Monthly Archives: February 2017

A good kind of tired

Sometimes I resent exhaustion.  My body experiences something that one doctor called, with a straight face, “fatigue even at rest”.  This means that sleep does not refresh me.  I’m often irritated by the phenomenon.  I awake as tired as I went to sleep.  I can’t bear those sappy mattress commercials which show a lovely young woman stretching in the morning with a grin on her face from the best sleep ever.  I envy the thought.

This morning, I do not mind the feeling of an achy body and a groggy head.  I spent yesterday hanging the new show at Suite 100.  I used the curating skills that I gleaned watching Penny Thieme in the first five years of what has become Art @ Suite 100.  Not too matchy-matchy; not boringly straight across; watch the composition; and always, always, hang the show as a whole.  She does it better; but I paid attention and I think she would be proud of her student.

I’m privileged and honored to play hostess to a new group of artists each quarter.  I’m grateful that my partner in the suite both tolerates and supports the effort.  The vision that Penny and I had seven years ago  blossomed into something that could survive.  I hope to form a not-for-profit and take Art @ Suite 100 to other commercial spaces.  I like that I don’t have to charge fees for the artists to participate or take commission from their sales.  I’m thrilled to be able to have fundraisers now and then, for worthy causes such as SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center.

But in all of this, I most enjoy the connections which I have formed, and the art which surrounds me.  I live in a museum, visited periodically by the fierce, the radiant, the valiant, and the inspirational.  How could I complain, dwelling as I do in an ever-changing landscape built by endless imagination and creativity?    I cannot.  Tired but satisfied, I endure.

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


The ethereal Mary Pettet fine-tunes the wire on one of her works for the show opening March 3rd.

For Information on the March 3rd opening at Suite 100, click HERE.


One moment, I sat amid a group of women feeling sorry for myself, and the next moment, I read a text from someone expressing appreciation for a little kindness which I had shown him.

One moment, tears flowed down my cheeks; and the next moment, a friend embraced me, clueless as to why I cried but willing to lend her support.

One moment, I sat over my budget scratching a pen across the page wondering how everything I wanted to do would unfold; in the next moment, I gave my trust to the ages and a certain unjustified relentlessness that I know dwells within me.

One moment, I stared into the silent darkness wondering what in the name of all holiness brought me to this moment; then the world turned a click, revealing some purposeful light shimmering on its horizon.

I make no excuses for the mistakes that preceded this day.  I understand that my feet have stumbled.  The path to here lies broken behind me.  The path to there hides in a shroud of fog through which I cannot see.  My book of life shimmers with the red of hard-written judgment and the glare of unforgiving condemnation.  But the assessing angel has a second bottle on the lectern, this one filled with black ink.  In her raised hand, she holds a poised and waiting pen.   She fixes her gaze on me and awaits my choices.

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




On becoming a reluctant role-model

My friend Lyne’t posted in the night that she intended to try to forego complaining — like me.  I saw her post on waking, groggy from my first day with only-one-cup-of-coffee.  Oh no, I muttered, stumbling around my upstairs sanctuary looking for phone, heart monitor, and slippers.  Please don’t do this to me, my friend!  Don’t hold me to this commitment!

Within a few minutes, the micro-waved mug of yesterday’s pour-over hit my veins and my attitude brightened.  I padded around the house, squaring my shoulders, shaking my curls, hearing a little girl’s voice in my head saying Na na na boo boo!  I am a role-model!  I don’t think I’ve ever been a role model for anyone before now and I intend to make the most of it.

It’s been a long strange trip from there to here.  Many miles still loom in front of me.  I still complain, people; don’t think I made it a month much less a year.  But I find myself wording articulations of discontent much more carefully.  I study the faces of people to whom I am speaking.  I feel their emotions more keenly and reach for a way to bring us to common ground, to sturdy ground, to an island on which we two can stand together and figure out how to meet each other’s needs.

I’ve learned that some things demand complaint:   Bigotry, the mistreatment of others, public policy espousing inequality.  Other things require tolerance: the slow driver, the little old lady ahead of me in the grocery store, the person struggling to articulate a thought which I already understand but which they need to let them tell me anyway.  I’ve become aware of my body language, especially the dreaded combination of silent eye-roll and thunderous heavy sigh.

