Monthly Archives: February 2015

That one certain moment

I pushed my buggy around Target, trying to remember what I’d come to buy.  I’m an inveterate list-maker but yesterday had gotten away from me.  The hours wasted in court, the afternoon of desperately chasing the bottom of my to-do list; I’d been unable to sort out my Target-needs in my brain.

I made it around three aisles without finding anything  other than a belt.  In the back of my mind, I had a vague notion that I’d decided to finally succumb to belt-wearing.  I loathe belts but I have to face the fact of their necessity to finish certain outfits.  I stared at the piece of fabric with its brass-colored buckles, trying to resign myself to beltedness, and suddenly realized that I could hear a conversation two aisles down.

I pushed a little closer.  I’m a shameless eavesdropper, a collector of poem titles and random dialogue that might some day make it out of my mental notebook onto the computer screen.  Look at this, honey, said the woman in soft tones.  Honey looked, presumably, though I couldn’t see the couple.  We don’t need them,  sweetheart, a low voice pronounced.  I heard a light thump; an object put back on the shelf.  Honey and his sweetheart moved to another aisle.

I followed, in part because I was intrigued.  I saw a rack of sale yoga pants and browsed for my size.  I heard a gentle peal of laughter and found myself smiling.  I realized that I do not in fact need any more leggings and that my voyeuristic adventure had gotten the better of me about the time Honey said, Let’s go look for  a present for your sister, and the pair left Intimates for the next department.

I cleared the dividing wall just as Sweetheart lifted a package of disposable diapers from the shelf and said, in a voice meant for Honey’s ears alone, I want a baby.

I froze.  The young woman saw me then, and an indolent smile broke over her features.  Honey stood beside her, square-shouldered and solid.  His smile mirrored hers as he raised one hand and placed it gently on her arm.

She held my eyes until I moved beyond them, pushing my cart with its lone little belt through the store, trying to recall what I needed, what I had come to buy.

Just another Wednesday evening

I started the day grumpy, my nerves jangled from too little sleep and too much coffee, slammed down from seven to nine while I struggled around the house.  I moved an appointment to the afternoon and drove to the drugstore, hoping that I’d find a parking place.  I had been unsuccessful on the previous evening, circling two or three times before heading home, discouraged.  I had more luck this time, and got my prescription, heading to the office with a tin of nuts, a few protein bars, and a bottle of the drug that’s supposed to change my life.

I parked in front of my office building and pulled my carry bag from the car, just as a guy holding two paper sacks trudged passed.  He smiled from under uncut hair and a greasy cap, showing his broken teeth.  The smile hit his eyes and flowed to me.  I went into the building, feeling a little lighter.

The next seven hours drained the golden glow.  A client meeting, some misplaced documents, low blood sugar, and pain, always pain.  By five o’clock, I considered my options and ended the work day.  Back into the car went  carry bag and pocketbook.  I sat for a few minutes, listening to NPR, watching thin men and lightly dressed women moving into and out of the coffee shop next door.  The wind ruffled the silken edges of a little girl’s skirt; her mother reached a hand down to steady the child as she opened the car door.  Nobody looked at me.

I headed towards home.  In the quiet of the car, I considered the evening ahead.  As I idled at a red light, I stared at a tree next to the curb, almost unaware of the slight swaying of its branches in the quickening wind.  And then, just before the light changed, a woman stepped onto the curb.    I studied her form, thick and bent.  A honk behind me startled me back to focus, and I drove on, wondering, as the sun began to slide  toward the western horzion and the traffic flowed towards home.


One stitch at a time

In the fall of 2013, I started a knitting project.

My quest to knit something as a gift for a friend (who shall go unnamed) seems ridiculous in retrospect.  I had broken my left hand in August, following which I had surgery and weeks of therapy.  I’ve never been a first-rate knitter and I can’t purl at all. The scarves and small items that I’ve managed to produce over the years look odd to anyone with any knitting savvy.  But I shopped for a lovely color of variegated yarn and a large circular needle, and started.

Within a month, I realized that I couldn’t finish in time for Christmas.

Then the entire year of 2014 happened.  My life spun out of control; my favorite curmudgeon fell ill; my virus flexed its muscles and my heart shuddered.  Fall’s nip turned to winter’s chill.  We buried my favorite curmudgeon; my heart fluttered; and I flew to San Jose where a specialist said, without hesitation, that he thought he could change my life in ways I never dreamed possible.

