Monthly Archives: June 2017

Oh Joy!

I victoriously added a line of code to my wp-config in this blog, and it is now restored to full functionality!  This is the very first time that I have successfully read a WP Forum entry about code, found the place in my file manager referenced in the advice, added the suggested line of code, and SUCCEEDED!

The joy of fixing a broken blogsite myself cannot be exaggerated.  I saved a little money, since I don’t have to  pay the wonder-geeks to fix this, at least (sorry, Quinn!).  I don’t understand what I did, but I accept that it worked.  That’s a good feeling.

Best of all:  I can quell the writer’s withdrawal that had besieged me.  I found myself getting so twitchy from not writing that I almost got out a legal pad and wrote an entry to save for when the blog site worked.  I’m an analog writer by nature, but I have become so accustomed to this white square and the dancing cursor that it seems like an addiction.

Worse:  I’ve had four conversations in the last few days which can CLEARLY be identified as rampant complaining.  The daily accountability keeps me somewhat on the straight and narrow.

I’ve missed the “likes” for this blog on Facebook and the little hearts and comments here and there as well.  My friends and readers give me enormous strength to continue this #JourneyToJoy.

Thank you, all.  Be well.  I’m back!

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the forty-second month of My Year [Trying to Learn to Live] Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Change for its own sake

Down the street from my house stands John’s Greenhouse, which advertises that there’s not a bloomin’ plant in the place.  I pass this structure a couple of times every day.  When I first moved to the neighborhood, John ran the place with his wife and daughter.  They lived in a squat bungalow to the south of the glass enclosure.  I would push my son down the street in a stroller, select a coleus, and walk back to the house where I’d fit the little shoot into a clay pot to my son’s delight.

John and the wife died a long time ago.  Now their daughter Roberta owns the building.  She must be around my age.  She’s losing her eyesight or perhaps has gone totally blind.  Decades ago, she started sitting out front in a folding chair when the weather turned mild.  For years, I would wave as I passed, receiving her curt nod in response.  As her eyesight faded, the response also vanished.  I would lift my hand anyway, knowing that to her, I appear as a blur if anything.  But I’ve been greeting her for twenty-five years.  Old habits defy moderation.

For all I know, Roberta too has died, come to think of it. Died or moved. I  have not seen her this year.  My schedule varies so much these days.  It stands to reason that I might just keep different hours than she.  The place looks well-kept.  Through the opaque panels, I can see the plants standing tall and lush.  But the other day, I saw a peak of color.  This shocked me.  But the sign!  “Not a Bloomin’ Plant in the Place!”  John prided himself in carrying only the hardiest of non-flower vegetation.

This morning I had a wild idea and ran a Google search on John’s Greenhouse.  Good grief:  They have a Facebook page.  Surely enough, there in the 21 mobile uploads, I found a whole sheaf of pictures of colorful flowers proudly rising above the verdant ferns.

I don’t know who runs the greenhouse now.  But it seems that the times have prompted John’s Greenhouse to change.  As I sip my reheated coffee from the same crystal mug that I’ve been using for the last several years, I laugh to myself and wonder, Did they change for change’s sake; or did they see a chance to flourish by opening their doors to the riff-raff with their fragile, temporary splash of beauty?

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



It’s morning.  I’m looking around the house thinking about everything that I have to do and everything that I have to decide, from what clothes to wear today to what the  heck I want to be when (or if) I grow up.  You’d think at my age, these issues would be resolved.  You would think I’d be wearing flowing dresses with grandchildren clinging to my skirts and Grandpa sitting in the rocking chair beside me.

Instead, I scroll through yoga poses trying to find one that I can do despite my degenerated disk, my CNS deficit, and the dizzy spells that eighteen specialists can’t explain.  I watch the clock and contemplate whether there’s time for another cup of coffee before I have to jump in the shower and head to work.  The level on the Bodum drip-pot grows lower as I shuffle from room to room, barely making a dint in the to-do list which somehow got neglected yesterday in favor of strolling around the yard and sitting on the porch with a lousy novel and cup after cup of sparkling water.

But I’m not complaining.

