Monthly Archives: September 2016

How Do I Love Thee?

In the cool of Crow’s Coffee House, Genevieve and I solved or at least identified and categorized all the problems of the world.  In the parking lot just before she tries to get into the wrong SUV, we briefly touch on that old bogey-man, “love”.  We agree that neither of us employs the word “love” in a casual manner towards other humans.  We talk about that for a few minutes, standing on the asphalt as cars drift by on 51st street.  We mention siblings, and old friends, and romantic partners. We shake our head at the concept of air kisses and people we barely know professing love.  Then I embrace her and lisp, “Lub you dawlink” in my best Natasha voice, and get into the Prius.  She laughs and tries to unlock the car next to me, and then we snicker about her mistake as she gamely sashays over to her vehicle.

I start my car, still smiling, and pull into traffic.  The quiet murmur of NPR carries me home.  I park and trudge up the driveway as I’ve done most days since 1993 when I moved here.  This time, I stop short of the porch.  There’s a stack of books sitting in front of the door bound by a ribbon with a card tucked into them.  I think they must be from Brenda since we’ve recently talked about her book collection and our common interests.  I lug the tower into the house and slip the note with its vaguely familiar handwriting from under the ribbon, and pop the seal.

A second later, I lower myself into a chair.  I feel a look of wonder spread across my face.  All my notions of love, and distance, and differences fall away.  I see again a ten-year-old girl, slightly pudgy, the sister of my son’s best friend.  Her image at thirteen. . . during college. . . bending down to get to eye level with her nieces and nephews. . . . . walking down the aisle. . . her slender body reaching to embrace me, time after time over two decades.

The voices of people whom I rarely see or from whom I almost never have contact of any kind crowd around me.  I love you.  . . But we are strangers, virtually, practically, actually; what’s love got to do with our relationship?  What does that even mean?

Apparently, something.  A young woman whom I haven’t seen since last Christmas drove all the way into town from South Overland Park to leave a stack of advance copies because she thought I might enjoy them; and because she loves me.  I might have to rethink my position on this love thing.

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


Floating to Rest

I did this to myself last year: Scheduled a Stanford trip right before our big fundraiser for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.  Last year, I spent 5 days in California and returned the day before the event.  This year, I spent 11 days in California and returned three days out.  Shew.

I had three days to get back in the groove with all my cases and do everything that remained to pull off the BEER, BBQ & WAFFLE BENEFIT.  Thanks to Jenna Munoz, Miranda Erichsen, and some kick-ass sponsors, it worked, and when all the pennies fall through the piggy bank slot, we’ll have about a thousand dollars more than last year to help two agencies who serve survivors of family violence in our community.  Double Shew!!!

Miranda and I stayed until midnight cleaning, and I finished the last of it today.  Now a pile of client work for Tuesday’s trial awaits me.  But my stomach rumbles and my head throbs.  Tense shoulders signal that I’m falling, and if I don’t get a nap soon, I might crash.  I’d rather let myself down gently.  Any work I do now will be second-shrift, so I’ll close up shop, pack up the files, and go meet Genevieve for coffee.  The work can be done from home, thanks to the convenience of modern technology.

Before I go, my eyes fall on a little pile of presents that came my way last night.  I touch the edge of the cheerful card; I run one finger along the spine of the John Steinbeck novel from Chuck Dixon, and the “Complaint-Free World” from my sister-leopard Cindy Cieplik.  They know me well.  Travels with Charley, indeed.  And cheerfulness, always my goal.

It’s the eighteenth day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m floating through the quiet air of my empty office.  Soon I will rest.  Life continues.


What I See

I wanted to get the lighthouse at its best.  I stood at different angles, at different times of day. I watched for blue skies and grey.  I toyed with including the building under it, or framing the snap just above its roof line.  I did not expect any technical virtue to a shot with my Android, but I longed to show the folks back home why I am drawn particularly to Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Listening to the soft song of the sea and the stillness of the empty lane late on my last evening, I got exactly what I wanted.  What I see:  The timelessness of this place, which waits for my return, month after month.  It’s always there, always offering me a comfortable bed, a sidewalk above the shoreline where I can stroll, a bench where I can sit and watch the plumes of the whales rise from the water.

