Monthly Archives: October 2015


From age 15 to age 18, I took 10 mg of Valium four times each day.

During the September of my first year of college, I spent twenty-four hours withdrawing from Valium with a friend by my side.

I came partway out of a fog that day but not far enough.

From age 15 to age 58, I took narcotic pain relievers.  A doctor started me on Percoset (Darvon-based) when I complained about my legs.  The doses increased as I aged; the drugs got more serious as time passed.

During November – December of 2013, I slowly weaned myself from narcotic pain relievers with my doctor’s assistance and guidance.

I finally broke through the fog in January of 2014, peering in astonishment at my world, what remained of it.

Doctors prescribed that medication.  Doctors.  I had no idea what pain relievers did to me.  No idea how attenuated I had become; how numb; how insensitive; how jittery if I tried to unilaterally decrease them.  I lost four decades of living; four decades of connection.

When I rolled out of that fogbank and found out what my life held, what I had lost while I tried to damp down the pain in my legs with narcotics, I wept.  I still weep.  I walk around in permanent mourning for what I did to myself in the name of Western medicine’s solution for chronic pain.

Once again:  I am not a good example; I am a horrible warning.  Don’t dull your senses.  Not with potables, pot, or pharmaceuticals.  Find another way.  If pain threatens to overtake your life, turn to nontraditional ways of controlling it — yoga or meditation.  Believe me.  You deserve to feel.  What you lose when you wander in a fog can never be regained.


Boy mothers

Many years ago, I stood in the aisle at some big-box store, wondering which super hero Santa had promised my son for Christmas.  After a few minutes, i tossed a couple of power rangers into the cart.  At about that time, a teenaged clerk approached me.  Ma’am, he said, You’ve been standing there a long time — did you get what you want?

No, I snapped.  I wanted a girl.

His look of horror still haunts me.

A few years later, Patrick started 5th grade at St. Peter’s Elementary, his first foray into ‘real’ school after two years at Purple Dragon and four years at PS1, an ungraded one-room-type school with thirty children.  I wanted him to have a good adjustment, so I threw myself into making our little household fully vested in the  process.  I signed myself up to participate in the potluck for the 5th grade mothers, and even took a day off from work to cook.

I stood in the kitchen chatting, munching on carrots.  Two blonds with coordinated sweaters and skirts turned their cool gazes on me.  So, who’s YOUR fifth grader? one chirped.  I replied with the name that my son had decided to adopt for his new school:  “Pat.”  They looked quizzically at each other, then said, I don’t remember meeting anyone named Patty at orientation; what does she look like?

I explained:  Patrick“Pat” is short for “Patrick”.

They rolled their eyes and exchanged meaningful glances.  Oh, you’re in the wrong room, honey; these are the girl moms.  You should be in the living room with the boy moms.

I backed away from the pair of them.

Tonight I spent several delightful hours with Jessica Genzer, who has the honor of being both a “girl mom” and a “boy mom”.  We took her son Addao to Waldo Pizza to celebrate his twelfth birthday.  Afterwards, Jessica and I nibbled Dove Chocolate while Addao dug into a beautiful Chocolate Decadence Cake.  Then the two of them went for a run while I pretended to exercise upstairs, missing my boy, wondering how he is, hoping that he is well, so glad after all that I got to be a boy mom.

Jessica and Addao

Jessica and Addao

Of lists

Many of my best times here at the Holmes house come in rocking chairs on the front porch.

Last evening Jessica and I sat as the light softened around us, talking in quiet tones about our respective days.  I shivered in the chilly air and Jessica suggested going inside.  I am having an asthma attack, I told her.  And tachycardia.  I didn’t want to take albuterol because that accelerates heart-beats.  I need the oxygen, I explained.

Jessica looked at me and said, Well, I’m glad you’re out here then.

Exactly.  Item one on the list of positives. Check.

Night fell and my evening progressed.  Eventually I mindlessly cruised the internet lost in thought, far into a sleepless night.  I found myself making lists.  Things which are right; things which are wrong; things that I can do; things that I can’t do.  

Things that I am; things that I am not.

I fell asleep at two a.m. and I will swear that I felt a flutter of angels around me; swear I heard them whispering, You are enough.




A thousand words

I drove to Hermann, Missouri today to celebrate the new home of Amy Barrale Broch and Harlan Broch.  To my deep regret, I did not take one picture.

