Monthly Archives: January 2014


Dang! I said, as I stumbled and grabbed the windshield on the back of the car.  “If I had known this artificial knee was going to be this much trouble, I would never have gotten it!”

Ouch! That was a complaint, eh?

My client who was walking beside me, caught my elbow and righted me.  I smiled, with more than a little chagrin, and got into my car.  I sat as quietly as I could, letting that little moment of negatitivty release from my consciousness.  Yes,  I had uttered a complaint.  I felt the brief wave of defeat waft over me.

But I let it go. It had been a long day, I was tired, and I put just the tiniest speck of gripe out there.  Had it been a bigger burst, I might be justifying it but instead, I’m learning and remembering why I started this journey.

Jump That Gun!

I pushed “listen to voice mail” on my cell phone a few days ago and winced as I heard a cheery voice say, “This is the XYZ company calling —-  ” naming a cleaning service that I used a number of years ago.  I had terminated their services due to being dissatisfied with their efforts.  “Can’t they read their notes!” I exclaimed.  “I am not a good candidate for soliciting business!”  Delete, delete, delete!  I neither finished listening nor returned the call. Not interested!!!

Imagine my surprise when I received an envelope from them in yesterday’s mail.  I made a little face — which I acknowledge even though I have no witness so I did not get caught making a face of complaint.  “Oh, geez, they don’t give up!” I thought to myself, glancing around, only briefly wondering if I’m breaking my own rule about not complaining.  Surely not!

I almost through the envelope in the trash, but it felt heavy. I figured it might be one of those advertising magnets.  I collect those, so I opened the envelope.

Inside, was the key to my house.  In fact, it was one of the original keys that I got when I bought the house!  They apparently realized that they had never returned it, and wanted to make sure to follow through.

Oh man. Did I jump some guns.  *taking out my notepad and marking down — lesson learned*.  No jumping guns.  Life will be richer when we wait to see what it is the other person intends to say, and give ourselves time to reflect before we respond.


Pushing all the buttons

Today I saw a news article online about a statement made by a Conservative “talk show host”.  I won’t repeat the statement, or give you the site, because…well….I’m still cleaning chicken soup off my monitor from gasping when I read it and I don’t want you to suffer the same fate.

But my spray-of-broth choking fit immediately prompted me to wonder if my boycott of complaint allows me to grumble about the foolishness of public figures.

I don’t watch TV except — I boldly admit — Top Chef and Project Runway.  I am a proud, though sometimes disillusioned, Democrat and quite liberal socially and otherwise.  I’m married to a person who occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, which makes for some tense moments.  I don’t like action movies (except anything with Tommy Lee Jones) and my taste runs to poetry, plays and movies which “make you think”.  My favorite flick of all time is My Brilliant Career, followed, very closely, by When A Man Loves A Woman.  Coming in third these days is Beasts of The Southern Wild.  That’s how I roll.

So — I rarely hear (except, I must say, in the background) political views by loud-mouth talk show hosts, the rantings of actors and actresses in skin-tight clothing, or the pronouncements of people making full use of their allotted 15 minutes of fame and maybe a few of mine, too.  I don’t have to focus on these things.  They don’t impact my life. I already know what (I think) I believe.  I try to read source material to form my opinions, a task made easier by the internet. I skip even the editorial pages which express views in line with mine.

On the rare occasion, such as today, when a strongly held opinion or stubbornly undertaken action with which I disagree occurs — something said or done in the public eye — should I voice my disgust?

Still pondering this one. Until I get to the end of my pondering, I’m holding my tongue.  And cleaning off my monitor.

What do YOU think?


*slapping forehead here*

Today I found myself telling a friend about a situation which caused me some frustration.  But rather than just moaning and groaning,  I found myself using a less alarming voice.  I felt my emotions stay level, and my energy move in the direction of understanding both my reactions and the situation’s origins with an eye  towards determining if it could be remedied or avoided in the future.  As I spoke, a coil within me relaxed and the fury that I might have put into the narrative in times past abated.

As I walked to my car a bit later, I actually raised my hand in the course of an internal dialogue, almost slapping my own forehead in chagrin.  I stopped myself just in time to keep from startling a random bystander.  But the awakening moment persisted.  I realized that the same force which I’ve been using to be angry could have been used, all these years, for problem-solving.

And then I recalled something my son used to say to me, something his pre-school teacher, the incomparable Magda Helmuth, taught him.  “Now that you’ve identified the problem, what’s the solution?”  This question followed any exclamation from “the soup is burning!”  to “I have no clean socks!”  Amazing.  I’m still learning from my kid.  What a world!