The Pacific Ocean never fails those who come to it for comfort.  The lighthouse stands watch.  It calls me home.

It’s the sixteenth day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  In Brookside, in my bungalow, I’m striving to close the book on a tragedy not of my authorship, and write a few paragraphs of prose by which I can live.  From my desk to yours, I send wishes to you each for the same chance.  Life continues.



Click on the picture to see the barest suggestion of the lighthouse against the dark sky.



I want to take one or two more seconds to remind my local friends of tomorrow night’s BENEFIT for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.  Here’s the LINK to the event website. I hope to see you all at Suite 100 tomorrow.  If you can’t attend but wish to donate, you may mail a check payable to one of the agencies in care of me at 4010 Washington, Suite 100, KC MO 64111.  Thank you.

Writing My Story

In two days, I will co-host the third annual benefit at my professional suite to raise money for two KC area domestic violence shelters, SAFEHOME in Kansas and Rose Brooks Center in Missouri.  During my recent lovely sojourn in California, someone whom I had just met asked me why I developed and help organize this fundraiser.  I hesitated to respond, thinking, What story should I tell?

The story of the many women, men, and children whom I have met over my 33 years of practicing law whose lives have been forever marred by violence in their homes?

The story of our foster children, Mikey and Jacob?  My son remembers them, but what he might not know is that at age six, Mikey had three documented suicide attempts, due to having been severely abused in his home by his mother’s boyfriends.  And by severely, I mean what you think I mean.  In his last attempt, Mikey threw himself from a moving vehicle on I-70.  When the paramedics lifted his small body from the ground, he whispered, Just let me die.  Five years old.  Just let me die.

Should I write the story of my friend Jilli Nel, a phenomenal artist who, with three other artists, will show her art for this fundraiser?  Jilli has worked tirelessly to raise money for SAFEHOME, because it helped save her life.  Should I tell her story?

The story of my friend Ruthie Becker’s daughter, whose anguish speaks from her portrait, which Ruthie painted and has donated to our benefit?  Ten years in an abusive marriage, barely able to escape, now building her own life.  Her story?

The story of hope, the story of despair, the story of learning to let go of a diseased and twisted tree to which one has clung for so long that the terrible malaise has entwined with one’s own arms?  The story of learning to stand alone shaky and scared, but alive?  The courage of women who have dragged their children into the night, into a waiting car, into a shelter — not knowing where  or how they will find food for tomorrow but knowing that survival requires escape?

My mother’s story?  She stood in the kitchen talking to me once, when I was in college.  Her arms were covered with flour from Thanksgiving pies.  We were speaking of someone who remained in an abusive marriage.  My mother said she could not understood why the woman didn’t just leave her husband.  I looked at her in astonishment.  Why didn’t you leave Daddy, I asked.  Her head snapped up; her eyes met mine.  Oh your father wasn’t abusive, she said.  He just drank.

I thought about a time when my father threw my mother across the dinner table, slamming her into the French doors to our sunroom, breaking several ribs and shattering the glass panes.  I felt again the shards of glass showering across the floor of the darkened sunroom where we children were hiding, waiting to surprise them with an anniversary cake.  Should I write that story?  Lucy’s story?

Or should I write my own story?

My siblings and I rarely talk about what happened in our home, in the decades before “domestic violence” became the catch-phrase for what we experienced.  Several of my brothers and sisters seem to have risen far above the tragedy.  Several have blocked it from their minds.  Some, myself included, seem indelibly damaged by the savagery of our childhood, doomed to ask ourselves over and over, Why? Why? Why?

And so that brings me to the answer, to my motivation.  I help raise money for the programs which save other survivors of family violence so that those survivors can write their stories, stories with happy endings, or at least the possibility of happiness.

