Monthly Archives: December 2017

Ringing In The Newest Year

For the last couple of years, I’ve seen midnight alone.

In 2014, my friend Ellen invited me to go to the NYE bash at Knucklehead’s with her and Jerry Stewart, her “gentleman caller”.  I considered it — I truly did, Ellen.  I got online and saw the $100.00 pricetag and swallowed.  I got out my debit card and looked at the balance online. I considered my budget.  I had spent the entire year mourning my failed marriage and clinging to my father-in-law.  I devoted six months to visiting Jay, going out to dinner with him, listening to him; and then, sitting for one last time by his son at the cemetery to say goodbye.  For the six weeks after Jay’s death, I slogged my way through Thanksgiving and, with the support of friends, my sisters, and my son, survived Christmas and a brief, crazy contemplation of suicide.  Which is to say:  I had not earned a lot in 2014.  I had other distractions.

I sat in front of the monitor on the afternoon of 31 December 2014,  thinking about the drunken catcalls, gropes, and intense stares in bathroom mirrors that go along with a New Year’s bash in any bar.  I couldn’t face that as a single person.  Good grief — I couldn’t face it with the most gorgeous man alive strutting through the place on my arm.  I hadn’t the heart.  Instead, I  made a donation to my mother-in-law’s favorite charity, Camps for Kids.  I made another to the American Cancer Society in honor of both my favorite curmudgeon and my mother, each of whom succumbed to cancer.  I split the C-Note between the two, and that took care of the price of a Knucklehead’s ticket. I stayed home and went to bed at ten.

I wish I could say that I recall what I did on New Year’s Eve in 2015 and 2016.  I suppose I spent them in solitary contemplation, or cleaning house, or writing blog entries.  I know that my son called me at midnight some of those years; my sister left voice mail on others.  I made scoffing reference in idle conversation to Bogie’s term:  “Amateur Hour”.  I barely drink alcohol anymore, and I never drink alone.  I’m sure the most I did was raise a cup of Earl Grey to the memory of the dying year, and to hopes for the dawning one.

When I decided to move to California, I gave some thought to timing the voyage so that I’d land here on December 31st.  But other considerations superseded my thirst for symbolism.  The real estate market; a lull in my trial schedule; my son’s waning personal time off from his job; our dog’s health; my traveling companion’s availability; all contributed to the exact timing of my launch.  But I’m here — at Park Delta Bay, a quirky RV park striving to attract tiny homes.  I joined six or seven others already squatting among the trailers, campers, and RVs whose owners chose this way of life for one reason or another.  When I awoke this morning, frost dappled the tender grass and the amber leaves of the old weeping willow behind me.  Fog clung to the dips and dimples in the wide expanse of valley.  I can’t see the river but it winds by a few hundred feet to the south of me.  Seventy-seven miles to the west, the mother sea waits for any day when I feel drawn to sit at her feet and share my troubles.

I hear stirring outside my house.  Joe the handyman might have started his workday.  He’s building a little 4 x 10 porch for me.  All I need is enough space for an oak rocker and a couple of plants.  It will stand free of my tiny house so that it can be thrown in the back of whatever one-ton pick-up moves this place.  I’m here for now, making my home in the California Delta.  I’ll winter here, at least.  Perhaps I’ll spend a year or maybe two.  Eventually, I will make my way to the coast, to live out my days with the voice of the sea to soothe me.   Til then, I have to find a job; and get my little washer-dryer combo unit repaired; and unpack the last box.

When I started this blog in December of 2013, I did not envision that I would be writing it four years later.  I thought of it as the grand launch of my new self.  That self would be the wife my then-husband wanted:  Calm and sweet; accepting; staid.  She would continue to be the sassy mother to her only son; the enduring Ruth to her last surviving parent-in-law;  She would no longer forget important steps in her client’s’ cases and have to madly dash around the office lamenting her disorganization.  She would not cry when her legs ached or her heart broke.  She would easily make the 365-day mark without uttering a word of complaint.

As we know, the best laid plans of mice and men have often gone astray.  So too the plans of womankind, and of myself, a mere human trying to swim in a sea of debris not always cast into these dark waters by my own hands.  I swim clumsily, with crippled legs.  My voice rises in a thin whine from the darkness.  I flail with spastic hands, no longer lily white but mottled, bruised, and bleeding.

