Monthly Archives: January 2017

As the crow flies

The pharmacy and the vet both notified me of pending prescriptions.  Little Girl’s drug keeps her from having seizures.  Mine quells two or three of the viruses which cling to my DNA.  I hopped in the Prius and threw my bag on the seat, waving to my neighbor whose dog ran around my backyard, his five-year-old energy keeping my old Beagle’s bones from growing brittle.

With bottles in hand, I decided to stop at Crow’s Coffee for some of their house-made chai.  I sat at a table near a plug, angling my tablet towards the light, browsing Kindle for a distraction.  A voice drew my attention.  Excuse me, ma’am, said a guy just a few years older than my son.  I really like your hat. 

I squinted in his direction, feeling uncertain.  Thank you for saying so, I finally replied.  He had one back:  Thank you for taking the time to wear it, to bring your beauty to the world.  I could not think of a response so I smiled.  He didn’t want anything.  He had nothing to gain by the compliment.  He just gave it for free.  He smiled too then moved away, taking a seat near the door.

I went back to my Kindle but couldn’t find anything to read.  A few minutes later, chai depleted, small bite of food consumed, I slid my leather jacket over my arms and wrapped my scarf around my neck.  I wore my sorrow like a gossamer blanket, a shawl falling to my knees.  But it’s invisible.  Most folks don’t notice it.

As I approached the exit, the young man rose from his chair and held the door for me.  I had known that he would.  I slid my eyes in his direction, unsure of myself.  Thank you, I really appreciate this, thank you,  I told him.

God bless you, ma’am, he said, his voice earnest and strong.  You have a beautiful night.  I promised that I would, and wished him the same.

In my car, I settled my belongings, thinking of letters that I have to write, and trial prep that I have to do.  My house lay only half-dozen miles to the north as the crow flies, but it seemed a lightyear from that place where a young man gave me blessings.  I started the motor and pulled from the lot, already feeling the yearning, already missing the warmth of the place.

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


Last Night’s List

So.  Three a.m.  Legs haywire but this time, I can’t blame it on gluten or sugar.  It’s just the craziness of a CNS flickering with the wildness of unregulated ATP release.

As the night trudges toward morning, my list-making kicks into high gear.  This time, the weirdest list in a while.

THINGS THAT AREN’T WORTH THE EFFORT, Top 10, Countdown to Number One:

10.  English Walnuts.  

09.  Rubberized coin purses.

08.  Key rings.

07.  Clip-on sunglasses.

06.  Sling-back high-heeled sandals.

05.  Storage containers with burpable lids.

04.  Earring backs that have rolled behind the dresser.

03.  Crumbs.

02.  Bottles with instructions to, “Press down and squeeze while turning.”

01.  And the number one thing that’s not worth the effort:


It’s the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  This entry is dedicated to Angie Bell.  Life continues.


“Listen, Oh Drop – give yourself up without regret,
and gain the ocean.”
—- Rumi

Things I Do When I Am Sad

When I’m sad, I tend to make lists, with titles, but often only in my mental notebook.  Ways to Improve Myself.  Lose ten pounds, get my roots colored, get back to regular stretching, meditate, smile more.  People To Whom I Need to Apologize.  The server at the coffee shop in Waldo, my secretary, whoever it is that keeps calling from the number that I ignore, my neighbor with whom I share a driveway and the parking strip out back.  Bills to Pay.  Water, gas, electric, rent, payroll.  People I Need to Call.  Water company, gas company, electric company, my dentist, the department at Stanford responsible for getting pre-approval for my treatment out there.

I ruminate over these lists while I make hot tea and rummage in the refrigerator.  Feeling sad often motivates me to clean house.  I pull all the leftovers out of the fridge and open the cupboards looking for stale crackers and out-dated cans.  I used to cook all the time but in the last few years, I’ve become adept at rationalizing going out to eat.  When sorrow  overtakes me, I make a special list of all the times that I’ve gone out to eat and then I compare that with the list I keep of everything I want to do with the disposable income that I think I would have, if only I could convince myself to eat at home.

Another list that I make when I’m sad is a list of everything that I am grateful that I don’t have to handle.  Cancer, AIDS, MS, a kid with an arrest record, acne, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupes, muscular dystrophy.  Then I make another list, even longer, of all the problems that I’ve overcome in my life, in no particular order.  The first one that comes to mind goes at the top of my mental account of My Good Fortune.  By the time I finish that one, the tea has grown cold and the dog has been pacing in the kitchen for quite some time.  She’s probably long since peed in the living room by the front door that she never uses and now wants to go out and drink water from the buried French drain.

