A memory of an ex reminded me it’s okay to pull from the past to stabilize and comfort yourself.

I was on a train in Florida with Carl. We had started dating a few weeks earlier. But he could fly standby because his dad works for the airline.

I got him from the airport. Floating down the escalator in a red plaid shirt, his eyes perked up when he saw me in that subtle way of his. He gave me a small trinket. A DNA ring he made out of wire for my biochemist self.

We were on our way to Miami. I didn’t know the train system well, so we got on the wrong train. …


How’s your brain is the “how are you” of 2020. A health scare story.

Image of my partner Ben and I at the UW emergency room. I am wearing a light blue hospital mask with blue hair. Ben has a light yellow mask on and a rain jacket. We are leaning our heads together and smiling. There’s a bed railing between us and hospital equipment in the background.

The smooth, cold tiles of my bathroom floor felt great on my forehead. Did I get here from showering? I thought that was a while ago.

I laid there for some time. Then something, maybe fear, pushed me to get to my phone on my bed. Those giant, last reserve energy pushes are something I can never describe to a healthy person.

I called my partner Ben who I had just been texting. I told him he needed to take me to urgent care, that I was dizzy and couldn’t walk. I called my sister and said Ben was coming…


I've been reading a book. It's a thing I've been known to do. Such wonk, much clever. Called Invisible Women, about the gender data gap. Sometimes it's blowing my mind and other times it's all tell-me-something-I-don't-know.

One part explains the vast amount of verbal and physical street harassment women experience. In the midst of a barrage of traumatic memories...

Ahhh remember armpit bird guy? That was a HOOT.

No? A chirp? A flutter? I don't have any other bird terminology.

Narrator: It was, actually, a flutter.

One second I'm greeting my date outside the children's museum, where we were about…


As my service dog puppy Pepper Ann nears a year old, do I continue to hope things improve during this pandemic or rehome her?

[Header image: seedlings (forget-me-nots) pushing up in a gold container. There’s a teal floral curtain in the background. These seeds were sent in a one-year sympathy card from Journey’s Home Pet Euthanasia, about the loss of my service dog Franklin.]

My hand and shoulder are searing with pain. Every jostle as she stops and pulls shifts the bag I’m carrying. Her momentum drags my hypermobile body out of alignment. I trade the leash and bag between my hands, as if I have a choice in the experiences of my body.

I get into my partner’s front lobby and dry her off with the towel I brought. I search for dry spots in the towel to absorb more water from her fur. I can’t stop the thoughts as I grab each of her legs and beg her to stand still.

“Fuck…


I got stalked in graduate school.

[Header image: picture of me, Cakelin, at 22 in graduate school. I’m a white femme person, shown here with long red hair. I am wearing a fake mustache and holding a monocle I made out of glitter-y pipe cleaners.]

I accepted a bunch of Facebook friend requests from people in my graduate school program. He was one of them. It took a while to discover the amount he knew about me from my profile.

At a department volunteering event, he was driving and dropped everyone else off first. He got me to talk to him for two hours by telling me it was the anniversary of his mom’s death. He knew where I lived because of the volunteering event.

Of course, he knew what lab I was in.

He started showing up at my lab in the middle of…


A reflection on pandemic creativity, motivation, and mistakes

Image of a drawing with many small circles with tails, evenly spaced. They could be jellyfish or asteroids. An image of the author Cakelin is to the right, a light-skinned person in an orange dress and gold boots. Over the top are the words “Jellyfish ASTEROODS”. An accidental misspelling (asteriods) turned deliberate. The last 4 lines of the poem surround the title: “We create We slumber We connect We tumble”

I think one day that the problem is hope
It’s expectations
It’s shenpa
Getting caught so deep
In ideas of what should be

It’s craving stability
That will never exist
Not in this body
Not in this world

I think another day
What if it’s just handing me proof
Of who I am minus productivity
Water that stays until the air can absorb it

But where is the sense in changing now
When everything is change
Faster than I was ready

What if it’s telling me
I’ve never needed to be ready
Silence inviting the whisper in

It will have…


Because together we form an unbreakable net. I believe in a Wisconsin that can enact important human-centered policies like paid leave.

A picture of the “Family Leave for Everyone” sign described in the introduction paragraph with rainbow shading effects
A picture of the “Family Leave for Everyone” sign described in the introduction paragraph with rainbow shading effects

In case you’ve missed it, there’s a pandemic happening. I wrote this article before COVID-19 and have decided not to edit it. Paid leave is an important issue for all Wisconsinites. There will be plenty of other articles and people saying it’s more important now, but I don’t agree. Our individual well-being has always affected others. Our failure to provide the same opportunities and care for everyone travels through social networks. It deprives humanity of the most diverse ideas and talent. It robs us all of our ability to provide compassion to ourself and others. It lowers our tolerance for…


This is in response to a recent Cap Times article, ‘None of This Has Changed’, about Madison’s failure to make a dent in our worst-in-the-country racial disparities.

The article mentions an intensive mentoring program to prevent black kids from stealing cars:

“The program, funded with $250,000 from the United Way and $100,000 from the county, would serve up to 49 kids..”

That’s $7,000 per kid. Their family could buy a car with that or a parent could be home more.

We (white people in Dane County/Madison) funnel a lot of money through nonprofits that’s intended to help black people, but…


When loss and fulfillment combine to point you down a new path

I’m not a huge fan of “recovery” as a concept for mental health. It seems to suggest there’s an invisible wall you’ve crawled over and now it’s just about maintaining it. For me, it’s far more important to accept and lean into difficult and dynamic emotions. Sometimes even the heaviest emotions can bring gifts, like grief brings clarity. The only way out is through.

The Madison startup community had a huge loss recently and I have my own small piece of that collective grief. Losing Amy made me realize I don’t want to wait and keep my own business in…


Be attached to effort and not outcomes. It’s not your job to tell yourself no. Good decisions aren’t always linked to good results.

Picture of a tweet by @JuiceTooWavie that says ‘Do y’all think bugs are born knowing they can walk up walls or do they just accidentally do it one day and go “yooooooooo”’

I applied for a 50k grant from *the* Hank Green last week. Ahhhhh! I can’t even find where I found the original Google Form so hopefully I didn’t just dream this. For the sake of transparency… here’s my submission. I own nudges.io (and need to put something on the domain), but I keep alternating between calling my product Nudges and Nudges IO. Still less confusing than when it was named Cake after me.

I’m fixing my own problem, I know cognitive burdens like information overload and distractions well.

What is your product / service?

Nudges IO. Start where your data is. It finds all of your…

Cakelin Marquardt

I write for machines and humans. Developer, biochemist, disabled, Buddhist, queer. Into policy, poetry, data rights, cognition research & tech diversity.

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