Monthly Archives: December 2014

Grateful for Minds Left Open

Some of you might recall my letter to Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) after my father-in-law’s death.  In that letter, I described the process of my assisting Jay in casting a Republican ballot in favor of Mr. Roberts and others, a day before Jay slipped into the last mortal sleep, less than forty-eight hours before he died.  As I promised Jay, my favorite curmudgeon, I charged Mr. Roberts with being a faithful steward for the citizens of his state and this nation.

Mr. Roberts called my office just days after his re-election and, reaching  my voice mail, left a message of which I’ve spoken here.  It brought tears to my eyes; and reminded me that regardless of our differences, we walk the same earth and have compassion for the same endearing concerns.  Mr. Roberts and I have traded messages over the last month, but yesterday, in the middle of my Verizon Wireless odyssey, he called my cell phone and I terminated a long hold span to speak with him.

Him, mind you. Not an aide saying, “Hold for Senator Roberts”.  I said, “Hello,” and he said, “Ms. Corley, this is Pat Roberts,” and a conversation ensued.  He said my letter moved him more than any he had received in many a year.  He told me he keeps it on his desk to remind him that there is a Democrat in Missouri watching over him on behalf of her father-in-law, a life-long Republican who has gone to his heavenly reward.  He told me that he hoped he would not disappoint either me or Jay, and he vowed that  if I ever needed anything, anything at all within his power — or if any of Jay’s family did — I should call.  I, in turn, thanked him for taking the time and effort to continue to reach out to me.  I told him that he could count on one friend in Missouri at least, being myself, a Democrat but nonetheless, someone whom I hoped he would consider a friend.  He vouchsafed to do so.  We parted with Christmas greetings, and he wished me, too, God’s blessings.

Today, I am grateful for minds left open — both mine and that of Senator Roberts.  With no press, no fanfare, no intervening assistants, no sound bite, no photo op, Mr. Roberts made every effort to reach me and thank me for my words to him, and to tell me how much they moved him.  I cannot say that I will ever agree with how Mr. Roberts votes in Congress, and I might well criticize the actions of the Republican-controlled Congress.  But Senator Pat Roberts has earned a fair measure of my respect.  For whatever it is worth, I would consider him a friend, and lift my hand to help him if I could.


Grateful for My Sense of Humor

I was nearly sent over the edge today by a half-dozen Verizon Wireless employees.  The odyssey started over the weekend.  I had fallen, smashed my chest, hands, and cell phone.   My chest and my hands seem to be recovering after three evenings’ application of a heating pad and a day of healing at Carnie’s Honker Springs Farm.  The cell phone — not so much.

I went online Friday night trying to determine my eligibility for an upgrade.  When I had determined that I could get one, I spent 90 minutes comparing phones to determine the “most bang for the least buck”.  Then I walked myself through the order process, only to see one of my lines deleted from the list in the “check your order” page.

At that point, I clicked “chat with a representative”, and spent twenty minutes online with “Shaleadina”, during which I would type a question, answer three or four e-mails, get her response, type another question or piece of information, go get a cup of coffee, come back to check if she had answered, waited, gotten her answer, repeat, repeat, repeat.  This person then informed me that she was “trained to place Verizon orders but did not have the right to access the account”.  Ohhh-kay.

I tried again on Saturday.  I cleared the browser, deleted temporary files, and went through the entire process again.  This time three lines were deleted from the list.  I tried chatting online again but the person did not know how to transfer an upgrade from one line to the other in order to process my request.

I resolved to try again on Monday, by phone.  I started the call at 12:15 p.m.  I tried being nice, cajoling, talking to a supervisor, repeating, talking louder, yelling, pounding my head on the desk, pacing, cajoling some more, talking to supervisors some more, speaking sternly (code word for more yelling), begging some more, and finally, at 4:40 p.m., I had a new phone ordered and being sent to the correct address.  The last lady asked me to “hold for a few moments”, which grossly under-stated the likely hold time, while she “confirmed the correction on the mailing address [had] gone through”.  I told her, softly but frankly, that the four-and-a-half hours on the phone had driven me to the brink of insanity, and that if she needed any more information, she would need to call me tomorrow.  I told her, “Merry Christmas, thank you, and goodbye” and terminated the call.

Two minutes later, she called back and asked me if I would “participate in a brief customer service to testify to the excellent service” that I had received.