In helping them, I forge a new chapter in my story, one which might have been a long time coming, but which could one day end in joy.

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


Ruthie Becker's moving portrayal of her daughter will be part of the auction this Saturday at our benefit for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.

Ruthie Becker’s moving portrayal of her daughter will be part of the auction this Saturday at our benefit for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.



To contribute to the cause, please attend our benefit this Saturday, 17 September 2016, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., at 4010 Washington, Suite 100, Kansas City, Missouri.

Or send a check made payable to SAFEHOME or Rose Brooks Center, in care of me at the above-noted address.




What I learned In California

I  returned to Kansas City this afternoon, landing gear slapping down on a wet runway as a sixty-year old flight attendant with wrinkles and razor short hair told the lady in the first row for the twentieth time that she did not know the gate to which the passenger had to change but she would find out.  I had heard the attendant say that she had been awake and in the air since two a.m. and wanted nothing more than a long night’s sleep and silence.

The third in a series of skinny, wiry men hauled my sorry butt down the concourse and pushed me at breakneck speed to the baggage carousel while my friend Katrina circled the airport and sent me text after text checking on my status.  Eventually I made it to the Holmes house.  I threw my arms around Katrina when I learned that her birthday present to me had been weeding the garden that she, Paula K-V, and the neighbor’s girlfriend had planted for me this spring.

That same garden greedily drinks the rain as I sit at the open window listening to This American Life and thinking about what I learned on my trip to California.

Here it is.

I can live for eleven days without television.  Including the Food Network.

I can also survive for the same eleven days with only the clothes in a large suitcase, the medicines and toiletries in one large clear zip make-up bag, two jackets, a hat, a shawl, and my computer.

Six words:  Hot shower in a walk-in stall.  Is that seven?

I will live on the Pacific Ocean.  Not this year.  But maybe next year.  Certainly soon enough to have a life there.  I will.

Fifty-percent of people in an airport do not see someone sitting in a wheelchair.

The benefits of TSA-Pre justify the eighty-five bucks and the need to make an appointment to have your finger-prints scanned and answer the same questions in person that you answered online in advance.  (I think they just want to make sure you can tell the identical story twice.)

The doctors at Stanford share this characteristic with my favorite Family Medicine doctor here:  They will acknowledge if they don’t know how to fix you; and they will recommend someone else who might be able to do so.

Reaching in a jacket pocket and finding sand from the Great Sand Dunes National Park while standing on a beach in California makes me smile.  Mingling the fine white Colorado sand with the coarse, pale brown sand of the Pacific?  Priceless.

Nine words:  All that I am.  All that I can be.

One word:  JOY.

It’s the thirteenth day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

The view from the back deck of River's End Restaurant and Inn in Jenner, California.  Shown here, the mouth of the Russian River as it merges with the Pacific Ocean on a grey afternoon in September.

The view from the back deck of River’s End Restaurant and Inn in Jenner, California. Shown here, the mouth of the Russian River as it merges with the Pacific Ocean on a grey afternoon in September.

Of Birthdays

In the last seven days, I have turned sixty-one and I have noted the anniversary of my mother’s birth in 1926.  She would have turned ninety yesterday, had she lived.

I remember when my sisters turned fifty-nine, the age that my mother fell two weeks short of attaining.  One of them — Joyce, perhaps — mentioned feeling odd to be “older than Mother ever got to be”.  This sensation mystified me until 2014, when it happened to me.  Then I understood.  How could I be older than my mother?  It seemed unfair, unnatural, unwelcome.

