Monthly Archives: September 2019

Pain scales and other false equivalences

The inevitable strained conversation fell of its own weight on the emergency room floor.

On a scale of zero to ten, with zero being no pain and ten being the worst pain you ever felt, how do you rate your pain?  The nurse stood, alert if slightly bored, while I pondered how difficult to be. 

I guess it was more of a failed metaphor than a false equivalence, but still.  I don’t play those games.  This perky girl in the Winnie-the-Pooh scrubs probably can’t even fathom what “ten” might be for many people, including me.  And I have never, since before my ability to recall, lived at zero.  Even on morphine.  Even on Vicodin.  Even sprawled on a futon with a bottle of wine tipped on the floor beside me, listening to the rain hit the window sill and wondering if I should get up to close the blinds.

I don’t rate my pain that way, I hazarded.  She closed her face.  I continued.  My pain scale is, thirty-two breaks in my leg from going through a windshield backwards, to watching my mother’s agonizing death from misdiagnosed cancer after it hit her bones and her brain.   I paused.  The current, new, acute pain, this probably broken shoulder or whatever it is, can be described as tolerable by comparison.

I can give you a pain pill, she said, somewhat wearily I thought.  I declined.  Tylenol? I nodded.  She went out, scribbling on a piece of paper which she shoved in her pocket, probably a note which read HELP that she’d stick in her windshield when she went out for a smoke.

Two days later, home from the hospital with an ineffectual sling, thyroid medication which seemed to have nothing to do with my fall, and a discharge note telling me what doctors to see, I lay in bed and thought about the ache in my ribs. 

No breaks there, the doctor had assured me.  Except those two old ones.  I stared.  I had no memory of ever breaking a rib at all, let alone two.  I didn’t say so, though; hospitals tend to get a little cranky if they think you’ve got unexplained injuries.  The broken clavicle didn’t need surgery but every body who came into my room offered narcotics, including the floor nurse who couldn’t get an IV started and muttered to herself as she gave me fluids in the line started by the ambulance guy.

I didn’t take the scripts they offered, except for the thyroid stuff.  I threw the sling away after three days, mostly because it held my arm at the wrong angle no matter how many times I adjusted it.  

A week later, I sat in the ortho guy’s waiting room listening to two little boys talk Spanish to their mother.  One of them had a pink eraser stuck on the end of his finger and he kept coming over to me and poking my broken arm with it.  His mother said, No, no, but I smiled, and assured her that I didn’t mind.  I drank bad coffee from a Styrofoam cup and offered the kid some crackers.  He giggled and said something that I couldn’t understand, and poked me again.  I think he meant to be kind.

The X-Ray technician said, Where’s your sling?  I nearly launched into a lengthy explanation of awakening in the night gasping for air because the strap had wrapped itself around my neck.  Instead I met her eyes and replied, Actually, it’s on the floor of my car.  She didn’t ask why.  I expected her to write one of those little HELP ME! notes but she just slammed a metal plate against my back and snapped, Don’t breathe, don’t talk, don’t laugh, don’t move a muscle.

The doctor shook my left hand, told me that the break still didn’t need surgery, and suggested that I come back in a month.  I thought about that.  Can I use my arm, I asked.  He said, You can bend it, but don’t  carry anything.  I nodded.  On the way out, I gave the lady my debit card for the $75 co-pay and waggled my nose at the little boy, now clinging to his mother’s arm and rolling the eraser around with his tongue.  He burst out laughing.  His brother had a pink cast.  A nurse patted his head and said, I know it’s the wrong color, and the boy did a one-shoulder shrug and said, I don’t mind.  I like it.  His mother beamed.

I sat behind the wheel of my car for a long time, staring at the crumbling brick of the building and thinking about the pain in my shoulder.  The doctor touched the spot where the bone now protrudes and told me that the bump would go down, eventually. 

I looked at my left hand, where I once wore a wedding ring.  When I fell on 63rd street, I screamed at the ER nurse who wanted to cut the ring off.  My husband will kill me!  I yelled.  He paid a fortune for this thing!  She put my crushed finger in a bowl of warm water and I eased the diamond over the knuckle.  After the surgery to put the shattered bone back together, the therapist said not to resize my ring for a year.  I got divorced before then, so it didn’t matter after all, except in some weird alternate universe where I still stand over sudsy hot water, vomiting from the pain and the pressure and the fear, clutching a diamond and sobbing, I got it off, I got it, he’ll be so pleased.

