Monthly Archives: May 2016


Sometimes I deploy my GPS just to hear the GPS lady tell me that I have arrived.

I’ve never had a shortage of people willing to criticize me.  I regularly am told by random people in my life that I’m too independent, too sensitive, too rigid, and too slow.  A handful of people who admittedly know little about me will say how helpful I am, how generous, and how giving.  I stumble through life believing everyone’s negative assessment of my character and shrugging in wordless rejection of the good stuff.

But the GPS lady totally gets me.  She adjusts to my every move.  I’ve got her set not to scold me.  She never announces that due to my bone-head moves, she has had to recalculate her route. She just does it.  And she alerts me that my destination nears, and then crows into the chamber in which she and I ride, YOU HAVE ARRIVED!!!

Sweet!  Victory!  If I please no one, my GPS lady marvels at my ability to get the vehicle safely from Point A to Point Z along some route, even if not the one which she insisted was the fastest.

It’s the nineteenth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  As I recall, it’s the anniversary of the auspicious birth of John Rice, a hero whose death resulted from saving the life of his wife and son.  Happy Birthday, Johnny; I’m sure you’re in heaven hanging out on the banks of the river with Steve, and Weird Wayne Wilson, and Jeff, and all the rest who went before you.  Here on earth, life continues.

Today's successful navigation landed me in my satellite office in Liberty, a cozy nook of which you see here.

Today’s successful navigation landed me in my satellite office in Liberty, a cozy nook of which you see here. St. Louis folks, note Steve’s poster on the wall.

“I Am Loved”

A friend sends a link to her blog about overcoming adversity through embracing challenge and then follows her first e-mail with a second expressing concern that she might have been insensitive.  I have no idea what your daily struggle just to walk entails. . .

I am loved.

My son has a good day and calls to share his feelings.

I am loved.

My sister Joyce rings my cell at random times “just to make sure you are all right”.

I am loved.

Paula and Sheldon surprise me with a vase of flowers left my porch.

I am loved.

Someone approaches me at a meeting to place a hand on my arm and compliment my writing.  I read your blog every day.  Thank you for sharing your stories and your journey.


A dying old man holds my hand and tells me, I love you, honey, and I carry that with me because I do not doubt its truth.  I whisper back, holding his aging eyes with mine:  I love you too.  I keep that in my heart: A gem which compensates for all that life has withheld or, worse, once given and then wrenched from my arms.

Know this:  I, too, am loved.  And I have loved.  Nothing else matters.

I have journeyed far; struggled mightily; slogged through months of inner turmoil; begged the heavens to account for my feelings of abandonment and loneliness.  But on the far side of that volley of bitter complaint, one message remains. I might not rise to certain standards spat in my face.  I cannot pretend to be rich, clever, accomplished, beautiful, or anyone’s ideal.  I’m haggard, worn, clumsy, overly-sensitive, stubborn, and nervous.  I’m no catch.  I’m difficult at best and some would say, hardly worth the tenacity that endurance requires.

But whatever else one might say of me, one must also concede, however grudgingly, that I am loved.

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



The red crystal vase from my grandmother Beulah Hayes Corley holds a metal rose which my son Patrick bought for me at the Ren Fest many years ago.  The beer stein which I gave my favorite curmudgeon early in my acquaintance with him holds a red rose which Patrick bought me at Disney World and two silk roses from the wedding last weekend of Jilli Nel and Chris Myers.  When I surround myself with tokens of love, I believe that love still reigns.

Once more, with feeling

In 2008, my artificial knee quit working.

Grumbling all the way, I dragged myself to the KU Orthopedic Clinic to grouse about this predicament.  The doctor pursed his lips, peering at my old records from the notorious 2001 Record-Setting Knee Replacement Hospitalization over at St. Luke’s.  I studied him with trepidation.  The surgeon who gave this knee to me had been the grandfatherly type, adorable, nurturing, a bit philosophical about the limits of my spastic legs.  This guy could have been my son and clearly had spent quality time on the jogging trail. I shifted in my seat, feeling the sweat creep down my neck.

Finally, he spoke.  Well, Mrs. Corley, he began.  When Ted Sandow — I could hear the reverence — gave you this knee, you weighed 105.  The ladies here weighed you at 182.  That knee is weight-rated.  You can either talk Blue Cross into giving you a sturdier knee, or lose weight.

I gratefully observed that he refrained from opining as to the futility of either challenge.

I took the easy route, and dieted and Yoga-ed my way to 140, then 103, over the next eighteen months.  My mantra became “Eat less, Move more”.  I had never felt better.

Two years ago when Mars crashed into Venus and my life fell apart, I started eating.  I had just quit narcotic pain medication after forty-five years of prescriptive dosing, and started this blog. Eating, though detrimental, served me poorly but better than drinking, despairing, or leaving town in the dark of night without providing for the dog or back-up representation for my clients.