His enthusiasm invigorated me.  I came home and thought about that knitting project.  I scrounged around the house and finally found it shoved in the back of my cedar closet.  I hauled it down to the living room, determined to finish it by Christmas 2014 — a year late.   And I tried; believe me, I tried.  But the days and nights sped by; and I did not make it.

Now it’s February, and In a week, I will fly back to San Jose to see the specialist.  I’m about to start the fifth skein of this six-skein project.  I noticed last night that the entire color scheme of my living room now matches the piece I’m making.  It’s all new stuff — chairs, pillows, paint.  My house has absorbed this knitting project by osmosis.  I spend endless hours in this room, the Food Network playing on the television, while I manipulate the yarn with my lily-white spastic hands.  I still can’t purl.  But I’m pushing forward.  When it is done, I’ll pack it in a box and take it to the person for whom I’m making it.  The box will be opened, and the piece will be lifted out, raised and examined.

Then I’ll come back, and stand in my living room, seeing those same colors reflected in the furnishings.  I will smile; and think about the evenings spent sitting in my rocker, knitting my way home, one stitch at a time.

Just a sneak peak.  The person to whom this will be given doesn't know; and I'm not revealing what the finished item will be until it's done and gifted.

Just a sneak peek. The intended recipient and what it’s going to be are a secret. Shhhh! All will be revealed in the fullness of time!

There, but for the grace

I headed down Troost this morning shivering in the frigid car, stiff fingers nestled in the soft leather gloves that I got when we lost my mother-in-law.  I found them in her top dresser drawer, unworn, still in their box.  I slid them onto my hands and my sister-in-law laughed in the delightful, unrestrained way she has.  She said, If the glove fits! and they became mine.

I checked the thermostat.  Ten degrees.  That is not many degrees, I heard my son say, as he has said so many times.  True, that.  My eyes darted back to the road, as a siren’s wail cut through the morning air.  A police car streaked past me and I pulled over, startled, worried.

An ambulance had stopped in the middle of the road just ahead of me.  I could not tell what lie beyond it until I pulled slowly forward.  Then I saw:  A small blue car, maybe a Honda, smashed against a tree, angled onto the sidewalk, driver’s door hanging open, signal light blinking: on, off, on, off.  A police officer stood with his hands on his hips, unmoving. No one else hovered in the road, nor on the sidewalk. I lifted my foot off the gas, letting my vehicle drift.  I gazed at the mangled car; at the still and silent man studying its crumbled fender and bent hood. On, off, on, off. No sound broke the silence.

The ambulance remained stationary as I drove past.  I pulled my eyes forward and stared at the traffic ahead of me and wondered.  As I drove to the place where I would turn to travel east to the highway, I glanced in the rear view mirror.  The officer had not moved.  The ambulance’s lights still flashed in the cold bright morning.  Nothing had changed.

I kept driving.  As  I signaled for the merge to 71-North, I could not stop myself from thinking, there, but for the grace, go I.

The last bastion of violent communication

Two words:

Customer Service.

I’m publicly acknowledging that after the first hour on the phone with the customer service department of a major company, I lost my hold on Non-Violent Communication.

Maybe there is a special course for Dealing With Non-English-Speaking Customer Service People in Non-Violent Communication.

If so, sign me up.  It’s the last bastion of violent communication in my life.

“Hi, my name is Corinne.  I’m a recovering Jackal.  And it’s been a half hour since I relapsed into Jackal Speak — with an overseas Customer Service Agent.”

Hi, Corinne!


In the last three days, three people about whom I care have reached out to have intense conversations with me.  I’ve listened, talked, commented, listened some more, talked some more, reflected, listened, considered, and listened again and more.

I’ve fidgeted and tapped on the floor with my good foot.  I’ve juggled my belongings in one hand and the phone in the other while listening.  I’ve walked down the street with my bag on my shoulder, the phone to my ear, and my eyes a bit glazed.  Multi-tasking eludes me.  Walking and talking? Multi-tasking.  I stop on the sidewalk and people grumble as they move around me while I stand and listen. Stand and answer.  And listen, while the wind whips down the corridor of Oak Street between the courthouse and the old library.  I’m oblivious to the cold as I stand, bag in one hand, phone in the other, listening.

