Monthly Archives: April 2016


I’ve had a run of good luck this week.

Several clients paid their bills.  My health took a sudden turn for the better.  A friend came and helped me with a few difficulties around the house.  Another agreed to come spend Sunday digging in my side yard with me, planting and whatnot.  All in all, it’s been a delightful week.

Now I am wondering when the other shoe will drop.

What else can I say?  I have gotten so suspicious that good fortune worries me.  Put aside the whole concept of high-time, long-overdue, much-deserved.  I don’t expect the Universe to provide for me, and when it does, suspicion floods my mind.

But I’m not complaining.  I’ll take the lull in misfortune.  Thank you, Universe.  I won’t press my luck at the lottery ticket counter, but thank you.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  The wild ride continues.


Grateful for Gardeners

I never met Hazel, who would have been my mother-in-law by virtue of my second marriage.  But her flowers grace my walk from the car to the house.  I drive a blue Prius which belonged to my mother-in-law Joanna, who was also a gardener.  Hence do these women touch my life beyond the grave.

This blog started because of words spoken at Joanna’s funeral, in a time when my life held such different promise than it does now.  The priest shared his impressions of Joanna, with whom he had much contact through events at St. Andrew’s.  He observed that she had never complained about anything as far as he knew.  That comment touched me; and prompted me to try to live complaint-free.  Soon after I started this blog, my life’s road veered away from where I had thought to go.  I did not choose the detour, which brought me enormous grief.   But I adapted.

On Sunday, my friend Katrina will bring her deft gardener’s hands to my side yard, helping me weed, mulch, and plant.  We’ll stand over the struggling holly bush and contemplate the potential of saving it.  I will try not to mourn the mimosa which came down to make way for the two hollies, the female always ailing, the male thriving, lush and verdant.  Katrina’s strong hands will place new plants in the ground, while I bring water and sweep cuttings, grateful for the beauty that she will coax from the tangled mass of weeds.  I will try to stay out of the way.

Three days of storms have cleared the air around me.  In the backyard, a family of bunnies retreated to the neighbor’s patch when I let the dog out.  I stood watching them for a few minutes, breathing the heady fragrance of my neighbor’s blooming rose trellis.  Then I went back into the house to start my work day.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Spring surrounds me.  Life continues.


Best Foot Forward

For years, doctors predicted my imminent demise or ruination and I lived in careless disregard of the potential of survival.  Their prognostications coupled with  the judgments of others as to my worthlessness dragged me so far down that I might as well have been dead.  I made  poor choices from a lack of faith in my potential.  I associated with people who considered me inferior to them.  I refused to confront my emotional turmoil.  I lived as though I had no value.  I let my fears overtake me.

And by “for years”, I mean, “for most of my life”.

Despite having made choices which took me down a path to certain ruin, to destined failure, I have managed to survive.  I’ve found some type of inadvertent rhythm.  My sharp edges have begun to dull with years of polishing.  Though few linger to see the flare, I think I’m finally beginning to shine.

I thought all that had come to a savage halt on Sunday.

By afternoon, the weakness in my legs which has been the other side of spasticity had overtaken me.  I had felt the decline for months but during this past week, it had become frightening.  On Sunday, I attended a function which necessitating my standing for an hour or so, cheering runners in a race with a group of my fellow Rotarians.  I had almost canceled.  I could have just not shown; I could have sent a text.  But I decided to push  myself.  If I faced being bedridden, finally, I  wanted my last act of freedom to be among the company of angels.

Later that day, I sat on my porch wrapped in a shawl, worrying, crying, fretting.  I pulled myself out of the funk long enough to visit with a friend who stopped by to fix something for me.  I did not mention my condition.  We never left the porch together, so he did not have a chance to observe my helpless state.

At some point on Sunday evening, I took myself by the scruff of my neck and gave a vigorous shake.  Think, dammit, think!  I realized that there could be another explanation.  Perhaps something else was wrong with me, something normal, like a stroke or a blood clot.  If so, and I did not get help, I might be consigning my own self to permanent misery.  Then it came to me:  Perhaps this is related to the muscle relaxant which I have been taking for years and years.

I got on the Internet and researched.  Within thirty minutes, I began to suspect that I was experiencing a cumulative overdose.  I skiipped my evening pill and then, the next morning, did the same.  I called the doctor, got validation for my theory, and agreed to try a different drug.  I need the stuff, something, or the spasticity will cause my legs and arms to draw tight against my chest.  But the doctor agreed my theory could be sound.  I skipped the Monday night dose as well; and by Tuesday, I could walk again.

