Monthly Archives: March 2015

Cozy corners

At 7:45 a.m. today I parked my car in one of six handicapped parking spaces serving Kansas City City Hall and the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City.  One has to get there by 7:45 to insure claiming one of the spaces.  I got space 5; seconds after I put my car in park, a Ford slid into space 6 and that’s all she wrote for disabled access to the seats of government in my adopted home town.

At 8:10 a.m. I sat on a bench outside of a division of the Circuit Court (Sixteenth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri).  An e-mail exchange with the division’s law clerk on Friday had established that my Case Management would be taken first to insure my timely arrival to my next obligation twelve double-blocks south at Juvenile Court. Excuse me, Family Court, though why they changed its name to that, I have no clue.  It’s the children who suffer the ravages of the proceedings.

I fidgeted with my tablet, then made sure I had turned all volumes down on both devices — tablet and smart phone.  A heavy-set woman with a pleasant laugh juggled a briefcase on a sloped shoulder, standing next to the locked courtroom door. She tried it twice, though the room sat dark behind the windows.  I had seen the judge arrive but still no sign of the law clerk.

She arrived at 8:35 right after I started to feel a little damp around the edges of my necklace.  I’m sorry I’m late, she said.  She didn’t sound sorry; she sounded sleepy.  The other lawyer and I followed her into the courtroom and watched as she hurried up to the bench. She made a few jokes about the clock, which said 4:30, but I didn’t laugh.  Instead I read an e-mail from the law clerk in my 9:30 case and pondered.  Ten minutes later, the judge came out and called my case.

I had a one-sentence “entry of appearance and request for continuance” speech prepared. I spewed it out, then held my calendar poised for the inevitable re-setting due to lack of service.  But the judge had done a little reconnoitering of her own.  The respondent’s a guest of the DOC, she noted.  I confirmed.  My clerk said you told her that an attorney promised to enter but didn’t. What’s that all about?

It’s about ten minutes longer than I have time to tell, I thought.  And it’s about a lawyer whose name I withheld, not wanting to cause a ripple of negativity in his direction.  Not that I cared; but why engender unnecessary professional irritation?  And why risk being late to my next setting, when my client there has had to be brought into town from an hour away?  But the judge stared pointedly at me so I told her the story.  I saw her write something; the lawyer’s name, I felt sure. I promised to serve the state’s house-guest, got a new date, and bolted.

At 9:20 a.m. two women in uniform, not the Department of Corrections kind, brought my client into the waiting area at juvenile court.  I sat her down and went over the day’s proceedings, as I had done when I drove out to visit her.  Tears rolled down her face — as they had during our earlier visit, on the couch in the waiting area at the locked school where she now resides.  Runaways get noticed in our county; sixteen year-old-runaways in foster care with two-year-old sons and inadequate mothering get noticed and locked away.  Her caseworker found a box of tissue.

By 9:40, the juvenile officer’s attorney had continued the case with only a shrug in response from the judge.  My client did not stop crying until she had her baby in her arms outside the courtroom.  I threw my weight around a bit, arranging someone to take her to buy clothes, making sure that the parent aide would be bringing the baby out to see her, offering to bring her personal possessions myself when the cousin from whose home she’d run bulked at doing so.  What for? said her cousin, smirking.  You’d drive all the way out there to bring her lotion and socks?  

Yes.  I would.  Really.

And then the baby’s guardian ad litem and I went to “You Say Tomato” for breakfast and a good old natter about the failure of the system, the hopelessness of my client’s mother (whose new baby has been taken into care, too, making the total count five) and the unlikelihood that any good would come of any of this, including in “this” all of it, not least our respective, unpaid, and never-ending service.

And then I went to work and tried to make a little money, before the early morning got the better of me, and I dragged my sorry butt home, ate some leftovers, and crawled with a good book into a cozy corner.

My house has many cozy, comfy corners.  Here in this chair, I sit, and knit, and forget about all the children whom I will never be able to save.

