Monthly Archives: March 2018

Split Personality

Take a deep breath.  Pour another cup of coffee.  Wiggle into your most comfortable chair. Compose your mind.

This might take a few minutes to explain.

My father told the story of naming me one afternoon when we stood next to each other at his work bench.  My father made a lot of abysmal choices in his life.  He beat his wife and children. He drank too much alcohol.  He let himself fall into an impoverished state, leaving his family to fend for itself.  He never pulled himself out of that misery.    Until his last days, he remained a broken man whose wife, who had died six years earlier, supported him even from the grave.

But he could make things out of wood, tinkering for hours downstairs in the silence of our basement.  Regardless of my ambivalence towards him or maybe as part of it, I hold fast to my fond memories of hours spent in the workroom which he had created after we tore the coal room out. (I’ve written about that coal room elsewhere; the memory of it causes me to shudder.)

His creativity had limits.  He didn’t like to do finishes or to paint.  Few carpenters do.  He sometimes chose inferior woods, probably due to not having the money for better grades.  He let items go to their intended recipients with cracks or misshapen holes; I never knew whether he saw those flaws and didn’t mind them, or just made mistakes that he didn’t perceive.  I’m sure he used his power tools while drunk, which could account for a lot of the imperfections.

I stood on a small bench, called a “schomely” (t’s an Austrian word for which I’ve never found an acceptable spelling) to “help” my Dad.  I know my relationship with my father carries complicated emotional memories.  The children of abusers struggle to resolve the good feelings mixed  with fear when recalling their childhoods.  But those times in the workshop gave me memories that I appreciate.

During one such time, my Dad told me that he and my Mom had disagreed about my name.  She wanted to call me “Mary Kathleen”.  He favored “Bridget Corinne”.  Eventually they compromised with “Bridget Kathleen”.  After my birth, so he said, he and the wife of the owner of the bar where he drank wrote the various permutations of the four names on a cocktail napkin. He decided that “Mary Corinne” looked better with “Corley” than “Bridget Kathleen”.  He claimed to have gone back to the hospital without telling my mother, persuading the clerk to discard the original paperwork and essentially rename me.

I asked my mother about it and she smiled.  She told me that it happened more or less as he recounted, but that she didn’t mind.  She told me that she had intended to call me “Bridget Kay” but that she also liked “Mary Corinne”.

Later in life, “Bridget Kay” became my pseudonym.  I used it for writing the virtue of which I was not entirely sure.  Would people like it?  Stamp a fake name on it and see.  I gave that name to men in bars and to strangers in stores.  When I got online, I used it for dating sites.

Bridget Kay had a Facebook page before I did.

This morning, Facebook notified Bridget Kay that 72 people had not heard from her in a while.  It urged her to sign into her page and let people know how she fared.  I sat at my lovely fold-down live-edge table, looking out of my four-foot bay window as the sun rose over the harbormaster’s RV and my weeping willow, now in full leaf, verdant and beautiful.  I tilted my head so my good ear could hear the birds greeting the fresh day.   Their song filtered through the open upstairs window, wafting through Angel’s Haven with the slight nip of the cool morning air.

If I could remember Bridget’s passwords, I would post this status on her behalf:

Today, the body which carries me through life aches a little.  Its heart wobbles.  The legs on which it walks through life strain against the rawness of the broken electrical signals flitting through their nerves.  Pesky viruses lurk at the cellular level and periodically erupt in various annoying symptoms.  On Thursday, salty water leaked from those fading eyes as that body drove around Lodi, irritated, frustrated with bureaucracy, worried, lonely.  But as the sun eased itself higher in Friday’s sky, on balance, the brain and the heart had become refreshed by a night’s sleep surrounded by soft spring air.  Boundless zest for life in northern California had returned.  On balance, I can report that  I remain one step ahead of mere survival, even though I sometimes have to struggle to assert myself over the morose personality with whom I share this body.   She’s the one who dragged us out here, though; and that’s one of the best decisions that she’s ever made.   I’m calling that a win.  Check back in a few years.