Oh don’t get me wrong!  I’m still a gimp.  My legs still shudder, I still walk like a duck.  The kids will still stare and the grown-ups will still avert their eyes — some of them, at least, the more squeamish ones.  But I’m not complaining.  I’ll take this state.  For as long as possible, I intend to follow my Nana’s advice, and put my best foot forward — even though that ‘best foot’ spontaneously breaks and wobbles like crazy.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues, and so do I.

Patrick gae me this card for Mother's Day two years ago.  I read it often; his words fuel me on some of my darkest days..

Patrick gave me this card for Mother’s Day two years ago. I read it often; his words fuel me on some of my darkest days..

Do You See What I See?

I listen to conversations everywhere I go.  I eavesdrop shamelessly on all of it:  Women talking together about their jobs, children, or spouses; men talking to women about chores and what equipment they will need; children trying to persuade their parents to buy something, go somewhere, or allow something.

I pay attention to their faces.  I watch their hand gestures.  I close my eyes and let their voices reach me, separating the tone  from the words.  I open  my eyes and watch their faces — the scrunching of their brows; the smoothness of their skin when they smile; the tiny shakes of their heads.

In the quiet of my home, their talk  plays back to me.  I try to imagine their lives at the other end of the evening, in their homes.  I imagine quiet apartments, noisy sprawling houses, pets running through the hallways.  The smells of dinner waft through the rooms where the tired parents sit and cuddle babies.

After the Trolley Run Cheer with the WBRC on Sunday, I had three egg sandwiches and a couple of oranges left.  I drove down Wornall towards Target, and suddenly saw a homeless man on the sidewalk with his shopping cart filled with clothing, books, shoes, and blankets.  I stopped in a parking lot and walked towards him, noticing that he held a little chihuahua and wore dreadlocks.  His sun-weathered skin stretched across angular planes.  He held the dog in his arms like a baby, wrapped in a cloth.  I flicked my eyes across the pile of belongings in the cart as he approached me.  I went to an event and have extra sandwiches, I said.  Egg and cheese.  And oranges.  Would you like them?

I held the bag by its handles, offering it to him.  He spoke in a soft, lilting voice that seemed unused.  Yes, I would.  He took them.  I paused for a moment, wondering if I should say more.  I stood on the sidewalk, thinking, I have just come into his living space, here, in front of this Subway, on a broken square of cement with weeds sprouting from the crack.  

I turned and left.

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

The view from my window.  I have always wanted to go knock on the doors of the houses which I can see.  "Good morning," I would say.  "Thank you for shining your light all night.  It's a comfort to me when I rise and write."

The view from my window. I have always wanted to go knock on the doors of the houses which I can see. “Good morning,” I would say. “Thank you for shining your light all night. It’s a comfort to me when I rise and write.”



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Between 2:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. today, I reimagined my life.  Everything which I would not now choose to do, became undone.  In the same breadth, all that I would now embrace, came to pass.  I fell asleep 45 minutes before the alarm rang.

A shower, throw on clothes, scramble a dozen eggs, slam together nine egg-and-cheese sammies (three GF), feed the dog, out the door by 6:30 — reveries forgotten.  Within an hour, the Trolley Run Race to benefit the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI) began. With a motley gaggle of Waldo Brookside Rotarians, I stood and cheered every racer, every walker, every stroller, a few wheelchairs, and this princess, pictured here, walking with her assistive cane.  Her adult, sighted companion told her that she had an audience, and she straightened her shoulders and marched down Gregory Blvd. like an invincible Warrior princess on a mission to save the world.

I couldn’t in my wildest dreams conjure a better way to start my Sunday.

It’s the twenty-fourth day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  No regrets. Life continues.

Mirror, mirror

I know the picture on Facebook was taken just a few months ago, but I already look light-years older as I stare in the mirror.  I ask myself how that could be.  I’ve lost five pounds; I’m drinking lots of water; my schedule slowed in the last few weeks.

I hear a whine and think that the window stands open and crickets have begun to sing.  But no: what I hear never stops.  It waxes and wanes, my constant companion, the soundtrack of my life.  Tinnitus.

It could be worse.  My last hearing test showed no significant change.  You know you should have hearing aids, the doctor mentioned. Why yes: yes I do.  I see him scribble a little note and imagine it must be about my slightly snide tone.  The last time I got fitted for hearing aids, the technician mentioned that the five-hundred dollar ones would do little for my particular loss and would require fine motor coordination to manipulate, which I lack. She suggested the three-thousand dollar ones.  I said, Uh, no thanks.