My house has many cozy, comfy corners. Here in this chair, I sit, and knit, and forget about all the children whom I will never be able to save.

Eyes open, eyes closed; breathe in, breathe out.

For the last two decades nearly movement of my body has made me cough.

It started with lullabies.  My son’s favorite was Sweet Baby James, though he called it, “The Young Cowboy Song”.  There is a young cowboy / who lived on the range (cough, cough).  My son would reach one small hand to my face and say, Don’t sing, Mommy, it makes you cough.  By age three and a half, he had taken over the bedtime story reading, telling me, I will read to you; you won’t cough so much.  I don’t know if he remembers that; and I’m sure he will roll his eyes, even if only metaphorically, when he reads this.  Oh, Mother. But it’s true — and this is about me, not him, so stuff it, Patrick.  In the nicest of ways.

Today coughing has become a way of life for me.  I cough when I eat, when I drink, when I walk.  I cough when I stand to speak in court.  As many doctors as I’ve had in twenty years, is the number of theories about my coughing.  Joe Brewer, in whom I put a lot of faith, opined that the right side of my throat had become so weak that it no longer functioned.  Thus any motion which involves my throat will cause me to gasp, and in my gasping, I cough.  My pulmonologist, he of the six-months-to-live, said it had to do with my asthma.  And one doctor said, Just eat more slowly.  Oh-kaaay.

It’s well known by friends and enemies alike that I cannot walk and talk at the same time.  Or walk and breathe simultaneously, come to think of it.  I go through life engaging my brain:  Eyes open, eyes closed; breathe in, breathe out. Plainly put:  If I do not tell myself to inhale, I might not do it.  I frequently awaken in a state of panic, struggling to pull air into my lungs.  Sleep studies have shown that my breathing slows so far at night that I do not actually get enough oxygen to bring my body to restfulness.

For me, then, coughing  is like a visit from AAA:  It jump starts those reflexes which for many others, are done completely without thought.  And what is the point of telling you this, other than babbling to hear my own voice, to read my own words?

It is just this:  When you hear someone coughing — honking —  playing loud music — talking over the crowd in a Starbucks — tapping on the table — please, think of my coughing and repress your first urge — which no doubt, would be to snap at the  person.  Give them instead a charitable thought.  Their annoying habit might be keeping them alive.

My nephew Eric, who is now in his 30s, wrote this poem about my father after my father died in 1991.  This poem tells me that no matter what kind of father he was, Richard Corley was a good grandfather.  And so, I no longer judge him, or blame him; even though I will never really understand him.

My nephew Eric, who is now in his 30s, wrote this poem about my father after my father died in 1991. This poem tells me that no matter what kind of father he was, Richard Corley was a good grandfather. And so, I no longer judge him, or blame him; even though I will never really understand him.

Noah’s Ark

And now a word from our sponsor!

Just kidding.  But I’m not kidding when I say that Noah’s Ark Animal Clinic in KC MO totally rocks!  My dog has seizure disorder.  We used to use a different vet, but years ago, the owner of Noah’s Ark rescued our first Beagle, Chocolate, who had run away and got stranded in a busy intersection.  What could we do but switch to her clinic?  The other place now has a huge new facility, but we take our Beagle-Lab rescue, Little Girl, to Noah’s Ark out of loyalty to Dr. Jane.

This morning, I struggled down my front steps with Little Girl straining at the leash.  She pulled me practically straight down to the ground. I nearly let go — I almost called and canceled.  But she needs to have her Phenobarb level checked to be sure she’s within therapeutic range, and she was overdue.  So I skidded down the sidewalk with my eager mutt bounding ahead and begged her to hop into the car.

At the vet’s office, I sat in the parking lot eyeing the short distance from car to door.  I realized, suddenly, that I would never make it without falling.  I told the dog to “stay” and miraculously, she did. (Of course, I soon realized why: Her leash was caught in the door!)  Once inside the building, I had only to ask and a tech willingly agreed to bring the dog inside.