When I get sad, I sometimes get on the internet and look for old friends on social media, LinkedIn and Facebook, or in the archives of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  One old friend, Martha Rankin, disappeared while hitch-hiking to Madison in 1974.  I have searched for Martha so many times that if she were alive, I would have certainly found some evidence of her.  I vividly recall Dave Frain telling me about her promise to call home every time she came to or left a new city.  She called from a phone booth on campus shortly after arriving. No one ever heard from her again, as far as I know.  Somewhere in one of my jewelry boxes, I have a little turquoise-colored bead that she gave me.

Another thing that I do when I’m sad is sort my jewelry.  I have a few nice pieces and a lot of sentimental stuff.  I put earrings together, push rings in the little velvet slots, and dangle necklaces from the metal brackets.  I take each one out and turn it over in my hand, thinking about where I got it, who gave it to me, where we were when we discovered it or I opened the pretty little package.  Then I tuck the pieces into their corners and crevices, close the lids, and go start the kettle for more tea that will grow cold while I’m busy distracting myself from feeling sad.

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

The little purple and silver pendant came from the Plaza Art Fair, so many years ago.

Reverting to form

I’m not much of a couch person.  I bought one years ago from Jennifer Convertibles, a huge white monstrosity with a matching love-seat, poorly made and cheap.  I got them with the Catholic guilt money, most of which I used to take a trip to Disney World and buy a car.  What I had left over funded something I thought I wanted and had never had:  Matching living room furniture.

In reality, I hated that set.  The couch folded out into the most hideously uncomfortable sleeper imaginable, with a heavy bar in the middle and a thin mattress.  I had a lot of guests in those days.  They valiantly endured that stupid bed.  Ten years later, I got rid of it and bought a slide-out futon with a mission frame for fifty bucks on Craig’s List.  It matched nothing in my house and slept three kids like a dream.

Here’s the thing about that sofa and love-seat.   They matched.  They had the same awful white upholstery and identical bulky, impossible arms.  I never understood how such fat cushions could nonetheless be hard but those were.  However, did I mention?  They matched.

I’m not June Cleaver.  I don’t vacuum in pearls or wear high heels while I make pot roast.  In fact, I don’t own any heels and I’m a vegetarian.  Although I used to eat chicken and fish, I have as a matter of historical record, never so much as purchased a pot roast much less cooked one.

I tried to be that woman.  I hung curtains, and planted begonias, and bought those weird little pillows which you pile on your bed, though I admit that I got them at a thrift store.  I straightened my Syrian frizz and bought a Coach purse on eBay.  I struggled into boots and raked mascara across my eyelashes.  At cocktail parties, I asked all the right questions and avoided mention of my unfortunate past.

But none of that mattered in the end.  I’m not that person.  I never was.  I never could be.  My hair reclaimed its curl.  I threw away the make-up and tossed the fashion-boots into the Goodwill bag.  I started wearing sweater dresses with leggings.

Somehow, though, there’s a couch in my living room.  I didn’t buy it.  I didn’t want it.  I didn’t ask for it, or select it.  Yet here it is.

Jennie Taggart Wandfluh gave me a throw for Christmas this year, a soft thing with a light blue pattern.  It perfectly matches the thrift store pillows  which lean against the ones that came with the couch.  I even sit on the sofa from time to time, my feet on the coffee table, reading my Scandinavian crime fiction, eating cranberries, and waiting for the amaryllis in the kitchen to bloom.

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



Restoration, Rejuvenation, Redemption

I knew it would come to this from the moment my cramped feet hit the floor precariously bearing the weight of my tortured legs at 1:30 this morning.

If I followed my own rules, avoiding gluten and sugar, nights like last night would be scarce.  Mornings like this morning would be more rare.  As I stood in the courtroom listening to the judge talk about the folly of going to trial with one party 4 centimeters dilated, and another party awaiting the results of his drug test, I thought, Fine.  Continue the case.  Just let me go home.

I would have done an excellent job, regardless of the fatigue.  I had my exhibits, and my case law, and the right side of the balancing act by which a ten-year-old’s life has long been governed.

