Monthly Archives: May 2016


Thankfulness trips most of us now and then but I think I can just about kill it today.

The state of gratitude lies across the international time zone from complaint.  Expressing gratitude involves perceiving a goodness and reacting to that goodness with a certain feeling; and then articulating that feeling in words that the one responsible for the goodness can appreciate.

“Thank you” seems trite to me but to another, only that precise two-word phrase suffices to convey the expected sentiment for a kindness.

Today I awakened feeling particularly grateful for a handful of people whose identity any regular reader of this blog current on its entries will predict.  Catherine Kenyon, for house-sitting while I enjoyed the sand dunes; Jenny Rosen, for being a most commodious traveling companion and Rock Star driver; Tami Cline, for her role as Hostess With The Mostest in her lovely Colorado Springs Home.  But add these less obvious recipients of my appreciation: A wiry man in the kitchen at The Hilltop Inn  & Suites for the silkiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted; a couple from Oklahoma for hauling me from the waters of the Medano Creek; and an unknown Springfield, Missouri resident for talking to me about Joe’s BBQ and the Royals while standing in a bookstore in Boulder.

To each of them:

Thank you; I appreciate your contribution to My Awesome Memorial Day Weekend Adventure.

Today I feel the wrench in my shoulders from my hilarious tumble into the cool waters which run through the Great Sand Dune National Park to join the Rio Grande.  When I move, searing pain alerts me to the swelling in my knees from the mile walk through the park and a similar trek to see every corner of The Broadmoor, including its Hallway of Fame and the breathtaking view from the bridge.

My Memorial Day get-away to Colorado could only have been more perfect if the Boulder Falls had been open.  I’m home.  I’m moving slowly and won’t even hint at when my office should expect me.  I still have to haul my suitcase into the house and divest the car of empty water bottles.  But I’m not complaining.

It’s the thirty-first day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


The condos at The Broadmoor.


My hostess in Colorado Springs, Tami Cline, in front of one section of The Broadmoor’s Hall of Fame, photos of famous people who have stayed in its hotel or played one of its golf courses.



Because of a walking stick

My grandmother Corley sent “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” to my household by way of a gift subscription every Christmas.  As a voracious reader, I gobbled the truncated versions of literature — classics, popular fiction, light novels alike.  I did not care what I read.  I would read cereal boxes if nothing else presented itself.  I read billboards backwards for amusement.

During my early high school years, I read the condensed version of a novel called “The Walking Stick”.  Its main character had a limp from some childhood illness, probably polio.  She hobbled down grimy city streets from her dreary Manhattan  walk-up to her job as a museum assistant, clutching her cane every step of the way.  She apparently had no friends, which the reader could infer (as I inferred) directly stemmed from her crippled state.  I could relate: I had been taunted by other children for years.  The girls in my high school class openly ridiculed my spastic gait.  I knew her pain.

Into her life came a handsome man who courted her, curried favor with her, and convinced her that she did not need the walking stick which separated her from other women.  Slowly he won her heart and as her affection for him grew, her use of the cane diminished until it stood idle in a corner.  Love seemingly triumphed.

But the falseness revealed itself when the museum suffered a midnight robbery with apparent inside implications, secrets which the young woman knew her lover had cajoled from her.  His treachery became evident when he never returned after the heist.  As the degree of her foolishness dawned on her, the story closes with the woman rummaging in the corner of a closet to retrieve her walking stick.

I have disdained canes for most of my life.  My disability already raises a barrier between me and most people, and in ways that grieve me.  Even if it didn’t, I find using a cane exceedingly difficult because I already have two legs that don’t properly communicate with my brain; adding a third confuses me.  A cane also impedes my working day, making it impossible to carry computer bag and pocketbook while opening doors and moving about courtrooms.  Insidious beasts, these assistive devices; I despise them.

But I own them — just in case.

