Monthly Archives: March 2016

My intentions

Thoughts stream through my head most mornings, demanding my attention.  Write me down! they scream.  Blog about ME!  

I gauge the fury of the rapids as they tumble over the rocks and wonder where I should tiptoe into the water.  Today I thought about cheating.  I felt the tug of self-righteousness pull me towards some indignant toss of my head, with its highlighted curls held in an old white scrunchie.

After eating breakfast, I slid off the wooden stool, cranked the news a bit louder, and started my stretches.  On three I lifted my eyes and saw a quartet of sand bottles on the keeping shelf, sitting below the hand-print of my dead brother Steve, done in kindergarten, one of my cherished possessions.

I paused mid-stretch and stared at the grouping, thinking of the little boys standing at the booth at the Renaissance Festival trickling sand into those bottles.  My son, two foster children, perhaps Chris Taggart — maybe Maher Sagrillo.  i strained to recall if all four came from the same summer.  I ran one finger over a cork stopper, feeling the dust.  I leaned closer to examine the hand-print, searching for clues to the terrible end of that little boy’s life.

My brother’s face rises before me;  at age five, his mouth pursed; his eyes holding worry.  I close my own eyes and hear the screaming from the other room; remember touching Stephen’s shoulder, murmuring reassurances.  I was four years older than Stephen.  I was nine at the time.  I remember his tears.  Silent, unending streams on his small cheeks.

I think about those two foster children who lived with us during my son’s sixth summer.  I remember the reports of the abuse, torture which drove one of them to open a car door and tumble onto the Interstate, hoping to die.  At age five.

Those little boys had a sister.  The oldest boy, Mikey, aged out of the foster system; the younger boy and the little girl found forever families.  I wonder about Mikey.  Where did he go after the system could no longer shelter him?  Did he find some other haven?  Did he survive?  Or did he carry his terrible burden as long as he could and then sit beneath a tree, like my brother Stephen, and let himself find an end to pain?

I finished my stretches and came upstairs to write.  The maddening clamor has subsided.  I cannot recall why I felt the need to talk about cheating, or loneliness, or whatever burden my heart felt it had nobly withstood.  I find myself thinking about all the children, and what they endure, and what it does to them.  What it did to my brother Stevie Pat.  What it did to Mikey.

It’s the twentieth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  For some of us, life continues.  Speaking strictly for myself, I intend to cherish each day which lies ahead.

"Be a lamp, be a life boat, a ladder.  Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd." Rumi

“Be a lamp, be a life boat, a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”


This, Too

By 9:00 a.m. I had proven that one can secure a vehicle registration for an absent son with minimal fuss.  When the DMV first privatized, I disdained the decision but perhaps in haste.  I suppose they still serve under some corporate management; in any event, I took the paperwork sent by my son and within five minutes of arrival, walked out with his little red stickers bearing the number 17.

At Mail Packages in Brookside, my fellow Rotarian Mbugua Njoroge sold me a stamp and then shared a few minutes of description about the remodeling plans for his establishment.  As we exited the storefront, he bade me God’s blessings and I must admit that I did feel blessed.  His gentle smile speaks to me of how I would like to behave in my 70s, spritely, serene, engaging.

A few miles down the road, my parking karma guided me to a spot right outside One More Cup, settling the issue — One More Cup or Coffee Girls?  The two vibe different.  One More Cup with its mismatched wood tables and laid-back air invites solitary lingering, whereas one more likely scores a table at Coffee Girls but the sound of the blender encourages quick turnover and snappy conversation.

I’ve been making lists of events, and people, and occurrences for which I am grateful.  So, add these:  The dollars in my wallet that bought me an avocado sandwich and an Americano in a yellow pottery cup with a handle large enough for cradlng.  Art on the wall.  The children spanning the counter on stools while their parents sit chatting with strangers.  The blue of the sky; the purr of my Prius’s engine; the beating of my heart — however erratic, however weak, however broken and bruised.

It’s the nineteenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  From Waldo, to you, my greetings.  Life continues.