I sit in my car, having arrived at my destination, letting the motor run so I won’t get cold.  I’ve pushed the button to silence the radio.  I’m listening.

I sit in the rocker, knitting  fallen idle.  I listen. Then quietly answer.  I give a few sentences, test the water, tender a few more.  Listen as my words land at the other end.  I listen for the ripples which my words make as they land in the murky and troubled waters.

I close the door to my office, move from my desk to the rocker in the corner, and wait while the person on the other end of the phone moves through grief and I can release the breath I’ve been holding.

For all the people who’ve patiently tolerated my long laments in the last year, I’m paying it forward.  This is my thanks; my gift; my tribute to you.


Grown-up stuff

The small room held a handful of lawyers and court personnel.  I fidgeted in my seat while the judge reviewed my motion to withdraw.  I summarized my argument, noting all my efforts to contact the client, and my inability to represent him because of his lack of cooperation.  It’s not impossible, the judge drawled.  Difficult, but not impossible.  Motion denied.

Stunned, I drove through Starbucks, asking for a breakfast sandwich and coffee.  When I got to the window, a bright, cheerful lady leaned out into the chill of the morning.  You are going to be so mad at us, she trilled.  We’re out of that sandwich!  But we’re going to make a good one for you, a different one, and your coffee’s on me today.

I could barely comprehend the rapidity of the morning.  I drove downtown and stood outside the courtroom where my next hearing would take place.  I felt my head spin.  I’ve never had a motion to withdraw denied, not in 32 years.  I ran into a friend who commiserated and offered to cover the case for me, since its upcoming case review — which I didn’t anticipate handling — lands in the middle of my next trip to Stanford Medical Center.  I shook my head.  What a generous offer, I told her.  She shrugged.  We went into the courtroom,together, each prepared to talk to the other attorneys in our respective cases.

But my opposing counsel briskly entered without sparing a glance in my direction.  She slammed her bag on a chair, pulled a compact out, pulled a cell phone out.  She looked at no one.  She stared at the little screen, gazed at her face, snapped the devices shut, crossed her legs.

When the judge called our case, the attorney strode to the bench and tapped her folder down on the shelf attached to the bench, pushing me over, taking the lead.  I raised my eyebrows and saw the judge do the same.  I thought to myself, That attitude won’t work in here.  Sure enough, it didn’t, and at the end of the status conference, my opposing counsel darted from the courtroom while everyone else hid smiles.

I spent most of the afternoon at my desk, completing tax filings, downloading banking information, re-writing my to-do lists, and returning telephone calls.  I nearly fell face-first into a hot lunch which my secretary brought me.  My eyes drooped, my muscles constricted, my swollen feet throbbed.

When the snow started, I knew I’d take the excuse to leave early.

Now the television plays in the background as I fidget with the little piles of projects strewn about my dining room.  The dog sleeps.  Occasionally a ping signals a message intruding into my warm home from the outside world.  I ignore it all.  I sit at my lovely secretary, on my perfectly sweet chair. The trinkets and treasures on its shelves rise above me. They came with the furniture when I inherited it from my favorite curmudgeon, after he slipped away to join his  life-long love in Paradise.  When I slide out the desk surface, I feel them watching over me.

The grown-up stuff nearly conquered me today.  But here in my haven, I can let it languish for the night.  I can rest.


Of choices

As I hobbled down the hallway today, bent and stumbling after my hard fall this morning, my brat of a secretary called after me, “Bet you’re regretting giving up narcotics now!”   And together we laughed. She understands the irony of the situation.

I suddenly remembered my mother’s last couple of months and the pain she experienced.  I might have blogged about this here or in another forum, but this recollection flooded back so clearly to me that I’m drawn to recount it again.

In the weeks of her decline before the cancer hit her brain, she noticed me struggling to deal with pain one day during a visit.  She lamented my suffering outloud, something she rarely did.  It’s okay, I told her.  I’m offering it up for you.

She cried out in dismay, startling me.  “What is it?” I asked her.  Oh, Mary, she sobbed.  I’ve been offering MY pain up for you! And she stared at me with horrified eyes set in taught skin beneath the kerchief covering her bald head.  Our eyes locked for a few minutes, until I finally asked, softly, Do you think we’re cancelling each other out?

