Monthly Archives: September 2015

A weed by any other name

I’ve taken to saying, “I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining.”  And a peal of laughter follows.  I sit on the wide expanse of concrete outside Chai Shai with Jessica.  I stretch my arms and feel my unused muscles wince in protest.  The cars cruise past on 59th; Jessica tells me about how she sees my recent malcontent with some of my friendships.  Her empathetic connection with the events which trouble me lends a solid, genuine tone to her observations.

I draw my mango shake through the straw.  The cold fills my throat, soothing its rawness.  My eyes close briefly, something akin to pleasure shuddering through me at the delicious feel of the frozen drink.  A waft of fragrant steam rises from the pakora.  This night, this moment — at the restaurant with a woman two-thirds my age, who nonetheless could be my sister — this moment calms me.

I don’t mean to moan, I tell her; and she just smiles.  She knows me, does this young woman, this ginger-headed friend of mine, mother of Addao, writer, photographer, dancer, teacher.  She tells me that I should just speak my need.  Those who push back when I refuse to let them walk on me will either deal with it or not; but the problem will be theirs.

Maybe I am complaining, I think to myself.  Or, worse, gossiping; though I’m talking about events in my life, encounters with so-called friends which have left me feeling helpless and a bit resentful.  Taken.  Used.

I crunch another pakora with the back side of my fork and dip it into the green chutney.  And the breeze rises, ruffling my hair, soothing the worn warm skin of my forehead.  Yes, I’m complaining, I decide.  The conversation flows away from my gripes and grumbles.  By and by, we finish our drinks and our snack, and make our way back to the Holmes house.  Night settles.  I’m another day older, another day down the road in month twenty-one of my year without complaining.

I think I should rename this blog.  I think I should call it My Year Letting Myself Learn to Like Myself; and Letting Go of Resentment.  Do you think that domain is taken?

mango shake

Just breathe

I sit on my porch, in the rocker left behind on a curb by a long-ago classmate.  I lean back and feel the air caress my face.  My hands lie idle. No electronics hover near me.  I feel the cares slip from my body.  They will  not wander far; I will resume the burden of them.  But for now, I just breathe.


All the lovely flowers

The woman walking to my door had a framed photo tucked under one arm and held a vase of flowers in her other hand.  Momentary confusion flowed.  A UPS truck lurched past the house at the exact moment that I stepped onto the porch and saw the flowers preceding Samantha Bessent as she traversed my walk.  For a spectacular second, I thought a UPS driver had brought the flowers, the photo, and Samantha.

Perhaps I drink too much coffee or too little.

The truck trundled down Holmes Street, my vision cleared, and Samantha called my name.  Here’s my picture for the auction, she said.  I brought you flowers because I grow them.

My bones scream this morning; my joints groan; the ringing in my ears crashes against my psyche.  But on my buffet sits a delicate bouquet, which a sweet woman whom I do not know half-well enough carried in her car as she dashed around on a Saturday morning getting her crew and supplies for her day’s work.

Moments such as these wrap themselves around my small tired body, joining with the fibers of my being, helping me continue my quest towards joyfulness.

My flowers! Samantha Bessent takes beautiful photos which we've been privileged to feature in our Art @ Suite 100 series.

My flowers! Samantha Bessent takes beautiful photos which we’ve been privileged to feature in our Art @ Suite 100 series.

Life Goes On; or, My New Life

As the thunder rolls into Brookside and the rain pelts the Holmes house, I sit at the table thinking about my friend Paula K-V.  I stopped to see her on my way home from work yesterday, after Rotary Club.  Just a spontaneous visit, I said.  She released a lovely peal of laughter.  First Colorado, now me, she responded.  Pretty soon you’ll have to change your blog to “My Year Of Living Spontaneously”.

I gaze at the birthday lilies on my table which have opened to full splendor.  I think about the friend who sent them so that I would have flowers at home for my birthday.  My neighbor rescued them from the porch and texted a picture of them to me.  I called my friend to thank him and told him that I hadn’t seen them yet but would, when I got home.  Where are you, he asked.  Denver, I replied.  He chuckled, at first unbelieving but then delighted that I had indulged myself in a brief vacation.

I had planned to get myself a tattoo as a sixtieth birthday present but instead I gave myself a four-day trip to a land of glorious vistas.  I might some day still get the tattoo but for now, I have these lovely lilies, the roses in full bloom at the office from the same friend, and my memories  of the mountains.

I’m not complaining.



Happy 89th Birthday to my mother, Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley, whom we lost thirty years ago.  I hope there are lilies in heaven.

Of Gardens and Gods

The temptation to complain yesterday nearly overwhelmed me.  After arriving home at  3:00 a.m., I arose at seven to start my work day by 8:30 with a client coming at 9:30.  For a few teetering moments, I lamented my impulsive dash out west to celebrate my sixtieth birthday, particularly the six-hour detour on Monday to see the Garden of the Gods.

But then I scroll through the pictures on my cell phone, the snaps which don’t come close to conveying the stark, majestic beauty of the place.  The tension eases from my shoulders.  I lift my coffee cup and gaze again at my feeble effort to record a tiny fraction of the splendor which surrounded us in Colorado.  And I have no regrets; I voice no complaint; I am content to slog my way through five days of work in a four-day week.

