Monthly Archives: September 2016

Looking backward

The tight feeling in a certain spot on my chest tells me that my asthma protests my careless treatment of my body this week.  Four trial settings: one continuance, two settlements, one set for 9:00 a.m. this morning.  Another  brutal week.  Laundry still not done.  Clutter growing around me.  Fridge still nearly empty despite another stop-gap run to the grocery.

I sit down with my cell phone and scroll through the pictures which I took in California.  I’m nowhere near retirement yet that ocean calls to me.  A longing for some simpler life, perhaps; to live where serene smiles spread across every face as the sun hits the water.  I look back to my twelve days in California with a tinge of sorrow wrapped around a kernel of hope.  Whether my heart cries for something new or something as old as my soul, I cannot say.  I hear the dog talking to the air outside.  I understand the drive behind her cry for something she knows but cannot see or find.

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

Sunset at Point Montara, California.

Sunset at Point Montara, California.

The whys and wherefores

Yesterday I asked Social Media to help me understand the feelings that I have when others break promises.  Is it disappointment?  Did I have expectations? Were my reactions justifiable?

By “ask Social Media”, I mean “put it on my FB page”.  A handful of my friends answered, Maybe the person is embarrassed.  Maybe you can work it out with them.  Maybe they meant to do what they promised.

Nobody addressed my issue:  The whys and wherefores of my reaction to broken promises, except to comment on each other’s understanding attitudes, a sideways suggestion that the desired response to a broken commitment is empathy.

I want to understand my reaction so I can change it.  I’ve broken promises in my time.  I know that others suffered.  Looking back, I feel gratitude for everyone who forgave me, especially one person to whom I made a really important promise which I did not honor. I know that I meant to keep my promises.  The disappointment felt by others when I failed weighs on my heart like a handful of broken glass, sharp and unrelenting.

This quest to live a life which I can defend has helped me learn to limit the promises which I make and honor all of my commitments unless I’m  bloody and broken somewhere, unable to move.  But I still have not learned to successfully control my own reactions to the remissions of others.

Until I do, I will not be able to attain my goal of living complaint-free.  I still experience those gut-wrenching twinges of bitterness and resentment when someone says, “I will,” and then they don’t.  It’s the one human experience that trips my trigger every time.  Every time.  Every time.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the thirty-third month of My [Prolonged] Year [Still Trying to Get Through One Blessed Day] Without Complaining.  Life continues.




I usually remember my dreams but I woke restless today, sure that I had settled something critical in my sleep, feeling the inspiration slip away.  I kept my eyes closed despite the dizziness which plagues me in the early morning and only clears when I fix on something overhead, solid, unmoving.   Nothing doing:  whatever brilliant realization had risen from the quagmire of my old and tired brain vanished in the wispy light of dawn.

Coffee cleared the fog a bit though not enough to withstand the rattle of the radio.  So here I sit, in silence, wishing for another chance; an hour or two in dreams, to find the answer, to even narrow the problem.  I feel my shoulders ache; a gnarly bit of tension hugging the back of my neck.  With my eyes closed, I will the brilliant calculations to creep back and reveal themselves.  If anything my mind empties further.  The mug of coffee grows cold.  I surrender, finally, and go upstairs to shower.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  I’m no closer to enlightenment, but life continues.



Made you look

I stumbled into the kitchen today.  I lingered in bed far longer than normal and had to bargain with myself to throw my legs onto the floor and pull myself vertical.  Yesterday’s coffee warmed in the microwave as three voters talked with the NPR host about last evening’s political sparring.  I didn’t watch the debates, though I scrolled through a few minutes of Twitter feed to see what various pithy folks perceived.  Mostly I slouched around the house wondering how to shake the funk that had wrapped its web around me.

I hauled my plate of eggs to the table and settled on a stool, only half-hearing the continued post-mortem.  I’m a simple person, I told myself.  Maybe I’ll blog about eggs today.  Something noncontroversial.  The most one could say is ‘scrambled or fried’? And who cares, really?  Have it your way.  I even snapped a photo of my plate, sitting next to the angel music box which Jeanne Serra gave me.