Today I walked for the first time without my cane.  I don’t normally use it.  Since my falls, I’ve felt that the extra help would be important.  But I gingerly stepped from my car to the grocery store, keeping my stance wide, holding my weak right arm close to my bruised ribs.  When I got to the checkout line, I asked the sacker not to load the bags too heavy.  Pretend I’m your grandmother, I suggested.  He rolled his eyes, and the cashier said, stop that.  The kid loaded my bags in the cart and shuffled over to the next line.  I whispered to myself, On a scale of zero to ten, how bad does that kid’s disdain feel?  I shrugged, thought about my mother offering up her cancer for the pain in my legs, and went out into the California sunshine.

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

My son made these two stained glass pieces when he was at PS1 Elementary School. They hung in my kitchen window in Kansas City for twenty years or so.  Now they hang in the window of my tiny house.  I’m sharing the photos just for your enjoyment.  


The rivers flow together here, the San Joaquin, the Sacramento, the Molekumne.  Eventually they all flow into the sea, sixty miles west of my little island.  I stand at the turn to Jackson Slough and watch the tankers move towards that broad expanse of blue.  I take my comfort knowing that my Toyota can make the trip so quickly that by nightfall, I could hear the soothing song of the Pacific.

Sunset comes earlier, as it happens.  The world turns.  The tallest tree in the meadow has already shed her leaves, and now stands slender and bare with the glow of the sun behind her each evening.  Now the new house next to me blocks that view but I can step to the north in the meadow and partake of it any time I like.  I can stand in the shadow of the California oaks and the weeping willows.  I can let the sight of them soothe me.

An early morning text from an old friend reminds me of the Midwest, the south, the past.  Didn’t you live near Winslow, Arkansas, he asks.  Indeed I did.  In some other life, I dwelt on the banks of a different river, small and slender with its bed of flagstone.  At that spot, I first reveled in the quickening of the child who clung to life within my crooked belly. Nearly three decades ago, I walked without shoes in the shallow, shimmering cold water, just before the spring thaw.  I did not feel innocent then, but in my memory, that woman lived a carefree, blameless life. See how cautiously she moves?  See the tender curve of her hand around the small bulge?  See the flicker of movement along the bank, how it draws her eye as she guards the babe within her from any danger?

The heat of a lingering summer still troubles those around me, but I see signs that winter sits around the bend, waiting for us.  My broken bone begins to heal.  I can use my arm again, though I must be mindful.  This reminder of my fallibility could shake me, but I will not let it.  I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep.  I cannot afford to falter.

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

I took this just before the final casting of her leaves to the meadow below her.


Change, or something like it

At eighteen months, I sat down on my bottom and said, “I no walk anymore, it hurts, Mommy.”

At five, I earnestly recited “I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree” one Friday, for which accomplishment my best friend took credit on Monday and received the teacher’s last gold star.

At eight, I walked the streets at midnight with my brothers and sisters as my mother sang church songs while my father raged and smashed dishes in the living room of our home.

At ten, an older boy jabbed me in the crotch, saying, “Ah, a ripe one”, to my everlasting embarrassment as my little brothers helplessly watched the tears fall on my flushed face.

At thirteen, I huddled in a bathroom stall listening to classmates ridicule my walking, my flat chest, and my crooked teeth.

At sixteen,  I shuddered as my mother announced to my relatives that she assumed I would never be able to wear her white wedding dress.  To this day, I cannot say whether she didn’t think I’d ever marry or thought I had already lost my virginity.

At eighteen, I bowed my head listening to a doctor pronounce that I would be bedridden by twenty-five.  That same year, I screamed all night as I withdrew from an addiction to the Valium which that same doctor had first prescribed for me shortly after my fifteenth birthday.

At nineteen, I submitted to a popular fraternity boy’s determination that he conquer my body as part of his initiation.

At twenty-one, I fled St. Louis, hoping for a fresh start on the Eastern Seaboard.

At twenty-two, I huddled against the passenger door on the long drive home from Boston.  A few months later, I had my first miscarriage on the floor of my mother’s bathroom.

At twenty-five, I learned about infidelity in the doorway of my own bedroom, when I came home early from my first day of law school.

At not-quite-thirty, I watched my mother’s coffin lower to the ground and stared across the rend in the earth into my father’s bleary eyes.  I saw a reflection of my own, and made the decision never to use alcohol as a crutch again.

I married for the first time at thirty-one.  I divorced for the first time at thirty-four.  In between, I had my second miscarriage and learned a little more about not being thought beautiful enough.

Two months shy of thirty-six, I finally gave birth to a child for whom I have not been the most perfect of mothers, by a long shot; but who, nonetheless, has turned out to be an amazing man.

