday! Thankfully, all the cakes arrive intact.

I carry the boxes of cakes like they are newborn babies and begin to carefully assemble the tiers of cake with the stands and pillars. I’m so meticulous about frosting and decorating each level to perfection that it takes me 2.5 hours just to finish the first four tiers. But I’m happy- already the cake is nearly 3 feet high and it looks as stunning as I’d hoped it would be.

As I reach to place the final tier, I hear a loud snap and then another one, as the pillars give way under the weight of the cake, and, in horror, I watch the cake topple over and crash onto the floor. A busboy says, “You are so [effed]” as he and the wait staff all run for cover in the kitchen. I can barely breathe but I manage to warn my friend, “DO. NOT. SAY. A THING.”  She doesn’t and takes cover behind the bar. 

I can’t believe I have just ruined my niece’s wedding day. This is exactly what my friends had warned me about. I can hear all the “I told you so’s” and the “what were you thinking’s” and see the evidence of not being enough piled high on top of the inglorious mess. I want to scream but I can’t because the only thing separating the wedding chapel from the reception hall is a thin, moveable partition.

Then the organist begins to play, “Here Comes the Bride.”  I AM SO [EFFed]!  My friend appears next to me with a shot of whiskey she’d stolen from the bar. I don’t drink whiskey, but on this day, I did.  She asked, “What are you going to do?” 

I have two choices- I can succumb to the despair of this epic fail or I have to rise up and fight with all the love in my heart to make the simple cake my niece had asked for. The fight is on. Baking in excess is now my saving grace. I have enough backup cakes. The groom’s cake is still intact and I can use fresh flowers to decorate so I kick my inner critic to the curb and ask for help. 

The busboy –yeah, that one!– comes to my aid and scoops up the four-tier disaster on the floor, a waiter brings a fresh tablecloth and my friend fearlessly rips open the boxes and hands me back-up cakes as fast as I can frost & decorate them. I have to finish Wedding Cake 2.0 by the time the ceremony ends in less than 20 minutes. 

I finish the second cake just in time to see the mother-of-the-bride walk into the reception hall, look at the cake, and, burst into tears. She says, “I didn’t cry at all during the ceremony but when I saw the cake…   It’s so beautiful.”   And it really was!

Sometimes, even I have a hard time believing the miracle that happened that day. But the radiant look on my niece’s face when she thanked me for baking her wedding cake helps me remember that anything is possible when I let love lead the way.


Out of the ten storytellers, Cyndie’s performance earned a second place score from the judges, losing out by half a point to a tale that included both a tornado and nudity. The evening was a smashing (pun intended) success and made all the sweeter by the support of family and friends who showed up to cheer her on.











Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2023 at 6:00 am

Grand Slam

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One of the things Cyndie decided to do to occupy herself during the months she was laid up with a broken ankle was to explore storytelling. “The Moth” level of storytelling. She bought their book about storytelling and started writing down details of stories from her life experiences that seemed worthy of telling. She picked the date of a local Moth story slam at the end of this month and has been working on honing one of her stories down to an effective 5-minute version.

Last night, we drove to St. Paul to get an in-person taste of Moth storytelling at the Fitzgerald Theater. It was their GrandSLAM Championship where nine winners of previous story slams competed against each other with 5-minute stories based on a common theme of “Crash Course.”

At the end of the night, my first question to her was, “Did that change your mind about throwing your name in the hat?”

It didn’t. I find it difficult to understand that she won’t even know if she will have a chance to try until the night of the event because they pull 10 names out of a hat to determine whose stories will be told. I don’t know how many people show up hoping to be selected to stand on stage in front of a microphone under a bright light in front of a large audience, but I’d guess it will be more than ten.

Last night we got the chance to see what aspects of the storytelling worked well and what Cyndie might want to keep in mind if she gets the chance to tell her story of baking and assembling a wedding cake for our niece’s wedding. The versions Cyndie has been trying out have changed a lot from when she started. The Moth asks that stories be “known by heart but not rote memorization.”