And a smile dawned across her face.  Soon two Corley women were giggling as only Corley women can giggle — wildly, without control, fully abandoning ourselves to the hilarity of the moment.

Just as Miranda and I did today.

Whenever I find myself briefly lamenting a choice that I’ve consciously made in this quest to live complaint free, I remember my mother, and her pain, and her willingness to endure that pain because she hoped her bravery would benefit me.  I realize my mother’s choice is my choice. I choose to endure, because my endurance might bring some benefit, somewhere, some time, to someone else.  If nothing else: an opportunity to laugh at life’s ironies.

It’s as though my mother hovers over me, one of my angels, reminding me of why I made these choices and the rightness of the path that I now walk.

This music box angel was given to me by Tracy Brady, mother of my niece Chelsea Rae Booker.  It sits on a tile given to me by my stepson Mac.

This music box angel was given to me by Tracy Brady, mother of my niece Chelsea Rae Booker. It sits on a tile given to me by my stepson Mac.

The benefits of not complaining

All my best lines have already been taken.

In this case, the line that I would use comes from “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and Blanche DuBois utters it as a psychiatrist and nurse take her away to the sanatorium.  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

As have I.  Again this morning, strangers rescued me from the muck and mud on a city street. This time I fell between two parked cars, coming out of court after an early morning docket.   I’d like to say that I slipped but I did not. I’d like to blame the illegally parked car behind mine, but that did not impede my passage in any way.  I just fell.

In fact, as I stepped between his front bumper and my rear bumper, I started to grumble about his parking illegally.  But I reminded myself about this blog and the need to be accountable to anyone still following — amusedly perhaps — my increasingly misnamed year without complaining.(1)  So I halted my castigation of the driver of the illegally parked car, moved forward, and pitched head-first onto the asphalt.

My gloves in the slush, my purse flown forward, my precious Rhodes College binder sitting in water — and goodness know where my keys went — there I lay, wondering what I would do next.  But I didn’t wonder long.  A pick-up stopped ahead of my position and a woman hopped out, at the same time as a crossing pedestrian diverted his path to angle towards me. Between the two of them, they lifted me upright, gathered my belongings, and brushed the wet snow from my coat.

My friends Jenny and Jessica constantly tell me that I will draw to me what I hope to have.  In this case, I got an immediate reward from pushing my complaint away:  the kindness of two strangers.

Nice when a plan comes together.






(1) This designation itself comes from Douglas Adams, who noted the burgeoning number of books in his “Increasingly misnamed trilogy”, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


Grateful for unexpected gifts

The lovely vase of flowers sits on my dining room table, reminding me that someone thought about what might contribute to my happiness.  Miranda, Miranda, you are a supreme Brat! But oh, Miranda and Jenna:  The Empress was both surprised and delighted.

Before I could quite recover from the silly smile which the delivery evoked, a silver Ford Focus pulled into my driveway.  Out bounded a yellow lab and a rock-star lady, and the next phase of the Valentine’s Day to Remember launched.  A few hours later, with crystal-clear skin, pink-gelled nails, and an even broader smile, I slipped into a chair at The Cigar Box.  The table filled and the merriment increased.

I make no bones about it:  Being serenaded by a Lounge singer had never seemed like something to which I aspired.  But astonishingly, the experience proved very satisfying.  Sitting at the bar, watching the young folk drink and cavort, I might have felt out of place.  Instead, I felt at home.

By the time we got to the Levee, the lines of age and generation had become irrelevant.  With the commencement of the Stolen Winnebago’s astounding performances of songs spanning fifty years, that irrelevance cemented itself into the night.  I forgot that I had last seen one of my companions when he was sixteen and my grad-student son was three months old.  I actually enjoyed myself, even when One Who May Not Be Named dumped an entire glass of ice water on me.

Jenny Rosen orchestrated my Valentine’s Day with a deftness that left me dizzy.  I happily repaid her kindness by being the designated driver, and the night ended as the day had begun:  With a silly smile on my face, as I climbed the stairs to my cabin room, and quiet settled over the Holmes house.

My Valentine’s Day 2015 might not have been a lot of people’s cup of tea.  But I’m not complaining.

Tres amigos: Micah, Jenny and one whose name may not here by recorded.

Tres amigos: Micah, Jenny and He Who May Not Be Named.

Thank you, suite-mates.

Thank you, suite-mates.