During his life time, I have married and divorced two more times; and some other stuff happened — like —

—-  I successfully asserted a claim against the Catholic Diocese of St. Louis on my own behalf. . . 

. . . and I gained eighty pounds. . . which I then lost. . .

. . . and I championed the cause of scores of abused and neglected children, who reminded me so much of my self and my siblings that I can only hope to lay claim to a piece of their redemption. . .

. . . and I wrote a thousand pages, a million words, a sheaf of bad poetry, all looking for some answer buried deep within me.

At fifty-eight, I weaned myself from prescription opiates after forty-three years of using narcotics for pain.

At fifty-nine, I stood silent in the face of an accusation that I was too broken to love.

At sixty-two, I walked away from a haphazardly comfortable life cobbled together from bits and pieces, and began anew two thousand miles away on the edge of the world, within breathing distance of the Mother sea.

At sixty-four, I looked into the mirror and for the very first time smiled without reservation at the woman whom I beheld.  Despite her broken clavicle, her wobbly legs, her solitary status, and the paucity of material goods with which she surrounds herself,  she seems at long last to have everything she needs within her reach.

It’s the twenty-third day of the sixty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


For the last two weeks, I’ve had to do most personal chores with my non-dominant hand due to my right clavicle being broken.  I did a search for “combing your hair with one hand”, and found an amazing number of videos from which I did take some good tips.  The one which I found the most inspiring is HERE.  By inspiring, I mean in the damn-girl-I’ll-never-bitch-again sort of way.  Watch it, you’ll see what I mean.  I also watched THIS and THIS. From the second of those, I figured out how to clip my hair right after I got out of the hospital. 

All three of these influencers struck me as incredibly brave.

In the above-appearing picture taken this morning, besides a goofy smile, I wear my first one-and-a-half-armed French braid.  Pardon the strap slipped off my broken ‘beauty bone’ for comfort.

#lifegoals #mytinylife


A certain something in the voice

I can’t deny getting homesick now and then.  The Delta feels like a place in which I could live for the rest of my days, but there’s something in the cadence of a Midwestern voice that appeals to me.  

This afternoon, I spent a few hours in the home of Skip and Judy Vandeventer.  Though twenty years here, and more than that in California, they come from Michigan.  The crinkle of their eyes has a familiar cast.  Judy’s spunk and her blue hair; Skip’s wide smile; the burn across their open, candid faces — these remind me of days when I walked the streets of Kansas City with my toddler in a buggy and the dog pulling at his leash.

I’d taken many pictures from in front of their house before I met them.  Mt. Diablo sits on the horizon directly across the river.  She wears each crimson sunset in their evening view.    I interloped on their turn-out to shoot from my car window, hoping for leniency or a friendly indulgence if the owners of the house happened to see me.

Then they came to the Delta Life Art show at the marina, and I no longer need to trespass.  

Today I walked around their wide living room, ogled their amazing decor, and staked a claim in the Penguin-themed guest room.  I marveled at Judy’s sewing center which sprang whole cloth from a void in the air beside their house, construction abandoned by a builder on the lam from his bank.  How lucky they were to snag this place for a song in a short sale!  Now their roots sink far into the silt of Andrus Island, and by happy chance, I get to call them “friend”.

It’s the twenty-first day of the sixty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life Continues.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Joyful

I have absolutely no right to be happy, let alone joyful and a little giddy.  But don’t hate me.

My arm barely works out of its sling.  An indigo hue crawls across my shoulder down to my belly.  I creep along the perimeter of the room, unfamiliar walking stick clutched in my clumsy left hand.  The list of personal chores with which I struggle grows by the hour.  Remaining to be explained? The wonky EKG, the plunge in blood pressure, and the twin failed thyroid tests.

Yet I nearly scampered down my stairs this morning, except that I have never been able to move at that pace.  (I always got caught first in any game of ‘It’, or fleeing from the scene of group antics as a child.)  An unexpected round of specialist co-pays, follow-up X-Rays, missed billable hours, and late night trips to the Tylenol bottle await.  But I can’t stop smiling.

One neighbor came over yesterday and spent a pleasant hour chatting while helping with tasks that take two hands.  Another secretly invited my Coast Guard rescuers to the Community Dinner.  A third left a quartet of tomatoes from our garden on my door step while I worked today.  One co-worker made and carried my coffee; another nipped next door for precisely what I wanted to enjoy for lunch.  I do not recommend getting hurt to prove that people like you.  But adversity seems to have increased the steady stream of kindness flowing from the universe towards my wobbly heart.