Still I paddle on, gamely, even eagerly.  Once in a while, I rest on a floating piece of hundred-year-old lumber.  I fall into the arms of angels leaning out from old oak piers.  I draw deep cleansing breaths; then forge ahead, towards the horizon, looking for safe harbor where I can rest for eternity.  Once in a while I cradle another so that they, too, might briefly pause.  I let them lean on me, keeping both our heads above water.  I can do no more; but that, at least, I can do.

I never got to the version of myself which I envisioned four years ago.  The likes of me could never be silent, or simple, or serene.  With my wild gypsy hair and my dark Mediterranean spirit, I am the wrong sort of woman to stand beside anyone wanting to pass their days in quiet disengagement.  I’m not that woman. I don’t begrudge anyone who is, nor wish anything but good to anyone who deems me to be the wrong sort of friend or partner.  I read an interview with Melissa McCarthy in which she said, boldly, “If you want somebody different, pick someone else.”  I like that concept.  I aspire to flash that particular dictate in the direction of anyone who studies me and finds me wanting.

At the same time, I harbor no ill to anyone who turns their heels on  me. I don’t hate my former husband — either of the two who left me for other women, to be honest.  How could I hate someone whom I loved? Whom I love?  I don’t turn love off and on like the faucet in my forty-square-foot kitchen area.  I recognize that hate would, in some ways, be easier.  But I do not seem to have that capacity.  I have enormous ability to love, and very little talent or taste for hate.

Yesterday, Joe Matej (the park handyman) and I mopped water from the floor of my tiny house for the third or fourth time.  I thought with no small measure of irony that if the washer-dryer combo had failed thirty days ago, it would have been covered by my AB May home maintenance agreement, for which I paid $48/month at the suggestion of a realtor whom I did not use.  He seemed to think that agreement could be useful in the sale of my house, but it turned out not to be transferable.  I did get a 15% discount on a new hot water heater because of it, but in the final analysis, like most purchases made because of the wild-eyed recommendation of a born salesman, that too just cost me money.

But I’m not complaining.  This year draws to a quiet close and I have no urge for lament, or regret, or chagrin.  Instead I let the faces of those whom I cherish drift in front of me, one after the other.  If I tried to name them, I would have to add a hundred footnotes to this entry explaining the beauty of each soul.  Instead, I will tell you this:  I am a fortunate woman.  People have stood by me through terrible times; through terrific times; through times when I betrayed their faith in me.  I did the same for them with as much determination as I could muster.  What else could we do, any of us?  Why else walk this earth, except to hold out your hand and bring others along with you, as you make your way towards whatever end the universe has in store for us?

Happy Newest Year, to my family, friends, and fans.  Ring in 2018 with glorious abandon.  But be safe.  Be joyous.  Be delighted.  Be happy.

It’s nearly nine in the morning, Pacific Standard Time, on the thirty-first day of the forty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.


Of all the marvelous art which I’ve acquired in the eight years of Art @ Suite 100, I chose “Cupcake” by Nicole Thibodeau for the piece which I see as I write. I aspire to this level of serenity.





30 December 2017 Redux: For Those Not on the Musings List

Here is what I posted late Friday night on the Musings site:



Good day — for it is daytime somewhere, though not where I am.

I’m writing here because MYWOC is “down” for unknown reasons. I have reached out to QWK.NET, my host; and they are working on the problem.

I’ve had an exhausting day here in Isleton.  I’m reminded of my favorite Isaac Beshevits Singer story.

His publisher called and told him that she had sold one of his stories.  He said, “Marvelous, ma’am.  Which one?” When she identified the piece, he said, “Oh, ma’am, I am sorry.  I promised that one to a group which is starting a new  magazine and cannot afford to pay for work.”

The publicist cried, “Oh, Mr. Singer, this is a catastrophe!”

And the man replied:  “No, ma’am.  It is not a catastrophe.  No little children will die from it.”

And so it is with my broken website, and the washer which keeps throwing its “not properly draining” code, and the flaws in my tiny house build.  No little children will die from these issues.  Though they might currently feel like the banes of my existence, they only temporarily annoy me.  I will overcome even the most gnarly of the difficulties now confronting me.

All will be well.