While Little Girl went to the back for a blood draw, I made coffee with the clinic’s Keurig and sat on the wooden bench, talking with other patrons, listening to one thank the tech at the counter for adopting a stray which the customer had found but been unable to keep.  Another lady came for a bag of dog food, seeking assurances that the new packaging did not equate to diminished virtue of the product.  Still another client made herself a cup of coffee and stood talking with me, both of us enjoying the generosity of the place in providing decent coffee for its patients’ owners.

After a bit, Little Girl bounded out from the back room. The bill got settled, and the same tech walked her to the car, all the time talking to her as one might an excitable child.  I made it home and got the dog into the backyard, unclipping her leash, jabbering as I did — settle down, don’t jump, please, and laughing at her rare compliance.

I have to give props where props belong.  Noah’s Ark has taken extraordinary care of several pets for us over the years.  They treat people almost as well as they treat dogs and cats!  And after a life-time of complaining, it does me good to take time from each day to heap a little richly deserved praise on someone’s unsuspecting head.

Our camera-shy pup:  "No pictures, please!"

Our camera-shy pup: “No pictures, please!”

Paul Orso: Going viral

I was beginning to think the GPS lady had become confused.  My first clue was when she told me the street changed names but the designated house, the address of which was the first street, would be on my right after the name-change.  “Foxborough Circle turns to the left and becomes Broadmoore circle and your destination [an address on Foxborough Circle] will be on your right after the turn”.  Huh?  Five minutes after I first rapped on the apparently correct house without response, I decided the GPS lady needed a map and got back in my car.

As I backed out of the driveway, a van stopped on the street, then pulled into the driveway that I had just vacated.  A fire-plug man with a wrestler’s build jumped from the driver’s seat.  In a hard voice he asked if he could help me.  I’m Paul’s cousin, I’m here to visit, I told him.  We had not been told anything about that, he replied.  He turned back to the van, looked into the interior where I knew my cousin Paul would be sitting though I could not see through the tinted windows.  I saw the fireplug’s body ease; his charge was safe — I had been cleared.  He gestured that I should follow him back onto Paul and Kathy Orso’s property and I did so.  I know a drill sergeant when I see one, and I comply.

I stood beside the van, next to the broad deck with its wheelchair ramp.  The driver, Paul’s aide for the day, strode toward me, shook my hand, and told me his name.  He gestured, wait on the deck, and again, I followed his order.  I watched as the door of the van slid back.  Paul’s face held the same beaming smile that I have always seen there and his first words boomed across the driveway:  Hey Cuz, where’s Patrick?  My son: but he had had to drive northeast from the Central West End home where we had stayed during our whirlwind visit.  Paul and Kathy live west of St. Louis, on my way home.  His boss phoned!  He had to get back to Chicago!  I called, and left the deck as Paul, in his electric wheelchair, came down to the pavement.

I threw my arms around his body, grown more slender now as Paul’s ALS progresses.  His arms touched my shoulders; I felt the genuine affection flow between us.  Paul introduced his aide and we shook hands again, this time a bit less stiffly.  Then we all went into the back door of the beautiful home and settled in the kitchen.

For the next two hours, we talked as cousins talk.  He told me about the pending release of album number three of his music.  He spoke of one of his siblings, of whose health troubles I had not been aware.  He asked after my son, Patrick, and Patrick’s graduate studies.  He mentioned the pending births of his next grandchild and his sister’s next grandchild.  Hey, Cuz.  Genealogical question:  What were Grandpa Lyon’s parents’ names? he said at one point.  I admitted that I did not know.  Who would know? he asked, and I thought a minute before identifying one of my sisters.  Paul’s keen eyes met mine.  Would you e-mail her and ask?  I’d like to know.  I felt a sense of urgency unspoken between us.  I thought understood it: the fullness of time.