In the last seven days, I have celebrated my birthday many times.  On the day itself, I shared lunch in a Jetson-themed restaurant with two new friends.  The server brought me delicate star-shaped brownies and the entire place belted out  “Happy Birthday”.  One of my lunch companions later played the harp and sang for me.  I watched Zimbabwe dancing on a beach, sitting a safe distance away with seagulls swooping around me.  In Half Moon Bay at the shop of a woman whom I met on one of my first visits here, I bought myself a pair of hand-made slippers — my second self-bought present.  The first had been a pair of earrings in Santa Cruz, with angels and a blue topaz drop.  A Kansas City family made artichoke burgers for me on Thursday.  Yesterday, a gentleman from Spain picked flowers for me in his hidden garden and took me to breakfast at a cafe on Fisherman’s Wharf, owned by a woman from Omaha who stood over our table fussing to be sure my crepes had been perfectly made.

Not to  mention:  the newlyweds who paid for my dinner at Scoma’s Sausalito two nights ago, just because they felt drawn to something in my smile.  The woman held my hand and told me that I inspired her.  Me:  Inspirational.  The very thought of having inspired someone to be kind completes my week.

Now it is Sunday, the last day of seven in this birthday week.  I will drive an hour north to Sonoma County to a winery where Ellen Cox works.  Ellen and her mother, Sharon Alberts, took me to lunch on Tuesday, another kindness — and another shared dessert; another indelible impression of goodness flowing over me.  After my tour and tasting, I will drive two hours south, back to Redwood City for tomorrow’s full day of medical appointments.  My bed will be back in the home of the Kansas City ex-pats to whom I have been connected by a mutual friend.  I will bring them a bottle of wine from up north.

I’m considering taking the long way back, so that I can see the ocean one more time before I journey on Tuesday to my landlocked home.

I’ve left out one or two elements of this week, the unpleasant ones.  A malfunctioning rental car which I had to badger the company to replace.  The pain of a needle penetrating too spastic legs.  A fall in Sausalito.  Sorrow washing over me like sea water.  An evening spent in bed with fatigue so intense that I could not even eat.  Yes — these, too, happened to me in my birthday week.  And I am tempted to complain about them.

But a bird sings outside my window and the scent of Alfonso’s roses tickles my nose.  My AirBnB hostess has provided rich coffee for my use.  The sun has risen on Sunday morning.  I can release the sadness for a little while at least, and think of the angels whom I have met on this journey instead.

It’s the eleventh day of the thirty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  I note, too, that it is the fifteenth anniversary of the horror that we call “9/11”.  Anything which I have endured pales in comparison to that tragedy — not that it is a competition, but still.  I live.  My son lives.  Six of my siblings still walk this earth.  I have friends who enrich my life.  With much effort and a bit of welcome help now and then, I am able to orchestrate a comfortable existence, including the medical insurance which pays for the treatment at Stanford and this funny, rambling birthday trip.  As I move through it all, I feel the light touch of a divine force which I do not comprehend but certainly acknowledge.    Therefore, on this glorious Sunday morning in San Rafael, I shall not complain.  Life continues.




Ways mysterious and wondrous

At five o’clock Pacific time in San Rafael, California, empowered with a replacement rental car the steering of which I do not have to fight, I set out for Sausalito.  I had nothing to commend me to the Universe but a vague connection with angels and a memory that my friend Cheri Cole Simpkins had once recommended a restaurant on the Bay.  I messaged her on Facebook, got the name, and Googled my way to a hostess who assured me that yes, they welcomed parties of one.  I stifled my suspicion and started south.

On the way, I received several messages — friends in Kansas City; a newly found kindred soul in San Francisco, and even my son.  I knew that some force beyond my comprehension must be at work, but whether it be angels, a Divine entity, or my own intuition, I could not say.  In due course, down Highway 101, this vegetarian sat at a table with a view at Scoma’s Sausalito, put aside her squeamishness, and ordered Lobster Risotto.  Expense be damned:  I even troubled the waiter for a Sonoma County Chardonnay, thinking of Ellen Cox, wondering if she would approve the pairing.