It’s late on the 29th day of the forty eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. When you read this, it might well be early on the 30th day.  I will be sleeping, in my nook, in Angel’s Haven, on Brannan Island, in the California Delta.  I will be dreaming of soft morning light.

Life continues.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

A few trinkets from my former home: The Brookside art fair drinking vessel which I got with Carolyn Karr and her husband; a photograph of my great-grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes with her husband; my son’s Baptismal candle; Caitlin & Bryan’s wedding shower coaster.


My son Patrick gave me a “tiny house spice rack set”, which my friend Joe installed. It’s beginning to feel like home here at Angel’s Haven.

Some Assembly Required

The washer keeps clicking and flashing OE!  OE!  OE!  I am not sure what OE means but I’m fairly certain it’s not a positive affirmation of the washer’s self-worth.  I go down and hit the pause button twice every few minutes. I tell myself it will be fine, as soon as we get the darn machine balanced.

Joe the handyman comes into the kitchen a few times a day to help me with projects beyond the capability of my spastic hands.  He sits on the floor and snaps together a shelf for the weird, huge, awkward cabinet adjacent to the stove.  He totes recycling to the car for eventual dumping in the station at the front of the park. In between assistant duties, he makes enviable cuts on the boards for my little 4×10 detached porch.  Joe’s a pro.  And a prince.

At about 5:00 p.m., Pattie from the corner lot texts an invitation to join everybody for Thursday night specials at Moore’s.  I don’t know what Moore’s might be, but I figure what the heck, it’s Thursday, salads are $1, and I’ll make the eighth and a full table.  I text back, Sure! and start to comb my hair.  With these curls, that’s no easy task.

Of course, as a vegetarian, the five-buck burgers hold no appeal for me.  I’m going to regret it, I tell myself, but I order a grilled cheese with fries.  And the salad.  I do regret it, later, but I take two little green pills and hope for the best.

After dinner, I put together a metal cart to serve as a pantry under the fridge.  Everything I’ve ordered has that asterisk:  “Some Assembly Required”.  Just like my life, I think.   Pass the Allen wrench, it’s going to be a long night.  But I don’t mind.

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

Inspiration Point

I didn’t write yesterday.

I could have, but creating an entry without complaining might have strained even my dedication.  I spent the day managing issues not of my making.  Problems caused by others’ failures, remissions, or omissions took me to near-breaking point, after I dropped my son at the Pittsburg BART stop for the first of his many transit legs to Evanston.

One potential aggravation after another hammered at my resolve not to complain.  I gritted my teeth and slogged forward.  By nightfall, my first night alone in Angel’s Haven, I had neared the point of regretting this entire daring move to NORCAL.

The alarm rang at 5:15 this morning.  I asked the Google lady to tell me how long my trek to Palo Alto would take.  She obliged:  A staggering two hours and thirty minutes.  I put myself at warp speed and bludgeoned my way out of Park Delta Bay as the dash clock hit 9:00 a.m. CST.  Note to self:  Change clock in the RAV4.

I sailed over the 160 bridge into a fog bank, frightening, eerie, beautiful.  Just beyond Antioch on Highway 4, the sun dispersed the lingering wafts of chill.  I shrugged out of my jacket and pressed forward.  I must have pushed the speed limit, because the GPS lady upgraded my time to one hour, fifty minutes; and as I started around the edge of South Bay, she twittered, You are on the fastest route and the route is clear.  You should reach your destination by 8:43.

I pulled into the Quarry Road parking lot of the Neuro-Science Building at Stanford Medical Center exactly eleven minutes before my 9:00 a.m. appointment.  The dashboard winked from its Missouri conclave.  If I believed my car, I had missed my treatment by two hours.  I winked back and strolled into the lobby.

The guy at the desk tried to discourage me from having a happy new year by telling me that I had to wait behind a far pillar until he logged into his computer.  I stood my ground to the right of him, near the door by which I had entered.  He paid back my rebellion by failing to properly log my arrival into the system, causing a mild twitter of confusion when I reached the second floor.  But we overcame.

I like my neurologist at Stanford.  Come to that, I like nearly everybody there, with the possible exception of the guy in the lobby whom I had never seen before today.  Over in the Hoover Pavilion, the concierge remembers my name from visit to visit.  He sends me to the ID folks with a grin and a compliment about whatever hat I’ve worn that day.  He could teach this morning’s check-in dude a lot.