I watched his chest heave with the labored breathing caused by his disease.  But he never mentioned being tired; he never spoke of his suffering.  He praised his caregivers.  He voiced his admiration for his wife’s tirelessness.  He spoke of my brother who died; his parents; my father; my mother.  Those who have gone from this world.  Your mother had a hard life, he quietly observed.  A husband with troubles; all those kids; a house; a job.  I agreed with him.  We let that stand.  I miss your brother, he said softly.  I agreed again, and a moment of silence passed.  We were friends, your brothers Steve and Frank, me and my brother Charlie.  We were friends.  I had no doubt.

Hey Cuz, we’re doing a phantom release party for my new CD and you’ve got to help it go viral.  His smile flashed.  We’re sending the release out by e-mail to eighty people, two tiers of family and friends.  You push it out; make it go viral.  I’m counting on you, Cuz.

He talked of the musicians who helped him finish the CD.  I lost my singing voice, he remarked, then smirked.  I know, I know, don’t say it.  What singing voice?  I joined his laughter.  He named each performer, told me what they played, told me of their role in helping get this third, and presumably final, CD released.  I told him that I didn’t have CDs one or two.  Go to my website, he scolded me., it’s hooked to PayPal.  His grin again:  And guess where the CDs get mailed from?  He gestured with one gentle, weak hand.  PayPal sends me a notice, ‘Hey Dumb****, your cousin bought a CD, send it to her!’.  The laugh again.  Well, not ‘dumb****’, you know.  They can’t say that.  He hasn’t lost his sense of humor, my cousin Paul.  ALS can’t claim that too.

At one point Paul leaned forward in his wheelchair to place his piercing gaze right into my heart.  You are a woman of a joyful spirit, he said to me.  The joy radiates from you.  I can see it.  I felt the warmth of his gaze.  I could not speak; I did not trust myself.

The time came for me to leave.  I noticed a large dispenser of germicide with a sign that said Please use this Sanitizer.  Shock riddled through me.  I hugged you without using any of that stuff, I said to Paul.  He moved toward me, gesturing for another hug.  I held him.  He said, softly into my sweater, You hugged me like family hugs.  We don’t need anything to protect us from each other.  I could not let him go.  I stood bent over him, my arms wrapped around him, for the longest minute.  And then we took a photo and I left, promising to help his CD go viral, telling him I loved him, turning back to see his smile when he said I love you, Cuz.

I did not let the tears fall until I turned the corner, out of sight.

My cousin Paul Orso had a career but I don’t know what it was, I’m embarrassed to say.  He has a gorgeous, powerfully talented, fiercely loyal wife Kathy; three loved and loving children, Nick, Nathan and Grace; one adorable granddaughter Lorelei; and a grandchild on the way.  He has eight siblings, a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers- and sister-in-laws.  He is a singer-songwriter, with two CDs under his belt, and a third about to release, in a phantom, virtual release party which a legion of Orso, Corley, and Mack cousins will help go viral.

And Paul Orso has ALS.  But that comes last in this account, after you note the scores of people who love him, the creativity he has passionately pursued, the parents he misses, the people, including cousins, whom he cherishes.  ALS has claimed a lot of what Paul could once do.  But it has not dampened what he is, nor what his spirit gives us.  Nor will it, even in its terrible ending.

Paul Orso is a brother, husband, father, son, uncle, grandfather.  And he is my cousin.  He blesses all of us with his joyful spirit.

Me and Paul Get Serious

Me and Paul Get Serious

Check out Paul’s website — buy his first two CDs — read about his battle with ALS, and watch for the virtual release party for his third album:

Paul Orso ALS Lou Gehrig’s Disease Music and Life


In the CWE

On Monday, I sprang an impending trip to St. Louis on my friend Joyce Kramer.  My son and I loitered on her steps less than forty-eight hours later.  We had lunched at O’Connell’s Pub and dawdled at the Coffee Cartel.  I  had scored a $3 copy of the third K.O. Dahl book at the Big Sleep.  We had selected her hostess gift piece by piece at Karl Bissinger’s.  The moment had arrived.