Yesterday, because of the walking stick which my friend Katrina brought back for me from a family vacation in Colorado twenty years ago, I hiked from the edge of a parking lot, down a sandy trail, over small hills, and through the Rio Grande to stand on the edge of a magnificent sand dune in the Great Sand Dune National Park.  It  must be said that  I fell in the river, soaking my jacket and leggings to go with my already wet old gardening shoes.   My muscles screamed; and I needed Jenny Rosen’s arm  to make the 1/2 mile journey back. But I made the trek.   I made it:  because of a walking stick.

Here in Colorado Springs, my friend and hostess Tami Cline putters around the kitchen while I sit at the breakfast bar drinking coffee from a cup and saucer.  Jenny and I leave for home in a few hours, both of  us reluctant to abandon the beauty of the mountains for the flatlands of the Midwest.   We each have obligations tomorrow, so home we will go.  When I pack,  I will take care to tuck my walking stick back in the trunk of the Prius where it lives.  It served me well; and I will respond by taking care of it, even though I might still grasp its handle with reluctance.

After my fall in the river,  Jenny hurried downstream to rescue my walking stick from the swift current  while a couple from Oklahoma picked my sorry butt from the water.  All the while,  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Sometimes joy cannot be contained.

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


Beauty All Around Me

Complaint flees to the background when I surround myself with splendor.

I don’t hike, or swim, or ride a bike but merely sitting in the shadow of nature invigorates me.  I have come to Colorado to see my stepdaughter in Boulder, a friend in Colorado Springs, and the glory of the mountains.  How can I even think of complaining with beauty all around me?

I dropped Jenny Rosen in Manitou Springs and slipped down to the southern edge of Colorado Springs to see a woman who started as a client and has become a good friend.  Last night she took me to a lovely lodge for dinner, from which we could see the mountains against which this town has been built.  We spent a pleasant hour under the high beams of the lodge, sipping wine and trading stories of our lives, our families, our joys, and even, briefly, our sorrows.

Now, logged into wi-fi at her breakfast bar, I download several shots taken as Jenny and I drove into the mountains above Boulder.  We parked in a lie-by and Jenny hiked down to Boulder Creek while I stayed safely atop near the car.  I did not mind resting on a welcoming rock while she skittered down the path to the water’s edge.

My only mishap so far involved a rear-end collision with a Wendy’s assistant manager who smashed his license-plate into the bumper of the Prius, leaving an indentation and a hole the size of a dime.  Oh golly ma’am, I’m sorry, he repeated as I stood gazing down at the first imperfection on my little blue car.  My boss sent me a text and I was distracted.  Lesson learned, young man: Don’t text and drive.  I took a photo of his insurance card and parted company with the promise that I’d send him the estimate.  I’ll give you a week to pay, I declared, in response to his request. After that,  will let the insurance company handle it.

Fair enough.

I could not be angry.  How can one be angry, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains?  I’m sure the collective disposition of the residents here must be quite pleasant.

Jenny and I plan to reconnect In a few hours and drive further south, to the sand dunes.  Perhaps we will; perhaps we won’t.  She has found more splendor on the top of a mountain where her friend lives, and if she chooses to spend a full day there, I’ll be fine where I am, in the company of a kindred soul. This place seems idyllic.  I have what i need for a relaxing day:  A view of mountains to the west, a full pot of coffee, a pleasant patch of ground behind the house where I’ve  seen the rustle of deer making their way through the morning air.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  My evolving life continues.



The Prius took us on a 9-hour drive with jenny hot-footing it all the way.  We checked into The Hilltop at Broomfield, where the owner teased the receptionist and Jenny challenged him with a flashing grin.  A quick trip to Boulder, then down to the Flat Iron Crossing Mall to PF Chang’s where my daughter-from-another-Mother, woman of my heart, approaches me with wide arms and an open smile.  My fairy granddaughter throws herself against me and tells me she’s glad to see me, while Jenny introduces herself and the hostess stands waiting with our menus.

Tomorrow the journey resumes, with a trip to Estes Park, then a long floating drive down the mountain ridge to Colorado Springs.  Jenny and I had tea in Boulder before returning to the hotel.  I leaned on my walking stick as we navigated the cobblestones of Pearl Street.  My legs protest but my heart sings.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  My joyful life continues.