I started laughing.  I’m still laughing.  It all seems pretty absurd now.  I do not know why their website didn’t work on Friday or Saturday.  I suspect it was just experiencing heavy traffic.  I don’t know why the chat folks cannot access my account or why the first five people who helped me today could not figure out how to do what I needed done.  But I do know that when the last person called me back to solicit my endorsement of their services, my sense of humor re-engaged and the whole matter suddenly seems extraordinarily funny.

You have to laugh, right?  Otherwise. . . well.  You know.


Love at the Farm

Ellen Carnie invited me to come to her farm in order to attend the Christmas program at Stony Point Church last evening.  I almost declined but she practically forced me to make the trip.  The messages she sent became increasingly insistent, as though she knew that my soul needed the restoration that the farm offers.  Here I lie, therefore, in a bed in an old farmhouse, nearly an hour north of my home.  And I am grateful that I let myself be cajoled into this brief sojourn in a peaceful place.

Last evening’s program at the Church blended the rich tradition of old church songs with the endearing tenderness of children’s voices singing carols about Rudolph and Santa Claus.  About fifty members of the Church attended, with a dozen children and one or two cheerful babies.  The lights dimmed for Silent Night, during which the congregation held lighted candles and the music leader played the organ.  The choir, clad in red sweaters, tendered lovely pieces which reminded me of midnight mass in my childhood parish.  Ellen’s granddaughter Elizabeth stood beside the piano and sang I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas in a loud clear voice, with her brother Owen dancing beside her.

Afterwards, Ellen and I sat until 1:00 a.m. talking of the events of our lives and sharing wine which I had brought from the city.  Now I lie here, wakeful but feeling the peace and love which seems to rise from the ground here, grateful for Ellen, for her friends who greeted me warmly last evening.  I wait for the sun which I know will soon be rising.  When the day lights the contours of this land, I will stand on Ellen’s deck, surrounded by the musty smell of fog.  I will close my eyes and breathe the sweetness of the air into my lungs.  I cannot be less than serene here. This place heals; and Ellen’s love lingers everywhere.  In the end, that is my “grateful-for” today:  For Ellen, and the love she gives me, and for the beauty of Carnie’s Honker Springs Farm.

Miss Elisabeth Carnie tends to the candles at Stony Point Church while Santa awaits the next little one to whisper a Christmas list into a waiting ear.

Miss Elisabeth Carnie tends to the candles at Stony Point Church while Santa awaits the next little one to whisper a Christmas list into a waiting ear.

Between sundown and sunrise

This day, my heart overflows with gratitude for the lessons which I have learned this year.

I’ve learned that sometimes people do things which we’d prefer that they did not do; but that what they choose to do reflects something about them, not about us.

I’ve learned that when someone betrays your trust, that also reflects something about their trustworthiness and not about the essential virtue of trusting.

I’ve learned that most folks will recognize need and reach to fulfill it, even at their own risk.

I’ve learned to hear the small, timid voice within myself, which serves as my moral compass.

I’ve embraced changed, and come to realize that evolution will not necessarily bring extinction.

I see that I can identify actions which I’ve taken that I might not take again without castigating myself for those choices.

I’ve been shown that I have a lovely heart, by people who’ve seen me with ragged emotions and tears barely dried upon my cheeks.

I have given love, and have been calmed by the certainty that my gift came from my heart.

I have placed my hand in the hand of a man just days from death, who whispered, I know you love me, honey, and realized that l did, indeed, love him without reservation, and that my life had been immeasurably enriched because of it.

That same man accepted me, in all my imperfection, and because he did, I came to know my own worth as measured by another.

I have heard the true voices of friends who place loyalty above all else, and from the song sung by those voices, I have learned the glory of music.

Tonight I learned that even before the sun rises, the day can turn from darkness to light; when a son reaches out to assess how his parent feels; when a friend sends a message of hope; when a person who truly cares bestows a radiant smile in my direction.

I am immeasurably grateful for these lessons.  In a way, then, I am also grateful for the adversity which threatened my stability and created the venue for my education.

Dennis Lisenby called me a “weeble” on a fairly regular basis.  He meant it as the most supreme of compliments.  I’ll own it, now; and gladly so.


The Month of Gratitude Continues

I missed yesterday, but I certainly had many moments of thankfulness.  A hearing that I thought would be continued instead would move forward today, and my staff and I kicked into high gear.  I stopped working at 1:00 a.m. this morning, lay awake until 3:00 a.m. with a tooth-ache and leg pain, and then startled out of sleep at 7:20 thinking, holy cat-feathers, I told my client that I would be downtown by 8:00! I dashed out of the house fifteen minutes later:  No shower, no coffee, no breakfast, no make-up, but on time.

