Monthly Archives: October 2015

Give as good as you get

Yesterday I had to deal with Bank of America employees at the start of my day and Verizon Wireless employees at the end of my day.

At the B of A, three people actually managed to curl their lips at me (I have read about this in bad novels; it’s actually physically possible).  Mind you:  I had come to get a replacement debit card because mine had been hacked.  I was not overdrawn nor had I done anything “wrong”.  I needed help.  I had already gone through the fraud folks and now I was coming, at the direction of the fraud unit, to get a temporary card.  But the B of A folks made me repeat my story three times, butchered my name, required me to stand while I waited for Guy Number Two to finish gabbing with his colleagues, and generally acted as though I had majorly inconvenienced them.

At the Verizon store, a tall, blonde young man patiently waited while I strove to find the information required to perform the needed task. He quietly explained the process and what he was doing.  He also took the time to analyze my account at my request, to see if my plan gave me  the best options.  He spoke in quiet, gentle tones, made the process as easy for me as it could be, and engaged me in pleasant conversation while we waited for a couple of system lags to clear.

My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs.  Which place promotes customer service?  At which place would I rather spend my time?  Where did I find it easier not to complain?

The mind boggles.  But wait:  We get as good as we give.  It’s infinitely easier to smile at those who strive to treat us well.  I tried with the B of A folks; I really did.  Halfway through, I felt resentment rising within me.  Did I not deserve at least common decency?  Their attitude and rhetoric suggested otherwise.  At Verizon, though, decency was the mindset of the day.  Far different attitude.

I’m taking these lessons into my heart and learning what I can from them.  You can teach an old dog new tricks.  I’m proof of that.



In which light breaks through the clouds

A lot happened yesterday regarding which I could complain, were I complaining.  I could also list all of the things about which I’m not going to complain, and the litany would very much resemble complaining tinged with self-righteousness.

But I’m going to do neither of those.

I sit here reflecting on the four or five glimmers of light which broke through yesterday’s clouds.

One ray shone from someone whom I know would not want accolade or mention, and who in fact would prefer that I tender neither.  So I will let that stand unnamed though it might be the brightest of the bright moments in  my yesterday.  I’ll just say: Thank you.

Another came in the form of a huge hug from a man who taught me a lot about law and living, and who called me “daughter” last night as he enfolded me in his embrace.  Later, a young man with whom I’m connected through the first walked me to my car so I would be safe.  En route, he thanked me for acts that cost me nothing in service to the Waldo Brookside Rotary Club to which we both belong.  Thank you, Tim Emerson: You treat this grumpy old lady with decency and kindness beyond any moral obligation.

I drove home in a light rain.  Halfway through the center of Brookside, I noticed a sodden piece of paper swiping across the glass stuck to my windshield wiper.  My heart sank to the pit of my stomach.  You know what a note on your car means — someone backed into it in the parking lot.

The penned telephone number had survived the rain.  I called it; I reached voice mail.  But in moments, an actual person — a law student, no less — called back and acknowledged having scraped my car.  “We will make this right,” she promised.  “We will pay for any necessary repair.”

I let the dog into the house just before the start of the eighth inning of the second game of the Kansas City Royals v. the New York Mets World Series.  As the dog settled into her bed, she cast one suspicious eye towards me, no doubt because I had not returned home until ten o’clock, well into the cold autumn rain’s drenching of the backyard.  You’ve got a house out there, you know, I told her, as I switched on the television.

I waited for the picture, which, like Godot, never came.  A half-hour later, Chris in the Idaho office of Google Fiber reported on the game for me from the television in their call center headquarters, after concluding that my Google Fiber storage box had died.  Look on the bright side, he encouraged me.  At least we’re winning.

Indeed.  The clouds might crouch over me as I rise each day, but the sun pushes its beams through their greyness.  That might not seem like much goodness to some, but I’m not complaining.

The Empress of the Universe with her foster father, Loren G. Rea, an extraordinary man who gave the Empress her first big break.

The Empress of the Universe with her foster father, Loren G. Rea, an extraordinary man who gave the Empress her first big break.


Between one thing and another, I couldn’t sleep last night.

Due to the ongoing construction in my attic and upstairs bathroom, I’m ensconced in the guest bedroom, so there is no TV to watch when sleepless hours tick by.  I tried to download a book from Kindle and somehow the internet gods snafu-ed me.  Scrolling aimlessly through Facebook while checking the Royals game progress, I happened upon a post from my friend Pat Reynolds. . . and a radiant smile must have broken across my face because I felt my mood lighten clear to my toes.

“Dreary ugly day,” she wrote. “At least lunch with a good friend brightened it up a bit.”

Ditto, Pat.  Ditto.

And here’s a Robert Frost poem for you all:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Have an awesome Wednesday, everyone!  I stayed awake too late last night, but I’m not complaining!

Sign me —

Pat’s friend



Sometimes, people just know

Every once in a while, I wonder how I got to be so lucky that people come into my life and do exactly what I need, at just the right moment.