Ignorance is Bliss

I saw someone yesterday who has various physical ailments relating to age and occupation.  I asked how he was feeling; and how his wife, who has serious back trouble, is doing.  “Oh, I’ve got my aches and pains, but nothing like what you must have,” he replied.  And of his wife:  “Well, she’s still laid up, on pain pills that don’t do much good, but I bet you know what that’s like.”

I smiled at him, from the other side of a half-lowered car window in the wind-swept clearing at my husband’s oil lease.  The sound of the sputtering generator obscured my reply, and I had to repeat it:  “Oh, really, the truth is, I’ve no standard of comparison so as far as I am concerned, life is status quo.”

It’s true, too.  I’ve been disabled since I was 18 months old.  It ebbs and flows; waxes and wanes; some problems arise and collateral damage occurs. But by and large, since I have nothing with which to compare my state, I live in blissful ignorance.  Pain-free?  Well, once — on morphine the first time I dislocated my shoulder by falling down a flight of stairs.  Actually, it wasn’t the fall that did me in, but the landing. I grabbed a large, industrial sink with no  lower cabinet as I fell down the last few steps, thinking to stop myself.  Instead, I swung under the sink and pop! went the shoulder from the socket.  I was nine.  The ER doctor gave me a shot that rendered me completely painless, goofy, and unable to communicate.

I’d make a terrible drug addict; I’d rather have the pain. Most days, at least!  So, when I count my blessings, among them, ironically, I include the fact that I have no idea what I’m missing!

I know, I know — I’m weird!!!!

Stormy weather

I won’t name names, except my own.  But today challenged my resolve, I’m here to tell you.

A perfect storm of problems swirled around my brain and nearly caused an explosion.  I spent four hours with a client, meticulously refining a complicated settlement document.  I slogged through the various back-and-forth exchanges, culling through each paragraph to find every change, the points of agreement, the areas of ambiguity.  I examined each nuanced phrase and ferreted out any clause as to which I felt the other side might be waxing coy.  Through all of that effort, I devised a lengthy document of which I felt fairly proud.

I spent the next 90 minutes trying to get a digitized copy of that document to move the ten feet between my goldarn fancy scanner/copier and my computer.  Had my son not tired of waiting for me to come out of my office to go to lunch, I might be still pulling out my hair.  But he came inside, got on his phone’s browser, and discovered gmail had screeched to a hault.  I tore out to the secretarial area and lowered a boom on my poor receptionist:  “You’ll have to hand-fax using the old landline fax.”

Whereupon I learned that it had stopped working three weeks ago.

I felt my voice rising as I asked how it could be that a piece of equipment had failed THREE WEEKS AGO and yet I had not been told?

My son practically hog-tied me and dragged me to lunch.  “Stop yelling at everybody,” he told me. “You’re hungry, come eat.”  A cup of hot tea, a “Bread for All” combo appetizer, and an hour later, I found myself walking around my suite, apologizing to anyone who had been within earshot of my  melt-down, especially my poor secretary.

I don’t know if this technically qualified as a relapse day, but it came darn close.  When the storms subsided, though, at least I realized that in my frustration, hunger, and worry, I had over-stepped the bounds of good grace.  And now that the stormy weather passed, and the seas are calm, I’m left wondering how often in the past I have followed just this path.

I’m taking the day as a lesson; and moving forward.

Warning, Attitude Might Be Hazardous To Your Health

In 1985, my mother died from metastatic uterine cancer.  Several weeks before the last stretch of her journey home, as she called it, one of my siblings said, “Mom, this is a case of mind over matter!” My mother placed her hand on my sibling’s arm, and said, “Sweetie, if it was ever a case of mind over matter, mind lost a long time ago!”

A friend told me today that he “liked my new attitude”, and that he felt my health would improve along with my disposition.  In truth, I have about four medical conditions episodes of which can be triggered by stress.  Grumpiness, and attitudes causing grumpiness, fall squarely in the stress category.

If negativity can be hazardous to your health, and lack of negativity can be beneficial to your health, I’m betting that a positive outlook can be beneficial to your health!  And now that I think of it, my mom smiled even as she conceded that the cancer had “won”.  She didn’t have a negative attitude — she had cancer!


What We Mean When We Say Nothing

Among the acting performances which I’ve found memorable ranks that of Amy Madigan in the televised enactment of “The Revolt of Mother”, based on a short story by Mary E. Wilkins about a woman who silently secures her husband’s acquiescence in her desire for a new home after decades of living in a virtual hovel.  A poignant piece masterfully portrayed, and an eloquent message about pre-emptive action to thwart complaint.