When I scrolled through the gallery on my phone to send the egg picture to myself, I found a series of pictures that I had taken on a Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.  Amidst the pleasant smiles of a Spanish gardener, I found a snapshot which framed a brief second in time when two words collided before my eyes.  The sight once more caught my breath and made me look.

My eggs grew cold beside the tepid mug of coffee.  My eyes roamed the rooms in which I walk each morning.  I grumble about the echoes around me, never seeing the walls which keep the wind from buffeting my shoulders and chafing my tender skin.  The table heaped with my unpacked bags from the weekend sits under a solid roof.

The radio continued playing but I did not hear its voice.  Instead I squared my shoulders, stood to stretch and get ready for work, and sent a prayer inward, to the divine spark which sustains me.  Thank you.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the thirty-third month of My Year [Still Striving to Live] Without Complaining.  Life continues.


The long way home

A few years ago, one of my relatives came to visit and phoned ahead to ask for directions to my house from Interstate 70.  Take 435 South, I replied.  Get in the left lane, and take the first left exit.  It’s called 350 / 63rd Street, Raytown.

My relative thought for a few minutes in silence.  I’ve been that way, came the answering remark.  There’s no such exit.  I assured my relative that such an exit exists.  In response I heard an even stauncher insistence of my error.  We went back and forth for a few minutes until I finally said, Well, if that exit isn’t there, then continue on 435 and take the first right, which is probably Gregory and will take you through Swope Park.  My surrender brought instant appeasement.

Last night I made the slight uphill swoop to the left off 435 onto the 350 / 63rd St – Raytown Road exit, then descended onto 63rd street and turned right, as the strains of Studio 360 faded into the surrealness of Night Tides.   I adjusted both speed and radio volume downward to make the last few miles of my journey on city streets accompanied by violins and angelic voices.

A few minutes earlier, Kurt Andersen had played a brief excerpt from an old interview with Edward Albee to commemorate the playwright’s recent death.  My son and I share high regard for Albee, so hearing Albee’s voice as I made my way from St. Louis back to Kansas City after rendezvousing in my birthtown with Patrick seemed appropriate.  I thought for the thousandth time of the words of A Zoo Story with which one of its two characters shares a lesson with the other:  Sometimes you have to come  a long way out of the way to come a short way properly.

I pulled into my driveway, cut the engine, and let silence settle.  I could see our little dog snuffling the fenceline, waiting for me.  The night air crept into the cabin of the vehicle, soothing my stiffened muscles.  After so many days of journeying, it seemed I had come back to a place that for a while more at least, I can call home.

It’s early on the morning of the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


In Which I Break Down

I’ve debated for thirty-three months whether or not vocalizing about shoddy service or facilities qualifies as the type of complaining that I long to disdain.  This morning after checking out of a dirty, flea-bitten hotel at which persons who are seemingly regulars (friendly with and possibly friends of the counter employee) park in the disabled spots without tags or plates, I called the 800# and waded through three levels of disinterest (“You have to talk to Guest Relations and they only work Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:00”) before finding a supervisor willing to listen while I explained my issues.

She ended the call by stating that she would honor my request that she e-mail my concerns to guest relations.  She had resisted that request quite vociferously but I calmly persisted.  I wanted to believe that someone at the hotel chain cared about the rights of disabled customers.  I had not focused on the run-down state of the property, the fleas that jumped from the carpet, or the dirty bathroom floor.  I would not have told the desk clerk about those things; and I did not.  I wanted her to address the handicapped parking both when I checked into the hotel and when I checked out.  I would have overlooked the shabbiness of the place as being my fault for not vetting it.  The clerk can’t help the disrepair; but she can monitor the use of the handicapped spaces.

Since she said, multiple times, that it was not her problem, I told the 800# lady all of it.