Listen:  When I was eighteen, a doctor told my mother that I would be bedridden by 25.  At 30, other doctors cautioned me that a pregnancy would kill both me and the child, and that I’d never carry a baby to term much less be a mother.  At 44, a gaggle of white-clad men gave me six months to live.  Along the way, each of those prognosticators met their own mortal veil, and I keep plugging. My son will be twenty-six in a few weeks.  I stand on  my own two feet, shaky but enduring.  I remember what my mother constantly droned into my ear:  If you walk every day of your life, you will walk every day of your life.  So keep walking.

The weeds rise in the backyard while the grass out front staggers toward its  inevitable July death.  I stood beside the failing fence yesterday, admiring the tenacity of the hedge we removed twenty years ago which might require yet another round of poison. I realized that I have a lot in common with that burgeoning vegetation.  I have no bloom.  I do little good for anyone.  Nobody invited me to the party.  Yet I keep rising from the stony earth, with my tender leaves raised heavenward, drinking the sun and swaying in the heady fragrance of the evening breezes.

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

Dedicated to my sister, Joyce Corley; and to Lori Hooten Roller. They know why.



Flip This

The funniest show on DIY Network follows people who have decided to get into the house-flipping market as they tackle their first project.  If the mishaps and mayhem of inexperienced carpenters didn’t provide enough entertainment, the overlays of commentary added by the producers certainly make the experience hilarious.

I watch this show while eating dinner or doing laundry, interspersed with reruns of Tiny House Hunters on HGTV.  I tell myself that I admire these brave souls but actually I get some sordid satisfaction from not being the only klutz in town.  I tell  myself that if I ever rehabbed a house, I’d wear safety goggles and steel-toed boots.

The truth is that I’m jealous of anyone who hauls out the toolbox and manages to produce a livable dwelling with sleek tile and gleaming varnished floors.

I have no carpentry skills but I greatly admire wood guys.  And gals.  I’d like to be able to stand amidst the sawdust holding a finished product or on a deck that I’ve sawed and stained.  The drive to refresh and renew keeps me glued to the television while couples, sisters, and best friends swing sledge hammers and challenge their relationships.

So you can imagine my glee as I toured my tiny house at Country Cabin Village in Hamilton, Missouri yesterday.  My friends Paula Kenyon-Vogt and Sheldon Vogt accompanied me to the site where my future home moves increasingly closer to reality under the able hands of Kevin Kitsmuller.  I stood watching Sheldon and Kevin plan the next phase.  They drew sketches on the wall to depict the placement of the stairs, the live-edge drop-down table which Sheldon will build, and storage for the wooden folding chairs at which I and my guests will dine.

I don’t yet know where I’ll park the tiny house, but friends, in case you doubted it, I’m definitely going tiny.  I’m selling my home and downsizing to whatever I can fit into the various storage cubbies which Kevin has designed in my tiny house.  I’m hoping that I and the old grey dog will make the transition with minimum fuss.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the next chapter of my life will hold and where it will unfold.  But one thing is for certain: everything will change as I stand my reality on its head.  I’ve never done a 180 on life.  So I guess you could say:  I’m Corinne, and this is my first flip.

It’s going to be a doozy.  But I’m not complaining.

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

Down the Yellow Brick Road

I stumbled down the old brick sidewalk into the patio party at my friend Paige Brooks Fowler’s home with mild trepidation and a sense of unreality.

I don’t often attend cocktail parties of any kind, let alone at swank homes on the toney side of town.  In my crazy leggings and plain blue dress from T J Maxx, I knew that I’d look out of place among the rhinestone sandals and coral dresses.

But around the corner came Paige, blonde and beautiful, holding a grapefruit tequila concoction and reaching to guide me over the last few steps of the yellow brick road to Oz.  The next smiling face appeared behind her, one of the women of Rotary, Melissa Mann Saubers, looking summery in a white top and capris with a cup from my favorite GF restaurant, tLoft.  Another friend sat beside Melissa talking about that evening’s town meeting on the Plaza/Waldo zoning.

Though I didn’t know most of the women, a handful of Waldo  Brookside Rotary Club members mingled with the others, enough to encourage me to relax.  When Season Burnett came around the corner in her sun hat and long flowered dress, I knew that I could finally settle down, because Season — well, Season is Season, and in her company I have always found acceptance.