Sometimes, it seems, people just know what will help even when I’ve not figured out that a hole exists in the fabric of my day.

Take Brian Martig, for example.  He’s coming to start the bathroom project here today, even though it’s his birthday and as a self-employed person, he could have said, “Eh, don’t think so.”  And he sent me a Pin of a sample shower and said, “How about this — it would let light into your room and your heart?”  Oh yes please: light in my heart.  That would be lovely.

Occasionally someone gives me a present that seems to be custom made for me.  I don’t get physical gifts often; gifts of time and words, yes; gifts of goodwill, certainly.  But every once in a while, someone places an object in my hand with the words, for you, and gets it spot on.

Whether with word, deed, or trinket, when people touch my heart in the precise way that I need, it stays with me for an eternity.


As you can see by the adornment on this sweater which I chose for myself, the smokey topaz which I’m wearing perfectly suited me. I got it for my birthday in 2012 and wear it nearly every day.


Good to know

A wonderful evening with my friends Paula K-V, her husband Sheldon,  her daughter Abbey and Abbey’s fiance John resulted in a sleepless night.  It’s completely understandable.  We crowned our attendance of Sheldon’s dress rehearsal as a member of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus with a late supper at Winstead’s.  Because — that’s what Kansas Citians do after a show, right?

And while there:  You have a chocolate malt, right?

And then stay awake all night remembering why your doctor doesn’t want you to put white sugar on demyelinated nerves.

But I got through it and, after all, the pleasure of the company and the deliciousness of the malt offset the agony.  I slogged through the day which, thankfully, included the cancellation of an afternoon court appearance.  By 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, I knew that my rough night and predisposition to fatigue had brought me to the absolute end.  Five minutes more at the office would have ruined any chance of being able to grocery shop.

I gathered my bag, scarf, and sweater and headed for the car, feeling like a whipped puppy in a rainstorm; or Cinderella before the ball — tattered, torn, lonely, forlorn.

When I saw the yellow sticker on my window, I felt my mouth pucker in distaste.   An advertisement?  A ticket?  A nasty-gram?

But no.  An accolade.

I peeled it from the glass and got into the car.  With one finger, I gently pressed the note against the black plastic beneath my CD panel.  I sat for a few minutes, just taking in the message.  I don’t know who left this sticker on my window, nor what prompted them to do so.  But its message came at so perfect a time that it had to have some divine inspiration.  I read it again, smiling.

Then off I went, thinking, Good to know.


Thankful Thursday

I sat on a bar stool at The Tap Room yesterday talking with Elizabeth Usovicz while the Royals lost game five of the American League Championship series and twenty-five other Rotarians cheered for their boys in blue.

In Kansas City, “the boys in blue” means our home baseball team.  It’s taken me thirty  years — since the 1985 World Series — to think of the Royals as my team, but I do.  In 1985, I wore my Cardinals red to court; but I’ve lived half my life here now and I consider myself a Kansas Citian.

The Royals lost last night, but I won.  I measure my day’s outcome by the gifts that I took home with me.  After my Terrible Tuesday, I had a damned-near-Wonderful-Wednesday, a cake not just iced but piped with buttercream rosettes.

Elizabeth told me that she has resolved to bring her best self to each day.  I felt a rush of recognition.  I recalled telling someone a year or so ago that I aspired to be the best version of my self that I could be.  When Elizabeth shared her philosophy, I knew that I had found a sister leopard, with beautiful spots and the lanky lean muscles that come from running the distance with a thorn in your paw.

On my way out of the restaurant, I stopped to visit with Mbugua Njoroge, another of our Club members.  How are you today, Corinne? he said, in his lilting South African voice.  I leaned down to answer.  My friend, I replied.  I woke up today, so I figure that perhaps God’s not done with me here yet.

He graced me with a radiant smile.

I don’t truck with religion.  I left Catholicism because it plagued my life in ways that don’t need to be discussed.  I tried the Episcopal religion two or three times over the last thirty years, without finding a comfortable niche. I even went to the local Un-Church, Oasis, but quite frankly, as one woman told me, it’s just a church with another name.  In reality my views do not jive with any organized religion.  So I just keep muddling through life, with no place to go on Sunday mornings but my front porch.

I consider myself a fairly thoughtful person, and I’ve had twenty-two months to contemplate this “not-complaining” quest.  At the essence of my mission lies my desire to be joyful.  I know I can only be joyful if I strive to be my best self, to bring the best of what I can to every human encounter and every task.  I’m not there yet, but I woke up again today, so apparently there’s still time.

And for the gift of a little more time, I am thankful.




I will be wearing a purple dress in honor of those who survive and thrive after experiencing domestic violence.

And in honor of those who did not survive.


On the way home

At a stop light yesterday, I glanced right and left, looking for distractions.  The phone lay idle on the dash.  Even with Bluetooth, I’m trying not to get involved with long conversations while driving.  So I look for pedestrians, or fall foliage, or intriguing graffiti, anything to distract me at red lights.