But Dr. Lopez’s people more than compensated.  On account of his being stuck over in an early surgery, they got me a cup of coffee from their pot and settled me in an easy chair until he could see me.  The man himself heaped good cheer on everyone as he entered the area.  I know a little of his story. He and his family immigrated many years ago, legally, poor and hopeful.  Now he volunteers his expertise world-round.  He told me once that his friends scoff.  They say, “Jaime, you make so much money, you can work as little or as much as you want, why do you give away your time and talent?”  He told me his reply:  “I make so much money, I can work as little or as much as I want, why NOT give away my time and talent?”

Stand-up guy.  He monitors surgeries all over the world, helping insure the patients’ safe matriculation from twilight to dawn.

He kept me laughing as he manipulated the tiniest possible muscles in my lower legs, aiming poison, hoping to kill just a little of the spasticity which causes me to topple.  Afterwards, we talked about increasing my visits now that I’m a Delta dweller.  We went over my chart.  Then he and his nurse walked me out, him talking about the speech he gave the day after my last visit.  He had re-scheduled me to after-hours because of that speech. He’d rehearsed it with me as he gave my treatment with no assistant since they had all gone home.  I’d asked a few questions, and he’d made revisions, he told me now, on account of the questions that I had posed.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I felt good knowing that maybe I had inspired him.

Afterwards, I went to the music store where I had bought Patrick’s banjo.  They helped me box it for shipping, and then I went next door to FedEx.  A lady smaller than my package hauled it from the back of the car and into the shop, astonishing and shaming me at the same time.  She got it labeled and on its way; and then, I headed east to Berkeley and a little bit of home.

The views on the path to the top of the mountain where my friend Kimberley Kellogg has taken temporary quarters astonished me,  High above East Bay, overlooking its span, Grizzly Peak Road — that was its name, I think — wound higher and higher.  When I reached the upper perimeter and pulled to the side of the road, Kimberley slipped into the passenger seat.  Suddenly yesterday’s minor aggravations faded.  The cadence of her voice said home — Missouri; Kansas City; and welcome.

We’re a couple of Midwest-ex-pats, me and Kimberley.  Our souls yearned for the Pacific, with its welcoming song and soothing air.  Now we’ve both made it here, a suitcase at a time for her; a tiny-house-and-RAV4-full for myself.  We found a Korean restaurant which offered both GF and vegetarian dishes.  As we always do, we started the conversation where we last ended it, without a pause, without a breath, without even an acknowledgment or concern about the weeks in between our meetings.  It’s what we do.  You can’t estrange us from each other.

A few hours later, I dropped her at the door of her temporary home-away-from-home.  I asked my GPS lady to take me to Park Delta Bay.  I must have told her to avoid highways, because she did: And I thought, a half hour later, that my friend Kimberley lives in heaven.

I didn’t find a space to park and take a photo of Inspiration Point.  I cruised through the turn-off with my mouth open.  A gaggle of retirees laughed, looking into my car.  One of them waved her arm in the direction of the astonishing vista.  I nodded.  She touched her cheek and I realized that tears had begun to fall from my own eyes.

My friend Kimberley takes me to the best places, even if she hadn’t planned this stunning detour for me.

I got to the other side of the mountain before I persuaded my GPS lady that I didn’t mind highways or toll roads.  I found my way back to 4-East, and then to 160 just as the sun eased itself behind Mount Diablo.  Once on Highway 12, I counted Report Drunk Drivers signs and turned on Jackson Slough Road after the second such sign, thinking, for the hundredth time, that anybody who drives drunk on a winding levee road in the California Delta needs more therapy than they’ll get in the county drunk tank.

I parked my car in the space in front of Angel’s Haven right after the last meager rays of the setting sun had kissed the river.  I sat in the car, listening to the engine;’s hum fade away, wondering whether yesterday’s problems had resolved themselves.  I know that they haven’t.  They await the judicious application of all the non-violent communication which I can muster.  Tomorrow.  Tonight I will have a cup of tea, return personal phone calls, and download a book on Kindle — something mindless, like an old Lawrence Block.  That’s about my speed tonight.  Herbal tea from a client’s mother in China, and a 1950s vintage police procedural.  I’ll put on my slippers, and turn out the overhead light, and fall asleep in Cherie Meyer’s husband’s old rocking chair.  After a while, I will shake myself awake and crawl into bed, smiling, blissfully unaware of whatever calamity might come with the dawn.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the forty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  With a special greeting to my dearest Penny Thieme, whose birthday it is today, I bid you goodnight, from Park Delta Bay, where a California dreamer will soon lay herself down.  Life continues.