What I mean is this:  If we watch the ones we love, whose comfort and contentment we desire to promote, we can create situations in which those folks have no need of complaint.

Marshall Rosenberg tells us that everything we do stems from our own needs.  He also believes that the natural state of humans is that of giving creatures.  If I have a need for a peaceful existence, then doing something which you desire to have me do meets my need.   My existence will be peaceful when you smile upon me with tranquility because I have done that which you desire me to do.  Wow!  Such a simple concept, but when you picture each person meeting his/her own need for peace and harmony by doing that which the other desires them to do, you understand that complaining can be eliminated altogether.

And Mother’s revolt was successful, but extreme.  She silently and somberly stated her complaint, and Father had no choice but to give her what she wanted or face the consequences.  How much better would it be to anticipate the other’s desires and needs before revolt becomes the only apparent answer?

One caveat, from Marshall Rosenberg:  Actions for the other must be freely given and the other must be free to decline.  And from me:  If the other declines to do that which you request, you can’t complain!  You must let them be free to decline.

It sounds complicated; but I’m not complaining.

On a scale of Nirvana to Bosnia, I’m somewhere in between

My son entered me in a Kansas City Star contest years ago.  The contest’s subject? “The luckiest person in Kansas City.”  My son, then age 6 or 7, reasoned that my health problems so threatened my life that survival signalled incredible good fortune.

I didn’t win the contest, but the Star found his entry so charming that one writer decided to profile me.  My picture appeared on the front page of the FYI section next to a two-inch headline:  ONE TOUGH COOKIE.  For months thereafter, people stopped me at my son’s school, outside the drug store, and in the hallways of the courtouse.  “Aren’t you that lady, the one who lived against all odds?”  Not all odds, I told them.  Just really long ones.

On a scale of Nirvania to Bosnia, I dwell in that wide swathe of land in between, where days mostly resonate with beauty but occasionally groan under the weight of an unexpected downpour.  I’ve got plenty of scope for comparison.  I find myself surrounded by green grass, drinking from a half-full cup, and counting my lucky stars.

My parents had no wealth and at times, our Sunday dinner consisted of one chicken divided ten ways.  A box of canned goods appeared on our porch one Thanksgiving.  For years, I closed my eyes and pictured my mother on her hands and knees, in the kitchen, crying over a shattered milk bottle.  There would be no replacement.

I’ve struggled at times too.  Jobs that didn’t materialize, a law practice that barely supported my household for years.  Months of medical bills that wrecked my credit and left me shaking, crying, in the same little nook where  I posed for photographer Jim Bartimus, eternally pictured in my grotto, surrounded by my angel collection and my mother’s shelf of Haviland china.   And an over-arching theme:  Will my health even hold?

But I’ve not known true deprivation, except from a distance.  I feel that keenly; I know I have been incredibly blessed, endlessly fortunate, and sometimes just downright lucky. If luck is a lady, she has smiled on me.  I know many who think luck wears the mask of an evil harlequin, cackling and chortling as she heaps cinders on their head.

So, when my doctor walks into the examining room, and asks how I am, there can be only one honest reply:  I’m just fine.

Survey says…

Going complaint-free just got complicated.

So I stop at my local Office Depot. We’re nearly out of copy paper, which i knew  last week and failed to appreciate.  Or, at least, didn’t address by ordering more.  I got the paper, $43 smackeroos for a 10-ream case, and sundry other items, and swiped the old office debit card.

Feeling good, I cruised to work.  I conned a strong person into carrying the paper, grabbed coffee, and sat down at my desk to read e-mail.

Arggh!  First item:  A notice that at Office Depot ON-LINE, from which I typically order, I can get a case of copy paper for $29.99!

The next e-mail to enter my in-box is a “survey” from Office Depot about my in-store experience.

Now, get this. Other than the after-the-fact discovery that I could have gotten one of the items for $14.00 online, my shopping experience at the store had been just marvelous.  A nice gentleman carried the copy paper to my cart, then to my car, and everybody I saw was pleasant.  And — a big AND — I’m trying to live complaint-free!

I answered the survey, down-grading my state of satisfaction from “extremely” to one step below.  I explained my reasoning in civil tones — or the typed equivalent.  I sent it, feeling only vaguely queasy.  Was that a complaint or not?  My queasiness intensified when I got a very cordial, contrite email from the store manager, offering me a 15% discount on my next in-store visit!

Sooooo.  Did I complain?  Well, yes, I think I did.  Strike 2!  How many innings are there?  Ah, 12.  If I make it through January without any more slips, I get a fresh start on February 1st.  Let’s see….31 days hath January…..