Monthly Archives: March 2018

Rainy days and Thursdays

At the coast, you can drive five miles and change weather patterns before you park.

I see the grey closing over us.  I sit in the kitchen at the hostel at Montara.  I’ve eaten the last leftovers.  Though I feel bloated from the heavy food which I’m consumed throughout my three days here, I hope to walk tomorrow.  That will combat the carbs and let the sea air  permeate my cells.

I spent most of the day in Half Moon Bay.  A luscious piece of lemon cake followed a disappointing poorly cooked falafel. I should not have ordered falafel at the local Mexican place.  But  I felt a quart low on protein and little else caught my eye.

I didn’t mind.  I enjoyed my friend Kristin’s company and the pot of tea.  And that cake — well, other than the carb-load and calorie content, it did the trick.  Nobody can complain about a light, lovely piece of cake saturated with lemon drizzle and topped with strawberries.

The sun surrendered to the rain just after 2:00 p.m.  It doesn’t concern me.  I’ve extended my stay until Saturday morning.  Tomorrow I will find somewhere to walk.  I’ll stand as close to the ocean as possible and let the sound of the waves dance over me.  Rainy days and Thursdays never depress me.  How can I complain, with all this beauty so close at hand?

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

Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay, CA

“Why did you move to NORCAL”, they ask.

Rain fell on the RAV as I drove across East Bay, over the Bay Bridge and south, towards the highway which would take me to the coast.  At a certain point, the route empties onto the coastal highway.  Then I take a turn, at Pacifica, and she spreads out before my eager eyes: the mother sea, my Pacific.

Why did you move to Northern California, they ask me, one after another.  This is why, this, the call of the sea.  Her voice, the unending balance of her energy, the waves as they fall to the shore.  Though I live in the Delta, I can be here in two hours.  Just a morning’s drive, and I am in her embrace.

I lunch with Kristin Hewett at the Miramar in Half Moon Bay.  They have a vegetarian menu, I’m happy to see, but I’m not here for the food.  I’m here for Kristin’s broad smile, and the beautiful bracelets which she gives me even though I had no idea that she intended to do so.  We met a couple of years ago at the shop which she had on Main Street.  We have not lost touch; and she knows me well.  One wrist now holds a band of Amazite; the other, a strand of a healing stone but I’ve forgotten its name; I’ll have to ask her again.  They clatter against the laptop as I write.

A host of people with the common interest of their Muslim faith occupies most of the hostel tonight.  They murmur in quiet voices which I can hear from the next kitchen.  They came down to the point as I sat reading, and I watched as they took a group photo.  The women stood on the left, wrapped in their lovely veils.  The men grinned broadly from the right.  The ocean rose behind them.  One of the group stood on a wall to take a photo, then turned and held his camera high to snap a shot with his face in the foreground.  I’ve been smiling ever since; and now I find the rhythm of their conversation quite comforting.

In a little while, I’ll eat the leftovers which I brought from Half Moon Bay; or perhaps I will just have a few dates.  I’ve made a cup of coffee.  My various electronic devices sit beside me, charging, ready to take a video, or a photo, or yield a text.  I will leave them all on my bed and walk down to the point, wrapped in my shawl, and watch the sun set.

It’s evening, on the fourteenth day of the fifty-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  From Point Montara, I bid you peace.  Life continues.

The view from the window of the purple kitchen at HI – Point Montara.

Clear-Eyed Wonder

In the twenty-five years that I lived in Brookside, I never washed the windows until I got ready to move.  Now, in my tiny house, I’m yearning to climb an extension ladder and wash the Delta dust from the windows of my writing loft so I can see the sunrise while I write.

This place shimmers with magic.  As the weeping willows come into their own, I gaze with clear-eyed wonder at the delicate greens and sturdy browns of the park.  When I drive along the winding levee roads, hawks glide above me.  Owls hoot as I settle for the night.  Crows sear through the sky, with their ponderous bodies and their strong wings.