I did not get upset, raise my voice, or make any personal comments about anyone.   When the reservations supervisor (the only one who would listen) said she would ask “guest relations” to open a complaint, I told her that I did not care about myself.  I did not want a refund or an apology.  I wanted her company to address the issue with the facility having no regard for the rights of their disabled customers.

She did not get that.  She kept insisting they would “open a complaint for you”.  That’s not the point.  The point is to address the pervasive disinterest in providing accessible accommodations which I encountered at their location.

Therein lies the rub.  We end up complaining about our little individual realities because no one will deal with the global issues.  On the receiving end, the call-taker narrows the focus because they have grown accustomed to self-centeredness on the part of their customers.  They figure I must have an angle.  I want a future free room (good  grief, no) or to have the woman reprimanded.  I don’t want either.  I want any disabled person brave enough to book at that hotel to be able to pull into the designated handicapped spot without having to fight the front desk.  I want a curb cut by the ADA room (there was none) and a designated handicapped space by the ADA room (not one of those either).    I want a disabled person who doesn’t happen to have a law degree and a big mouth to be treated courteously when they point out the remissions which present barriers to their stay.

If asking for those things to be accorded to the next person is complaining, count me in.

It’s the twenty-fifth day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  From the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson, Missouri, I bid you good morning.  Life continues


Evening at the Red Roof Inn

Dinner, dessert, and hours of conversation have ended.  My  old high school friend has dropped me back my hotel and gone home, with promises of a further reunion.  My sister and I embraced in the parking lot, parting just until tomorrow but with the warmth of maybe-never that we give each other every time.  I’ve taken my shoes from my swollen feet and locked the door against the highway noise.

Now the ringing in my ears serves as my only companion save the copy of Travels with Charley that Chuck Dixon gave me for my birthday.  I hear the partiers haling one another outside.  Doors slam and engines rev, and then the distant drone of the interstate swallows the departing revelers, dulling the slight shrill of intoxication and daring, edgy laughter.

In the morning I will drive to Ferguson, and then my son will arrive.  We’ll sit again at a table in the Brewery, with my cousin Theresa and my sister.  His girlfriend will like us, I hope; and not judge him because of my shortcomings.  I will keep my sentences brief, my smile modulated.  I will try to park better than I usually do.  I’ve planned the day with measure, a small dose of the somewhat odd mother that I’ve always hoped my son would not regret.  Small gifts, the best that I can give him:  a spot of normalcy in a sea of weirdness.  An embrace, and a hasty departure, before the surface cracks and what I truly am shines through.

It’s the evening of the twenty-four day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  From Room 108 in the Red Roof Inn in St. Charles, Missouri, with the lock thrown against the night, I send you greetings.  Life continues.


Strange Sightings

My smooth ride down 59th brought me along the Trolley Trail just as a sight that I’d never before seen passed the intersection.

A woman in a black skirt, white blouse, black checkered jacket and three-inch heels pushing a jet-black baby buggy talking on a cell phone clacked her way in front of my car while my mouth dropped and I jammed on the brakes.

Her soft brown hair brushed her shoulders.  She deftly wielded the carriage’s handles.  Her slow steady steps sent a little tapping into the air which drifted through my open window.  As I waited, she moved beyond me, north towards the Plaza.  I did not have the presence of mind to snap her photo.

As I pushed the gas to continue forward, another woman headed south on the trail.  She had to have darted around the buggy-pusher.  She ran at a good clip, in tight work-out leggings and a t-strap sports bra.  The orange of her running shoes flashed as her feet raised and lowered.  I let her by, then continued right onto Brookside, shaking my head, straining to see if I could still get a photo of the woman in black.

But she had gone, turning off the trail perhaps, vanishing.  The morning haze shimmered around the low bushes on the parkway.  I closed my eyes as I idled at the next red light.  Who wears a black suit to walk the baby at nine in the morning on the first day of autumn? The light changed and I accelerated, driving on, into the traffic, speculating as to her identity, wondering where she had gone and why she dressed to the nines to take a baby on an outing, who or what compelled her strange behavior.  By time I reached work, I found myself doubting whether she existed at all.

