Monthly Archives: October 2016

Another brutal Monday

When life gives you lemons, sit at your breakfast table surrounded by angels, eating bananas and almond butter on toast.  Sip rich dark coffee, listening to the news, and remind yourself of the warmth of your home, the kindness of strangers, and the inevitableness of the dawn.

I spent about forty of the last seventy-two hours working.  But I’m still here.  It’s another brutal Monday, but my lights warm the room around me.  I listen to the mild autumn wind ruffling through the leaves of the trees in the neighbor’s yard behind my house.  The world still turns.

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



Push Back

If the week had just six days, I’d be curiously okay with that.  Saturdays nearly undo me.  It’s a long eight-hour stretch of unscheduled time.  In its throes, my mind freely conducts a post mortem of my sorry life.  I wallow in the failure of my expectations for myself.

By Sunday, my focus turns to whatever Monday holds.  This weekend, I’m headed for the office to get a week’s worth of work done and prepare for a trial that starts in twenty-six hours.  The trial should not be proceeding.  The parties settled on Tuesday.  Mid-afternoon on Friday, I got accidental wind that the other side has had a change of heart, so off we go.  In a weird way, the burden makes my week both more difficult and easier.  I have precious time for complaint when I’m so busy that I can’t sit still for a second.

I’ve figured this complaint thing out, you see.  It’s just a strategy for wallowing in self-pity.  That’s why everybody agrees that I’m allowed to lobby on behalf of better customer service, rights for my clients, and redress for economical skullduggery even in my own life.  We’ve narrowed the truly objectionable complaint down to groaning about insignificant occurrences and situations beyond salvage.

I’ve gotten to that point at which I can avoid such drivel most of the time, but in the wide yawning cavern that constitutes the last day of a week (or the first, if you’re Jewish), I flounder.  I got through yesterday by inviting my friend Brenda for coffee, relentlessly cleaning my house, and seeking Katrina’s assistance with planting bulbs which my friend Catherine dug from her mother’s yard and brought to me.

I hovered over Katrina as she troweled the rich earth along the border of a patch of ground which once held an evergreen.  The shrub died in the drought four years ago.  I’ve got my old bench there now, and the surprise lilies which Katrina planted yesterday will surround me as I sit and read this spring.

And so I pushed back against despair to navigate the dangerous path of one more day of empty hours.  I rose this morning to the strains of Humankind on KCUR, as the host and a guest discussed which my favorite ancient poet’s work.  I gauged this cheerful coincidence to be an auspicious beginning for the day.  On the strength of that good omen, I hauled myself down, made coffee, and gave myself over to the affairs of the day.

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




This is for you, S.  You know who you are.

This is for the agony you suffered; for the crippling burden on your children.

This is for the doubt, the terror, the despair.  For the hours you worried.  For the days you lost.

Decades ago, before I knew anything, before I understood what life had brought for me and to me, I left a chaotic home much like the chaotic home of your married life, my dear S. I went into the city and cast my lot with a man who twisted the days until they trapped me.  Though I finally saw through his treachery, I carried its madness with me as I fled.

But I was not what he did to me;  those things happened to me.

He victimized me but I am not a victim.

Before that, in the early days when I still lived in the tumult of my childhood home, I cast around for someone to trust. I found a teacher who saw my exposed underbelly and tore through it with a sharp blade.  It would take over twenty years for me to take a stand against his betrayal, but I did it.

I suffered but I was not that suffering.  What he did was what he did.  It did not define me.

So hear this, my friend.  Though you endured much, and not one shred of remorse came your way, those things do not constitute the essence of your being.  You are not what happened to you; you are the person who experienced those events.

You are a mother; you are a woman; you are a person.  Your complexity stands untarnished.  You rise above those brutal days.

There may be a reckoning for the one who abused you and your children.  You need not wait for that reckoning.  Journey on.

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






I awakened at four this morning thinking about shoes.

I found a pair of chunky black leather Zeetas on e-bay this weekend.  I bought them for ten bucks, about 1/15 of what they might cost retail.  I danced around the dining room, happy with the purchase.  Simply put, I walk better in Zeetas and they’re hard to find.  These new-without-box tie shoes will make my winter easier.

But this morning I thought about another pair of shoes, an eight-dollar-and-fifty-cent pair of Converse that my mother forced me to wear when I was thirteen.  The shoes signified her frustration with my “walking problem”.  They substituted for the expensive prescription lace-ups that a doctor wanted her to buy for me. She had no money for such luxuries.