When these maladies subside, all the annoyances of my life will remain.  The nagging ten pounds around my belly must still be combated.  My skin looks pasty.  My muscles ache.  I get lonely, far from the familiar contours of six decades in the heartland.  The immutable failures of my past march around my tired form in the gloom of night with persistent vigor.  My bucket list remains stubbornly long.  The problems that i meant to tackle before winter await, unresolved.  

But the tomato-spinach salad which I had for dinner seems to have warmed something deep within me, with its lushness, and its quiet reminder that I am loved.

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


On the door sign:  “And when our lives are touched by the hand of kindness, we are changed forever.  We are more than we were before.”  — Flavia


Full Circle

We called it, “Pulling a Nana”.

One stood in front of a chore needing completion.  One clasped one’s hands in front of one’s breast and intoned with earnest passion:  “Nobody makes beds better than you do!  Will you make this bed for me?”

The person to whom such an entreaty flows cannot resist.  Small child, sulky teenager – no matter.  Beneath the weight of eager ambition, the task succumbs and the bed finds itself made “tight as a drum, neat as a pin”, so that Nana could bounce a quarter from its surface.

My mother’s mother suffered to a series of devastating strokes in my mid-childhood and died while I was still a young teenager.  She lives in my heart.  I remember sitting on her porch in Lake Knolls, after dark.  Nana wore her slip and her house-shoes. Cigarette smoke curled around her head.  She thought that sitting outside in one’s slip meant luxury.  In the new subdivision where they had built their house, there were few neighbors and none close.  No one could tell what she wore.  She smiled in the dark as Grandpa sang to the grandchildren gathered at his feet.  Johnny Jump-Up went to Sea. . . when he comes back, he’ll marry me.

The strokes robbed Nana of meaningful speech.  With her paralyzed arm, she would wave and say, “Der- der – der -“, straining to instruct me as to her wants or needs.  Mostly she stood silent, good hand clutching her three-pronged cane, eyes pleading.  She’d finally drag herself down the hall to get what she wanted but could not name.  I have never felt more helpless than watching her drink caster oil from a bottle, without the spoon that she had wanted me to fetch.

Nana bought my good shoes and helped me explore the world of classical literature in the stacks of the backroom of the bookstore next to the business which she and my grandfather owned, Sonotone House of Hearing.  She kept going through many crises, I know; the Depression included.  She loved fiercely; lived honestly; and cherished her husband, daughters, and grandchildren with an astonishing simplicity that I have not forgotten.  In fact, if my understanding is incorrect, I do not want to be set right.  I would rather remember her through my child’s eyes.

As I stumble around my tiny house, with my bruised ribs, my broken clavicle, and my summer cold, I strive to channel my grandmother.  I’m pulling a “Nana”, though; I texted a friend and told her (truthfully) that I trusted her to come help with my housework and not judge me.  She’ll be here at 1.  It was hard to ask, but I did it, and I think Nana would be proud of me.

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

My maternal grandmother and her family of origin: John, Conrad Sr. (my great-grandfather) known as “Dad”, Bibiana (my great-grandmother) known as “Mom”, Raymond. Second row on either end: Cooney (Conrad Jr) and Adalbert. Top row: Lawrence, Isabelle, Bibiana, Johanna (my Nana), and Frank Ulz. Gillespie, Illinois.  Thanks to my cousin Adell Ulz Morton (daughter of Lawrence, so my mother’s first cousin)  for the identifiers.


The Corley Heart


I got to Adventist Lodi Memorial Hospital via an over-caring Coast Guard nurse practitioner and an efficient ambulance crew.  For my over-night stay, I think I can credit my Corley heart. I arrived back at Angel’s Haven with a sling, a new secondary diagnosis, and a common cold. I’m okay with all of this.

The original fall which should have resulted in a visit to an urgent care occurred in Chicago. My son offered to take me but the stubborn nature which goes with that Corley heart resisted. I muddled through the last night of my visit, the arduous trip home, and two days of work. Then I had the honor of helping with an event to Showcase local art in the California delta. That undertaking spelled my temporary demise. Fatigue overcame me. I have no one to blame but myself. And I’m not complaining because it worked out all right in the end.

On Saturday, toward the end of the event, I took another stumble and now I’ve got more medication and a new appreciation for the neighbors who surround me in my tiny house Community as well as people I barely know who came to my rescue and appeared in the emergency room to make sure that I had what I needed and got to where I needed to be. (♡ Robin & Don Wisdom.)

There are a lot of things about my life which can only be described as inenviable. However, the fact that Angels appear everywhere I need them compensates for a lot of shortfalls in the existence which I had managed to cobble together.