Weathering the storm

When the storm hit, I had been awake for an hour clutching my artificial knee in which an angry nerve protested my pushing its limits by stepping a mere 10 minutes, twice-a-day, on my new stepper.

In the last three weeks, I’ve increased the number of steps that I can attain in that ten minutes by about 10%.  At some point, I will increase the tension in the machine to force myself to work harder; then increase the number of minutes; the number of steps; the tension — and so forth.

The road back to my ten-pounds-lighter self poses unique challenges for me.  I navigate the spasticity, the broken artificial knee with its imbedded scar tissue and jangled nerves, my awkward balance, and asthma.  But I’m not complaining:  I have two legs at the end of which two feet can push down, however clumsily, however strenuous the task might seem.  I can walk, therefore, I do.

I rose from the bed as the storm raged around the Holmes house.  The only way to unclench a frozen malfunctioning artificial joint that I have found is movement.  I did not reach for my glasses or turn on the light.  I simply paced.  The wind howled.  The rain pelted.  The streetlights flickered. And I walked.

Though the cursed knee hurts, and my legs ache, I won’t complain.  My legs always hurt and I don’t take pain medication any more, so I’m back to the level of pain that I experienced as a young girl, before the doctors started me down the long road to prescription pain dependency.

I remember writing once:

I used to think the pain in my legs from this damned spasticity surpassed all other pain.  And then I got hit by a car and suffered 32 breaks in my right leg.  Then for a few years, I thought the pain of an unsplinted crushed leg must surpass all other pain.  And then I watched my mother die a long, slow death from metasticized cancer that crept into her bones and attacked her brain.

Then I knew that I had light years to go before I experienced the worst pain imaginable.

Eventually, the storm subsided and I fell back into a heavy sleep.  I woke this morning to the feeling of a soft breeze through the open window.  I tested my knee with a gentle motion.  It moved.  The pain had calmed.  The nerve had been released and only protested with a feeble whimper.  I heard the dog grousing to be let out.  Birds twittered in the neighbor’s tree.  I rose and began my day.

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’ve weathered another storm and life continues.


Lessons Learned

Readers of this blog roughly fall into one of three categories:  Those who enjoy my writing; those who find my life-journey appealing or intriguing; and those who read this blog out of loyalty, possibly misguided, unappreciated, or remarkably unrelenting.  The three groups overlap to some extent.

Tonight’s entry takes the place of tomorrow morning’s intended fare, since I am due in court quite early.  Perversely, I have decided to offer a lesson that I’ve gleaned from two years of trying to live without complaining, and sixty years of slogging through travails punctuated by occasional flashes of monumental joy.  This post likely will disappoint everyone equally, and satisfy no one.  I accept that.  But what I write comes from me without much effort and with little control.  I do self-edit; I do not mention names except happily, nor describe painful events other than obliquely.  Otherwise, I sit at the computer and type.  What you see flows.  Editing for grammar, spelling, or the occasional missed Oxford comma follows.  Content remains nearly exactly as it spilled on the page.

So.  Now that all but the diehard have stopped reading, here you have it — what I wanted to share — and it is a list.


By “serious adversity”, I do not mean broken manicures, Charley-horses, five extra pounds that no one but them can see (unless it is a person with anorexia or bulimia), or the recent loss of a game — however critical — by their home town team.  I do mean: loss of a loved one by death, divorce, or distance; serious health problems in themselves or a close family member; devastating financial setbacks; or volatility in career, home, or school.  Domestic violence, assault, internet bullying, and the like fit into the category of “serious adversity”.

I’ll preface this list with a few caveats.  I get that you are well-intended.  I’ll stipulate.  I’ll even go so far as to say that your advice could work for the person to whom you tender it.  I give you this list and suggest you delete these particular gems (and similar ones) from your conversations with those suffering tragedy because this advice rarely works, usually prompts wails of lament (even complaint), and will put a dandy wall between you and the person who has been the recipient of your wisdom.  More importantly:  Giving people this kind of advice contributes to their feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and worthlessness.  