I hated those shoes, and even more did I despise the cordovan brogues which my grandmother bought that weekend at the store next to my grandparents’ hearing aid business.  That gave me two pair: The converse tennis shoes for every-day, and the brogues for school and church.

When I got back from my grandparents’ house, I walked the three blocks to Northland Shopping Center and paid six dollars to have my hair hacked short.  My father stood over me, furious, quivering, demanding an explanation.  I lifted one heavy shoe and said, “If I’m going to have ugly feet, I might as well have an ugly head, too.”  My mother pulled my father away, murmuring, as I fled into my room and buried my face in my pillow.

In the gloom of my bedroom this morning,  I remembered the stamp of chagrin on my mother’s face and the anger in my father’s voice.  I closed my eyes and felt the remorse that I know my mother would not invite for me, that she had not allowed me to suffer all those years ago.  She knew how much I hated being different; she knew that I loathed all the outward trappings of my disability.

A few minutes later, I checked my e-mail and scanned Social Media.  In my Facebook newsfeed, I came across an eleven-minute video which shattered any residual resentment that might linger in my heart.  I watched it through twice, then got out of bed to start my day.

Step by shaky step, I move forward.

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



My Zeetas.

Bend and stretch

Love it or hate it, the “interweb thingy” provides amazing opportunities to see into remote areas of the world.  When I can find no inspiration in the rooms through which I aimlessly wander, when I can take no courage from the hollow echo of my footsteps, I often sit and browse the videos which randomly march through the trail of social media.

On one such occasion, I discovered a clip which pulled me up onto my little crippled feet and got me stretching my spastic muscles and creaking my degenerated disks.  Here then, for you, to keep you going one more day, and to encourage you to join me in my crusade for joy and life, I offer a video of the world’s oldest runway model.  After you watch it, get up, get going, bend, stretch — reach for the sky.

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

DESHUN WANG: World’s Oldest Runway Model


Something about Sundays

I don’t know what it is about Sundays that  reinvigorates me.  On Saturday,  most weeks, this week, I mope around the house feeling sorry for myself.  Yesterday’s gloom intensified when I scanned my debit card to pay 1/2 of the cost of my new glasses, not quite a thousand bucks most of which pays for the complicated lenses.  I bit the bullet and got a better quality of frame this time, since my fifty-dollar spring-hinge variety just falls apart within months.  I shrugged and thanked the patient optician who had corralled every size-16-bridge in the place for me to try.  As I went back outside, I thought, Geez louize, what I wouldn’t give to be able to buy my 6-up-6-down prismed tri-focals online for less than a C-note.

With that depressing sigh, I took myself back home and read on the porch for a couple of hours, ignoring the laundry piled high in the baskets.  About six, I went to the store to get sugar-free ice cream.  That’s how bad the day got.  Boo, hoo.  As I left the store, I ran into a law school class mate who still drives the 1968 British Racing Green MGB that he got in 1979.  I stood chatting with him, mourning my own MGMidget.  Boo and hoo and hoo.  So goes my Saturdays.

But when the dawn comes on Sunday, for some reason I seem to be able to kick that silliness and jump out of bed — or what passes for jumping in a sixty-one-year-old disabled gal.   This morning,  I dashed downstairs, praised the dog for not peeing on the floor, and started the pour-through, all before 8.  I did my stretches before breakfast, ate only one piece of gluten-free toast with my mushroom omelet, and actually put away clean dishes as well as clearing the breakfast mess.

Maybe I just need one day of grousing, even internally, to make this mission work.

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

The umbrella maple in the front yard split in two during the great ice storm 14 or 15 years ago.  I can't quite get the top 1/3 of its crown with my cell phone camera.  It testifies to the brilliance of resilience.

The umbrella maple in the front yard split in two during the great ice storm 14 or 15 years ago. It stands a little lopsided, tall and skinny — definitely misshapen; but rises so far above the house that I can’t get the top 1/3 of its crown with my cell phone camera.

It testifies to the brilliance of resilience.

Meanwhile, in Columbus Park

My rumination continues to machinate, with memories both lovely and mournful floating to the surface then sinking back to the depths.

Meanwhile, in Columbus Park, a majestic dragon sits in a yard beside a gallery.  The theme of the show is “Rust” and metal artist Wes Casey has created an amazing work.  I stand beside his wife Genevieve. gazing in awe at the sculpture.

Then I walk across the street and buy a bar of tea tree soap.   I run into a friend and his lady, hugging them both, talking about the art around us.  They gesture to their house, next door, in this neighborhood in Northeast Kansas City.  We walk around the room, touching the pottery, talking about a benefit for Harvesters next month.  I purchase a piece of pottery and go back into the night, walking through the crowds, tucking my scarf around my neck.