A family on the sidewalk arrested my glance  — a young mother and a gaggle of children.  I counted, as always:  One two three four.  Now I knew how many there were; until all four made it across the street, I would not move.  The mother, clad in denim, young, hair spilling over her shoulders, grabbed the hand of the youngest.  She strode forward, the other three scurrying to keep pace.  They cleared the intersection just as my light changed.

The mother looked back, bent to gather her ducklings, and held her eyes level with my window.  She smiled, her face glowing.  She knew, I swear she knew:  She’d felt me waiting for her babies to get to safety.

The car behind me honked, then; and I shifted my foot to the gas pedal. As my car started into the intersection, I saw her walk away, down the sidewalk, small shoulders squared, babies gathered around her, brown curls whisking back and forth.  I smiled the rest of the way home.



*heavy sigh*

Yesterday I encountered two clerks at the public library who treated me as though helping me taxed them unnecessarily.  I tried talking with each in a reasonable way.  Neither the subject nor “right or wrong” matter; both continuously turned their backs on me while talking, used unpleasant tones despite my trying increasingly to be pleasant to secure their help, and neither helped me (which, again, is neither here nor there; the manner in which they treated me matters).

As I trudged back towards my car, which at our library is “a far piece”, I could not help but wonder how I could influence people to be more pleasant.  I find myself frustrated with the enormous number of negative people in the world.  It’s tempting to resort to behavior in kind.

Instead, I fill my lungs with air and let out a heavy sigh. I e-mailed the library to try to resolve my problem without having to again deal with those women.  I try to think about what kind of day each must have been having to prompt them to treat me that way.  I found myself being overly nice with the next counter-person with whom I dealt, hoping for some type of ripple effect.  Then I tried to let it go.

Another day in my year without complaining — halfway through the tenth month of the second year.  I’m beginning to wonder if “not complaining” should be taught in grade school.  It’s challenging going this road alone, and I’m not always as successful as I want to be.

Ah, but:  it’s a new day.  Life continues.


After visiting the graves of my favorite curmudgeon and his lovely lady this morning, I made my way to Waldo and Coffee Girls.  The only table with decent light stood next to a four-top where two ladies sat chattering in loud voices.  I glanced their way, looked around the shop, and decided that enduring their voices would be better than squinting.

But I erred.  The first statement which assaulted my airspace erupted from the woman facing me.  People are so stupid! she pronounced.  People are so stupid that they have no idea how they sound!  Stupid, I tell you.  They are stupid.  Her companion muttered something that escaped me.

I froze, Americano in mid-air.  I gently set the mug back onto the table and contemplated my options.  I could move.  I could get a glass of ice water and dump it on her head.  I could hug her.  I could grit my teeth and try to focus on writing despite the inescapable invasion of her continued castigation of the human race.

You should have heard her! the lady exclaimed.  Incredible.  I just stared at her.  She was so stupid she had no idea how she sounded.  Again her companion  murmured something inaudible to me.  I glanced over.  Both had heavily applied make-up; both wore an assortment of tweeds and wools.  Not your typical tattooed Coffee Girls patrons.  More like the Sunday Classic Cup set.

I realized that the woman had now turned her gaze towards me.  I know what she saw:  A sixty-something in sweat-pants and a bright, patterned hoodie with a day-old French braid falling from a hair clip.

The woman leaned forward and spoke to her companion in lower tones.   I missed the first part which undoubtedly included some commentary on that crazy lady at the next table.  She shook her shoulders a little and crumpled her napkin. You ready to go, I heard her ask.  They stood and gathered their pocketbooks, walking away from their cold coffee and the debris of breakfast.  I swear I heard the woman who hates the entire world sniff in disdain as she passed me.  I supposed that’s my just desserts for eavesdropping.  I couldn’t help smiling.  I felt a sudden kinship with all the stupid people who fall beneath the boots of this sad little woman.

I smiled at the counter guy who came to clean their table, and watched them walk across the street to their car.  I resisted the temptation to blow a kiss.



The alarm rings in three hours so I should be sleeping.

My brain calls me, beckons, pours waves of emotion over me. I formulate one immutable after another, trying to explain this spot on the calendar where I have landed.  It wouldn’t be this but for that.  It must be like this because see now, look here.

Fill in the verbs.

I struggle to my feet and grope for water.  The muscles of my calves need to stretch and I give them that luxury, feeling the cramping ease.  Four o’clock hovers and yet I’m rolling the days over and over in my mind, examining each second, reliving the hours, turning the pages and taking off  my glasses to  peer closer.

What did I miss the first time around?  What could I have done?  What could I have said?

People march from the room casting looks back over their shoulders.  I turn out the light and let the echoes of their departures drift to me.  The door slams, over and over.  I reach for the lamp, cast its light into the room, and see the angel watching me.

Under her gentle eyes I fall asleep.