Bridget Kay never actually complains about anything.  She reports her occasional setbacks then shrugs, smiles, and keeps going.  She’s always been my better half.

It’s the very last day of the fifty-first month in My [amazingly long] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Follow the clickable road

In the animated feature “James and the Giant Peach”, one scene depicts James and other adventurers on a long stream, twisting and turning in the atmosphere.  I can’t recall of what — a river of peach, possibly?  The fence?  The image stayed with me, and seems to flicker in and out of my consciousness.  Like Dorothy’s yellow-brick road, the path that James followed parallels my own.  I ride my small boat down a river wandering to who-knows-where.  I tread an old street taking me to who-knows-what.  The cobblestones fall away behind me; the river disappears within the icy reaches of cloudless sky through which I pass.

I spent a half-hour unsubscribing from all the Kansas City vendors and politicians yesterday.  I’m following a clickable road to my future.  At the same time, I traded barbs with opposing counsel in one of my remaining private cases, a sure sign that the lawyers want to settle.  Posturing precedes negotiations.  I sent a draft stipulation at about nine o’clock and closed my computer, waiting for tomorrow, pencil poised to place a check by another Missouri obligation resolved.  I’ll try the case on April 10th, settled or not, and walk away, hoping for the best, heading for the west.

Another click closer to turning an imagined future into a resolute present.  Don’t look back.  Have you started your #journeytojoy yet?

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the fifty-first month in My [Never-ending] Year [Trying to Navigate] Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I shall squander my days in the embrace of books.

My daily existence has grown amorphous enough without the consistent interjection of inexpensive reading material, but there you go.

I spent a mere half-hour at Rio Vista Books yesterday and everything has been blown to blue-blazes.  I’ve read two entire books since 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, reading into the evening and rising again at 5:00 a.m.  I finished the second book just before my 9:00 a.m. mediation and dropped it onto the table.

Admittedly, these books do not challenge me, well-written though they might have been.  I read a Ngaio Marsh that I hadn’t previously devoured; and Book Four of the Botswana-based series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Morality for Beautiful Girls, which somehow I had skipped.  Both can be considered light-weight, though each author beautifully describes their settings and deftly reveals character and plot in a manner that makes me salivate and regret my wholly abysmal attempts at writing fiction.

Between the first and second of these reads, I did manage to run other, more critical errands, fix and eat dinner, and do dishes.  I also deleted a thousand useless emails, folded a load of clothes, and sent out resumes to three vaguely potential employers.

But what I mostly did for the last twenty-hours, was read.  And now I have to scramble to regroup.  I have a deposition scheduled in Kansas City on Friday for which I need to draft questions for my pinch-hitter and nail down my client on whether she wants to go forward with it — code for whether she can afford it or not.  Other neglected tasks await — I need to get a duplicate Social Security card and apply for a California Driver’s License.  There is the nagging need to resolve the problem with the careless cardiologist who called my EKG normal when, in fact, it was not.  He waved the paper in front of my eyes and said that he didn’t care whether or not I took my medication, though conceding, when pressed, that if the EKG was normal, the medication probably accounted for the result.  His tiresome lack of judgment and disinterest discouraged me from dealing with his entire department.  I’d rather read.

But I cannot lose myself in the rhythmic comfort of words today.  The mediation concluded with a draft parenting plan between two parents for whose child I have served as guardian ad litem.  One more case can be ticked off of my list.  One less tie to Kansas City.  One step closer to done.   I will need a job soon.  Putting aside the question of finances, how I spend my days defines me.  It provides a vehicle for me to express my values.

I stare out the eastern-facing window at the fullness of the weeping willow tree. the delicate branches of which hang lush and low over the meadow.  It’s a lovely day.  I would like nothing better than to snatch another volume from the stack, and go outside to my rocker, with a cool drink, and a comfortable shawl.  I would surrender to the embrace of books.  I would be quite content.