I can hear the traffic on Troost so I know that I’ve not yet gone deaf.  I’ve grown accustomed to the rise and fall of the ringing in my ears.  It started forty-five years ago.  My grandfather tested my hearing in his kitchen, then called my mother.  She’s losing her hearing, sweetheart, he told her, in his gruff Syrian voice.  I think my mother largely felt relief that the problem had been identified as something other than teen-age petulance.  I’m not sure why I didn’t get a Sonotone House of Hearing aid from Nana and Grandpa.  Perhaps they didn’t think my loss had progressed far enough.

But now it has.  I walk through the hallways of the courthouse and judges speak to me, raising their eyebrows at my lack of reply.  I start off every proceeding by letting them know that I depend to some extent on sight-reading.  Badly, badly, but I need it, I murmur, and even the most traditional let me wander around the courtroom trying to get a better view.  I’ve learned to say, I’m afraid I didn’t quite hear that, ma’am, perhaps you could say it more loudly next time.  Witnesses feel that you’re accusing them of lying.

I’m not complaining, though.  I’d rather lose my hearing than my vision.  As long as I am sighted, I can still look myself in the eye; still stare down my demons; still study the face of the person across from me to discern their intent.  The eyes don’t lie.

It’s evening on the twenty-second day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m weary; I’m aching; I’m waddling around like a one-legged duck.  But life continues, and for that, I remain grateful.



Tooting My Own Horn

When my son was small, someone told him that he should not brag.  I don’t recall giving that piece of advice, so I’ll place credit on either Magda Helmuth or Punky Thomas.  Patrick did not want me to tell anyone that he had accomplished something, or been kind to someone, or overcome an obstacle.  It’s not polite to brag, Mom, he’d admonish me.

I get that.  I truly do.  In fact, over my sixty years, I have taken “not bragging” to new heights — or perhaps, depths would better describe the direction in which I’ve gone.

In my case,  and perhaps my son’s case as well, “not bragging” has surpassed the polite, small smile and modest murmur of protest when praised and fallen squarely in the putrid realm of self-deprecation.  Speaking strictly for myself, I have spent decades assuming that anything which goes wrong is my fault.

I’m completely aware that living in a blame-based milieu will not promote happiness or goodwill, so I struggle to identify problems and solutions rather than to place blame and punish.  But when it comes to my own shortcomings, and to difficult situations in my own life, I still embrace judgment.  Charged, tried, convicted, sentenced:  Jailed.    Corinne Corley, you have been found guilty of crimes against humanity, to wit, gross inadequacy as a human being.  What do you have to say for yourself?

A few days ago, a long-time friend and fellow Rotarian sent me an e-mail stating that he was smiling because he was happy to be in a Rotary Club that included me as a member.  I laughed out loud when I read his words.  Last night, another Rotarian hugged me as I got ready to leave our meeting and told me that he was grateful for everything I did for the club.  I felt enormous tenderness in that moment.

As I gathered my belongings to exit the room, I found myself contemplating my inner mantra:  You failed, you failed, you failed, you failed.  I stood for a few minutes by the little corner of a triangular table which I always occupy.  I stared unseeing at my laptop, the box of rotary pins, my little second-hand Coach bag, and the tattered carry-all that I got two years ago in the Kohl’s sales bin.  My hands fell still, one on the table, one held against my heart.

I’ve told many people that I’m the type who grows off people.  “You know the expression, ‘This grows on you,’?” I ask.  They nod.  “Well, I grow off people.  Once you get to know me, you really will not like me.”  I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to support that belief.  People consider me the fair-haired girl come to save them when first they meet me.  Months later, those same folks regard me with distaste.  I’m less than they thought; I’m louder than they thought; I’m weaker, not as pretty, more disabled, not as smart; I’m too liberal, too independent, too needy, not enough, too much, not the right thing.

Two years ago my physical therapist sent me to the hospital gift shop to buy a pair of socks.  The shoes I had worn that day did not fit snugly enough and she couldn’t torture me quite as surely as she craved.  (I love my physical therapist.)  I bought a pair from the only line of socks available in the shop, and my therapist and I had a lovely laugh about them.  When I got back to the office, I took my shoes off and showed my secretary Miranda and the other lawyer in the suite, Jenna Munoz, what I was wearing.  We all agreed that the socks rocked.

Oddly enough, I wore those socks to Rotary last night.

It’s the twenty-first day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m feeling a few growing pains, but life continues.




The unexpected gift of downtime provides a chance to clean out my internal temporary files and cluttered subdirectories.  With endless coffee and a nearby outlet, I watch the comings and goings while answering email, updating my webpage, and idly cogitating on the glories and goofs of being the child formerly known as Mary.