I ordered in quiet tones but still attracted the attention of the woman at the table closer to the window.  I had noticed her, of course.  How could I not?  A radiant smile; a gentle bearing; the lilt of her accent.  The south, I thought to myself, memories of Arkansas, and Carla, and Molly, and their daughter Kori springing to mind.  I saw the woman touch her partner’s hand with the lightest of motions.  His answering smile radiated love, and passion, and tenderness.

The maitre d’ stopped, several times; and I thanked him for his attention.  I checked into the place from Facebook, noting its gracious atmosphere, its acceptance of a single woman diner, and the virtues of the food — though the word of a vegetarian eating seafood might lack credibility.  I added the cost of the meal to my growing budget over-run but deemed it beyond worth.  My hand wandered to the soreness in my calf, where I knew a large bruise grew from the doctor’s assault with his  probing needle and deadly poison.  He increased the Botox this time, since my challenging spasticity did not respond to the measured dose of the first two sessions.  All with the goal of keeping you walking, young lady, said he, then talked to me of his medical mission to China while I struggled with the tears that had risen in my eyes.

Hours later, over Caprese salad and the lobster, I reflected on his twinkle; and his disingenuous false modesty; and the slight frown he wore when he did not realize that I had my eyes trained on his face.  I had seen the involuntary shake of his head as multiple machines recorded the throb of my muscle.  I asked, What is it? and he acknowledged what I suspected:  Hear that?  It should be silent.  It should be silent.  The room echoed with the throb of my misbehaving legs.  He patted my knee — the fake one; but he had forgotten.  I let it pass.

Night fell over the Bay as I sipped coffee, and I realized that I should be heading back to my snug little Air B-n-B in San Rafael.  I signaled for the check, but the waiter shrugged.  It’s taken care of, he told me, and I gasped.   He gestured to the couple who gazed over the ocean, his protective arm encircling her body, ash-blonde hair trailing down her back and grazing his shoulder.  I stood, then, to thank them, and met two of the sweetest souls ever to migrate northward from Alabama.  At least, she hailed from the south; as for him, he mostly smiled, and let his lovely Tara tell me their story, and then the two of them promised to pray for the steadiness of my doctor’s hands as they care for me on Monday.

Wondrous, and mysterious, indeed, the ways of the angels and the Spirit which guides them.

It’s the ninth day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues, and it carries me with it.


Fair winds and following seas

In a clean nightgown with damp hair, I sit at a table in the bedroom of a boy gone to college.  My hostess normally lists this room on Air BnB, and has rented it to me for a few nights of this trip at the auspices of a mutual friend in Kansas City.  But the rent does not include all that has happened.  We have shared a meal, talked of our changing lives, told stories of our children, and towards the end of the evening, sat at the breakfast bar speaking of grace.

I came east to this place when I left the ocean.  Reluctance to leave the coast dogged my heels all the way.  But I stopped in Half Moon Bay to reconnect with a woman whom I have met on other trips, a maker of jewelry and lovely clothing.  We reaffirmed our desire to entwine our lives, on a plot of land somewhere, in tiny houses built by her father, her brother, and her own strong hands.  She made a  pair of earrings while I waited; and engulfed me in her angel arms; and we vowed to meet again in six months — there, or in Oregon, or by the sea.

Before I came to that place, I rose at dawn in a hostel on the shore of my great ocean.  I padded to the kitchen and made a pot of rich Santa Cruz roasted coffee.  The other early risers drifted into the kitchen, and cups came to the counter to be filled.  I cannot help myself:  where there are mouths to feed, I cook; where there are nerves to soothe I murmur; and if there is coffee, I pour for all who come into the room.

I ate my eggs, then went back to begin preparing for departure.  I knelt on the ground beside my bag, spying a crumpled piece of paper.  I eased it from a pocket, mystified. When its folds and creases had been smoothed, I saw a message wrapped around a sucker, given by a bank in town to someone who decided that I needed to hear a message about the search which compels me.