Kimberley Kellogg and myself

Inspiration Point, official photograph

My heart overflows with joy

A text awakened me at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.  I did not recognize the number.   The person wished me a “Merry Christmas”.  I returned the sentiment without questioning the identity of the person.  It could have been a wrong number, but I did not care.

My son still sleeps in the loft at the other end of Angel’s Haven.  I smiled, remembering his earliest years when he would drag me from bed before dawn to see what Santa had brought.  As he aged, he woke later and later.  Eventually, the mother became the harbinger of bounty and so it has remained.  I’m awake, thinking of coffee, of breakfast, of the drive we will later take to Windsor and the Alberts/Cox household.

Truth told:  Behind these pleasant contemplations lurk darker images:  The fading faces of absent friends and the winding promise of roads on which my feet no longer tread.

I move about the tiny house as quietly as that sleeping mouse of the famous poem.  If one could hear every spoken word in the Holmes house, so much more clearly does each person’s motion echo here in these 313 square feet which I now occupy.  I don’t mind taking care.  My son will soon creak down the ladder.  We will boil water for French press.  He will sit on the step and I will take the chair.  We’ll eye the packages beneath the little tree.  We’ll talk in quiet tones.

These four days with Patrick have been a greater gift than anything he could wrap and place on  Sheldon’s lovely fold-out table.  Oh, sure — I’ve gotten on his nerves a bit.  My character functions at a higher decibel than his peaceful composure.  But we’ve stumbled through the few awkward moments.  We found the quiet groove between us, as we always do.

We’ve accomplished quite a bit.  He’s helped the handyman with the washer build-out and hung pictures.  We talked of his dreams and, improbably, of mine.  We spent yesterday walking in San Francisco, looking at buildings.  We disagreed on the courtesy level of a Starbucks lady but overcame the impasse a few moments later when he gave our lunch leftovers to a man in tattered clothing.  As we walked away, towards the subway entrance, the man leaned against a wall and opened the container, hunching his shoulders against the slight California cold.

I found myself overwhelmed.  I staggered.  Patrick turned, raising an eyebrow.  So many hungry people, I gasped.  I wish I could feed all of them.  We stood, motionless, each lost in our own thoughts.  I don’t know about Patrick but as for myself, joy overwhelmed me — Joy, tinged with an impossible sorrow.

I have little compared with many but much compared with many more.  My resources have been quantified and will probably not expand.  Yet the room around me shimmers with warmth for which I can afford to pay.  My tiny refrigerator holds adequate nourishment.  In twenty-one inches of hanging space, comfortable clothes hang.  Two large drawers will yield other items to cover my body.  Beside me, a bookcase made by my great-grandfather’s strong hands contains an assortment of solid reading with which I could pass any lonely night.  When I move a silver handle, hot water flows into my under-mounted porcelain sink.

But more than all of these material trappings, I have joy.  My only son flew across the country to spend a week with me.  Down the road, a new friend included us in her first Delta bonfire gathering.  Other folks opened their Christmas dinner to us on the strength of a friendship which has grown from a shared love of yoga and the California coast.  A couple of thousand miles away, hearts hold mine in an eternal embrace.

My own  heart overflows with joy.  Here: Take your cup, and let some of my bounty fill it.  Let my joy nourish you.

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

One perfect night in the Delta

I’m on the mezzanine in my writing loft.  Across the way and a foot or two higher, Patrick surfs the internet from the second floor.  We’ve just had our first experience with backyard parties, delta style.  Lots of sugar, spiked coffee, and hot buttered rum.  Little dogs in sweaters mingled with retired ladies and young husbands.  Everybody cooed over my tiny house, my son, and the fact that I’m almost finished unpacking after only five days.