I like this place.  No one knows where I am except my lunch appointment, though one other person can determine based on our shared familiarity.  I trust them both to keep my secret.  Shhhh!  If you guess, don’t breathe a word!

I’ve seen one or two people whom I recognize but they did not see me sitting at the table tucked in the corner by the window.  They walked on by.  I remain anonymous, and the rest of the place continues blissfully ignorant of my existence.  My Lenovo doesn’t like their Wi-Fi so I’m burning up data from my Verizon hotspot, but once in a while, I log off and switch to the airwaves just to make sure that I don’t go over my allotment.

My old escape-place closed a couple of years ago, and I haven’t really found another one.  I wouldn’t be here but for circumstances which brought me out of my normal orbit.  But this venue gives me what I need:  silence and coffee; internet (albeit inadequate) and electricity.

I’m rejuvenating.  My batteries recharge when I retreat like this.  I don’t forget my failings, but I forgive them.

It’s the twentieth day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  The wild ride that is my life continues.



Picture this

I did not get the shot.

I cruised down Gilham Road, 7:30 a.m., thinking about nothing other than getting to 12th street before the last handicapped spot got filled.  I passed a car, darting into the left lane but looking swiftly over my right shoulder as I moved beyond.  Then I saw it:  On the sidewalk; a shopping cart, heaped with somebody’s junk, with a red, white, and blue afghan spilling out of the front, trailing forward as though left by a fleeing, frightened man.

I did not get the shot.

I considered changing lanes, turning right, coming around the block and pulling alongside.  I thought about the time; about the two-block walk if I did not get a space.  I glanced at the clock on the Prius’s dash, subtracted the four-minute variance, contemplated the tightness of the narrow window after which my lily-white spastic legs would have to hobble from the Oak Street garage.  I continued driving, merging with the traffic past the western edge of Hospital Hill, downward and over the viaduct into downtown.

I did not get the shot.

I sat in my parking space watching other cars whip into their own, waiting until the courthouse would open, clutching my security pass so I would not forget it.  I wondered who had left the cart; why the beautiful bright blanket tumbled from its rusty metal edges.  Where did the owner go, when he abandoned his earthly possessions in front of a quiet house at 33rd and Gilham?

After court, I thought about going back.  But I realized that I had left my cell phone on the clerk’s desk.  I parked illegally, activated the flashers, and made a mad dash for the handicapped access.  I swear I got back in five minutes but Parking Control had already pulled along side.  My crazy walking sent me into a stagger as I bolted down the sidewalk.  My hip gave out as I fell from the curb and pulled the driver’s door open.

By the time I got to midtown, that cart and its absent owner had faded from my mind.

But now I remember and I wonder.  I worry.

I did not get the picture; I will never know.

It’s the nineteenth day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  My list of ills is long, but counted among them is not:  Homeless with only one red, white, and blue afghan to warm me on these chilly April nights.  Life continues.



In looking for pictures of red, white, and blue afghans I found this photo.  It illustrates a site inviting browsers to “Join Our Charity Knit-Along”.  The title of the JPEG is “Mr. Jones”.  Funny.  But now I am haunted by the thought of Mr. Jones; of his old body, stumbling away, leaving his blanket behind him as he ran from God-Knows-What.

 For information on knitting blankets and other items for people in need, check out these sites, which I found by Googling “red, white, and blue afghans” and discovering the picture of Mr. Jones.  I did not vet these sites.  There might be local projects among them.  And maybe you will find your Mr. Jones, and your handiwork will warm him.

Charity Knit-Along

The Knitting Guild Association – Links Page

Scarves for Troops

Monday Morning

Angela Lansbury cautions that one should stretch for ten minutes before rising.  I read her book years ago.  I imagine it still occupies a bottom shelf somewhere in my house.  I don’t remember much else from that book but I still try to follow that one suggestion.

Stretching in the dark allows for mindless contemplation.  The voices on the radio have not yet intruded into my morning.  I have not yet checked the weather or fed the dog.  I don’t know when my first obligation of the day starts.  I lift my arms and raise my hands towards the ceiling, feeling protest in the taught muscles.  Only the constant ringing in my ears breaks the silence.

In a few hours, I will be stumbling through the demands of my law practice.  My personal chorus of self-doubt will clamor to be noticed. Phones will  ring; my secretary will hover in the doorway; and insistent queries will flood my in-box.

But in the stillness of the unlit house, at six a.m., none of that matters.  Stretch, release; stretch, release. Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

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