Now I am coming out of the Weight Gain Closet.  I am announcing that She’s Back. Once More, With Feeling — I’m stopping this gravy train before it plunges into the murky depths of Locked Knee Hell.  After yo-yoing up and down all winter, I stepped on the scale today and I’m nearing 118.  My friends, that ain’t because of water-weight, hormones (of which I doubt any are left), or glands.  It’s because of unhappy eating over the long winter of my decline, and I’m taking charge before that number skyrockets.  I’m going public.  One-hundred eighteen might seem like nothing to some folks. On my five-foot four frame, it’s still under insurance guidelines and puts me in a size 2(ish), maybe a 4 in some brands.  But for this thin-framed, tiny-boned crippled girl, 118 cannot be tolerated.

The resumption of bad habits got me here along with indulgence in a self-pitying internal mantra that pulls me further down every day. That negativity itself threatens me, but in a more real sense, the extra weight poses serious risk to my quality of life, not to mention my promise to my son that I will live to be 103.

It’s the seventeenth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year without Complaining. I’m awake, everybody!  See me?  And, inevitably, consciously, hopefully, life continues.

Nothing quite as invigorating as stepping in leopard-print jammies while watching "Tiny House, Big Living" and day-dreaming about living in a Yurt in Half Moon Bay, California.

Nothing quite as invigorating as stepping in leopard-print jammies while watching “Tiny House, Big Living” and day-dreaming about living in a Yurt in Half Moon Bay, California.



My stress level today almost dragged me down into the muck and mire of lament.  I squirreled myself away in my office and hammered at file after file, wrestling with the gnarliest problems in the stack on my desk. My heart pounded.  Tension gripped my muscles.  A searing pain shot through my head.

Then I came home in the sweetness of the evening spring rain.  I stood over the garden that my friends created in the side  yard.  Serenity beckoned to me from the rich earth.  My spirit stretched towards the lushness of the perennials.  I closed my eyes and willed the vise to relax its hold.  With each long draw of spring air, my focus narrowed, until I saw nothing other than that peaceful patch of ground.

It’s the sixteenth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  In the midst of chaos, life continues.


Sometimes, in the springtime

Sometimes I feel the chill of spring and remember springtime in Arkansas when I first took a class to be an adoptive parent.  I mowed my five acres and scrubbed my house for the home visit and spruced up the room where I wanted my little girl to live.  I had a neighbor clear the path to the river running through my property and set chairs on the deck, on which I had a carpenter build a railing for safety.  I spent hours pouring over the photographs of children available for adoption before picking a little girl of five years, with curly brown hair tumbling to her shoulders.  I set my kindergarten picture next to hers and thought, We could be twins.  Or mother and daughter.

The agency rejected my request for placement with one sentence:  This child should go to a two-parent family.

Six months later, I found out that I was pregnant with my son.  Now I wonder what it would have been like to raise him with a sister.  If we had stayed on that property, they could have gone to a small school.  We might have attended church in the mountains.  When my friend Carla had her daughter, my accidental namesake Kori, the kids would have played together.  I might never have returned to Kansas City.  I would have kept my children in the quiet of the northern slope of the Boston Mountains.

Sometimes, in springtime, I find myself wondering about roads not taken.  I stand on my porch and think about the road that I did take: its detours; the gorgeous scenery; the faces of those who walked with me from time to time; the storms that bent my shoulders and the sun which blessed my face.  See me now, here.  See where I am.

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


Today: No complaints

Other than the ringing in my ears and the curious repetitive thump of the cable box, my house has fallen silent.  Nothing interrupts the stillness for days on end.

I go about my chores and pleasant pursuits barely making any noise myself.  I rarely turn on the television or radio. Occasionally, my neighbor and I exchange a few words in our shared driveway.  The dog contents herself with short greetings and responds to brief instructions.

The view out my window as I write has not changed.  Occasionally I watch the neighbors coming and going.  I can almost hear their voices but can’t quite understand them.  I crane forward to see their miniature poodle scamper down the steps.  Then motion stops as they recede into their house or pull their vehicles down the driveway and out into the street.

My thoughts and I keep each other company.  My journal falls open to a fluttering of blank pages; what I have to say weighs too heavy for the pen.  My fingers hover over the keyboard.  Beside the pencil cup, my newest angel folds her hands in prayer.  She watches over me.  I feel safe.

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


Just breathe

With the doors both open, I can hear the baby birds living in my gutters.  I give a brief moment of regret knowing that when the gutters are cleaned tomorrow, those infants could be displaced.  I think, surely the Smith brothers will work around that nest, but then let go of the worry.  Que sera, sera.

I pad around the house with ginger-footed, wincing steps.  My hips protest the new stepper but I keep at it, pushing for a scant ten minutes, twice a day.  To the able-bodied that would seem like a waste of time.  But by six minutes, my chest heaves and my eyes roll backwards.  I know my limits.  A doctor once speculated that I burn 20% more fuel just walking through a room than a person without my challenges.  But I forge ahead.  I had too many indolent years, when my joints stiffened and my thick unhealthy blood pooled in my veins.  Whether thin or heavy, if I do not move, I will die.  Like a shark only wearing a weak smile.