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



I drove to Vacaville yesterday just to see the mountains. On the way home, I stood for twenty thrilling minutes in a fierce wind to video-tape the windmills.  My body swayed with the force of the air pushing against it.  I studied the snow-capped Sierras on the far horizon.  I could not have ordered a lovelier day.

In the grocery store parking lot, two ladies grinned as their carts bumped mine. I watched them move beyond me to their vehicles.  They loaded bags into each of their trunks, one grey head bending over to lift a Lira’s re-usable bag, one dark black sheaf of straight hair doing the same. They stood chatting and then turned to leave.  They each gave me a little wave.  I think they mistook me for someone else but i waved back.

On the road to Park Delta Bay, I stopped to photograph the barge.  It has turned in the last few days.  I studied the rust of its girth, marveling at the heaviness of it.  The river rippled, its natural current meeting the rise of the evening breeze around the curve of the island towards the marina across from where I live.

When I descended the pavement to the park, I noticed a flock of crows in the trees over my row.  They guard me.  I stood talking with my neighbor for a few minutes, then went inside.  I found myself smiling for the rest of the day, and into the evening.  The wind had cleared my soul of pettiness, if only for a little while.

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

Here’s a video of the windmills.  My apologies; the wind noise continues throughout.



A Salute to Eleven-Foot Giants

I met my second husband, Dennis, in a Yahoo Chat Room.  He sent a photograph of himself via e-mail a few weeks after we started talking.  I didn’t notice the wheelchair.  I asked at some point how tall he was, and he replied, “I’m an eleven-foot giant.”

I had ten years of marriage with him, and can attest to the truth of that assertion.  Regardless of our respective faults which led to divorce, I can without hesitation say that Dennis Ray Lisenby ran an Olympic marathon every blessed day of his life.

As I struggled to make my “bed” today, I remembered similar struggles undertaken by Dennis without complaint.

To put this in context:  I live in 213 square feet, counting two lofts.  I sleep on a platform that I had hoped would serve as a kind of couch during the day, providing guests with a comparatively comfortable place to sit, complete with “coffee table” on which to place the drinks that I would serve.

To accomplish this facade, I have to make my bed every morning, which  has never been my favorite task.  As my body becomes less flexible, I strain with increasing difficulty to reach the back edge of the cavernous sleeping area.  I drag a thousand pillows off the surface every night, and re-arrange them in the morning.   This morning I pulled everything off:  The nine decorative pillows; the three which I use for sleeping; the pile of “warming rags” as Dennis called them; the sheet; the soft cover; the cozy fleece from Jennie Taggart; and the fancy embroidered throw that my otherwise dubious real estate agent left on my porch after closing (I think of it as a peace offering).  All of it. The whole shebang.

I have so many layers because my legs cannot handle one heavy quilt or comforter.  Small pieces of fabric serve much better.  But getting them straightened confounds me.  My lily-white spastic hands barely close around the edges.  I lean into the space and lose my balance.  I let lose a few “fudges” and one or two actual unadulterated swear words.  At one point, I consider surrender.

Then I think about the eleven-foot giant getting around all day in a wheelchair.  To work forty or fifty hours each week; socializing at bars; down the walkways in Des Moines; across highways; in and out of vehicles; on airplanes.  I think, Okay, just make the damn bed, Corinne; and I keep going.

The final result falls within the acceptable zone.  I still haven’t convinced any visitors to sit on it, but eventually, I’ll figure that out.  The heavy board which covers the storage space under the back half could be put on lifters so that I can form an actual sofa.  Perhaps a piece of dense foam behind the pillows might create a couch effect.  In the meantime, at least the covers sit straight on the futon.  It doesn’t look as though I’ve just arisen at noon.