So here is my gratitude shout-out for tonight:

To the client from my hearing today, who patiently sat for four hours while I negotiated a settlement.

To Alan and Miranda, who threw themselves into helping me without complaint.

To whatever deep instinct awakened me despite the absence of an alarm.

To a friend in Chicago who took a moment to tell me to go get some rest.

To Paula and  Sheldon, who came to dinner on Monday, and released their deep, warm laughter into my house and my heart which lingers still, giving me lift, strength, and courage.

To the server at the Blue Koi who brought me a replacement sesame ball when I dropped one on the floor, delivered with a saucy smile.

And last, but certainly not least, to my friend Jessica, who went on a date with me tonight, sharing her energy, her fears, her dreams, her hopes, and her passion; and receiving mine.

The narrative of my life continues.  Onward, and upward.  I’m headed towards New Year’s Day, skating on solid ice with sure, even strides.  With so much glory in my life, how can I fail?

"The" Alan White, with the incomparable and lovely Jessica Genzer.

“The” Alan White, with the incomparable and lovely Jessica Genzer.

NY-23, Gratitude Day Nine

The woman wore a thick quilted jacket covering the growing girth of her abdomen.  She stood rigid in the little clutch of people at the front of the courtroom, her hand outstretched, her voice rising, rough, harsh. You took my babies, you need to give me my babies back.  The subject of her wrath remained silent:  slender shoulders, lifted chin, thin arms holding a large file.  A figure strode between them with raised hand.  We’re starting, now, sit down, she said, to the quivering, angry mother.

We all sat, but stood again as the judge came out, black-robed, solemn.  I took my place beside my client’s mother. On my left, my fifteen-year-old client slumped and swiveled her chair.  She raised her eyes to meet mine and moved her head side to side just enough for me to see.  I nodded.  One place down, the lawyer for my client’s baby raised an eyebrow.  On a back bench, my client’s sisters, aged ten and eight, murmured to the aunt who cares for them.  At the far right, the case worker gently set her binder on the table.  It sat in seeming innocence:  a stark, unfeeling journal of one year in the life of a south Kansas City family.

Silence fell and for a brief moment, we could have been any group of people, drawn together for any pleasant purpose.  Then the case worker took the stand and before the echo of  her oath died, the woman on my right screeched out, You’re making me lose  my home, It’s your fault!  You did this to me!   The judge’s sharp rebuke cut through the stunned silence.

An hour later, as I trudged the length of the sidewalk to my car, I found myself grateful for some small successes.  I established that my client has made progress in learning to care for her little boy.  I endorsed the recommendation of keeping my client and her son in the relative placement where they’ve been successful, and moving towards guardianship — a recommendation adopted by the court.  While my client’s mother will most certainly lose her rights to the younger children, all four of the children impacted by one woman’s inability to care for them will be safe with relatives.  As for the baby not yet born, we can only pray.

It’s New Year’s Day minus twenty-three, Gratitude Day Nine, and I am grateful this day for every opportunity that I have been given to keep my lights on, and food in my refrigerator, and heat coursing through my registers.  Though my world is simple, it is simply enough.  And it is more than many have; and so for my life, I am thankful.

NY-24, Gratitude Day Eight

I never heard the word “disability” until I went to college.  My parents said I had “a walking problem” and told me to “keep walking”.  They sent me to tumbling class to learn to fall without hurting myself, and found an orthopedic doctor who had a physical therapist on staff who also taught yoga.

In college, I became a part of the Psychology Department because SLU had no degree in  special education and I wanted to work with “handicapped kids”.  I learned to use the phrase “developmentally disabled” and spent a semester working with a group of pre-school aged children who had significant mental and physical challenges. My heart splintered and so ended my career as a special ed teacher; I felt so helpless in the face of what those kids endured.

Several of my relatives (a sister, a close cousin) have had children with Down’s Syndrome.  Over the years, social mores applied numerous rotating labels to describe all of us. I went an entire year using the ridiculous appellation “handi-capable”.  How absurd!  I’d rather be called “gimp”, though not by someone with cruelty dripping from their mouth.

So what does this have to do with being grateful?  I’m getting to that.