I told someone at the start of this adventure that I wanted to become my best self.  I still have a way to go, but the trek has become less strenuous.  My calf muscles strengthen with each step forward.  And now that Lyne’t Smith walks beside me, I have someone on whom to lean from time to time, when the road exhausts me and the darkness threatens to engulf me.

It’s the twenty-third day of the thirty-eighth month of My Year [Striving to Relate To People] Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Another Angel Passes From This Planet

I dreamed about my Aunt Della two nights ago so I was not surprised to hear her son’s voice over the phone telling me that she had died at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday.  Nonetheless, my heart instantly filled with a mixture of sorrow and regret.

In my son’s childhood, he and I often visited Della.  Her cheeky irreverence gave him a glimpse of what his Grandma Lucy had been like, compensating for my mother’s death six years before Patrick’s birth.  She let him and his cousins built forts in her living room and race in her driveway.  She skipped when others walked and unleashed her mild potty mouth in ways that made the kids giggle.

Della Mae Lyons Rush showed her fearless side in middle-age.  She left her husband, got a degree, and became a therapist.  She gave me strength during my son’s difficult toddlerhood, coaching me over the phone, assuring me that many other single mothers before me had felt as overwhelmed as I did.  I used the techniques she taught me in her low, gentle voice.  Because of Della, I could give voice to my desperation.  She helped me name and conquer many of the fears that would otherwise have been my downfall.

Della’s view of life had no boundaries.  She loved fiercely, praised loudly, and hugged without reservation, long crushing embraces that swallowed children in the warmth of her bosom before releasing them to catapult into the yard with unbridled jubilance.   She had neither need nor capacity for artifice.

Some of my fondest memories of Della Mae Rush involve near-hysteria.  Once my then-husband Dennis, my son Patrick, and I visited Della and took her to lunch.  Dennis grew impatient with the service and began grumbling louder and louder, ignoring my attempts to redirect his anger.  Finally Della told him she would get the waiter.  She lifted a fork from the table, speared her paper napkin with it, and began waving the make-shift flag while calling the waiter’s name.  “Yoo hoo! Yoo hoo!” she said, in a pretend little-girl voice.  I held my breath against the wrath that I expected from my husband but he joined us in the general hilarity which followed.

Della shared my deep conviction in the existence and guiding hand of angels.  She frequently told stories of unexplained bounties which she attributed to her angelic guardians:  Cash in her mailbox, children saved from swerving cars, unexplained hands on her shoulder when she bowed her head to weep in quiet desperation.  I believed her.    If I had myself been an angel, no one would seem more deserving of my divine intervention than Della Mae, with her three beloved children; her cluster of adored grandchildren; and her saucy attitude toward life.

Della suffered strokes some fifteen years ago. My son and I were there as the tragedy unfolded.  I kept telling her, Aunt Del, something’s wrong with you, we need to call Adam — her son.  She forbade me for an entire morning but at noon, I reached for the wall phone.  He arrived within a half an hour and got her to the hospital.  I feel sure that she had been having strokes for several days.

Over the next six years, Della’s condition declined.  She suffered additional strokes and began experiencing dementia.  When her daughter Sabrina died from complications associated with her diabetes, Patrick and I went to Illinois for her funeral.  We visited Della in the nursing home but by her son’s mandate, did not mention the passing of her beloved daughter.  I don’t think she ever realized that Sabrina had died. When Sabrina’s daughter Angela visited, Della mistook her for Sabrina.  Angela did not question the mistake; she gladly played the role for Grandma Rush.

I think I last saw Della in 2009 when Patrick and I were in Chicago looking at schools.  She thought I was my mother.  I was honored to be mistaken for Lucy Corley.  We took Della outside but she quickly grew cold and back to her room we went.  Within the hour, Della no longer knew either of us and made it clear that our visit had exhausted her.  We left, with sorrow heavy on our hearts.

I might have seen her once in 2010 but I am not certain.  I had embarked on a new phase of my life by then, with a new relationship and a new extended family.  I continued to write and occasionally call but as the years went by and my own life spiraled downward, I let even that meager contact fade away.  When I awakened yesterday with the lingering image of my Aunt Della, I felt the inescapable weight of my abandonment.  With Adam’s call last night about her passing, I will need to summon all my strength to keep regret from being my last connection with a woman who loved me whole-heartedly despite my faults — or perhaps, because of them.

Sleep well, my dearest Della.  You will be missed.