Without much fanfare, Joyce settled us around her dining table and opened the chocolates.  I glanced around at the home where we have stayed so many times on prior St. Louis visits, at plant sitting in a pot shaped like a head complete with face, the Pierrot sitting on a window sill gazing down at a pig-shaped watering can, the towering image of a graceful woman, the pressed metal palm tree, the sheaf of pussy willows. Each piece seems odd contemplated alone; as a collection, the decor precisely suits the dwelling’s owner.    I am oddly comforted by the crazy familiarity of the place.  The pots still hang from an ornate wrought-iron rack; the glitter of the kitchen tile still startles me; the stainless steel appliances gleam as brightly.  Joyce herself seems only to become more vibrant as time erodes the rest of us with its unforgiving ravages.

Last evening, we talked of changes in her life and changes in mine.  Patrick told her a little about his graduate program but he mostly listened to her philosophies, her adventures, and her New York memories.  We chose a restaurant, loaded ourselves into her Prius, and scored a parking space close to our destination.  I don’t know how the hours retreated without notice; but much later, we made our way home through a sudden rain satisfied, amused, entertained, well-fed.

At five o’clock this morning, I surrendered to sleeplessness and scrolled my way through stale messages and a few more pages of a book on Kindle.  And now I am drinking coffee that Joyce staged for me before I fell asleep. I had only to push two buttons and the beans succumbed to the machine’s internal grinder, then nestled in the basket beneath the shower of water that turned them to this delightful beverage.

Here in the Central West End, another of my angels dwells.  She has known my son for more than a decade; she has welcomed us every time we presented ourselves, regardless of how little warning, notwithstanding her own constraints.  She waxes wise; she showers us with her broad New England laugh; she tells stories that feature the neck sizes of famous people from her prior life as a clothing designer.  I never tire of The Puma (as she is known).  I feel comforted among her angels, and serene standing in her shadow.


Rice and Raspberries

When I grow up, I want to be like my friend Paula Kenyon-Vogt.  A nearly tireless woman, Paula does more before noon than I do in a week, with grace, style, and serenity.  Long-time married woman, Nona to two little boys, mother of two women, Whole Foods guru and home-health nurse, Paula nonetheless wears humility easy and soft.

I still can’t make it through a day without some Paula K-V love, so last night I stopped at the K-V residence.  I ate rice and raspberries on their couch while their grandson Chaska snuggled with Sheldon and watched an educational puppet show.  I tried to leave after rice but Chaska said, No, Auntie Corinne, don’t go! so I stayed for raspberries.  Chaska nibbled his dinner and shared a soft pretzel with me.  I told him that I would trade raspberries for a piece of pretzel. He considered, tore off a portion about an inch long, and said, I’ll take two raspberries for this.  I offered three.  He graciously accepted.

Even with  crazy days and ways that  plague me,  failures that haunt me,  lamented losses that I feel I could have prevented, my life somehow can never be considered wholly worthless.  As long as the Kenyon-Vogt household still welcomes me, I know that I will never be completely alone.

Sheldon and Chaska.

Sheldon and Chaska.

Look closely!  It's Chaska at the Matt Ross Community Center!

Look closely! It’s Chaska at the Matt Ross Community Center!

Paula and Sheldon

Paula and Sheldon

City views

I spent several years living in the country and learned that I am not a country girl.  Though I did like the low mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, dwelling in an area where neighbors rarely visit and winter roads might not be cleared for weeks daunted me.  I’d rather live where I can see through my grimy window to the neighbors’ trellis, watching the trailing vines bud and bloom.