We walked home at ten, four hours after first braving the gravel road with flashlight in hand.  That’s how you get around in Park Delta Bay.  You carry a flashlight in your pocket, which works for me because I’ve got one in every bag.  When you live alone, you can’t take chances.

Richard, boyfriend of the hostess’s granddaughter, told us about a Japanese tea garden in passionate tones.  Joe the handy-man drank cup after cup of unadulterated coffee.  The construction worker from Indiana showed pictures of the buildings on which he has worked in downtown San Francisco.  The fire crackled, and the air stirred, alive with the bite of dry wood from the park pile.

I asked Patrick if this was as enjoyable as it seemed, or if he’d rather be elsewhere.  He replied that he could think of one or two other places but this was just fine.  I wrapped my Taos shawl tighter around my shoulders and stretched my legs closer to the flames.  I’ll regret eating the fudge long before the fragrance of smoke fades from my clothes.  But in the moment, it seemed like the perfect bite.

It’s the twenty-third day of the forty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  From the Delta, I bid you good evening.  Life continues.

The days get longer

The winter solstice has slipped into memory.  I celebrated the first day of longevity in San Francisco, spending money with abandon.  I bought the best banjo that I could find to give my son for Christmas; I can say that because he arrived last evening and the cat has already sprung from the bag.  I think he liked it though now we have to ship it to Evanston.

I nearly hit a divider trying to make a U-turn looking for parking but we got safely to a restaurant and waited out rush hour.  I broke my vegetarian diet with a fish fry at the Old Clam House.  I enjoyed it but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Now I am confronting the problems again:  The shower with no hot water, the washer installed in a cabinet without being connected, my joblessness, the porch that won’t build itself.  This and that.  Chickenfat.  I knew a lawyer once who used that expression:  This, that, and chickenfat.  I’m not sure what it meant but it seems fitting now.

The virtual voice mail of my office number says that I have thirteen messages but I can’t find any of them.  I suppose that I’ve got some setting wrong.  I’ll have to spend a few hours working today, hard to do without a printer but I’ll manage.  I’ll borrow an Allen wrench set and figure out how to adjust the hot water.  We’ll make breakfast and go tour the Delta.  It all seems do-able, possible.  I keep hearing Broadway tunes in my head — the soundtrack of my childhood, Mom in the kitchen and the little boys and I dancing in the living room.  Anthony Newley’s resonance melting into Gilbert and Sullivan’s relentless cheer.

A few annoyances could claim my own contentedness, but I’ll push back.  My son likes Angel’s Haven.  That counts for a lot.  I’ll ignore the unsettling dream that I had last night, and the misgivings that arise with any major change.  Geese flew over my house at sunrise.  I couldn’t hear them, but I watched their easy glide.  They know their place.  South in December; north when the weather begins to warm.  I envy their conviction.  I aim to model the languid sweep of their eternal effortless dance in the winter sky.

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

Coming on Christmas

Being a recovering Catholic makes Christmas confusing.  I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ notwithstanding surviving the great flood of 1996 or whatever year Alan and I made it across the bridge home just before it closed due to the rise of the Missouri.  Actually, that’s a bit disingenuous.  I neither believe or don’t believe; I think it’s irrelevant.  Whatever you envision a divine deity to be, the concept of requiring belief in a particular physical manifestation of the deity would be antithetical to the mere concept of divinity.  More simply put: God doesn’t care if you believe in God’s existence; God just wants you to act divine to the extent possible.

A lady asked my son Patrick, then aged four or five, if he knew whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas.  “Sure,” he crowed.  “Uncle Steve!”  Indeed, Buddy.  Mixed-emotions Reason Number Two For Not Being Totally Committed to Christmas:  My brother, Stephen Patrick Corley, entered the world on Christmas Day in 1959. He exited by his own hand in June of 1997.  Christmas (or June, for that matter) has not quite been the same ever since.

I make the best of it.  I gather friends around and let them wish me whatever their hearts drive them to say.  I’ve celebrated Hanukkah with Jewish friends and Solstice with Wiccans.  I’ve gone to midnight mass, genuflecting in the aisle by habit and compulsion.  My maternal drive for perfection in  my son’s childhood prompted me to adopt any custom that might stick with him and help him believe in something transcendent.  We put out shoes for St. Nick on December 6th, and lit a Mary candle for the Christ child, though I described the custom as secular.  Like, your first visitor after you light the candle symbolizes the goodness you’ll have next year.  I gather the usual suspects around me, now scheduled whenever we can accommodate our children’s busy lives.  This year, like last, it will be in January and I’ll fly to Kansas City for the event.  For the first time, the Gathering of the Usual Suspects will be held in someone else’s home with me as a guest.  I strive to accept but it’s bitter-sweet.