I’ve tried to trace my discomfort with my own gender to its origins.  I understand that I’ve never felt good enough as a woman.  Cruel comments from men reinforced that from nearly the beginning, as far back as grade school.  I recall being asked if my “walking problem” would keep me from being able to have sex.  The guy who inquired actually seemed to believe himself to be entitled to that information.  Only later did I think of a snappy retort — “I can have sex, but not with you” — at the time, I mumbled, I don’t think so, and skittered away, red-faced and mortified.

Girls treated me just as badly, twittering about make-up and bras, braces and clothes, but falling silent when I entered a classroom.  I learned to duck and scoot pass, hunching my shoulders and trying to ignore the giggles and derisive glances.  I spent my teen years huddled in my ugly shoes, under my long braids, behind my thick glasses, praying that I’d disappear.

But last night, at Paige’s house, even though I have nothing in common with 95% of the other guests and literally not one scrap of commonality with the hostess, I didn’t stagger away early, glad to escape.  Truth told, Paige knows how to throw a party; but the biggest change comes from within me.  Because I’ve been taking this #JourneyToJoy, I found myself more sure-footed on that brick walk.  Another day, I might have grumbled about the lack of accessibility to Paige’s patio.  But yesterday, I took the inconvenience in stride, and enjoyed myself.

Talk about wonders never ceasing!

It’s the twenty-third day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life — along with my #JourneyToJoy — continues.

And sometimes winning

I looked around the Tap Room.  Forty people sat on the edge of their seats with bright eyes and open faces.  If the 2017 Rotary International Convention put me in the midst of 40,000 like-minded people, this week’s Waldo Brookside Rotary Club meeting did the same on a microcosmic scale.

It’s worth whatever effort I make, whatever price I pay, whatever reality-dosing I undertake, to commingle with people who share my reality.  My view of life has never changed.  We live on a spider web, each tough silken strand connected to the other.  Nothing spans a greater linear gap than a few inches.  We dart over the gossamer threads.  Chance or something sweeter moves us right, or left; forward or backward.  The dance never ends; the circular structure of the web keeps us in motion.

After the meeting, I stood in my driveway gazing on the healthy crop of volunteer mimosas intertwined with the surprise lilies.  For a dry month, June has given me great bounty in the weeds that climb my ailing fence and tower over the unclipped holly bushes.  The male holly spans the width of the little island, burgeoning and glorious.  A friend trimmed the female so at least she doesn’t seem to hover on the edge of death with brittle brown branches.  Healthy but petite, like me, beside the oblivious fatboy.  My  laughter echoes in the twilight as I pass.

I pause once more, to snap a photo of a crop of tall plants with a delicate flower. I have no idea what it is but I am happy to see that it thrives in my overgrown garden.  Another woman might lament the untamed wildness.  I’m not that woman.  I continue to the house wearing a broad smile.

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


Not avant garde.
Not nouveau riche.
Not hi-tech.
Just me:
very much the same
and sometimes winning.

c. Corinne Corley, 1980





Well Slap My Butt and Call Me Crazy

I usually don’t realize that I’ve been insulted for at least a day or two after the fact.  Then a warm flush spreads from head to toe and I gasp.  Well Hush My Mouth!

Slap my butt and call me crazy,  but I think you’ve been disrespected when somebody moans at the sight of something you genuinely like about yourself.  Don’t doubt  the intended insult when the same person groans that an act which fills you with pride reminds them of everything they hate about you.

My stomach still churns as I ruminate on all the ways in which I’ve been a disappointment to people whom I wanted to please.  But I’m not complaining.  Stripped of all pretense that I can fulfill the hopes and dreams of anyone but myself, I’m left to scrape the mud off my Mary Janes and sit down at life’s dinner table.  Party of One, I proclaim, loudly, knowing that a long line of would-be companions of both genders, all ages, and various nationalities fell back as I trudged forward.

But a waft of deliciousness rises from the plate which rests before me.  A goblet of sweet nectar stands at the ready.  With a start, I realize that I’m a welcome guest; possibly, even honored.  I raise my fork.  The feast begins.

It’s evening on the twentieth day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

The Mistakes of Grown-Ass Women

Every few years I tell myself that I’ve got the smarts to do whatever I want.  A fundamental weakness born of whatever-you-will-blame keeps me from believing these admonishments but like a broken record, I tell myself over and over that I can succeed.