I drive my car down The Paseo.  When I cross 18th street, I pull over to take a photo of a sign rising into the night.  Then I continue home, listening to the murmur of an interview on the radio, thinking about art, and chores, and the turning of the seasons.

I feel a tightness across my shoulders, the aftermath of the falling door.  I have no complaints though; it could have been so much worse.    The door could have knocked me down the stairs when it fell.  The mirror could have broken.  My face could have born the brunt of the heavy wood.   I can handle sore shoulders.

It’s the twenty-first day of the thirty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  L

Wes (on the left) and Lillith.

Wes (on the left) and Lillith.



From the moment that I sank a sharp knife into my finger to the bone, my mind ratcheted into high gear and stayed.  On its heels, my stomach started churning with a jumble of ideas.  My life did not flash before my eyes but as I sprinkled wound-sealant, I could not help but choke back complaint.  I met my eyes in the bathroom mirror and suppressed laughter as I struggled to wrap gauze around the split.  I finally got it butterflied and put my cogitation on hold while I finished my taxes.

But the tumult of ideas simmered.  I could not blog today because the flood of contemplation rose higher and higher as the day progressed.  Glimpses of the past rose, flashed, sank.

So many memories.

Talking to a police offer at age four — I remember his chin strap, round gold buttons, a kind voice.  Tell me what your daddy did to your mommy, he said.  I wrapped my arms around the baby in my lap.  I didn’t want to say.  I looked down at the scuffed toes of my saddle shoes.  Don’t make me.

Leaning into a cold spray of wind and water, held by my Uncle Bob, high, over the tiller of his boat.

Jumping out of a tree house, terrified.  My brother Mark told me to do it and I always obeyed him.

Lying in bed listening to the sound of a phone being ripped off the wall while my mother sobbed.

Standing in the lobby of my grade school with a gaggle of girls and a nun.  Someone pushed me; I fell over sideways; when the commotion settled, the nun had a broken arm.  No one defended me.  Every one knew who had shoved me but no one would say.

Caught in a stall of my high school bathroom, listening to two girls talk about how ugly I was.  My mind raced.  Do they know I am here?  Afraid to be late to class, I finally came out, kept my eyes averted, skirted past them to the doorway.  Their laughter followed me.

The first fifteen years.  Fifteen of sixty-one.  Forty-six more.

The memories crowd against each other.

It’s nearly ten.  My day started with dilating drops and two-and-a-half hours in a neuro-ophthalmologist’s chair and ended in the Carpenter’s Union Hall where I trained for my volunteer gig as an election day poll challenger.  I made it home by 6:30, weary and limping, hungry, too tired to do much but stare at the nearly-empty refrigerator.  I ate a banana and an egg with kale on toast.  I watched a little television, scrolled through Facebook, let the dog into the house, and crawled upstairs.

It’s late on the twentieth day of the thirty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m ruminating.  Life continues.


Mine didn't look like this!

Mine didn’t look like this!

Aisle 7

A half-hour tour of Target filled my basket with most of the items that would improve my comfort.  Bananas for the B.R.A.T. diet which has to follow my imprudent ingestion of dairy; a new box of butterfly bandages to deploy when I next sink a knife into my finger and wish to avoid taking myself to the ER; off-season oranges for the vitamin C that my achy chest needs; spray for the place by the front door that my aging dog mistakes for a patch of ground from time to time.

I tried to buy wound sealant powder and learned that the pharmacy at Target is actually a CVS and too small to stock that product.  I could have bought a styptic pencil but it’s not the same, and I would have had to wait in the pharmacy line to pay for the inferior product.  I declined and headed to the main check-out counters, skirting around a gaggle of adorable children with chocolate smeared on their faces.  Their mother  didn’t notice me as she scrubbed the smallest one’s face with a tissue.

I by-passed the first of three open checkers and ended near the front of the store at Aisle 7.  The clerk was giving her entire focus to the customer ahead of me, whose transaction was complete but who tarried, talking with broad gestures and a lively disposition.  I listened as I unloaded my purchases, toying with the first-aid kit ($7.99 against five bucks for a box of twenty butterflies) but finally placing it on the conveyor belt.

Then the clerk turned to me.  How are you, she asked.  I got the feeling of genuine interest.  I considered answering honestly, just briefly, and then replied, I’m okay, thanks.  How are you?

She paused with an item in her hand.  Did you have a bad day?