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Today’s One Thing

When the cell phone alarm sounds at 5:30, I wrench my eyes open and a thought pierces the fog in my brain:  One more day.

One more day through which to slog until I can sleep alarmless; but this too:  One more day with eyes to see the corporal world; one more day with ears to hear, however inadequately, the voices of those whom I love.

I pull myself to sitting, crunching those three pesky disks in my back whose deteriorated state holds together with enflamed cysts.  I think of the symbiosis of those two conditions.  Either alone would necessitate surgery.  Together, they preclude surgery and render it unnecessary.  I can live with their coupled pain.  I rise.

Darkness hovers over the Holmes house as I slide my bandaged toes into slippers, working the soft fabric around the blistered arthritic bumps.  I raise my arms into a mock yoga stretch and hit the button to let news flow into the room.

I will not win any races today, but I might get the price for endurance.

It’s the eighteenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  It’s Friday, people.  The Gods of March have gotten most of us through more than half the month.  Be grateful if you count yourself among the living.  Go hug your spouse, your kids, the letter carrier, and the old lady crossing the street by your office.  You’ve got the gift of another day.  For you, for me, life continues.

Little nibbles.  Breakfast!  Thank you, Jenny Rosen, for teaching me about the beauty of square plates.

Little nibbles. Breakfast! Thank you, Jenny Rosen, for teaching me about the beauty of square plates.

Death, be not proud

Another friend has passed from this life.  Though I did not know him well enough to spend an evening with him in social company, Robert McCain twinkled his gorgeous smile in my direction whenever we met.  My stylist, he first cut the Corley curls quite a few years ago at his salon  in Westport.  I stumbled upon him, quite literally, in a Living Social ad and few people have charmed me as quickly.

Robert’s face appeared everywhere after I first met him, on the sidewalks of Westport and around town.  I found his laughter infectious, his enthusiasm contagious, and his zest for everything he did admirable.  But then his life took a dastardly turn, and he disappeared for a bit, recovering from events that would trouble him for the rest of his days.

He re-surfaced at the Lady Luck Salon next door to my office and I cheerfully sat in his chair again, becoming blonde under his deft ministrations.  While there, I learned of his commitment to finding serenity, his devotion to his parents, and his undying affection for the friends who graced his life.  I went to a seminar that directed us to find something at which we succeed, and do it for thirty minutes every day.  My something is being happy, he told me.

Robert’s passing caused pain to a huge swathe of people in Kansas City and across the nation.  I cannot imagine that anyone who knew Robert will ever forget him.  There’s a heck of a party in heaven this St. Patrick’s Day, as Robert takes the stage.  Watch for showers of sparkles and shamrocks from the skies.

It’s the seventeenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues, though here on earth, the lights have dimmed.

Death, be not proud
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Top Ten

I’ve turned the tide from being uncomplaining to being actively grateful.  Today’s top ten list of things for which I am grateful, listed ten through one for fun, but not in reverse order of importance:

10.  Talenti sea salt caramel ice cream.

9.  Unpainted wood finishes.

8.  The new insulation in my attic.

7.  The two people who orchestrated the new insulation in my attic.

6.  Dansko shoes.

5.  Uninterrupted wireless internet.

4.  People who stand outside restaurants in the rain talking to me, and open the door for everyone who comes along without breaking the flow of conversation.

3.  Sterling silver jewelry.

2.  My next-door-neighbors.


1.  Last or first depending on your point of view, my loyal readers.

It’s the fifteenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  I started this day being wary of the ides of March.  It turned out okay for me.  I’m not complaining.  Life continues.


My life, ain’t the high life, but it’s my life. . .

I’d like to say that after slugging it out for eight hours in court, following a full day of prep and a gruesome work-week, I came home, threw on some yoga pants, and did thirty serene minutes of floor work to regain my center.

I’d be lying, though.

I don’t own yoga pants.