Yesterday, I helped another woman recognize her own mistakes.  As we sat in the jury room talking about settlement of her divorce, my secretary and her daughter each flanked one of us.  My client listened as I explained how much marital debt her soon-to-be-ex-husband had incurred on their behalf but paid down before separation.  They lived beyond their means and now she’d have to shift some of her savings over to his to even out the take-away from their marriage.  But at fifty-two and healthy, she’ll survive.  In fact, she’s got a good credit rating and an excellent job with solid benefits.  She might even thrive.

Just as long as she learns from her mistakes, that is.  She said, I didn’t know what he was doing, he managed all the money.  I replied, You’re a grown-ass woman, you should have paid attention!  And her daughter laughed.  In fact, we all chuckled, the younger ones with amusement at the slight naughtiness of my spontaneous sally.  Her daughter waggled a finger towards my client, saying, “Like Ms. Corley said, Mama, you’re a grown-ass woman!”

As for myself, I held a mirror to my face and let the words bounce back on me.  I’ve never managed money very well, and I’ve hidden behind my condemnation of myself.   I neglect myself while urging others to take care.  I get too thin, or gain weight.  Exercise falls by the wayside.  I go weeks without calling my siblings or the friends whose support sustains me.

Years ago, another client noticed my self-sabotage and called me out.  I had just finished his divorce, arranging a joint parenting plan and funding a trust so his considerable assets would be available for his large brood as they matured.  We had coffee to discuss the paperwork and I must have said something slightly self-deprecating.  Perhaps he felt my chagrin at being who I am.  I’m not sure what prompted his comment.  But it rang true and I have not forgotten his observation.  He put his coffee cup on the table, turned his bright gaze on me, and remarked,  You’re the only thing standing between you and success.

He might have been dead-on.  Maybe.  Ya think?

And after all, I am a grown-ass woman.  It’s time to act like it.

It’s the twentieth day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


My Love / Hate Relationship With Fathers

This will not be a long-winded attempt to disguise complaint as clinical observation.  But nor will it be an unequivocal homage to fatherhood.  As most have gleaned, and now everyone will be able to acknowledge, I have a love / hate relationship with fathers.

My own father struggled with alcoholism and the brutality raised in his soul by his combat experience.  We children cowered under the wrath that raged when he drank; and he drank more than he abstained.  Our nightmares revolved around the sound of smashed dishes, our mother’s desperate entreaties, and the telltale wrench of a phone from the wall signalling the start of the terror.

As for the biological progenitor of my son, I will say little.  He decamped on learning of my pregnancy, accusing me of deliberately deceiving him about the  potential of conception.  I had not.  My doctors found the impending birth more startling than either parent.  To the man’s credit, he paid child support for eighteen years albeit the bare minimum.  I would have sacrificed the entirety of that contribution for the occasional visit or call to my son.

Ah but the fathers I have known!  Here’s a special shout-out to Dan Smith, proud father of two and husband of Bobby Smith.  Another for “Them Carnie Boys”, Ellen’s late husband and grown son, with his children Elizabeth, Owen, and Hudson.  I’ve sat at the Easter table and watched how those children adore their father.  And I cannot forget my brothers Frank with his seven children; Mark with four total (three who survived, one who did not); and Kevin who raised his stepdaughters.

Now if I started down this road in earnest, my morning would flow into afternoon and this blog post would be endless.  I have only to look across the street (Jimmy Black, father of Sara) or scroll through Facebook, my phone book, my e-mail, my photo albums.  Scores of marvelous fathers rise to remind me:  My Rotarian friends, Kurt Hueschen, Phil Francois, Tim Emerson, Jim Staley, Dan Ryan, and on, and on, and on.  If I try to list all of them, I’ll doubtless omit someone crucial.  Suffice it to say that I’ve known enough wonderful fathers to salvage my poor image of the gender’s parental performance.

And then — you knew this would come — there was my favorite curmudgeon, Jay MacLaughlin, who honored me by calling me “daughter”.  We’d stroll together: At dinner, at the cemetery, at the care facility where his wife spent her last months.  He’d tease me endlessly, lecture me gently, and always, always, ask me, Do you need anything, honey?  From the moment I met him, Jay turned his sparkle toward me.  No difference between us — not political, nor social, nor religious — nothing could erase my fondness for him nor his for me.  Simply, plainly, Jay gave me something that my own father strove to achieve in his last years but offered too late for redemption, I’m sorry to say.