Distilled to its simplest message, Christmas signals a birth intended to bring peace, joy, and love to the world.  The Christian Christ offers salvation and hope.  I’m down with all of that. You’ll get no complaint from me about righting the wrongs of the world and forgiving our trespasses.  Oh, maybe an eye-roll:  The concept of forgiveness has been drummed into the ground.  In fact, let me offer this sweeping absolution to everyone.  I don’t even want to know how you feel that you’ve failed.  I forgive you.  There:  Go in peace.

I don’t have a Christmas tree as of yet, but my son arrives at 4:30 this afternoon and we’ll get one.  The ornaments got tucked into an inconvenient under-mattress storage, but hopefully we can wrestle them out.  I know what I want to get him for Christmas, and I’m in San Francisco with seven hours to kill.  I think I can do him proud.  Or least, find something close to what I imagine, and elicit that gentle smile for which my son has become best known.

We’re spending Christmas Day at the home of my friends Sharon Albert and her daughter Ellen Cox, along with the father/husband and brother/son of the household.  Between now and then, I hope to take Patrick to the mouth of the Russian River, just north of Jenner, I drove to that point a few months ago, and its beauty still haunts me. I want my son to understand why my soul felt compelled to move to this magnificent place.

On Saturday, we’ll commune on Pattie Whitaker’s corner lot with my new neighbors.  I feel accepted there already.  In a way, no other place could offer such unconditional welcome.  The folks who live in Park Delta Bay have no pretensions or illusions, not about life, each other, or themselves.  They’ve stripped life to its essence, whether from necessity or passion.  I like that.  I relate to that.  I feel that I’ve found my kindred spirits, or an assortment of them, at least.

In a little while, I’ll go downstairs and partake of the free Best Western breakfast.  Then I will check out, and find what I need in little stores somewhere on El Camino Real.  At the appointed hour, I’ll make my way to the Cell Phone Lot at SFO, and then I’ll swoop through the mass of arriving visitors to snag my progeny.  We will make our way to Angel’s Haven, in the Delta, on the banks of a timeless river.  I’ll hear about his life in EVanston, and talk of the life which I hope to create in my new venue.  After a while, we’ll fall silent.  I’ll raise my cup and offer a toast, to absent friends.  He’ll meet my sentiment.  He always has, and he always will.

It’s the twenty-first day of the forty-eighth month of My Year without Complaining.  Life continues.


I can’t take credit for the title of this blog entry.  I borrowed it from Joni Mitchell.  Here’s a haunting version of her song, “River”,  by another perfect singer, Sarah McLachlan.

Still not complaining

I’ve seen the unfolding of my first two days of tiny living.  I’m still not complaining.

I started this journey nearly four years ago.  My quest, simply stated, was to go 365 days without uttering a word of complaint.  I told only one person, my friend Iris, what I planned.  The blog would  keep me honest, I thought.  Perhaps I’d slowly, gradually, let others know about my journey.  Or I’d tell no one.  I anticipated that my behavior would change; a living testimony to the success of my effort.  People in my life — my spouse at the time; my son; my stepchildren; my father-in-law; my family and friends — would begin to comment on how sweet-natured I suddenly seemed to be.

Murphy’s Law intervened within two months.  My marriage disintegrated.  My stepchildren drifted away.  My father-in-law died.  The social life which I had enjoyed with my husband vanished.  The reason for my efforts had been to enrich what surrounded me.  Left to myself, I had to choose whether or not to continue.

So here I am.  From December 2013 to December 2017, my life has dramatically, irrevocably, and astoundingly evolved.  I sit at the same desk where I have written so many other passages, but the desk has been transported to a loft in the delta sixty miles east of Oakland, California.  Instead of a thirteen-hundred square foot 100-year-old Brookside airplane bungalow, I find myself in a tiny house on wheels, which comprises 313 square feet counting the loft in which I sit and the sleeping loft across the way.  The dishes on the shelves came from Kansas City, but they occupy six or seven feet of wood on metal brackets instead of ceiling-high cupboards.  Out the window to my right, I see a larger tiny home.  To the left, an honest-to-God trailer, with a metal door and a portable pop-up awning out front.