The parties stood tersely in a group at the front of the courtroom.  The mother arched her back and eased into a chair.  One of the grandparents, my clients, leaned over her to pour a glass of water.  She clutched the cup, sweat breaking across her brow.  Behind me, I felt the father’s tension ease.  A continuance bought him time to bring himself in compliance with a number of deficiencies, exactly why I had to vocalize opposition, though I knew it to be futile.  The judge understood.  He’d been in my shoes long enough to know about protecting the record.

Back at the office, I did what I needed to do, including pausing briefly to explain to my secretary why I felt so poorly.  She listened intently, asked a few questions, told me that my positive outlook would help me live longer.  I smiled.  I’m not completely sure of the correctness of my explanation of demyelination  but I agreed with her.  Showing up is 85% of life, and attitude might be the other 15%.

I drafted a few pleadings, filed a motion, transmitted an order, and then gathered my belongings.  I knew that I could log into a webinar for which I had paid and to which I’d been eagerly looking forward.  But I can view it online any time in the next thirty days.  A book and a hot cup of chai awaited me.  An order of pakora beckoned.  I headed for the neighborhood and my spot by the window at Chai Shai.  Within moments of my arrival, my spirit began to wrench itself from the grip of exhaustion.  Restoration, rejuvenation, and redemption lay just a few sips of the lovely hot liquid away.

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



Little things make me smile

The other day I had more fun in the grocery store than should be allowed.  Every third person turned out to be someone whom I knew.  My old friend John Martin still works as the specialty manager there, and he followed me around chatting about the neighborhood where I still live and from which he moved.  A few little kids ran races in the produce aisle while their mother shopped at the deli counter.  The guy who stocks the apples held one out for me like someone from a nursery rhyme.

I went from the grocery store to the Brookside CVS at which I rarely shop these days.  I’ve transferred all my prescriptions to a store south of  here, one with a drive-through and a flat-surface parking lot.  But I had a quick item to buy and a spot miraculously appeared right at the door.  I disembarked with only a backwards glance at the spot where I fell and broke my hand in 2013.

But I thought about it.  I remembered the SUV which nearly ran me down.  It screeched to a halt.  I still hear the sound, which reverberated as the driver leaped from the vehicle and ran over to me.  His passengers started directing traffic and he knelt on the asphalt. I’m a doctor, he said.  Talk to me, tell me where you’re hurt.

I shook the memories from my mind and nipped into the drugstore.  A young girl at the counter called, “Can I help you find something?”  I stood in a daze for a moment, remembering the place where I used to shop every week.  No, I’m good, I replied, and made a beeline to the greeting card section.

While I stood at the counter waiting to pay, the same girl lifted something from a high shelf for another shopper.  She hastened over to the register.  Sorry for the wait, ma’am, she said.  I laughed and told her that I had all day and not to fret.

A few minutes later, I drove home and unloaded the bags from the car onto the porch.  I parked behind the house, thinking about the common practice of grocery shopping in America.  I live a solitary life for the most part.  Whole days pass without a spoken word.  My phone lies silent on the desk for hours, sometimes a whole day.  But when I go to the grocery store, so many little things make me smile.

I’m trying to find a way to bottle the essence of such moments to keep in the cupboard for rainy afternoons when I don’t feel like getting out and the grimness of the world overwhelms me.

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


Be still my heart

My heart fluttered like a trapped hummingbird all day yesterday, to the consternation of my secretary.

Nota bena:  What’s wrong with my heart will not kill me.  It’s called “SVT”, supra-ventricular tachycardia.  The potentially fatal “VT”, ventricular tachycardia, would be a completely different story.  SVT threatens quality of life, not life expectancy.  But of course, my SVT manifests in a non-correctable way, so I pop a couple of heart pills each day and clutch my hand to my chest when the bird batters against me with its desperate wings.

Stumbling through yesterday with palpitations and pain in my chest sobered me.  I’d wallowed in self-pity all weekend.  Nothing brings one’s pity-party to a halt quite as chillingly as confronting a real problem.  Nothing silences complaint like the worried eyes of one’s twenty-four-year-old secretary or a note from a bitterly angry opponent with the quiet news of her mother’s death, which came yesterday in the midst of an exchange about a discovery dispute on one of my cases.

The radio blares its ugly jarring news.  I move around the house with a cup of re-warmed coffee, shuffling in my knit slippers.  I turn sideways in front of the mirror, wondering if I’ve lost that extra ten pounds yet.  The dog lumbers through the room and snuffles at the back door.  And all the while the beating of my broken heart keeps time with the rhythm of my peculiar life.