I’m not an eleven-foot giant, but I’m in training.  One of these days, I’ll earn the title.

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


Here’s a link to one of the videos from Saturday’s March which particularly inspired me.  I tried to find the actual video URL rather than just a Facebook link, because a lot of my readers don’t use Facebook.  I wasn’t able to find it anywhere else. When I watched this clip of one man at the March for Our Lives, I thought, “There’s an eleven-foot giant if I ever saw one.”


If you want to read about today’s step in my #journeytojoy, you can check out my social-political blog post for today by clicking the below-appearing link.


If you’d rather not delve into my social/political values, here’s a picture of an egret.  Enjoy.

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

I’m not even a little bit mad anymore.

I’ve been reading a lot about bullying.

I got interested, this streak, because Melania Trump seems to have made cyber-bullying her crusade as First Lady.  I have no beef with Melania Trump.  I think she made the bed in which she’s now got to be comfortable.  Everyone else in the entire nation knew what Donald J. Trump was, and I’m assuming that Melania also did.  Whatever she gets from their marriage is between her and her husband.  I don’t care with whom he sleeps or has slept; or whether Ms. Trump knew about his affairs.  Oh, I care if a misogynist occupies the Oval Office, but that doesn’t sour me on the misogynist’s wife.

So  I am glad that she’s combating cyber-bullying.  Hearing of her mission, I started thinking about bullies in general, and in specific, about what I experienced as a child

The boys who grouped behind me, mimicking the way I walked — those were bullies.

The girls who mimed  contorted faces while I gave presentations — those were bullies.

I recall two girls in particular, who exclaimed with loud voices about how gross they found being assigned to work with me.  They knew that I was trapped in a stall in the girls’ bathroom where they stood applying make-up to their pretty faces.  They, too, were bullies.

When I got tripped as I walked down the aisle, by cackling popular kids showing off for their girlfriends;

When a boy jerked my uniform over my head and pulled my slip down to the floor;

When a teacher bored a red ballpoint pen into my check and carved a large check “to match [my] freckles”;

these, too, were acts of bullying.

I’m not even a little bit mad anymore.

A lot of dark hours flowed from the thirteen years which I spent in Catholic schools, tortured by the same kids who wore chapel veils and knelt with folded hands and bowed heads.  I chugged Scotch-on-the-rocks at the Pub in the Student Union straight through my three-and-a-half years at St. Louis University.  I stumbled to and from class, ignoring the caterwauling of guys in shorts and tank tops lounging on the ground in the Quad.  My brain turned within itself.  I convinced myself that I deserved the taunts, the jabs, the jeers.

I didn’t even flinch when a classmate asked me if being crippled kept me from having sex.  I answered him with all seriousness.  I never saw the smirks from his buddies clustered in the back of the dorm room.  I must have thought he really wanted to know.

The teasing and the rude questions continued for decades.  Only in the last ten years has it eased.  Perhaps now that I’m middle-aged, I don’t stand out as much.  But those early bullies  set the tone for my life.  And they were not alone.  Law students, lawyers, blind dates, ladies at lunch, suits in networking breakfasts.  Like pregnant women, people with disabilities seem to be fair game for rubber-necking and unbridled cross-examination in public places.

My over-riding goal, for the last sixty-two years, has been to keep a giant chip from growing on my shoulder.  I can’t claim to have been entirely successful.

So, Ms. Trump, First Lady of the United States of America — please, know that as someone who survived bullying long before the internet gave free reign to the act, I am grateful for any effort to stop bullying.

On my #journeytojoy, I’ve had to let go of a lot of pain.  Today, I’m letting go of the pain of experiencing all those acts of bullying.  So to all the boys and girls at Corpus Christi Elementary School who treated me badly; and the girls at Corpus Christi High School who took up the effort when I crossed the parking lot as a freshman; to the students at SLU and UMKC School of Law; and everybody since then who seemed intent on building themselves taller by tearing me down, I say this now:

I forgive you.  And I’m taking back my power.