My muscles have grown stiff these last few months.  Since I have no regular place to go each morning, I walk from my first floor to my loft and sit for hours on end.  But I’ve needed these weeks to let my brain adjust to the assault on its complacency.  I’ve been thinking about this move as an escape; sometimes as an affront to my son’s childhood; but only recently have I realized that it’s an evolutionary twist.  What everyone assumed I would always be has now fallen away, and I’m becoming something else.

I’ve spent the last six decades defining myself by my shortcomings.  I had help with this; I’ve been given a lot of vile labels over the years.  I’ve even been told by someone who professed to love me that I was too damaged for him to remain by my side.  At the time, I fell silent for a full five minutes before I nodded and acknowledged that I understood.  I had not expected his love, and I was stunned but not particularly surprised by his desertion.  After all, I knew my limits.

But other memories have crowded those sad exposures of my decline.  One in particular rises from the mud to soothe me.  My son and I ascended from the first floor pre-school to the second floor elementary school on his first day of kindergarten.  I had been struggling with inexplicable illness, the opening volley of a four-year slide into catastrophe.  Patrick raised his face to mine and asked if I would die before he got to be big.

I stopped climbing and crouched beside my son.  No, Buddy, I assured him.  I’m going to live to be 103, and I’m going to nag you every day of your life.  He reflected on my promise before replying, Then I’m going to annoy YOU every day of YOUR life.  We continued up the stairs, satisfied with our pact with one another.

I’m turning 63 this year.  I have forty years to go.  That should be time enough for my wings to unfurl so I can soar.

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


In Memory Of A Great Man


8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018


And the wind rose

In mid-afternoon, I sat in my rocker on the porch of my tiny house.  On the stool beside me, a small plate held slices of apple and a scoop of hummus.  I understand that few find my particular dietary selections to be of interest.  But such are the vagaries of the human condition; my nectar sours your stomach.

The sun glowed around me.  I made a few phone calls, and sent a few messages.  My list of obligations had slowly been whittled to a handful — a client teleconference, an explanatory e-mail, the review of another attorney’s comments on a judgment.  My son’s special ring trilled on the phone sitting on the rail; we talked for a few minutes.  After that conversation, a small smile lingered on my face; flickered, really, before the inevitable fade.

And then the wind rose.  Soft clouds gathered.  The heady smell of a gathering spring rain danced around me.  The owl’s hoot came early; and the crow cawed; and a smattering of small birds glided across the horizon, over the river, and out of sight.

Sometimes I cannot reconcile the ease of this place with the damaged heart fluttering in my breast.  I’m constantly admonished to be positive, to look forward, to let the past lie undisturbed.  The joy of others pleases me, even if I do not necessarily want to stare at its bright contours.  Make no mistake — I accept what comes to me, and I do not cling with bitter fury to any crumbled dreams.  I like what lies at hand.  But the jagged contours of my square self strain against the smoothness of the round hole in which I’ve been jammed; at least, at times.  At times.

So I will watch the river flow alongside the park.  I will walk on its edges and marvel at its steady current. I will journey to the ocean and gather my shawl around me, the shawl which I bought to take the place of one stolen from me in the city.  The sound of the waves will bring the peace which often eludes me.  I’ll carry the gentle ministrations of the mother sea back to the Delta, and abide as long as I can, while the wind dances, and the musky fragrance of the earth drifts through my open window each morning.

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


Dedicated to the loving and lovely Ruthie Becker.

To Anyone Who Is Not Me

Brace yourself, people.  I’m on the warpath.  Oh not really.  But I’ve got a few things to say and I will not mince words.

If you are not-me, you have no idea what happens inside my skin every day.  You can’t experience the misfiring of my neuro-transmissions, the re-routing of my brain’s pathways, or the clenching of these spastic muscles.  You don’t know what my eyes have seen, what visions still haunt me, or why I step a certain way — actually or metaphorically.  You can’t assume you understand what challenges I face.  You don’t push against the stream which swallows me or the wind which batters me.

I don’t know what you have to overcome, either — nor where your journey has taken you.  I understand the impact of trauma, of glory, of grief and goodness.  But I do not know the subtleties of your particular configuration of life, and you don’t know mine.