It’s the twenty-second day of the thirty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I have another guiding light above me now, no doubt organizing a jump-rope contest with her sisters Lucy and Joyce in paradise.  Here on earth, life continues.

Random morning thoughts about life

I tweet out the links to my three blogs; and those tweets land on Facebook due to the miracle of cross-reference-settings.  Over there on Facebook someone responded to one of my posts about not complaining by acknowledging the process unfolding here.  Yes!  Score.

Standing on the deck last night, trying to decide whether to bring my giant plant back into the house, I closed my eyes.  I’m an air hog.  My breathing issues over the years have catapulted me outside at ungodly hours, gasping.  Before my blood got sufficiently regulated to oxygenate my lungs, gulping air on the porch at 3:00 a.m. sustained me.

I felt the energy of that memory last night.  The craziness of no one being able to tell me why I couldn’t breathe baffles me in retrospect.  At the time, I trusted doctors who stared at me like gawkers at a freak show.  I’ve told that story many times, most recently in my weekly  blog.  Last night the irony of it pulled some deep capacity for amusement from somewhere in the dark depths of my damaged soul.  I laughed, actually chortled, standing on my deck at nine p.m. with the birds settling into their newly built nests in the maple trees and gutters rising above my head.  I heard a robin call to its mate and imagined that they found this huge creature amusing.  Probably I make no difference in their lives, but I pretended for a moment that I had been the source of a last happy exchange between two robins before they slept.

I watched a video this morning about one of those supplements that people claim heal what holds you back.  I went to the website and read about it.  I almost bought its promises until I got halfway down and read, You must daily consume the equivalent in ounces of water of half your body weight.  Well, no wonder the stuff helps you.  It forces you to actually drink as much water as doctors keep goading me to gag down my throat.  The water alone will cure what ails you.

I laughed so hard I had to clutch the edge of the table to keep from falling to the floor.  I dragged my butt into the kitchen and poured a glass of water.  Four  ounces.  With a shot of lemon.  Take that, Universe!

It’s the twentieth day of the thirty-eighth month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Sunday morning; February 2017; still here.

The flags hang unmoving in the serene morning air.  With my usual cup of coffee, I wander from the porch to the kitchen mulling over the day’s obligations.  A pride of Rotarians will gather in my home at 2, to prepare for an event being held Tuesday.  Before then, I have a bit of food prep to do; supplies to organize; calm to gather around my fluttering heart.

My son’s old dog lies on the breakfast nook floor with her face resting on her paws.  In a few minutes I will feed her.  I’m delaying the process because she eats meat and I do not.  My stomach cannot tolerate the sight and feel of her prepared dog food quite this early.  The look she casts in my direction suggests that I should reconsider.

The contemplation of life occupies my mind this morning.  I tried to explain this quest to live complaint-free to someone the other day.  He kept shaking his head and saying, I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t want to do it!  He laughed and reminded me that we’re attorneys, we complain for a living.  I conceded his point and fell silent.  Finally, I shrugged.  Nonetheless,  I began.  Then I paused, and shrugged again.

What could I say?  Three years ago, when someone close to me learned about this blog, he scoffed.  You complain all the time, he snapped.  You’ll never make it!  Why try?  You  have no idea how you talk to people.  You’re so mean.  You treat people horribly.

His words stung at the time and their echo still pierces my heart.  I wanted to say, fair point, and so. . .Yes, that’s it exactly.  I longed to assure him that I might just understand how people perceive me; and because I did, I intended to apply myself to this mission even more fiercely.  His scowl intensified.  I shook my head and backed away.

My coffee has grown cold.  I move around the dog to reach the coffee pot and smile down at her.  She exercises a great deal of patience, does my son’s old dog.  She knows that I will come around eventually.

It’s the nineteenth day of the thirty-eighth month of My [Eternal] Year [Trying to live] Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Antidote for the blues

You can’t spend two hours in the chair of an adept hair stylist without coming away changed.  Your attitude, your mood, your outlook on life — and your hair — all bend to the extraordinary good humor and flattery of the person waving scissors near your ears and talking smack.

Every six weeks or so, I submit to the will of Kelly Blond, owner of Lady Luck Hair Parlour and Spa in Westport.  Since my long-time stylist Robert Mccain passed away, I’ve sat in the chair opposite his old station and let Kelly have her way with my curls.  She’s got me using hair oil and shampooing with twenty-dollars-a-bottle concoctions.  Last night, I sat meekly before a gilt mirror and let her work her voodoo magic with a round brush, a blow-dryer, and some hot wax.