Whittling down the entire experience of a compelling story into a 5-minute version forces you to figure out what details are essential and which ones don’t contribute to the main point. Moving from reading it to “telling” it by memory gets tricky with multiple versions floating around in her mind.

Only one storyteller last night had a moment of visibly losing their train of thought. The emcee did a great job of rallying the crowd to support all storytellers with a lot of love and we cheered the person with encouragement and her story resumed flawlessly in short order.

“The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.”

Cyndie has countless stories worth telling. I’m thrilled she has chosen to develop greater mastery of the art of telling them well and doing so in larger venues.

It’s a bonus for me because I LOVE listening to well-told stories. That is… when I’m not too busy trying to tell one of my own. Why don’t I try getting on a Moth stage? I think it comes down to the part about knowing the story by heart and telling it in 5-minutes. On a stage.

I’d rather write my stories in a blog.



Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2023 at 6:00 am

Cyndie Leaves

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It’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. One minute she was here, the next minute she was gone. Cyndie has flown to Florida to spend a little time with her mom and our daughter where the water isn’t frozen.

Before she left, Cyndie took advantage of one of our pleasant afternoons to visit the horses and seized on an opportunity to untangle some of the “fairy knots” in Mix’s mane.

Mix almost stayed put long enough for her to get them fully separated. Combing out the rest of the mane with some conditioner will have to wait for another day. I look forward to a time when Cyndie has regained her full mobility and can return to bringing her precious energy to the horses in the paddocks every day again.

Hopefully, a little sunshine and exercise in the swimming pool will do wonders for the rehabilitation of her ankle.

Her scenery has definitely changed. One might even describe that as an improvement. (Individual opinions will vary.)

I am holding down the ranch on my own in her absence, which isn’t all that different from the previous four months of her restricted ambulatory abilities. The main thing that changes is my diet becomes a lot less fancy. She did make a point of baking a fresh batch of cookies before she left, so the management of my self-control and willpower won’t be getting a break.

Full disclosure: The primary incentive for managing my consumption of cookies is not for health reasons. I need to pace myself so they will last until Cyndie’s return.



Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2023 at 7:00 am

Accident Scene

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Something clicked when we reached the intersection of Hwys 63 & 77 in Hayward. I told Cyndie I felt a moment of post-traumatic stress at the sight of the interchange as it triggered a memory of driving through it toward the emergency room at Hayward Hospital.

I went through that intersection twice more that night, on the way to and from the pharmacy in Walmart where I also needed to find wide-leg sweatpants for Cyndie to put on before leaving the hospital. I found a mauve-colored, elastic waist velvet number that Cyndie is prone to describing as “hideous” but she always follows that with the clarification that she loves them and they became her favorite pant during those weeks of recovery.

I asked Cyndie if she wanted to revisit the scene of her accident last November at the footbridge over the lagoon.

Without hesitation, her response was an emphatic “NO!”

Beyond the fact she didn’t want to get that close to the memory right now, the amount of snow and her hobbled condition make that walk ill-advised. From the comfort of the cabin, I took a photo in the general direction of that bridge.

I didn’t feel like walking out there, either.

In fact, we are watching the start of the American Birkebeiner while snugged on the couch.

We will be heading out to see Ella Williams ski her second Birkie after her wave crosses the start line. Trying to pick her out of the online streamed view of the thousand skiers staging for their wave is our first thrill of the day.

Soon we will don our winter wear and venture out to a convenient crossing at 00 (doublel-oh) to cheer her on in person. Then we will drive to town to watch the finish.

It will be an interesting test of how much walking Cyndie’s ankle will tolerate outdoors in the cold.



Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2023 at 11:08 am

Walking Outside

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We achieved another milestone in Cyndie’s prolonged rehabilitation after the surgery to repair her shattered ankle bones. Yesterday, I invited her to take a little walk down our driveway for the first time since last October. With both crutches for support and wearing her new hiking shoes, Cyndie gingerly made her way along mostly dry pavement under warm sunshine.