Amy knew that I would be attending, but I kept one surprise from her.  My son Patrick journeyed from Evanston, Illinois to attend Amy and Harlan’s housewarming.  We rendezvoused at the Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce on Market Street and caravaned the remaining two blocks to the historic home where my niece and her husband now live.

Amy stood on the front porch when I arrived, her face beaming as I got out of the car.  Then she noticed the vehicle behind me, and she started hollering for Harlan.  Harlan, she cried.  Come out here!  Look who’s here!  It’s Aunt CC and Patrick!  Patrick came!  Harlan, come out here!  She threw her arms around Patrick’s neck and I found myself sobbing.

Amy is the daughter of my brother Stephen Patrick.  But her mother Sherri Barrale and my brother Stephen became estranged during Amy’s babyhood, and none of the Corleys knew her.  I found her three years ago.  My son and I have forged a relationship with her that livens my life as few other familial ties have done.

Amy drew us into their home, her arm around Patrick, one hand on my waist.  I set her housewarming gift on the table while we took the tour.  Amy and Harlan’s home appears on three historic registries, she told us, with pride, and glee, and joy lacing her words.

We saw the new floor which Harlan installed in the living room; the painting he’s done on the walls; the full kitchen that they outfitted including old metal stools acquired for five dollars each at a garage sale.  We climbed the 175-year-old stairs, running our hands on the rich walnut of the old banister.  We admired the 12 x 12 bathroom where she plans to install a claw-foot bathtub, and the high ceilings where a friend’s husband hung curtains to surprise Amy before they moved.

Since we had arrived at the start of the open house, only two other people had gotten there ahead of us.  Amy introduced us to those folks, calling me her “Aunt CC” and identifying Patrick as her cousin.  Moments later, someone else arrived and I found myself standing with those people.  I’ve known Amy a long time, the woman said.  I have met all of her aunts.

She stopped.  The next question remained unspoken, but I answered it, gently, as kindly as I could, knowing that this woman truly cared about my niece.

I’m her birth-father’s sister, I told her.  She raised her eyebrows.  My brother died about eighteen years ago, I added.  As though that explained anything.

One of the “real” aunts, her mother’s sister, entered the kitchen as I stood eating corn chips.  You’re Steve’s sister, right?  I acknowledged the fact.  I’m Sue.  Do you remember me?  I used to bring Amy to your mother’s house.

I explained that she probably had met a different sister, as I moved to Kansas City a few months after Amy was born.  Ah, I see, she replied.  But you look like her.  And we shook hands, solemnly.  I told her my name; she repeated hers, with surname this time.  I thanked her.  I wasn’t sure why, but she answered.  You’re welcome.  Maybe she knew; maybe I really did, but I just did not want to say.

Patrick and I stayed for an hour and a half.  The adorable old home filled with scores of people who came to see the house that Amy and Harlan bought; to wish them well, to hug them, to laugh with them.  I watched the rooms fill with so much unbridled affection that it overwhelmed me, and I realized that I had to leave.  I needed to think about this family, these Barrales, these Broches, the people from their church.

Patrick and I went to a coffee shop, then.  We sat and talked as mother and son; as two adults; as two voyagers.  He did not tell me much about his life in Evanston; nor did I babble about the events of my days in Kansas City. But he got a chai; and I got a fruit smoothie; and we had a good time taking a pen apart so he could tell me what he had learned watching a video about how ballpoint pens work.  The hubbub of the coffee shop flowed around us.  Oktober Fest brings a lot of folks to Hermann, and not all of them want wine in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.  Some bring their children for cold drinks; some need water or soda.  That set came in and out of the coffee shop as Patrick and I visited, with the pleasant noise of families — the children’s voices, the gentle tones of mothers, the deep rumble of the dads.

After a while, our visit ended.  We stood between my Prius and his Kia, and I put my arms around his neck.  Then we both got on the road: me to the west, to Kansas City by way of 19; he to the east by way of 100.  I carried the feel of my family all the way home, to Brookside, to this little secretary in my dining room, in an airplane bungalow, where I live with my epileptic dog, the memory of my son’s cats (one of whom died and one of whom comes home most mornings for breakfast), and the flotsam and jetsam of my sixty years on earth.

I took no pictures while I was in Hermann, but it occurred to  me about sixty miles east of here, that if one picture is worth a thousand words, then a thousand words must be worth at least one picture.  So this is my thousand words for Amy and Harlan.  They begin and end with one word: love.