An old weeping willow rises from the stretch of parkland behind this place.  A foot-bridge spans a creek running between the rows of RVs, campers, trailers, and tiny houses.  I cannot see the river because we sit in a small verdant valley, but I can walk to it.  I can stand on a dock and watch the sun rise over the Mokelumne River.  The occasional rumble n the roadway will remind me that others have risen this early, for work or perhaps just to enjoy the gentle flow of the water and the call of birds in the low-hanging branches of the old trees.

So much remains to be done to order my life here.  I must find work to replenish the funds which this move has depleted.  For that matter, I still have to figure out how to use the fancy composting toilet which I chose so that eventually, in a few years, the house can go off-grid.  The park handyman will build a porch for me with wood already delivered from the Home Depot in Lodi.  Until then, temporary steps allow passage to and from the house.  I’ve fixed my first dinner on the three-burner propane range. I’ve discovered all the little foibles which any new build presents. Each will be addressed; until solutions present themselves, I’ll tolerate the minor inconveniences.   I’m taking this new life one day at a time, here in the home which I’ve named Angel’s Haven, in Park Delta Bay, in Isleton, California, just seventy miles from the calming presence of the mother sea.

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

The tin angel which my son gave me me for Christmas three years ago finds a new home in California.


We had a list of chores that had to be done in the precious forty-eight hours during which I would have Rick’s help.

The composting toilet needed assembly, venting, and bolting.  Sheldon’s new table slide would be attached to table and wall.  The wood which had made the 1800 mile journey on the top of the car needed his vision to transform into loft rails.  I could not pack the dishes without the shelves that he planned to hang.

We started Monday gloriously, with breakfast in cabin F2, having endured a night with only a space heater in the bedroom.  I brewed coffee in the little four-cupper and scrambled eggs before he awoke so his vegan sensibilities would not have to graciously endure the smell.  He stirred Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats in a pan and topped the result with sliced bananas.  A half-hour on the phone with Home Depot in Lodi encouraged even stronger belief in our two-day mission:  The materials for the deck which Joe the handyman will build could be delivered.

A half-hour later, standing in Angel’s Haven, reality asserted itself.  Rick quickly determined that the soffit into which the toilet had to be vented yielded less easily than my builder had promised.  My back protested each bend to a box. The day marched forward.  We did our best.  By nightfall, only six of the nine boxes which made the final frantic cull back in Kansas City had been emptied.  The toilet had not yet succumbed to the patient coaxing of Rick’s capable hands.  No shelves adorned the walls, nor had the table been restored to functionality.  The lofts did not yet have rails.  We reckoned without the human component, including the waves of conflicting emotions which crippled me with each unfurled section of bubble wrap.

But we warmed the prior night’s leftovers in a pan on my darling three-burner propane stove.  We each got a pleasant visit with my new neighbor Pattie.  Kim, who runs the park, forgave the night’s lodging in the heatless F2.  She came out of her office kiosk into the crisp chill to admire the hundred-year-old knotty pine still strapped to the RAV.  She chuckled over the thought of its cross-country journey and the daring pluck which prompted me to bring it.  You’re quirky, she chortled.  You’ll fit right in here.  Welcome to the Delta.

It seems unlikely that we will complete our list of chores before we run out of Tuesday and energy.  But whatever we don’t finish, will somehow nonetheless get finished.  Joe the handyman will be co-opted in between stages of my porch build.  Perhaps my son can unpack a few boxes when he visits.  One way or the other, Angel’s Haven will be outfitted, decorated, and launched.  Rick tells  me that the first trip in a new boat allows its nervous captain to find all the problems.  It’s called “the shakedown cruise“.  We’re at that stage.  We know our priorities, and we’re forging ahead.  He’ll do as much as he can until it’s time for him to leave, and everything else will get done despite the absence of his competent, clever touch.  I’m here.  I’m home.  I have no lament.

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

Five non-electrical methods of making coffee survived the packing cuts. And one clay pot for tea.