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


Rain, Rain

A vigorous rain beat on my car as I came into the house.  I can’t complain, though.  Everyone says California needs rain.  People gaze out the window with smiles on their faces.  I broke down and bought a raincoat.

The sun shines often enough to make the storms palatable.  As I write, rain dances on my metal roof and against the sides of the harbor master’s RV parked in the next lot.  A lazy fly which has established residence in my tiny house hovered in the doorway when I came back from Lodi.  He seemed unsure of whether or not to exit.  I grew tired of waiting for him and closed the door.

That fly and the harbor master’s flickering neon lights, awakened me at 3:00 a.m. the last two nights.  I listened to the mild buzz, watched the dance from amber to blue to green, and thought about my life. On Monday, I rose at 4:00 after lying in bed for a couple of hours.  I drove to Emeryville for a doctor’s appointment, then over the bay to San Rafael to meet a friend for lunch.  When I finally descended into Rio Vista on Highway Twelve, ten hours later, my heavy eyelids fluttered.

Eventually, I’ll chase the fly outside.  I’ll introduce myself to the harbor master and ask if he could dim the lights for sleeping.  Surely he’s safe here.  Those LED  strips would hardly thwart anyone intent on folly anyway, even if the park had a problem with miscreants.

This pleasant life will end as soon as I find a job.  But until it does, I’ll fix a cup of tea in the afternoon.  Rain or not, I’ll sit admiring the willow trees, on the porch when the sun shines and at my table by the wide window otherwise.  It’s not a life that many would enjoy.  I might find myself pining for more by and by.  But it suits me fine for now.

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

Happy spring from me to thee.

To see more works by Nicole Thibodeau like the plein air on the wall behind me, click HERE.


Here is what three days on the ocean taught or reminded me:

  • Weather changes quickly on the coast.  Dress in layers.
  • Hostel life still offers an inexpensive way of being where you want to be.
  • I can drive to Pacifica in 100 minutes without speeding if I leave at 10:00 a.m.
  • My phone GPS gives more accurate instructions than the GPS in the fancy Jensen which the car dealer paid to have installed in my RAV4.
  • “Ok, Google” likes to help me.  (Or so she says.)
  • I enjoy Delta life.
  • Tiny living also still attracts me.  I went to Montara this time in part to test that perception.
  • Being in a large dwelling, with immense spaces and vast resources, doesn’t please me more than spending each day in my small space.  But:
  • I still sleep better with the sound of the ocean drifting through the window.  This affirms that after a year or so in the Delta, I will start looking for somewhere to park near the ocean.

I’m home again after my stay at Montara.  Walking on the bluffs of the Marine Reserve, and on the rise of Half Moon Bay State Beach allowed me to have a large measure of time with my Pacific.  But the river valley where I currently live has its own charm.  I’m glad to be back; and I feel renewed, as I always do after spending time at the sea.

I will keep returning to the coast periodically, to refresh my spirit.  A desire to be near  the ocean prompted my move to California, along with a resolve to forge a new chapter in my life.  Americans suffered more crises while I vegetated at Montara.  I’m sorry for those who died when the bridge collapsed in Florida.  I worry more and more about a country led by a president who has no regard for the truth.  But for myself, I have hope.  My focus sharpens every time I reinvigorate myself by spending time in the coolness of saltwater pulled to shore by dancing wind.

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

No Words Needed

I visited the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at high tide today.  The park ranger told me to take the coastal trail.  “It’s flat all the way,” she said in a gentle voice.  She had seen that I carried a walking stick, and I had asked her if the trails were steep.  I nodded and set off.  When I came to the fork in the road, I studied the map which she had given me and realized that if I took the coastal trail, I would be inland and would not see the ocean.  I took the bluff trail.  I am ever so glad that I did.

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


Check out a little video-clip on my YouTube channel by clicking here.