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


In the last two days I have been sequestered in my house waiting for an ice storm that failed to materialize.

I have groceries, and dog food, and coffee.  If I really got desperate, I have wine with a damaged cork, a bottle left  in the car overnight during our cold snap in December.  I’ve got a bunch of books to read, and internet as long as the power holds.  I’ve got extra blankets, a flashlight by my bedside, and plenty of warm socks.

But the ice storm did not oblige.  None of this got put to use except that I devoured two of the Readers’ Advanced Copies which Caitlin Taggart Perkins gave me for Christmas.

I worked myself into three cabin-fever-induced crying jags, mulled over my failed marriages, weighed myself about a dozen times, and did 100 stretch moves morning and night.  I convinced myself that nobody loves me, that I’m unlovable, but that anyone who failed me should suffer some terrible fate as payback.  In turns.  In sequence.  Back and forth.

I think this is the price that I pay for spending so much time alone.  Every mistake that I’ve ever made rises from my gut and bludgeons me over the head.  Usually I can dash from the house, find a coffee shop, and let the chatter of others fool me into think that I’ve got a full life, even though no one occupies the chair across from me.  But when I can’t go out, because my legs hurt too much, one of my viruses rages, or the weather poses too much threat, I suffer through these long stretches in which I convince myself that it is I who deserve punishment.

I drown myself in Hershey’s Kisses and tell  myself that I got exactly what I’m worth.

But tomorrow, perhaps, the sun will shine.  I’ll thaw out the Prius and put the dog outside.  I’ll put on a dress, and some leggings, and a sturdy pair of shoes.  If my neighbor has salted the driveway, I should be all right.  I’ll make my way to the office and slog through the accumulated mail.  I’ll answer letters and respond to motions.  I’ll meet with prospective clients and scroll through social media.  I’ll get by.

It’s the fifteenth day of the thirty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  My journey to joy, and life, both continue.



I resist the social media trend to make lists for the amusement of others but I’m an inveterate list-maker.  Today as I fought back tears, sitting on a wooden stool lamenting over batteries and dead flashlights, I made a list of personal traits and behavior that I most admire in myself and others.  Then, just to rub salt in the old wound, I matched that with a list of personal traits and behaviors to which I respond most negatively — both in myself and others, with my thumb tipping the scale against myself most strongly and surely.

A half hour later,  the dog started pacing through the house, no doubt wondering if I’d stop crying soon.  I had managed to salvage three flashlights with a stash of batteries that had fallen behind a bunch of useless junk in the bottom kitchen drawer.  I made a cup of tea and a bowl of soup, and huddled in a rocker in the television room, my sightless stare fixed on a flickering image telling me how to make breakfast steak on the backside of a cast iron pan.

My mental lists lay heavy on my heart.  Number one on each list reflected parallel unmet needs.  Most valued trait?  Loyalty.  Least valued?  Disloyalty.

But I’m not complaining.  Really.  Not. Complaining. 

It’s the fourteenth day of the thirty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m getting the house cleaned and chasing the cobwebs   out of my mind.  My heart’s still closed for repair.   Life continues.

words to halfway down


Simple pleasures

After a wonderful evening with my friend Jenny Rosen and a long if light sleep, I pad around the house wondering what I should do to prepare for the ice storm.  I don’t have a battery-powered cell phone charger if such a contraption exists.  I’ve got plenty of food and would most miss the ability to blog if I have to spend a few days without electricity.  The medicine cabinet holds most of the drugs I need to beat back the viruses.

I’ll survive if the roads keep me indoors and I have to write on a legal pad by candlelight.  I’ve got plenty of blankets.

But wait:  How will I brew coffee?

Ah yes.  As long as I am able to light the burners on the stove, I’ve got that covered, too.  I chortle and congratulate myself for kicking the automatic coffee maker habit and going pour-over.  It’s these simple pleasures in life which invigorate us:  A cup of coffee, a book, the lilting voice of a friend encouraging our efforts, the chatter of cold rain on a roof which does not leak.

It’s not much, but it’s so much more than many can claim.  Some days I yearn for more, for what has been forfeit, for what I wanted.  But today, what I have is enough.  I do not understand the wax and wane of contentment.  I do not pretend to control these emotions.  I merely wrap myself in the soft folds of peacefulness when it comes my way and hold on tight as long as I can.

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


I keep it warm on an electric burner but that’s expendable. Stay safe, everyone. Winter threatens.