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



Eighteen months ago, that scalawag Dan Ryan basically forced me to join a group of fifteen or so folks whom he had similarly drafted to help form a new Rotary Club.  Ninety days later, 51 Kansas Citians became charter members of the Waldo Brookside Rotary Club.  By virtue of my remarkable penmanship and typing speed, I became its Club Secretary for the charter year.

I had always heard that eighty-five percent of life is showing up.  Apparently, that quote derives from advice to young writers by Woody Allen. Regardless, that’s what I’ve done week after week.  I adored being club secretary since I also handled new membership, meaning that I got to greet each and every person who entered the Tap Room for our weekly meetings.  I had just gone through an awful patch in my life’s journey, so having somewhere to go kept me rambling forward.

Rotary quickly became more than a needed distraction.  As we learned about the tremendous impact of Rotarians around the world — nearly curing polio; combating hunger and poverty; building schools; cleaning water; bringing shoes to children who would otherwise walk barefoot — I realized that I had stumbled upon an organization in which I can actually join with others who share my passion.

Tonight, the Club which welcomed me and has grown eighty-strong as it enters toddlerhood, bestowed one of Rotary’s highest honors on me because of a member who did something special and selfless.  Rotarians become Paul Harris Fellows when they donate $1,000.00 to the Rotary  Foundation, or by earning enough Foundation points to qualify.  My paltry monthly contribution would have gotten me to  Paul Harris in four or five years.  Because a member of my Club gave points to me which he had earned, I received that honor tonight.

I’ve redefined the old saying as a member of the Waldo Brookside Rotary Club.  Watching this club adopt a street, gather Shoes for Orphan Souls, collect thousands of crayolas for the Crayon Initiative, and undertake countless other acts to better the world, I’ve come to realize that 85% of life is showing up, smiling, and asking, “What Can I Do to Help?”

The other fifteen percent is doing it week after week in a group of people whom I am proud, privileged, and honored to call “friend”.

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



My suitcase from the great California trip sits in the hallway outside the bathroom door.  Every surface of the house holds stacks or piles from days on end of rising at five and working until long past sunset.  Now the run of busy days shudders silent.  I actually bought groceries.  I have coffee, eggs, tofu, gluten-free bread, and bananas.  I can eat for days without stepping through a restaurant door.

I strain to hear the radio over the whir of the air conditioning that I had to deploy last night to offset a fatigue-engendered asthma attack.  The dog barks outside presumably at the sun which has finally risen to join me.  After struggling awake at an ungodly hour for the past week, my brain snapped conscious at four a.m. today and refused to be appeased.  Now I cannot choose between a fresh pot of coffee and a nap in the rocking chair.

But I’m not complaining.  The internet screams with more ugly news of unscrupulous bankers, disenchanted millennials, and murdered citizens.  Crude bombs rock  our cities again.  Politicians argue over the sad difference between bad and worse.  My biggest personal struggle right this moment involves choosing between scrambled or fried.  Though problems await me on all fronts, my troubles can be conquered with spit, glue, and duct tape.  I face no damage beyond repair.

I knocked my glasses on the floor this morning.  To retrieve them I had to bear myself on an unsteady mix of my broken artificial knee, that extra five (or eight) pounds, and the rigidity of my spastic legs.  I eased my fingers between the bedside table and the futon frame to snag one bent stem of the six-hundred-dollar eyes without which I cannot take a single step except in peril.  With them settled on my face, I lurched forward on the bed and dragged myself vertical, straining against every ounce of the extra weight that I refuse to lose.  I steadied myself on the built-in, feeling the smoothness of the hundred-year-old pine.  Now take a step, I urged myself, and so the morning began.

I sit surrounded by the shambles and clutter of my home but the pale grey light in the window suggests that dawn has come once again.

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