When I finally got to my house, I stripped off my size 2 Ann Taylor black suit that felt more like a straightjacket by that time, and pulled on my Grandma Corley’s pink and flowered reversible housecoat and the fuzzy slippers that my son got me for Christmas.  With the dog eyeing me from her bed, I ate one of my favorite post trial meals, boiled new potatoes, followed by two hummus-laden rice cakes and a sliced banana with a tablespoon of sea salt caramel ice cream.

I wolfed all that down while binge-watching Chopped Junior re-runs and re-living every question asked by either lawyer between 9:00 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. when the commissioner indicated that it looked as though we would need one more day — “maybe two more, given how this is going” — and practically commanded us to clear our schedules and come back Friday.

“If you have a conflict, tell me where; I’ll call the judge.”

I have to hand it to him, he’s been on the bench less than a month; this is his first trial as a commissioner; and he deftly handled some pretty tense moments in a sad custody trial among grandparents, a father who did nothing much during the first six years of his son’s life, and a mother with a pocketful of woes and a sad look on her face sitting in the corner of the courtroom trying to look harmless.

With the pink side of the housecoat outwards,  I can see the label with my grandmother’s name.  I remember my grandmother wearing this as she sat in her easy chair at St. Ann’s Nursing home, in the year or so before her death.  With her regal head of grey hair; her precise, clipped speech; and her small frame held perfectly still; my Grandma Corley held court until her last hours.  My son liked me to wear the flower side out because I looked more like a Mom in flowers.  I like the other way, with the snaps done and the cream-colored bric-a-brac adorning the pockets.

I finished my meal with ten ounces of carrot juice, set the alarm, and trudged up the stairs.  It’s not much of a life, this life which I have carved here in the quiet of Brookside,  but it’s my life, and I’ve seen  lamentably worse existences, so I will keep my peace.

It’s the fourteenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m going to vote tomorrow, and I will cast my vote for the candidate whom my son has convinced me is the only morally defensible choice.  I don’t know how the election will turn out but if the country goes to hell in a handbasket, crouching behind a stony wall of bigotry and xenophobia, the blame will not fall on my shoulders.


Rain, rain

The day lilies and Hazel’s irises had just begun to assert themselves through the ground on Friday.  My trips to and from the car have all been in the dark since then.  In a short while, I will take a cup of tea out onto the deck and look over the railing to see how the rain has nourished the remnants of my garden.  I hope my plants have grown and that in a week or so, my yard will hold the promise of their gorgeous blooms.

The piles of clutter from the week’s rushed activities have shrunk by five or ten percent.  My daily stretching has steadied at 16 minutes, morning and night.  Fifteen would suffice, but I add the extra minute to compensate for pauses.  My body aches, my host of viruses rages, but I’m not complaining.  Yesterday I donned a black flowered dress and a pink sweater to sit helpless in the congregation of a packed church to show solidarity with grieving parents.  Tomorrow I hope to be the instrument of stability for a six-year-old whose life-long home would be changed if one party to a sad litigation has his way.

How can I lament anything in my life, when others face such tragedy?

It’s the thirteenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  On this day in 1942, the U. S. Army launched the K-9 Corps;  in 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus; in 1865, the Conferacy approved the use of black soldiers; and in 1951, Dennis Ray Lisenby came into the world, in order that one day his mother’s irises would adorn my yard.

Happy birthday, Dennis; and thank you.

Life continues.




Three separate jumbled piles of my stuff attest to the fast-paced week.  I wander from room to room.  I move a bag to the cupboard; I shift through a basket of clothes.  On the computer, I stare at e-mail, mind numb, fingers still.  I eat an orange and throw away the peels.

A friend complimented me today for my continued quest to improve myself.  I admire that about you.  I was driving, talking hands-free, and I laughed into the open air of the car.  The microphone carried my peal of derision over the airwaves to where he sat at his desk, still working.  Why do you laugh? he asked, though I think he knew.