As we arrived parallel to the barn, Mia took immediate notice and began prancing back and forth, studying what she was witnessing. At first, we took it as a sign of excitement over the discovery Cyndie was actually alive but then it occurred to us Mia was probably startled by the strange metal appendages being used for balance. Anything out of the ordinary always draws intense scrutiny from the horses.

After we passed the hay shed, Cyndie was feeling confident enough to navigate her way over the softening snowpack of the plowed pathway to the barn so she could greet the horses up close.

It was wonderful for me to see Cyndie with the horses again but the whole exercise revealed how far she is from being functional on two feet yet. She has made so much progress moving around in the kitchen I start to think she can do that anywhere. I think the convenient support of counters surrounding her in the kitchen is the secret to how confidently she stands and takes steps there. Now, if she could just take those counters with her when she walks outside, she’d do great.

All joking aside, she is making good progress and we both expect that to continue and become more impressive with each passing week.

There won’t be any athletic sports footwork in her near future, but I bet she will transition away from needing crutch support surprisingly soon. Especially after I hide them and claim I have no idea where they are.

I wouldn’t do anything as devious as that. Especially when she’s just as likely to misplace them on her own and decide to just move on without them.



Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2023 at 7:00 am

Walking Shoes

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One of the things we did on our brief holiday away from the ranch was shop for walking shoes for Cyndie’s recuperation period. It’s hard to describe how weird it was to watch Cyndie trying to partially use her right foot and walk/crutch back and forth around the store. She’d only started using her right foot two days before and now she was trying on shoe after shoe and motoring around the place for what seemed like an endless parade of indecision.

Ultimately, decisions were made. Two new pairs of footwear –one for indoors and one for outside, and both on sale– were picked to help Cyndie step her way through regaining her stride.

She is making impressive progress already but with anticipated residual consequences that call for periods of rest after doing a lot of “walking.” She is still relying on two crutches but the transition to just one crutch may happen soon.

We are both very happy that she will now be supporting her ankle with new shoes that fit comfortably.


Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2023 at 7:00 am

Almond Braid

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In order to practice standing with 50% weight on her repaired ankle, our intrepid hero chose to bake an almond braid the other day. Well, not just one almond braid.

“I just followed the recipe,” Cyndie said. “Next time I will cut the ingredients in half.”

A little bit out of practice after spending most of her time in a recliner the last three months instead of in the kitchen, I heard her regretting she forgot to glaze the braids with brushed-on egg whites. I noted her almond sprinkling looked a bit uneven, kind of like her balance as she occasionally hops to and fro, reaching for utensils, pans, or ingredients.

I don’t mean to appear insensitive with my critiques. She always encourages my honest opinions and sometimes calls me her “Paul Hollywood” when I provide insights about the dough being a little over or underdone or desired flavors not coming through.

The first bite was absolutely delightful, though having heard her mention the missing glaze, I noted the improvement it might have provided. As we discussed it, Cyndie clarified the braids ended up over-baked. Without the glaze, deciding when to bring them out of the oven based on appearance didn’t work so well.

The recipe suggested a bake time of 15-30 minutes which was a significant span of minutes. Possibly double the time! That left too much room for error.

I did my part to help justify her making two of them by eating more slices than my body needed. Then I found out she froze the extra one, so my excesses weren’t necessary. I tried to justify my extra bites by saying I was just “straightening the edge” but that didn’t really apply in this case. The cut edge was never “not” straight.

Last night, Cyndie felt discomfort in her ankle and said it felt like one of the screws was coming loose. Yeah, I needed to bite my tongue to not jump on that inviting opportunity to poke fun about loose screws.

The big concern for me is whether a new problem in her ankle will interrupt her comeback in the kitchen. Good thing she made two braids, just in case.



Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2023 at 11:28 am

Having Connections

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When we moved here over ten years ago, we didn’t know anyone in the area. Slowly, we introduced ourselves to our neighbors. We met some contractors who did some work for us. Eventually, I achieved a connection that I was particularly proud of having. I could boast that there was a guy in Beldenville who was, “my welder.”

Now, just because I haven’t needed his services since the initial job he did for me years ago, it doesn’t keep me from bragging about knowing “a guy” who can do big welding jobs for me. Lately, I feel like I’ve been losing connections. I no longer can say, “My boss” or “My coworkers.” I don’t have any.

Cyndie, on the other hand, is adding connections. She now drops phrases in conversation like, “My trauma surgeon” or “My physical therapist says…”

Yesterday, her physical therapist said Cyndie should keep using both of her crutches for at least another week. At their next session, she can review progress to see if she can go to just a single crutch for a time.

It seems obvious if you think about it, but her therapist pointed out that standing on both feet is putting 50% weight on each foot. I was thinking about that as I walked back from the barn last night and figured out I was alternating between 100% and 0% as I stepped my paces up the driveway. For now, Cyndie isn’t supposed to put more than 50% weight on her right ankle.

Interestingly, she is making progress, but her movements since Monday when she met with the surgeon for the follow-up assessment seem a lot worse than how she was moving over the weekend. That is because when she wasn’t putting any weight on her right foot she had gotten very adept at using a knee scooter or leaning on a walker as she whipped around in the house.

Now she is less stable in her movements because she is actually wearing a shoe and putting weight on the right foot. Cyndie got excited the other day because she could see some veins in her foot for the first time since the injury and subsequent swelling that persisted.

Before we know it, she will be renewing a connection with the herd of horses down at the barn again.

I won’t even think of asking her to lift any bales of hay until her physical therapist says it’s allowed.



Written by johnwhays

January 26, 2023 at 7:00 am

Two Shoes

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It felt like it had been a while since we got out to see the world beyond our place. For Cyndie, it was the first time she had stepped out of the house in a couple of weeks. The landscape looked like a postcard with the trees all flocked white with frost.

We were on our way to an appointment with Cyndie’s trauma surgeon. Upon our arrival, Cyndie was immediately directed to “Imaging” for X-rays of her repaired ankle.

It occurred to me that Cyndie and her surgeon might be a little biased in their assessment of the surgery outcome. They both want it to be as positive as possible.

That is exactly what I heard from each of them. I asked how soon she could carry a bale of hay and received some chuckles. I didn’t get an answer, but my point was made. The doc knew what my priority was.

He seemed a little surprised that Cyndie hadn’t walked on it at all up to this point, grabbing the boot to see if the bottom was significantly scuffed. We were in no hurry to overrule the doctor’s order. He said to wait, so Cyndie waited and I completely supported her staying off it. We had both grown eager to move on to the next “step” of her recuperation.

The surgeon said her foot looks great. He really had no negatives to mention. He issued a new order for her physical therapist, detailing what to work on. With great humor, he discussed all the issues Cyndie asked about and more. He pointed out where Cyndie will likely experience pain from tendons that haven’t been used for months, talked about shoe choices, and recommended “Superfeet” insoles for added arch support.

As we left the office, Cyndie crutched away while using that right foot a little bit for the first time since November 3rd.

First thing she did when we got home was dig in her closet for a pair of shoes. A pair. She hasn’t needed two shoes for so long, single left shoes were the only thing showing up.

Tomorrow will be the first PT day where she can put some weight on that foot. The therapist will need to guide her with advice about gradually increasing the percentage of walking pressure while still using crutches for support.

After being patient about doing any walking at all, there is no need to suddenly get impatient about losing the crutches completely.

I saw a comment yesterday about raising children that stated, “The days go by slowly but the years go by fast.” It feels like Cyndie’s ankle rehab will be slow in days, months, and probably a whole year.

I don’t expect her to be throwing around hay bales anytime soon.



Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2023 at 7:00 am