This morning follows a weekend in which I counted both my blessings and my failures.  My shortcomings slam into my face when I venture mere steps beyond immediacy.  By contrast, my virtues seem few, and the accomplishment of others loom large.  Perhaps I’m just indulging in self-pity; perhaps, as Pat Reynolds noted, I complain about myself far too much.  But at the end of my sixth decade, I cannot help feeling that I should be further towards enlightenment than I am.

From a wooden stool in my breakfast nook, I can in fact see a rose trellis, the same one that I have watched for the 22 years in which I’ve lived here.  When I first bought this house, the breakfast nook had a custom-made table and four ladder-backed chairs.  That set has long since been sold at a yard sale.  Here, now, I have an antique desk with a broken  leg but lovely lines and a Formica-topped table which typically lives downstairs in my laundry room.  Two wooden stools complete the nook’s furniture.  Each morning, I sit here to read the paper, eat my breakfast, and touch base with the virtual world.

Outside the window, the world evolves as the pages of the calendar turn.  Today spring shows itself in  tender buds sprouting on the rambling vine.  As I sit, I contemplate washing the window but mostly, I remember other years when that vine has hung heavy with fragrant blooms.  The couple which lives in the house take good care of their yard.  They are the fourth to live in that house since I bought mine.  I like them, and I am happy that they have not torn down the roses.  The wild, radiant display on the trellis each year somehow signals the coming of better days.

City view -- Brookside style.  On my window sill, left to right:  Me at 5; my great-grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes; an Italian glass angel; one of the angels that my sister-in-law Tracy Brady gave me; an angel from my step-daughter Cara; and the music box that my grandmother gave me when I was a little girl.

City view — Brookside style. On my window sill, left to right: Me at 5; my great-grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes; an Italian glass angel; one of the angels that my sister-in-law Tracy Brady gave me; an angel from my step-daughter Cara; and the music box that my grandmother gave me when I was a little girl.

Of grown-up stuff

A look that inescapably passes between two sets of grimly determined eyes; this look meets me in the mirror.  I’ve nearly done with metaphors. March turns the page from my waning winter, one year after my rough demise.  I’ve danced the ring of the room; I’ve drunk the punch; I’ve been giddy in the crooked rows of metal chairs.  The band plays only feebly now.  The stragglers drag their jackets.  They don’t look back.

But still: the potted plants of this season might yet be purchased.  The black earth might yield a bloom or two, fragrant in the feeble air of the struggling spring.  I sit on the porch, as I have sat for years.  I dare not deceive myself.  Pretense might have once been possible, but not again, not now, not when the wind chime sings its quiet song and otherwise the air holds only silence.

My view persuades me that winter has ended.  My heart has made no progress.

I go into the house, where laundry waits and the little dog looks expectantly in my direction.  I think, I might as well have tea as anything else, and fill the kettle.  The flame beneath flickers though the door has been securely shut to block the wind.  I pay no attention.  I’m used to seeing things which I cannot explain.  When the kettle whistles, I pour the water.  I wait for the tea to steep, and while I wait, I think about my spring planting, the work I did not do today, and my favorite curmudgeon.  I remember, as I did earlier, at the cemetery, that we’ve come to the sixtieth wedding anniversary of my favorite curmudgeon and his lovely bride Joanna.

The thought of them cannot help but cheer me even though I miss them with a fierceness that I sometimes lament, a fierceness such as I still feel three decades after my own mother’s death.  I can’t explain it.  The losses weigh heavy on me.  I still think about dialing my mother’s telephone number, and in the same way, I think, I’ll go see Jay today — before realizing that I can only do so by the stones at Mount Moriah.

For a few minutes, I forget my grown-up burdens, and think instead of Joanna’s sweet smile, and the little mischievous look that Jay would give me when he said, Let’s have another glass of wine, honey, which meant, I’ll have yours, too.  My dear curmudgeon.  Happy anniversary.  I hope you and Joanna can waltz in heaven.


Penny Thieme caught this delightful snap of Joanna watching Jay from the doorway of their kitchen.