I carefully folded the paper, slipped it back into the slot where the giver had placed it, and finished packing.  In the parking lot, I took one last long look at the crystal blue sea, and the lighthouse rising above me, and the benches with their brass plaques and tender messages.  Then I got into my rental car, and started south, then east, and then to this place with its welcoming light and the warmth of the love its inhabitants share.

It’s the ninth day of the thirty-third month of My [glorious, endless] Year Without Complaining.  My magical life, with its fair winds and following seas, continues.


Kristin Hewett, artist & owner, Silk & Stone, Half Moon Bay, CA

Kristin Hewett, artist & owner, “Silk & Stone”, Half Moon Bay, CA

Where I am staying tonight; peaceful, serene, grace-filled.

Where I am staying tonight; peaceful, serene, grace-filled.

The view at Point Montara.

The view at Point Montara.

The Point Montara Lighthouse

The Point Montara Lighthouse

"Sail on, Double O Within you Fair Winds And Following Seas"

“Sail on, Double O
Wishing you Fair Winds
And Following Seas”

A note left by a mystery person tells me something that I longed to hear.

A note left by a mystery person tells me something that I needed to hear.

Collateral Benefits

I drove northward from Pigeon Point with some reluctance but also with an ease of being that I have not felt in many months.  Voices on the radio spoke to me of the juxtaposition of creativity, energy, and responsibility.  I stopped in Half Moon Bay for gas and to call my son, to tell him about the sculptor whose KQED interview intrigued me as I drove.  You’re in Half Moon Bay, he exclaimed.  We have clients there!  From a roadside turn-in, I snapped a shot of the Bay to send him.  Then I turned the rental car north again, through San Fran, and into Mill Valley.

A lithe young lady with bright eyes strode towards me in the restaurant and engulfed me in her slender arms.  Her mother did the same, grasping my hand, leading me to the table.  These are “the yoga people”, as I’ve described them to my son, Sharon Alberts and her daughter Ellen Cox, whom I met six months ago at Pigeon Point Hostel.  Few know anyone when they check into a hostel; few leave without new friends.  Sharon and Ellen befriended me, helped me learn to adapt the Sun Salutation, and now invited me to sit on a lovely bay, hearing stories of Ellen’s new job at a winery, the dawning of her college school year, and Sharon’s travels.

We shared laughter, tiramisu, Ellen’s growing wine-and-food pairing knowledge, and the happiness which illuminates their hearts.  I left even lighter and more joyful than I arrived.  I welcome these collateral benefits of a downward-turning life which I had thought I would eternally lament.

Today, I must write a letter to a company which plagues me but without complaining.  I also have to drive south for a short doctor visit which could not be scheduled on the same day as the others.  Then I will lunch with a Rotarian whom I met on  my last trip, and eventually, as the day wanes,make my way back to the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel where I slept this past evening.  Fog lingers on the sea outside the dining room window, through which I gaze as I write.  But those damp tendrils make no difference to the ocean, whose waves crash against the rocky cliffs in endless rhythm, while I sit, small and serene, on the shore.

It’s the seventh day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  Life continuously unfolds its wondrous contours all around me.


Sharon Alberts and her beautiful, strikingly intelligent daughter, Ellen Cox.

My Last Morning at Pigeon Point

Nearly beyond my view, a boat glides across the horizon.  I listen to the ocean, drinking coffee and thinking about the next step in this journey.  Reluctance sweeps through me.  Have I planned badly? Should I have just stayed for my entire trip in this spot, in this chair, on the back porch of the Dolphin House where nothing matters but the ocean’s voice and the call of the sea birds?

But still: I know I will come back to this place.  I will tug my damaged roots from Midwestern soil and bring them to the healing sand and the wind-worn hillside.   All of this awaits me.  It has been here for more than my lifetime.  It will be here when I return.  Time cannot destroy it, at least not the measure of time remaining in my life.  The face of this land changes slowly.  My own features will age far more than the sea’s stubborn shore before I see the boardwalk at Pigeon Point again.

It’s the morning of the sixth day of the thirty-third month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.