And yes:  I backspaced to add that Oxford comma.  Just so you know.

So (throat-clearing), here it is:


in reverse order.

10.  Use this as a growth experience.

9.  Get over it!  It’s not that bad.

8.  When you get past this, you will see that you’re better off.

7.  So many people have it worse than you do!

6.  I know you can handle this.   You’re stronger than you think.

5.  You think you’ve got problems?  I’ve been through much worse than this!

4.  You brought this on yourself.

3.  A lot of people would love to have what you have, so don’t complain!

2.  I know it hurts now but time heals all wounds.



(What does that even mean?)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel better just knowing that I got this off my chest.  Mind — I’m not complaining — but I have gritted my teeth through a whole lot of folks levying these platitudes on me, and I’m hoping that I’ve saved some other folks from having to bite their tongues.  So I’ll close with one more suggestion, and then a little treat.

The suggestion?  Here’s what you can say to someone trying to deal with serious adversity.  Take it from me:  This works.  So, here it is:


It’s evening on the twenty-fourth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  For the patient ones who’ve gotten this far, here’s the treat — pictures of the serenity in my world.  My happy place.  In which, it must be said, life continues.






In the rain

I don’t mind the rain.

The marigolds on my porch drink with a passionate thirst.  I understand their greed.  Standing on the porch watching the wind blow the flag, I let the air buffet my spirits.  The hour passes; I should be getting ready for work.  But I linger.

My grass has begun to look shaggy again.  The new lawn guys had me on the schedule for today, but the rain derailed that plan.  I don’t mind.  I bought a soaker hose to insure my perennials take hold in their bed.  This rain will nourish them better than I could, and more cheaply.

I shiver in my sleeping clothes in the chilly morning air.  A mild light surrounds me as the sun struggles through the clouds.  The trees of our neighborhood sway in the wind.  My flag glistens in the spotlight shining on it, waving, its new pole sturdy against the storm.

Inside the house, the radio babbles about the election, the courts, the local happenings.  I pay it no heed.  The morning rain surrounds me.  I am content.

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


Monday Morning

I heat my coffee in the micro-wave, leftover from yesterday.  At ten dollars a pound for the French roast beans which I favor, I cannot bear to toss the half-pot that remains from my solitary breakfast and so, on Monday mornings, I drink the rest.  It still satisfies.

The outside air lures me.  I sit in the rocker facing west, wrapped in a shawl.  My hands fall idle, except for the occasional lift of the crystal mug.  In a few minutes, I will throw myself into the crazy stretches that I call “yoga”. But not just yet.  For now, I will linger, breathing the mild, soothing scent of last night’s rain.

It’s the twenty-third day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without complaining.  Life continues.

“Morning” by Sara Teasdale

I WENT out on an April morning
All alone, for my heart was high,
I was a child of the shining meadow,
I was a sister of the sky.
There in the windy flood of morning
Longing lifted its weight from me,
Lost as a sob in the midst of cheering,
Swept as a sea-bird out to sea.

This volunteer grew in while the pot stood on my deck last fall with a scant handful of leftover dirt.  It survived the winter inside and now thrives on my porch.

This volunteer grew while the pot stood on my deck last fall with a scant handful of leftover dirt. It survived the winter inside and now thrives on my porch.

Sunday rumi(nations)

This message slams me in the face again and again.  Five steps forward, ten steps backward.  Good example — horrible warning — good example of a horrible warning.

Don’t be like this. . . hear me well.

On my porch this morning I felt the sun’s heat warm one side of my face while the other sat in shadow.  I thought about the trip that Jenny Rosen and I will be taking on Friday, and the sweetness of my friend Catherine Kenyon who has agreed to house-sit for me.  I know our silly little dog will not be afraid with Catherine watching her, nor will the flowers on my porch wilt.  Vacation planned; new attitude claimed.  But still — the panic happened.  Yesterday I learned that the person who normally stays at my house if I am out of town will herself be gone.  I nearly cancelled the trip.  I knew that I couldn’t find a replacement at the last minute.