Do not judge me.

In turn, I will not judge you.

I might decide that you threaten me, or that you thrill me.  I might sense a certain compatibility of our principles and interests.  On the other hand, I might jerk back from you as though you’ve seared my fingertips until the prints would no longer show under the closest of scrutiny.  I’ll let one tear trickle down my cheek at the loss of what I felt could have been such a spectacular friendship.  Then I will turn on my heel and walk away.

But if you stand silently before me, with your hand outstretched, and a soft expression on your face, I will not turn from you.  If you show me your fear, your trust, your open-hearted wonder, I will not close my own heart to your entreaty.

I will not judge you even if I make a decision about whether your impact on my life can be called beneficial.  I might label your behavior, but I do not confuse your self with how you act.  At the same time, I will not try to explain or justify my decisions for myself, even if what I choose to do invokes your scorn.

You are not me. I am not you.  What you do might shock or sadden me. What I do might sicken you.  We face our own demons and welcome our own angels.

I’m moved to mention this because I’ve recently experienced the caustic criticism of me by people who cannot fathom why I fear what I fear and avoid what I cannot handle.  Events which those folks dismiss as ridiculous often distress me.  I am not complaining about their judgment of me, I am merely observing that no one can entirely understand who I am because no one is “me”

I accept that some think I should be unafraid of shadows.   I’m not asking for your sympathy but neither will I accept your condemnation.  And I carry a flashlight everywhere I go.  I know my limitations but I also push them.  It’s a gift that I give myself — I do not punish myself for being frightened of the darkness, but I challenge myself to dispel the gloom.

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


The Sunshine Blogger Award: My Thanks

Thank you to NICOLE THIBODEAU for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.    She truly honors me.  I reprint here the rules of the blog and her questions to me, from her entry:



1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you.

3. Nominate other bloggers for the award.

4. Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated.

5. Notify the bloggers you have nominated.

QUESTIONS FOR [me from Nicole]::

  1. What is one of the most exciting things that has happened to you?  I would have to say that the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me was wind-surfing.  I was told that I could not wind-surf because I was “crippled” (this was 1979 when ‘crippled’ was still what I was considered).  I promptly demanded to be allowed to do so.  One of our party in sailing that day offered to assist.  He got the wind-surfboard leveled with the boat, stood on it and steadied it while I stepped onto it, and held it until I announced ‘ready’.  Then he eased off the board and cheered me for the thirty seconds that I managed to remain upright.  Oh my gosh!  So cool.
  2. Who is one of your favorite authors?  My favorite author is Miles Franklin.  I prefer “My Brilliant Career”, the first book, to “The End of My Brilliant Career”.  The writing flows quite naturally.  The character could be someone who has come to tea and talked longingly of her imaginary life.
  3. What advice would you give your younger self?  Two words:  Smile More.
  4. Do you like to use the Oxford Comma? Not only do I use the Oxford comma, but I shudder at the mere thought of the continued existence of anyone who does not.
  5. Should vampires sparkle?  If they wish to do so, yes.
  6. Are unicorns real? (If not, why?)  Certainly.  You’ve seen them, haven’t you? In your child’s room?  In a book?  As a sticker on a window?  Flickering across the television screen?  Have you seen the Pope, the President, the Queen?  In the same venues as unicorns, no doubt — presenting to you as images in print, on a postcard, as part of a documentary?  Are they real?
  7. Do fairies exist? (If not, why?)  Either fairies exist or my mother had a bizarre habit of collecting her children’s teeth and exchanging them for quarters.  Given how poor we were, I certainly do not believe for one moment that my mother could afford to pay for the teeth of eight children without a subsidy.
  8. Describe the most elaborate dessert you have ever eaten.  First of all, this dessert provided the crescendo to a seven-course, five-hour dinner on a boat in the Boston Harbor.  A ship turned into a restaurant, that is.  Secondly, it consisted of a shell of delicate chocolate inside of which something gold and delicious shimmered, and the outside of which involved a smattering of crunchiness which might have been hazelnut or solidified nectar for all I know.   You did not so much want to eat it as to study it and genuflect to its creator.
  9. If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?  My mother.  NO question.
  10. What is the most appealing shade of purple? (If you dislike purple, please explain why.)  The color of the edge of a fairy’s wings and the tiniest tip of a unicorn’s horn.
  11. Describe your favorite sweater.  My current favorite sweater stretches to my knees.  It is a muddy brown color, thin, with buttons almost but not quite too small for my lily-white spastic hands.  When I wear it, I feel as though I have donned a blanket.  It hides my imperfections but also so closely resembles an actual coat that I feel appropriate anywhere I go.  It might be magical.  Like, maybe it’s an invisibility cloak only instead of making me disappear, it makes me seem normal to anyone who sees me.