I softly admitted that I’ve been chastised for trying to be my best self, like it’s an ignoble goal. Forget that old lie, he scolded.  I fell silent but he persisted. Let it go,  he urged. it’s a good thing, trying to be your best self.  Whoever chided you for that, don’t let them control you anymore.  I gasped, unable to reply, bile rising in my throat.  He asked, What’s wrong?

I am tired.  I’m not sleeping well, since I came back from California.  I’ve realized that I sleep better by the ocean, with salt-kissed air drifting through an open window.

I admitted this to my friend, as my car sped forward, closer and closer to  home. I think you’re a California girl, he told me.

He might be right.  I remember a poem that I wrote, a long time ago.  I struggle to pull the words from memory.  I rummage through the books on my built-in shelves, looking for my old poetry journal with its broken spine.  I stand on my tippy-toes, barely snagging it from the top shelf, between some old Winnie the Pooh books and an empty photo album.

I turn the worn pages until I find the very poem. . .

“On the Back”

I won’t say I love you
Probably never will
But still –
Your life in mine
Gives me shells
That I never found
In my oceanless childhood.

14 Feb 79

It’s the evening of the eleventh day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  The green-eyed monster looms outside my window, droning a litany of everything that life denies me.  I sequester myself behind the wooden slatted blinds, old sash windows bolted against the demons.

Tomorrow I attend the funeral of a beautiful twenty-three year old girl.  My own offspring, a year or so older, walks, breathes, stresses, writes, calls, laughs, and worries, far from here, in a garden apartment in Evanston, Illinois.  I dare not complain, so long as life, with all its lumps, continues.


Be still, my heart

On the journey to solving the mystery of my dizziness,  a cardiologist discovered that I do, indeed, have a heart.  And it flutters erratically.

Three years and two prescriptions latter, I still get dizzy at all the same times, inconvenient but not fatal or dangerous.  Never while driving, thankfully.  My heart’s antics don’t account for the light-headedness.  So I take the pills to calm my heart’s frenzied dancing, to soothe the jolts of current running through at wild angles.

I will it to stillness at times.  Last evening a hummingbird beat its wings within me, frantic to escape captivity.  The room fell silent as evening ticked through midnight into morning.   I lay counting the beats, the skips, the spaces between.  Ah, my heart.  My heart.

Other than its crazy pattern, and bruises from the battering of love’s lament, my heart pumps sure and strong.  So I won’t complain.  My life continues, and where life persists, so does possibility.



Out in the ‘hood

My mystery walking man re-appeared yesterday.

I had not seen him in nearly a year.  I reckoned that he had retired, fallen ill, or passed away.  He didn’t look the type to re-locate but that also occurred to me.

I stopped at the house  between work and Rotary to change into more comfortable shoes.  As I locked the door on my way out, I saw him.  Striding doggedly down Holmes Street, long black umbrella in one hand, old battered attache in the other, he kept his head down and forged ahead, not looking either way.  I hurried to my car and backed out of the driveway in time to see him headed towards the green light at 63rd.  I pulled my phone out and touched the camera button, but the light turned red and I found  myself watching his figure climb the slight hill towards Meyer.

I got a snapshot just before he turned the corner.

I’ve watched this man walk to and from points north of my house for twenty-three years, not counting the last year when I thought he had gone.  I guess our schedules don’t coincide any longer.  I think of him as sad, lonely, forlorn.  Perhaps I’ve romanticized him.

As I continued south towards 75th Street, I wondered whether he lives alone.  Who waits for him?  Why has he never bought himself a new coat or a nicer briefcase?  Where does he work?

Does he know about me?  He’s surely seen me.  I’ve sat on my porch in the cool of spring mornings, blogging.  He passes and I lift my eyes to watch him.  For months on end, I saw him every day; how could he not  have noticed me observing his passage through my neighborhood?

The irises have begun to show themselves in the side yard.  My annual urge to plunge my hands in rich wet soil calls me.  Perhaps one day, rake in hand, I’ll see the walking man.  Perhaps I’ll speak to him.  Perhaps he’ll answer

.It’s the tenth day of the twenty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.