Happy new house, my beautiful niece, my handsome and faithful nephew-in-law.  Thank you so much for welcoming me into your home but more importantly, for taking my son and me into your lives without hesitation and without reproach.  I cannot turn back the hands of time, and I would not have blamed you if you had looked at me with skepticism or disdain.  But you did not.  You turned only eyes of love in our direction, and for that, if for no other reason, you will always dwell deeply in my heart.

My niece Amy Barrale Broch and her husband, Harlan Henry Broch Jr.

My niece Amy Barrale Broch and her husband, Harlan Henry Broch Jr.




I made a journey to 135th/Quivera today for the single purpose of recovering my beautiful bracelet from Jessica.  With that secured from the lost-and-found at the store where I had tried on dresses three weeks ago, I headed back to the city.

The thirty-minute drive back home threatened to overwhelm me.  I had eaten little, pressing my strength on chore after chore through the day.  I realized that I had gotten peckish about 119th and Roe, just as I started to pass the McDonald’s.  A jagged shudder ran through my body:  this is the very McDonald’s to which my favorite curmudgeon and I would drive for ice cream cones after dinner at Houlihan’s.  Want some dessert, honey? he’d say, and off we’d go.

I signaled to change lanes for an unexpected detour.  Five minutes later, I drove out of the McDonald’s parking lot with cone in hand.  A lightness passed through my body.  Neither sugar nor the wheat of the cone appear on my allowed food list.  But a smile danced on my face all the way home.  Jay must be beaming down on me from paradise.

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Wires and sapphires

A moment comes when one’s existence can be summarized in two words — this and that; joy and sorrow; you and me; night and day; rise and fall.

For me, today, the two words which encapsulated my existence clashed against each other in the cold unfriendly exam room at the Cardiology Unit of North Kansas City Hospital.  I stood with my sweater dress bunched around my neck while a woman in Halloween scrubs jammed  sticky pads against my chest.

Careful, please, be careful:  I have a bruised rib.

She barely raised her eyes, flicked a hank of hair over her shoulder and grunted.  Honey, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do whether your rib is bruised or not.

She shoved a plastic sleeve of instructions into my hand.  I could almost hear her shouting, Next! as she herded me through the door.  No need to stop at the desk, she droned, pointing to the exit.  I pushed my weight against it, falling into the waiting room, willing myself to stagger to the elevator and down to the coffee shop.

. . .Where, of course, I got herbal tea; and a plastic container filled with sectioned grapefruit.  I slumped into a chair, eyes unblinking, letting the noise wash over me.  I have been here before, I heard myself whispering.  No one stares in hospital cafeterias.  It is a place of tears.  Your grief goes unnoticed.

The tea cooled; I let my hand drift to the neckline of my dress, grazing over the bumps into which the leads feed, fingering  the smooth stones of my necklace.  I have been here before, I whisper, hand resting on the empty chair beside me.

Wires and sapphires.  My life in two words.


The right tool

It’s the little bottle-caps that confound me.

I can open mayonnaise and jelly jars, though I eat neither.  I can pop tops; I can slam a garbanzo bean can on the electric opener and whirl it around til it yields its contents.  But those little caps on one-liter carbonated water bottles challenge my last nerve and defy every gadget in my silverware drawer — the red rubber disk; the old-fashioned reverse-direction expanding-gizmo that my son bought at a garage sale; even the hefty black Good Grips device.

Desperately thirsty and unwilling to resort to tap, I crossed the kitchen to that junk drawer everybody hates.  (We literally call this drawer, ‘You know — the drawer everybody hates.’)  Yanking it open, pulling out the divided plastic box of useless screws, my dad’s hammer, my ex-husband’s measuring tape, and the ball of infinitely breakable twine, I finally found what I needed:


One swift turn and the cap flew to the counter.  I filled my glass to the brim and greedily guzzled the ice-cold liquid.  Then I stood in the kitchen, looking at the pliers, and realized one immutable fact.

Anything can be done:  it’s just a question of having the right tool.

I hope this lesson has not come too late to be useful to an old gal from the Lou. I’m not complaining, though.  Better late than never.


Sometimes Life Just Plain S*cks

Okay, now, I realize you might be thinking — wait a dolgarn minute here little missy, isn’t that title sort of. . . Complaining?