I don’t recognize myself this morning.  That’s a fricking smile on my face.

Oh, I’m still the same sixty-one year old has-been wearing a cardiac monitor and suppressing discontent with the direction of my non-existent love-life.  I’m still terrified for our country and contemplating fleeing to the most liberal state in the union to hunker down and wait for someone to save America from this plague in Washington.  I still have to bargain with myself not to complain.

But the lingering amusement of hearing Kelly talk about the exploits of a five-feet-nothing thirty-nine-year-old hot chick flying all over the country to visit men who adore her sustains me today.  She’s good medicine.  Better than therapy, and cheaper, too.

It’s the seventeenth day of the thirty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  My roller-coaster life continues.

The hardest thing

I got some bad news via email this morning.   Not terrible news like the death of a family member or a blown engine.  Just annoying news that I didn’t expect.

Stumbling around the kitchen with a sliced apple and yesterday’s coffee, I shook the fog from my brain.  Practical solutions to the irritating problem began to seep through the fog.  I was an inch away from a good mood when I caught sight of the accordion file from yesterday’s visit to an appointed client in prison.

I pulled a few pages from the pile of neatly organized items.  The scheduled visit had been arranged last week.  I had to produce a list of what I wanted to bring with me.  Legal pad, one pen, 199 pages of exhibits, one consent form, one agreement form, notary seal.

Photo ID, Bar card.

I left my inhaler locked in the car with my pocketbook, phone, tablet, and laptop.  I could have brought it with me, which I didn’t realize until I thumbed through the Visitation Rules while waiting for my client.  I left the cardiac monitor at home  because I just didn’t want the hassle.

I had never met this client but even if it had been a general visiting day with lots of folks milling around, I would have known her.  Long uncut hair pulled skin-tight back from a gaunt heavily painted face.  Short, thin, haggard — looking a decade older than her twenty-three years.  Her eighteen months in prison had gifted her with a pasty pallor and a mild scattering of blemishes from bad food and sleepless nights.

She greeted me with the warm, earnest thanks of her generation towards mine.  We signed the form requested by the guard acknowledging that she had done her job and given us a safe, private place to meet.  My client carefully wrote her name, with little curly-ques that nearly made me cry.  I scrawled my name and asked if I should add my bar number.  The guard shook her head, took the form, explained where the restroom was, showed me the panic button, and left us.

An hour passed.  I talked for the first fifteen minutes.  Then I asked some probing questions and listened as my client told more of her story than I had known.  Forty-five minutes into the meeting, my client said, softly, shockingly, that she had decided to let her brother adopt her two-and-a-half-year-old son.

The elephant in the room:  The TPR trial scheduled for Friday at which she would appear by video-conferencing.  The 199 pages of exhibits told the case against her, and quite frankly, would probably be dispositive.  But she had a chance to consent.  Until we met, she had been adamantly opposed to the adoption.  Her disembodied voice over the phone line pleaded in earnest cadences with persistent words.  But somehow, on seeing me, meeting my eyes, perhaps knowing that I would in fact defend her regardless of potential outcome, she changed her mind.

Or maybe my visit had nothing to do with it.

She said, My son is happy.  I asked her if she had learned this in her recent call with her grandmother.  She shook her head.  Tears began to stream unbidden down her face.  I asked, You just know?  She nodded, rendered mute.  We sat without speaking for a few minutes and then a whisper came from her:  I feel his heart.

Nothing remained but to do the deed.  I took out the consent and had her read it.  She initialed where she needed to initial, and signed her name.  I notarized her signature.  A few minutes later, she pressed the bell for the officer.  We stood outside the meeting room beneath a sign which read CORRIDOR.    I found  myself wondering why the hallway needed a name tag.  Other details imprinted themselves on me:  The smooth beige of the  painted cinder block walls; the pristine surfaces of the metal doors; a sign denoting the room next to us:  BATHROOM.

The attendant came.  My client said, Should I go? and the officer nodded.  My client thanked me.  She turned, opened a door that I had not noticed at the end of the hall, and slipped through the three inches that she needed for her frail body.

My belated farewell landed on the spotless tile floor like an abandoned Kleenex.