I will think about whom to nominate and my questions, and post a follow-up entry tomorrow.  Be well everyone.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley



At 1:00 p.m., I looked around Angel’s Haven — my tiny house — and assessed the matters at hand.

I had letters to open.  E-mails needed to be crafted.  Drying laundry would soon yearn for hangers.  The whirring of the laundry unit signaled the commencement of folding duties.  Clean dishes glared from the drain basket.  A staggering number of inbox items overloaded G-Mail, including notices of jobs for which I could apply, pleadings that demanded attention, and queries awaiting response.

I chucked it all and walked down to G-18 to visit with Pattie Whitaker.

On her pretty porch, with purple flowers and a pink china pig wearing booties, with another neighbor across from me and Pattie to my left, we drank tea, and coffee, and logged into hotspots and chattered about our children.  We relived Jill’s Bingo wins.  They explained the geography of the nearby towns.  Cars went by, with hands waving from the windows, and friendly faces nodding over steering wheels.

Four hours later, I picked my way down the gravel road and back to G-8, completely unconcerned about the choice I had made to let the chores wait for evening.  When one can spend one’s days in the company of the likes of Pattie Whitaker, one does not let the opportunity go unheeded.  Her eyes sparkle; and her smile dazzles; and her smooth silver hair peaks from behind her earrings.  She’s a great gal, is our Miss Pattie, and I am ever so lucky that she invited me to visit today.  Some days slip away unnoticed; others belong on the keeping shelf.   Like today.

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

Dear Tim Herrera

Dear Tim Herrera,

Thank you.  You, sir, got me off my butt and stopped me mid-complaint.  You brought me to a dead cold halt as I let out a caterwauling whine.  You pulled me back, reeled me in, sat me down and gave me a Come-To-Jesus lecture.  How?  How, you ask?  With your headline.

Do That One Thing You’ve Been Putting Off.

Anyone who knows me recalls my strained experience with not one but two real estate agents.  But only a few have heard the story of my lovely little RAV4, on which I took a chance despite its high mileage (92K at purchase but with an extended warranty for another 35K).  Those who heard the story know that the salesman promised features which it turned out that the vehicle didn’t have, features on my I-want-this list, He assured me The Car Does That You Just Don’t Know How To Use It Yet.  Of course, wah wah wah, the car didn’t do that, didn’t have the promised features, and Yours Truly had signed a sheet of paper stating that no oral promises had been made.

Film At 11, oooh aaaahhhh ahhhh.

The dealership (search for me on Yelp to read a sanitized review) resisted my relentless and increasingly less non-violent barrage of e-mails for a month, and finally hired a shop in Lodi to install after-market versions approximating the missing capacity.  The product doesn’t quite provide everything promised, but fairly close.  I remain convinced that one more gizmo will bring me full circle, and I intend to persist.  But, Mr. Herrera, that’s not why I have soared to the top of your fan list.

This is why:

The company here in California which the Kansas City dealership hired to install the after-market item didn’t do a perfect job right out of the gate.  The guy knew it; I knew it.  He muttered something about ordering another part and maybe it would work.  I drove away, desolate, discouraged, and yet: Telling myself, that’s what the heck you get for allowing yourself to be bamboozled in the first place.  I started doubting my selection (92K!!! even with another 35K certified — wow, dude, why didn’t you just say NO?) and the gloss disappeared from the experience.  When people asked, “How’s the RAV?”, I murmured, “Oh, it’s okay,” and looked away.