Had I gained a more generous heart before my father died, I might have been able to forgive what he’d done and embrace what he tried to do in the end.  But I did not.  And I never felt that I’d been somebody’s little girl without the treachery of abuse until I became Jay MacLaughlin’s daughter-in-law.  I never took the place of his own daughter, Virginia; but he made a different spot in his heart just for me.

We sparred with good-nature.  I listened to his stories.  I helped him with the computer.  We shared the care of his wife Joanna.  He confided in me:  His love of his children; how proud they made him; a few regrets; how much he cherished his four grandchildren.  When Jay spoke, in his gruff heavy voice, I fell silent and opened my heart.

When the doctors  offered him choices for how to deal with his cancer, Jay called me.  I was in my car; I turned off the ignition and held the phone to my ear.  Tell me about your mother’s chemotherapy, he said.  Did she suffer?  Did it help?  Was it worth it?  He paused.  Honey, I’m thinking of saying ‘no’ to the treatment.  What do you think?

I sat in the heat of the car and answered his questions.  He fell silent for a few minutes.  I told him that I loved him. I told him that his children would be there for him, that I would be there for him, come what might.  He said he knew all that; he said he wasn’t afraid.  He asked me to come see him, to have dinner as we always did on Friday.  He told me he was ready, that he missed his wife and that he was tired.  I held the phone and prayed that the tears streaming down my cheeks would be the only sign of my sorrow.  I didn’t want him to hear the sobs which I strained to suppress.

When I first met Jay, I got him a subscription to a beer-of-the-month service.  As a token to illustrate the gift, I found a German mug at Waldo Antiques to present him.  After Jay passed, I brought that mug home.  When I see it, even two and a half years later, I feel a smile brighten my face.

My favorite curmudgeon occasionally still visits me in my dreams.  He’s always laughing, and he always has a stein of Stella Artois by his side; and his beloved Joanna close at hand.

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



My Summer Sojourn

I’ve returned from four days in Atlanta three pounds lighter and an inch wiser.

I’m standing on the brink of wisdom.  The sights and sounds of the Rotary international Convention sent a wave of awareness over me.  I’ve heard stories of four-year-olds torn from the clutches of the sex industry and women crouching over weaving in villages with pride shining from their eyes.  I’ve stood in front of water purification systems and seen pictures of starving boys transformed with the fruits of a peanut field.  I’ve co-mingled with thirty thousand like-minded persons who profoundly believe that there is no purpose higher than serving humanity.  I’ve listened to the fluid ripple of a rainbow of accents on a clattering subway car bound for a morning’s communal review of the fruits of those labors.

I saw so much on my summer sojourn to the south.  These faces linger in its aftermath:  The grin of an Uber driver from Ethiopia who refused to be paid for an extra stop to deliver a pregnant Sri Lankan and her worried husband; the broad countenance of a cheerful little German woman who shared a chair with her husband of fifty years; my octogenarian companion who stepped unfailingly through every booth in a sea of hundreds to find my walking stick; and everywhere, the indelible stamp of compassion on human features as different as they were alike.

I draw within myself to feel the beauty which lingers.  The outpouring of goodness transcended politics, religion, and national boundaries.  Thousands gathered to celebrate and perpetuate the global mission to stamp out polio, clean putrid water, soothe distended bellies, and empower those left in the wake of war and starvation.  What complaint of mine could survive my week among such noble people, such honest intentions, such selfless ambition?  The answer resounds:  None, though I arrived exhausted from my trip and threw myself into trial preparation with its awful argument and its narrow focus.

The life I lead holds riches that perhaps only sparkle in comparison to the caked mud on the worn soles of shoes on homeless orphans in countries where the expanse of my closet would astonish people who share smaller spaces with entire families.  I realize that life is not a competition; it’s an exhibition.  But whatever butterfly effect my life engenders will ripple stronger and spread farther on the wings of joy than those of complaint.  I lift my face to the sky.  The light streams both ways.

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

Click on the images to scan through and see them full size.  Enjoy a taste of RICON2017!