That’s how it is, still, after all this time of stretching myself to grow.    I can solve the gnarliest client problem but a small hiccup such as the unexpected unavailability of my normal house-sitter throws me.  When it comes to my own life, unexpected stutters easily derail my orbit.

Don’t be like this.  Don’t emulate me in this.  Good example of a horrible warning.

Heed me well.

I understand my state of mind.  I strain against my natural tendency to expect the worst for myself.  It’s not envy of other’s good fortunes.  It’s worse than that.  It’s a clear conviction that others deserve everything wonderful, magical, rich, and glorious while at the same time, I deserve nothing.  My dear friend Pat Reynolds told me once that she wants me to stop complaining about myself.  Complain about everything else but stop knocking yourself!

I’m trying.  Do that:  TRY.

The last two and a half years have taught me a lot, but the keenest lessons reveal my own low opinion of myself.  I seek out validation of that denigration.  I embrace depths that will insure such validation.  I think that’s why small obstacles to my own success cause me to collapse yet I deftly hoist huge boulders from the paths of others.  Quite simply put:  I don’t believe that I deserve goodness, so I invite the worst and shrug with resignation when it comes.

Embrace yourself; welcome success.  Invite joy.  Take this lesson for yourself.

Ah, life.  It continues, life does, and I begin to think that perhaps I can see an easy path to navigate its contours.  I have not yet set my foot on that path.  But I can see it.

On the twenty-second day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining, I’m standing in the doorway, watching the play of light on the porch plants and thinking about going outside.

rumi on hope

For you, Mr. Senter.

Among the folks with endless time

I park in the handicapped space outside the door over which hangs a sign which says, “Shoe Repair”.  It’s the second place which I have tried today.  The first had no available parking, so here I am.

I enter the door and gaze down the steps which I’ve been warned would confront me.  Just then a woman enters the stairwell and says, Endless stairs here in Prairie Village, eh? and passes along side of me.  She stands at the bottom, waiting, holding the door to the inner sanctum. Oh, go ahead, I call down, but she replies, I have all the time in the world.

When I finally reach her, I ask, How is it that you have all the time in the world, when everywhere people are so rushed?  She smiles as we enter the shop and pause at the top of another set of stairs.  Because that’s what I allow myself, all the time in the world, she replies, and saunters down the little flight of stairs to the chairs below us.

I spend a few minutes at the counter talking to the owner, who insists on calling his supplier to see if he has the buckle desired for my job.  I have told him that I am not particular about the finish and he has dismissed the suggestion that any buckle will do.  I am particular, which is all that matters, he remarks.  I can’t have you out there with buckles that don’t look good because you will tell someone where you got them, and my reputation as the world’s best shoe repair person will suffer.

I have divulged that he’s been characterized as such to me.  This clearly pleased him.

When we finish our transaction he tells me, Next time, call me and tell me you are  here.  I will come upstairs to you.  I compliment his courtesy and he shrugs as though it is the least that I should expect — from the world’s greatest shoe repair person. Then I tell the woman who has sat through my entire transaction that I appreciate her having opened the door.  You must be the world’s nicest person, I say.   She tells me that her 21-year-old son would not agree.

Oh, but my 24-year-old son would agree, I insist, and she says that I must have done a good job with my son, that he’d be so kind.  Give yours a few years, I suggest, and then I turn to ascend the stairs.

With a 3:00 p.m. call to a client scheduled, I go into the coffee shop.  Seeing that they have both GFree and GFriendly (house-made) options, I decide that I have diligently dieted and exercised for an entire week and deserve an afternoon treat.  The young lady steers me to the pot de creme, and I take it outside with my coffee.  I sit in the flow of people with endless time on their hands, coming and going in their fancy cars, with nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon than shop, and drink coffee, and greet each other across the parking lot.

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