Beneath the cobwebs, dust, and grime

A month has passed since Jenny Rosen rolled her sleeves to the elbow and rid my house of grime.  I’m trying to clear the top layer, at least; and thick the dust lies on my mantel.  I push open the clock, which has not chimed in years, to see if I can coax it back to life.  I know my father gutted its old works and installed a battery-operated mechanism.  I think: It just needs a new battery, but I see the hands dangling and fear that more ails it.

And so, here, on this Saturday, at the Holmes house, I have a moment’s revelation as I gaze into the back of the mantel clock that came down through two generations to be mine.  A note from the giver:  A man whom my words often malign, but who, it must be said (with a nod to Penny) loved me.  His father, his brother, and I, share this profession that has taken me from my twenties to an age beyond which either of them walked this earth.

I wipe the dust away from the clock’s brass fittings, and re-settle the note in the back beside the new battery which I installed in vain.  The crystal dragon which my son gave me dangles again on the clock’s face.  On the clock’s curved sides, I re-place the angel token, a Liberty nickel, and someone’s long-forgotten St. Patrick’s Day charm.  I go about the rest of my cleaning with a lighter heart.



Broken promises

I still cannot deal with customer service people. I’m sorry. I can stay pleasant 92% of the time, but when I have to deal with resentful agents who act as though I have no right to seek their assistance, I just cannot remain composed.  When you combine the natural surliness of the folks on the phone with discovering that the customer service section of the Circulation Department of the local newspaper has been outsourced to the Philippines, I’m lost.

Driving home from work after spending hours dealing with the Star over my stolen debit card and the failure of the auto-pay which I forgot to switch to the new card, I contemplated the last eight percent of my voyage to complaint-free living.  I really don’t understand why the Star can’t have live bodies sitting in an office here in Kansas City helping its customers.  While the Missouri unemployment rate has decreased to 4.9%, it’s 6% in Kansas City.  This means that a lot of folks here could use those jobs that the Star (owned by McClatchy) has sent to the Philippines.  I looked at McClatchy’s website and here’s the headline on their “About Us” page:

The McClatchy Company is a leading news and information provider dedicated to the values of quality journalism, free expression and community service.

I suppose the catch is that they are dedicated to community service, not community.

My thoughts about the newspaper waning in its commitment to our town mirrored my rueful thoughts about my own wavering in my commitment to nonviolent communication and complaint-free living.  My secretary Miranda rolled her eyes at me when I got done convincing the Star to re-start my paper.  They truly did not want to do it, either!   I finally shamed them into talking with me from an office in Kansas City by tricking someone into giving me a local, direct-dial number.  To my surprise, instead of wanting to help me, the woman waxed self-righteous.  As though I tried to steal from her or something.  As though i had orchestrated the theft of my debit card and deliberately failed to transfer the Star auto-pay to the new card.

But Miranda’s eye-roll tells it all:  I was not being gracious either.  I met rudeness with discourtesy.  I’d broken my promise to myself and to the world which I had made in the winter of 2013 in honor of my uncomplaining mother-in-law after she passed away.

Broken promises mean a lot to me.  I have not always kept my promises; and I remember every failure.  Humans owe each other trustworthiness.  Our relationships should be founded in faith and integrity.  If we say we are going to do something, by Gosh, we should.  I want to divest myself of any connection with people who fail to abide by their commitments, and I want to renew my determination to honor those which I myself make.

One of my small but important promises was this:  To put a smile on my face no matter how I felt at any given moment.  I spent a lot of time in the last two years crying over one sorrow or the other; and even more time in the last few decades scowling with displeasure, irritation, or anger.  Flashing a genuine grin from my Irish eyes to my pixie chin shows the world that I have committed myself to joy.  I’m renewing my resolve.  I want to give the world one of the most satisfying experiences that human beings can offer — an unrestricted, radiant smile.

I make you all this promise:  When I see you, I will smile.  I intend to keep this promise.  You can bank on it.