Today, I would like to express gratitude for Jenny Rosen, a special education teacher; and her student, Josh.  Josh and Jenny have been walking my dog every day for several months, and the difference that their attentions have made shows itself in quite marked ways.  Because of Josh’s attention and diligence, my dog has lost weight, gained energy, and, most importantly, we’ve been able to cut both of her seizure medications in half with no break-through episodes.  Little Girl has gotten so lively that she’s downright annoying!  Rather than a 15-year-old, you’d mistake her for a five-year-old barely out of puppy stage.

And I’d like also,to acknowledge the deliberateness with which my mother insisted on treating me as though I was normal (whatever that means) so that I would as nearly as possible accept the “abnormalities” of others as part of their charm and beauty.  My mother taught me many lessons in the thirty years that I had her in my life.  I haven’t always done those lessons justice.   Josh and his mother came to our Holiday Open House this past Friday, and Josh told me that he “came to Corinne’s party”.  In that moment, my mother’s love for even the least creature rushed through me.  I could not have felt more blessed.

Josh and Little Girl, in my living room, on an evening when Josh, Jenny and I had dinner at the 75th St. Brewery.

Josh and Little Girl, in my living room, on an evening when Josh, Jenny and I had dinner at the 75th St. Brewery.

NY-25, Gratitude Day Seven

I awakened this morning feeling as though I had laid down on a highway and let a truck repeatedly drive over me.  “Oh, well, actually, I’m being hyperbolic,” she says, raising her eyebrows eastward to someone who might quibble with her use of the word.  I hear the echo of a friend’s voice responding, “You mean you are exaggerating“, and I chuckle.  “No, no!” I insist.  “I’m being hyperbolic.”  Sounds of laughter, a joke on me.

I wish I could say that I don’t know what it feels like to have a truck run over you, but I think I can guess since I once lost a fight with a VW Cirocco which left me lying in the roadway checking for lost contact lenses.  So believe me when I tell you, I have an inkling and today came close.

So, have I just squandered two paragraphs complaining?  No, no, my dear ones. I’ve set up my gratitude acknowledgment for today.  Can you guess?  No?  I’ll tell you.  I’m grateful for Dr. Jose Montoya of Stanford Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Clinic.  A prescription for Valcyte awaits me.  I fully anticipate that this morning of feeling unrefreshed and worse will soon be a distant, fading memory.

Now that’s something for which to be grateful!




For a short description of this drug, see: Wikipedia.  And see especially, footnote 5.  While I do not have CFS, I do have reactivation of the same virus which is thought to cause it.  The efficacy of this drug for my condition has not yet been completely established, but it’s the best hope anyone has found.  Wish me luck!

NY-26; Gratitude Day Six

Would it be too cheeky to say I’m grateful for art?

With St. Louis as  my home town, art has always been part of my life.  One Christmas I bought art from Central West End vendors for all of my adult siblings.  I’ve spent many hours in the Museum there and both the Kemper and the Nelson here.

Until Penny Thieme started the VALA Gallery / Community, I thought of art as painting, drawing, and maybe, certain photography.  VALA stands for “visual, audio and literary art”.  Penny drew me into the real concept of art as comprising painting, drawing, music, photography, sculpting, woodwork, and even, yes, folks: writing.

I’ve been a VALA volunteer for six years and have taught workshops there.  VALA has been forced to (temporarily) abandon a physical space having been forced out of practical existence by the interminable Johnson Drive construction.  But the Community thrives.  Seven of its artists showed their work at the Holiday Open House at my office last evening, reminding me just how much I depend on human-constructed beauty to feed my soul along with the glories of nature.

Their works will be on display until the end of February.  If you’d like to see them, call me at 816-753-5556.  Five of the artists have  pieces on my art page, which you can find at: First Fridays @ Suite 100.  Or spend an afternoon at the Kemper or a local gallery.  I’m willing to bet that you will be grateful, too.

NY-27, Gratitude Day five

I’m exhausted but want to take a moment to say that today I am grateful for forgiveness.  Every time someone says something which triggers a feeling of pain in me, I try to forgive them.  When I trigger pain in someone else, I hope they can forgive me.

But the forgiveness which I most need is forgiveness of myself.  I am grateful that I am learning to accept that there will be moments when my choice of behavior does not conform to my goal of meeting others’ needs; and I’m grateful that I’m learning to forgive myself and to allow myself to move forward.

Forgiveness carries me through some tough times.  I don’t excuse:  but I can forgive. And through forgiveness, I can find peace.