So I put the dog out, turn on the Food Network, and climb on the stepper.  I don’t need to count steps but I do anyway just to keep my mind focused.  The machine and I have different standards for what constitutes a “step” though; I get to 80 while it lags behind at 40.  No matter:  the seconds keep counting, I keep stepping, all the while hearing my mother’s voice:  Walk every day of your life, and you will walk every day of your life.  Keep walking.

Behind my mother’s exhortations come the more lilting, gentle tones of Becky Holsen, a most excellent yoga instructor:  Breathe . .  breathe . . . breathe.  Don’t forget to breathe.

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




The Four-Way Test

Along with complaining, I have to give up sarcasm and subtle little digs.  This poses an even greater problem than stopping my life-long proclivity to whine.  But it must be done.

By joining the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club, I have sworn to measure everything that I say and do by the Four-Way Test of Rotary.  I have no problem with “actions”.  I detest cheaters and never cheat myself.  I go out of my way to help people whenever I can.   I rarely, if ever, engage in hell-raising or harassment.

But the thinly-veiled criticism and the left-handed compliment sneak into my conversations without my realizing it.  So I’m putting myself on Red Alert.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Four-Way Test of Rotary, I’ll reprint it here and invite you to caution me if you think my words or actions violate it.  Go ahead!  Keep me honest!!!

It’s the evening of the eleventh day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m getting serious now1  I’ve made you all my police.  Blow the whistle!

Life continues.


The rain is raining all around.

The storm broke about 6:30 and my new lawn company still won’t be able to calm my jungle, but I’m not complaining.  A cool breeze pushes through the screen, stirring the staleness, letting me draw a deep breathe of cleansing air.  I love the rain, though my dog finds the lightening somewhat terrifying and my basement will no doubt take a soaking.

In an hour or so, I will return to the office after a day of working at home.  I got three loads of laundry nearly done, several pleadings drafted, and an attitude adjustment.  The fatigue and soreness of my muscles has abated.  I might make it through the week; a chance still exists.  As the deluge descends on Brookside, my mood lightens. Perhaps the barometric pressure has eased with the unleashing of the fury from the heavens.  I can’t say.  But I feel better, and I’ll take that without question.

It’s the eleventh day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Spring rains surround me.  Life continues.

“The Rain Poem”, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.


Because of marigolds

After last night’s storm and restless sleep, I pad around the house convinced that nothing will go right today.  That sentiment has dogged me for more than two years but this morning it hovers in the air like the stale smell of old grease.

The dog disdains the yard and I speak outloud, assuring her that I’ve hired a company to come and mow.  If it ever stops raining, I say, and she looks at me with something that I cannot understand.  Another soul disappointed in my management of life, I suppose.  She trots past me and settles on the wooden floor in the living room with another glance backwards.  I shake my head.

I think about the day’s list of tasks.  I mull over whether or not to go into one or the other of my offices.  I think of the pile of laundry, and ponder what client work could be done from home while the big washer and dryer in the basement tackle the mound.  The dog walks around in circles and settles in the kitchen, avoiding my glance.  I suspect she’s wondering when I’ll get out of here and leave her to go and commune among the crows which share her food.

As I watch the coffee drip into the carafe, the words “failure” and “surrender” invade my mind.  I’ve been told so often that I have failed, not always with that word but equally unmistakably.  And then there are those who admit to failing me, when what I suspect they mean is that they just tired of me and the effort required to tolerate my idiosyncrasies.  I hear their voices in my head; see words march across the page.  I think, How easy it is for us to say we failed, when what we mean is, we quit trying.

The coffee finishes and I pour a cup, spilling it on the counter, sighing, lifting the mug from the mess.  Great, I think.  On the radio someone blares vitriol into my home and I feel myself wince.  Oh good grief, who cares?   I leave the kitchen and the voices follow me, insisting on their importance, heckling me, demanding my attention.  I ignore their demands.

I go out onto the porch followed by a relentless cloud of gloom.  The cool air hits me.  I contemplate going back for a sweater to shrug over my pajamas.  But then I see the splendor of the morning light dancing on my plants and I stay.

The fog surrounding me dissipates as I sit among my flowers, willing to try again, willing to consider the possibility of success.  I might not concede anything but for a brief spell, I can at least put aside my grief while the sun caresses the loveliness around me.

It’s the tenth day of the twenty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. I’ve gotten the complaints out of the way.  I realize that I do not live complaint-free; but I have at least attained a state in which I know that what I am trying to achieve will change me for the better.  I’m no longer trying to live complaint-free as some sort of experiment but to save myself.  I feel as though the year has just begun, even though I’ve been doing this for twenty-nine months.  I’ve nearly given up so many times, but I’m still trying.  Because of marigolds.

Life continues.