How can I complain about anything which I might endure, when a six-hour detour brings me to a symphony of earth and sky?




Here is a LINK to the Wikipedia about the Garden of the Gods.

Driving to Denver

A few days ago, someone asked me what I was going to do for my birthday.  Drive to Denver, I said.  He stopped, reversed, looked back at me.  Denver?

Most people just say, “Dinner.  I’m going out to dinner.”

But I felt drawn to Denver and Jessica did as well,  so off we went.  And though the room is not quite the “well-appointed suite” that its lessor described, and my toothache returned a couple of hundred miles west of Topeka, I’m not complaining.  The shadow of the mountains soothes any ache I might think of having.  The air draws into my lungs more easily.

And this face, this face of my beautiful shared daughter Tshandra White, sat beside me on the airy patio of a charming Mexican-American restaurant in north Denver.  Any hint of moaning in which I might be tempted to indulge fades away.


Blue-eyed girl

The parts manager at Molle Toyota could not find the order for the Prius because they still have the car listed under my mother-in-law’s name.  I stood at the counter for about 20 minutes while he ran various checks.  I had told both the person who took the order and the man who admitted me to the inner sanctum that the vehicle’s service record was under another name, but no one had communicated this salient fact to the person searching for my license plate bracket.

I shifted from foot to foot, engaging him in small talk.  I finally prompted him to try Joanna’s name — bingo.  When they rang the ticket, he had applied a 10% discount which he said arose from his appreciation of my patience.

Patient?  Me?

An hour later, I listened to someone telling me that my glasses were crooked, from compassion and concern about my visual acumen.  I pushed them a bit further up on my button nose and smiled.  I am aware that I look ridiculous much of the time and am starting to find the fact amusing.

Tonight I took those crooked glasses off and scrounged in my closet for an old pair.  I donned them and stood in front of the mirror, thinking that I can see a bit better, noticing that the lenses in this pair are larger and my eyes more obvious.  I think about the lady who replaced my drivers license once, after hours of telling me that it could not be done because I could not prove my identity.  My wallet, with license, Social Security card, and every other form of ID, had been stolen.  I finally called a friend in Jeff City who told me about a process whereby you paid $2.00 and the DMV faxed a copy of your license to the local office.  If you match the photo, you get a duplicate.

I stormed back into the office to confront the woman with my knowledge, and she admitted both having been aware of the procedure and not have shared that knowledge with me.  I coldly plunked two one-dollar bills on the counter, and gave her my information.  A few minutes later, she returned with a grainy copy of my driver’s license in black, white and grey tones.

What color are your eyes? she asked.  I told her “grey”.  She stared at me with slightly open mouth.  No, they’re not; they’re BLUE, she snapped.

I finally lost it and retorted, Well, if you already KNEW, why did you ask?

I walked out of there with a new driver’s license and high blood pressure.

It’s taken me twenty-two years to get to the point at which I’m rewarded for my patience with a courtesy discount.  But I’m not complaining.  I’m just grateful that I’ve gotten here with as few scars as I bear from tongue-lashings along the way.


“A lovely man”

Across the table from me at Chai Shai, my friend  says of her father that when he was not drinking, he was a lovely man.  Her eyes are clear, her face composed, and I know she means it.  She tells me this without rancor, or bitterness, or anger.  I have a sense that her father must have meant a great deal to her.  He bowed under the weight of his problem but it was what he did, not what he was.

It’s nearly nine o’clock on the evening of my ninth straight day of work.  My body has grown beyond weary.  I’m still at the computer, partly for my own purposes with a little work thrown into the mix.  I know I must soon sleep or I will pass the point of no return beyond which sleep  remains cussedly elusive.  But for the moment, I sit, at my secretary in my dining room, thinking of all the lovely men who have trudged to work day after day, heavy with the problems that pushed them to the bar at the brink of each evening.  The husbands, the fathers.  The mothers, the wives — in my parents’ time, usually in a dress with a cocktail while her husband, in a suit jacket or shirt sleeves, stands beside her with his own rocks glass clutched in front of him.

I could not reply to my friend that my father, too, was a lovely man when he wasn’t drinking, mostly because I cannot recall a time when he did not.  But occasional flashes of something close to loveliness flickers in the depths of those awful memories.  The metal puzzles that my father created out of wire hangers.  His clever turns of phrases, posted on his workshop wall.  The times he sat me on his lap and taught me to read, when I could not walk or run and play with my siblings because of the inflammation in my legs.  The lemon cakes flavored with anise which he made us.  The endless love which he bestowed on his grandchildren.

I’ve worn our terrible past as a shield, hid behind its contours, and, more recently and in disgust, pushed its cobwebs away from my face.  I know that my friend’s father did not do what my father did, though the grief he caused her family had contours no less harsh.  But I also know that whatever my father did, or did not do, caused him to suffer his own kind of hell.  And so, on this, the 01st day of September, 2015, four days from my sixtieth birthday, I think about my father and decide that perhaps he too was a lovely man when he was not drinking.

And that is how I choose to think of him — that  is how I choose to think of the man who gave me my name and sweet-talked my mother into conceiving me because he wanted another daughter.  Somewhere inside of him, that loveliness must have existed.  To heal myself, I’ll let it shine from me.