I didn’t call the Lodi guy.  I didn’t (God forbid) reach out to the KC dealership.  I accepted the botched repair as I do every other disappointing performance.  I seethed inwardly, but figured that the whole affair stemmed from my inherent stupidity in trying to buy a car without somebody going with me.  Never mind that the person I asked to help declined to do so with a visible sneer, causing me to wonder why I bothered to inquire.  I repeated, over and over, that the car drove well, rode well, could power through off-road experiences, and allowed ease of ingress and egress far superior to the 10-year-old Prius which I had traded — but which, truth be told, actually had the feature which I had been promised and which the RAV did not have.


Heavy sigh.

A month passed.  Two.  I told myself that this remission of capability afforded me a chance for life-growth.  Character-building.  Practice not-complaining.  I made various trips to Lodi for other purposes — to go to the bank, buy supplies at Lowe’s, visit my new favorite antique mall.  But I studiously avoided the stretch of roadway where the installer sits.  Once I stumbled on it and tried to get myself to stop, but I felt so stupid for buying a car without one of my main requirements and ending up with an inferior fix that I found yet another excuse not to do so.  I used the events surrounding the RAV as yet another in the long list of Proof That I Am Undeserving, along with three divorces and the curled, sneering upper lips of all those people who stare at me when I walk across a room.

Then, you, sir, came into my life.  I had never read anything you wrote.  I browse the NYT most mornings, from my tablet, in front of whatever window happens to be nearby.  I don’t recall previously seeing your bi-line. I don’t usually read How-To-Fix-Yourself articles.  I can’t reconstruct the minute sequence of events which prompted me to do so yesterday.  I skimmed the first few sentences, then slowed; regrouped, and finally, digested every word.  I made note of your request to be notified if anyone tried your suggestion.

I already planned to go to Lodi yesterday.  My car needed an oil change.  I had no groceries due to having spent a week in Kansas City.  I had, finally, after three months of living in the Delta, called my prescription refills into the CVS here instead of the one “back home”.  So I had plenty to do, without adding another errand.


I treated myself to a cup of coffee first.  And a bagel, even though I’m gluten-free.  I’ve always thought one should not tackle a difficult project on an empty stomach.  Then I put the address of the target company in my phone’s GPS, and set out.

I parked and entered the store with far more trepidation than I should have felt.  As it happened, the owner immediately recognized me and sang out, “Ah, there you are!  I have that part!  I’ve been waiting for you!  Why didn’t you come?”  He beamed at me.  I stumbled over an apology as he came from behind the counter, grabbed my keys and went outside to the RAV.  Fifteen minutes later, I drove away, thinking of you, Mr. Herrera, and wondering how I could ever explain to you how a sixty-two-year-old, of whom a judge has taken judicial notice of relentlessness, cares so little for herself that she assumes she deserves every disappointment.  How can I ever account for my inability to balance acceptance of life’s annoying conditions with reasonable requests for accommodation?  How can I tell you that sometimes, a swift kick in the butt propels me forward better than three months of gravitating between the desire to go nuclear, and the certainty that I have no right to ask for anything, let alone that which I’ve been promised?

Or — put another way — how can I think you for inspiring me to add one more errand to my day in Lodi, an errand which turned out so incredibly anti-climactic, that it might have been business-as-usual instead of an everlasting symbol of one woman’s acceptance of herself as well as confirmation of the essential and ordinary goodness of humanity?

I don’t know if my words would ever be enough, so I’ll close with just this:  Thank you, sir.  thank you.  Yesterday, because of you, I did that one thing which I had been avoiding.  And it worked out marvelously.

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


Tim Herrera’s article.