Now that consent lies in a folder on my dining room table.  In an hour, I will scan it into the system.  Tomorrow morning, her projected image will ask the judge to accept it.  He will, no doubt, honor her request, and the child will be lost to her forever.

No words.  I carefully slide the three-page document back into the folder, and go upstairs to dress for work.

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


It must be said that I do not like Valentine’s Day.  The story of how the day got ruined for me should lie in the past, untold.  Those who know can commiserate; those who don’t know can imagine and would  not be far wrong.

But right after the alarm rang at 5, my friend Cindy Cieplik messaged asking to connect.  In our exchange, she sent me a “Valentine’s Hug”.  I nearly told her to keep such thoughts to herself but then I heard the voice of my Rotary-club-mate Andrea Estevez sharing how she and her husband Steve Weaver decided to employ the 4-way test of Rotary in their business.  I swallowed my sarcasm and sent a little heart emoji back to Cindy.

My feet hit the ground and I did the ten minutes of stretching that I borrowed from Angela Lansbury, vertical instead of horizontal but to the same purpose.  Oxygen flowed through my muscles.  I winced a little; my bruised (or broken) rib screamed as I raised my arms above my head.  Was it two or three weeks ago, the fall that did this?  With a slight shake of my head, I lowered my arms and went back to rumination.

My habits barely change from year to year.   Let the dog out; heat the coffee; pop the toast into the silver machine which spews it out browned to perfection each time.  Once a kind soul who wiped my counter after one of my women’s dinners accidentally adjusted the toaster setting.  It took a week to find the sweet spot.

It’s still dark outside.  In Washington, a member of the new administration has already resigned in disgrace.  “Incomplete facts” have replaced “alternative facts” as the catch-word of the day.  A spew of hearts flows through social media.  The sun has not yet risen, and my mettle already quivers under the test.

Is it my rib which aches under the cardiac monitor’s electrode, or the reluctant beat of my tender heart?

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

In dreams

Everyone occasionally dreams about themselves in a monumentally awkward position — naked at work; wandering by accident into your ex’s wedding; driving too fast through an insane intersection — and then awakens wondering what the dream means.

Last night I fell asleep ruminating about complaints after using social media to force Lowe’s to admit that their driver had broken the law by parking in the handicapped space in front of my house. Friends tell me that our job requires complaint on behalf of clients.  Others say that we all have an obligation to complain about companies who abuse consumers.  By their logic, my complaint against Lowe’s gets a pass on this quest of mine to live complaint-free.  But should I accept that logic?  That question haunted me all weekend.

I fell into a cloudy sleep and dreamed that I left the house this morning for work still clad in the sweat pants and baggy shirt that I’d worn to bed.  Instead of going to the office, I headed for my old high school and started looking for my Algebra class.  I had called out a greeting to a neighbor who lived upstairs from me during graduate school so clearly my dream self lived in a time warp.

Once I got to school, I pulled a shawl from my car to wrap around myself as I scurried into the building.  I realized I had neither books nor paper on which to write.  I found a classroom that I thought looked familiar and peered into it, seeing both boys and girls which troubled me because my high school admitted only girls.  I saw Joe Schilligo, from elementary school, and realized that I had the right place but the wrong building.  Or the wrong year.

Scurrying down the hall, I went into the office to ask the secretary what classroom held my English class, having abandoned my search for Math.  But I felt that I needed to give the woman something so I rummaged in a handbag that materialized all of a sudden.  My fingers curled around a cylindrical object which I held out for her.  She took it, thanking me with a quizzical glance.  I had given her a bottle of eye drops.  Very useful, I’m sure, she murmured while pulling the class roster from a  shelf to her left.

She eyed me and said, You’ve got ten minutes to get there before it ends, young lady, so you had better scurry.  I borrowed a legal pad and pencil from her, muttered a hasty thanks, and ran from the room.  When I got downstairs, I stood outside the classroom breathing very deeply, preparing to enter.  But I had arrived too late.  The bell rang just as I summoned the courage to open the door.

A flood of students emerged from rooms around me.  I cried out, I can’t do this!! and someone said, Quit complaining!  We all have to do it and so do you!  The bell continued to ring, long, loud, and melodic.

But then of course, I awakened.  The cell phone’s alarm continued to sound as I struggled to reach its screen.  My heart beat wildly.

Quit complaining.  We all have to do it.  And so do you.

Even in dreams my brain admonishes me.

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