Au contraire, mes amis!  In fact, the title of this passage merely reflects reality.

Yesterday my wonderful family medicine doctor looked me straight in the eye and unwittingly quoted advice that his nurse had already tendered:

There’s nothing wrong with your thyroid.  You need to get back on a healthy diet and LOSE TEN POUNDS!

I realize that I am not overweight, but  consider this: The non-disabled person should be able to bear 100% of his (or her) weight on each leg.  I’m not good at math, but with impaired legs, I know that my ability to bear weight correspondingly lessens.  Even the math-impaired can concede that less weight will be easier to bear.

Twenty-four hours after Doc T admonished me in regards to giving up all sweets once again, I got the brutal pronouncement from The Life-Saving Cardiologists Up North that now I have to give up CAFFEINE.

Holy Mother Murgatroyd!

Hence, my pronouncement in an email late this afternoon:  My life seems to be effectively over, so I suppose a sense of humor might be in order.

But my life has not ended.  I swore off sweets before now, and I can do it again.  From March 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009, I lost 45 pounds.  Over the next twelve months, I lost another 35.  I’ve done this before now; I can do it again, and I will.  Stay-tuned for updates.  It’s only 10 pounds, people.  I lost 80 pounds in twenty-four months and kept 87.5% of it off for four years. I can lose ten pounds in two or three months, and keep it off for four decades.  Or, to be  precise, 43 years.

As for coffee; well, suffice it to say, my record stands at thirty-two consecutive weeks without caffeine.  Those thirty-two weeks commenced when I found out I was two weeks pregnant and ended when I safely delivered  Patrick Charles Corley at thirty-four weeks gestation.  He turned twenty-four this year; do the math.  So it has certainly been a while, but I’m a tough old broad: I can do it.

Sometimes, life just plain s*cks.  But, in the immortal words of killerblood900 (free JPG download, deviantart.), when life gives you lemons, you have options.



Facing Facts

I dig beneath the layers of discontent, the discontent which would otherwise be expressed as grumbling.  I find a festering mess of how-comes and why-did-this-happen?  I push that mess aside to what’s below:  murky brownness, mud and fetid water, disappointment flowing through the cracks of desire.  I take a hose and wash the mess away.  I’m sure that beneath the gunk, I’ll find tender shoots of growth, delicate stems rising from solid roots.  I believe in this; I keep looking.  My back aches from bending. My fingers bleed from pushing aside the stones.  But my search continues.


Today is the first day of the FIRST full week of the fourth quarter of my second year of trying to live without complaining and blogging about the process.

In the last twenty-one months, I’ve experienced at least six major life events (which I will not here list; if you know me, you know what they are; if you don’t know me, their nature is of no moment).  I’ve made three trips for medical treatment, embarked on one completely frivolous vacation, tried three cases, settled twenty more, and changed personal vehicles once.

During this 1.75 years without complaining (ha!), my INR has see-sawed from .8 to 5.4 — the therapeutic goal is 2.5.  INR measures blood-clotting time — i.e., medical bean-counting.

Not included in those “six major life events”:  In the last twenty months, I’ve changed secretaries twice; suite-mates once; had one close family member die; and had at three new viruses identified as being active in my body, including, presumably, playing a role in the suppression of my immune system.

In the same time period, I’ve made four new friends; met one fairy-granddaughter; and gotten five new neighbors (not counting the changing of tenants in the rental unit across the street).  I’ve only dropped one stitch in the knitting project that I started two years ago and which I hope to finish in the next thirty days.

Since 01 January 2014, I’ve lost ten pounds, gained back that ten plus another ten and lost four of the new ten.  I’ve spent $850.00 plus tips on changing my hair from its increasingly grey to a blonde-brown-grey combination.  In the last twenty months, I’ve raised $3,425.00 for charity with the help of three colleagues, a half-dozen diehard supporters, and 200 people who emptied their pockets of change and wrote checks.  I’ve helped fifteen artists show their creative efforts to the Kansas City Community.

I’ve cried ten thousand tears.  I’ve aged twenty years.

Today is the 642nd day in My Year Without Complaining.  It has been one year, nine months, and four days (counting today), since I started this journey.

I’m still here.  Still doing as my Nana instructed:

Putting my best foot forward. . . 

Taking one step at a time.


What type of beans did you think I would count?