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Angels

The tall, sturdy man with a stellar smile skidded to a halt in the Lowe’s Garden section and said, “Can I help you find something?”  I paused in my wandering and advised that I needed soil for a citrus tree.  He gestured to the far wall.  We stood next to each other staring at the barely visible shelves holding sacks of soil.  Finally, he spoke again.  “It’s a long way, isn’t it?”  I allowed that it was.

He made the trip twice because he brought the wrong bag the first time.

In the main part of the store, I went up one aisle and down another before finding a clerk.  I asked if the store carried folding shelves.  “I don’t think we do,” he muttered.  Five minutes later, I ascertained that he was right and went in search of glue.

“What kind,”  asked a stocky clerk with a long snow-white pony tail.  “To glue an angel’s wings back onto her shoulder blades,” I responded.  He gaped at me.  “Because you can never have too many angels,” I explained.  We studied every package before I finally picked one which didn’t caution against using it on little statues that came all the way from St. Louis only to lose their wings in a suitcase at the Oakland Airport.

A little while later, struggling to find a cart with straight wheels at Safeway, I landed on my weak right side next to the display of blueberries.  A small woman who turned out to be a Mommy and Me fitness instructor darted around a corner, rescuing my hat, cautioning me not to move.  The man who scurried over to lift me from the floor spoke very little English.  He didn’t need words to communicate his concern.   A third guy called 911, ignoring my entreaties not to do so.  I sat in a chair that someone dragged over from the lobby bank.  “I’m fine,” I assured the group.  The guy talking to the Stockton EMS said I seemed okay.  “Do you want an ambulance,” he called over to me.  “Goodness no,” I replied.

The fitness instructor brushed dirt from my hat as I rose.  I took a few steps.  A woman said, “Look, she’s hurt”, and I saw the two of them conferring, the yoga lady telling her that no, that was just how I walked.  Somebody brought me a functioning cart.  I kept repeating, “Thank you all so much,” until everybody drifted away.  

An hour later, pulling into the park, I waved to several neighbors.  One called out that I’d been gone a fair bit.  I smiled and thought, “I’ve missed this place.”  I hadn’t even felt ashamed, dusting myself off in the grocery store.  

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





P.S.  I am FINE. Nobody needs to comment or message asking, “Are you okay?” 

I blog about falling only when all is well. If I hurt myself, I never mention anything. So you can be assured that I am fine.  Thank you.


Yesterday unfolded with so little potential for success but so little actual error that I find myself astounded twenty-four hours later.  True:  I forgot a coffee date and didn’t make it to the cemetery. Otherwise, I managed to gift a rocking chair (one less item in storage), turn the coffee into lunch, ignite my enthusiasm at a board meeting, and engaged in not one but two lively conversations before falling into a dead sleep which lasted until morning.  A perfect Saturday concluded by awakening to Sunday’s gentle dawn.

I couldn’t continue this relentless pace for very long.  But a handful of days has allowed me to touch base with most of my closest friends.  I have one day left to me.  I’m already trying to figure out how to get from the rental car building to curb-side checking tomorrow.  I’ll be toting two suitcases, one of which contains a little bench, a footstool, two new angels, leather boots, and a suit that I had loaned my friend Kimberley which she returned when I visited her yesterday.  The suitcase itself came from a thrift store.  I arrived with only one, holding my clothes and medication.  I planned this expansion of my luggage, intending to see what I could get back to California by hook or by crook.

Little remains to transfer to the west coast, though the storage unit still contains a hodge-podge of boxes, lamps, and bathroom paraphernalia in a series of cleverly marked boxes.  (“Bathroom 1, Bathroom 2. . .).  I didn’t find the missing papers, but I discovered that an assortment of presents had been returned to me, adding another layer of irony to my tiny life.  It’s no matter.  All the baggage and bagatelle will find its way to new hands.  I believe in paying forward, in rewarding smallness with a great breadth of generosity to wash away the lingering after-taste of people’s pettiness.   On  my next visit to Kansas City, I’ll cull out more donations.  I should be done with the lot by summer, and my transformation to California Dreamer will be complete.  I’m looking forward to that, despite the strength of my affection for the people here.

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