The overhead music clashed with the ringing in my ears.  I met the lady’s eyes.  How does she define ‘bad day’, I thought.

Do I tell her about last night, standing over my bathroom sink with torrents of Coumadin-laced blood gushing from  my hand, threatening my grandmother’s house-coat?

About my fierce resistance to struggling into clothes to drive myself to the emergency room; to sitting alone in a brightly-lit triage; to missing the tax-filing deadline while a fatigued doctor sutures my hand?

Or should I speak of sitting in a mediation room that morning, listening to a man berate his adopted sister, who sits in a cell block on the other end of a telephone? Should I mention that their mothers had been sisters who lost their own parental rights, so that this pair of cousins had both been adopted by their grandmother?  She fell into her mother’s drug habit while he turned both straight-laced and cynical.  Now he and his wife push for adoption of their nephew, whom my client has not seen for a year and who has been in their care for twenty-one of his twenty-three months.  I listened to his harsh words, hearing his crude grammar and foul language.  I wondered which would be worse for the child — being raised by a mother who had spent twelve months in jail possibly being scared straight; or by an uncle who would not let his wife speak and who called his own sister a miserable, pathetic failure in front of virtual strangers?

What about the burdens of the world — my fear for this country which faces a frighteningly significant election in three weeks?  Should I mention that?  Should I tell this woman, with her broad countenance and warm brown eyes, about my fears for my own approaching twilight years — how I feel that I’m just beginning to understand how to help the world but my body fails me?  How I worry that I will never make the impact that I strain to insure, because one of the viruses that rage through my blood will suddenly gain momentum and lay me out?  Would she care about the eight years of blog entries that I yearn to turn into a book?  Or the scores of abuse victims which still need my help, who live every waking moment in fear, and who tremble and quake as the night falls?  Should I mention them?

In the ten seconds between query and answer, standing in Aisle 7, with a line building behind me, my life flashed before me, along with the lives of everyone who has crossed my path.  But I mentioned none of this to the cashier.  I held out my left hand and said, simply, I cut my finger last night.

Somehow she knew everything else.  Not the details, of course; but the weight of the world on my shoulders.  She gestured and replied, Yet here you are, alive, buying bandages.  I continued the thought:  And I made it to work today.  She laughed.  Well, there you go then, honey, you all right.

And the lady who was next in line suddenly laughed and chimed in with, We all can say that, we all right.  Everybody nodded.  The clerk finished bagging my purchases . I thanked her.  I pushed my cart out of the way and flashed a smile backwards, towards the people behind me. I waved my bandaged hand and they all returned my farewell, from behind their laden carts, waiting their turn in Aisle 7.

I stopped at the Starbucks at the end of the register to get something cold to drink.  The young  man at the counter asked how I was.  I just got waited on by the nicest person on the planet, I think,  I told him.   He said that he’d  mention it to the manager.  She deserves to be recognized, he asserted. I agreed.  I paid for my drink, then took myself out into the night for the journey home.

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





Common Ground

Yesterday’s tender moment came because a judge transferred his docket and I found myself on a bench outside of the substitute courtroom talking to my young opponent.

She couldn’t be more than 30, probably younger.  She admitted to being four years out of law school, of which two had been spent in this building as  a judicial law clerk.  As we sat chatting, I noticed the vivid blue of her dress and commented.  She sparkled, thanked me, and we talked about another lawyer’s weight loss.  I had seen that other lawyer, recently, in a dress just as bright, just as bold.

A heavy-set woman with steel-grey hair trudged by pushing a cleaning cart.  My companion greeted her  by name, and the lady sat. The cleaner has been a fixture in our Independence courthouse for many years.  I listened to the two of them talk about glasses.  The cleaning lady went back to her cart to get a pair with purple frames and the lawyer put them on her face, smiling broadly.  I noticed the slowness of the older woman’s speech, her simple vocabulary.  The company which staffs the courthouse cleaners prides itself on giving developmentally delayed workers a chance to earn.  I listened to the two women talking — the older, slow and clumsy; the younger, bright and clear.

But the woman beside me, half the age of the cleaning lady, with a law degree and stunning clothes, chatted easily with the other about buying multiple pairs of glasses on the internet to have a pair for every outfit.  The conversation continued for several moments.  Then the two said goodbye,  The cleaner pocketed her purple glasses and hoisted her heavy body from the bench.  She  continued her trek down the hallway.

And my opposing counsel said nothing.  Not a word, least of all anything even slightly condescending.  The moment passed as moments do, a chance encounter between two people with kind regard for one another and the common ground of favoring colorful glasses.

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