My overnight stay in the hospital flowed from an irregular EKG during the ambulance ride. The ER doctor took no chances and suggested with a fair amount of firmness that I should stay. As a 24-hour observation patient, I got accelerated treatment, special consideration, and a great deal of attention. They made their deadlines and my ride arrived a mere 24 hours, one day, a tiny slice of my life after I departed from the Delta Bay Marina on a stretcher.

By the time I got home, I realized that whatever else life might bring, it has certainly brought me an appreciation for the kindness of strangers. From that Coast Guard nurse practitioner to the lady who cleaned my room and told me about her divorce, everybody whom I met had a smile, a willing nature, and an unflagging dedication to my comfort. What more can a woman ask?

It’s the 16th day of the 69th month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.

I finally mastered the art of left-handed scrambled eggs.


Finding nice

An injury brings out the good in people.

The number of tasks that a right-handed person can’t do with an injured right shoulder surprised me.  But nice crawled out of the woodwork to hold the slack.  My son, his girlfriend, the couple sitting next to me on the plane:   Each contributed to the relay of my psyche from anger at my clumsiness to acceptance of temporary increased incapacity.

Put aside the Thrifty car rental guy whose scripted English had no flex.  Avert your eyes from the wheelchair transporters reaching for a tip.  Ignore the gate attendant screaming in the ear of the lady next to me whose lack of understanding stemmed from language, not deafness.  Smile.  Take your seat.  Let the man in the Vietnam Vet hat break down your walking stick and the lady across the aisle in fur boots nestle your arm with her soft-sided carry bag as the bustle of a full flight threatens your stability.

I almost made a clean getaway from the Midwest but turned right as my inner ear turned left and smacked against the shine of my son’s hardwood floor.  He stood by with grace and calm as I quivered and swore.  Eventually, I hoisted myself to the couch.   We inched our way to the train station, collected his friend, then parked outside the restaurant.  A good time followed.  Twelve hours later, my son drove the rental car to Midway and I journeyed back to California, arm wrapped in a make-shift sling, Arnica and acetaminophen at hand. 

The zealous baggage handlers overloaded our plane.  We failed the weight test.  People had to be ousted and did not go calmly.  Freight got jettisoned.   An hour flight delay ensued.  Eventually, though, we lifted from the runway.  Four hours later, touchdown in Sacramento, and so my drift towards the two-year anniversary of my sojourn in the Delta begins.  I’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do.  I foresee an early hibernation.  Stay tuned.

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

Taken from the car en route to the airport. Goodbye, Windy City.  See you next time.



All Pearls / No Swine

Just like that, I’ve turned sixty-four.  I learned that people do indeed still need me, and, thanks to my sister Joyce and my friend Jeanne, I know that they will also still feed me.  

Over my shoulder, the Missouri winds its perennial way in wide arcs around the city of St. Charles.  In a little while, I will trade my computer bag for the camera case and walk down to its banks.  I want to capture a glimpse of the river of my childhood for my friend Demi, who daily shares such glowing images of hers. 

A half-hour east of here, the Missouri flows into the Mississippi.  At the confluence, the charming ghosts of my younger self and her brothers scamper ahead of a weary woman who has put aside her cares long enough to entertain the second half of her brood.  She rests on a bench while they gather the debris of a picnic lunch.  The autumn sun shimmers on the water; the treetops sway in the healing breeze. On the way home, the kids will beg for one last glimpse of the Piasa bird.  The woman will complain, but she’ll stop anyway.  She’s like that.

The memory of her generosity has not faded, more than fifty years gone.

My perfect Birthday Bash & Benefit for Rose Brooks Center continues to garner online donations.  We won’t know the total for a few days, but from what I can see, we’ll surpass my expectations for this modest version of the earlier events.  I’m already planning for 2020.  I tried to count the attendees  in retrospect.  I found 39 to tag on Facebook, and many of my friends disdain social media.  Still others brought spouses, friends, partners, or children.  The steady flow from beginning to end guaranteed that survivors of family violence know how much we care about their recovery.  I could not be more pleased.  I always fear that my events will fail.  The first half-dozen appearances mean the most.

Thanks to the $64.00 worth of raffle tickets donated to me by the lovely Ms. Vicky DeStefano, I won the pearl necklace.  I snatched it without shame.  Its smooth surface had transfixed me when the raffle maven slid it from its velvet bag.  I stuffed every one of my gifted tickets into the bucket in front of the beautiful bauble.  Karla, tending the table, warned everyone that I had done so.  Other prizes might have had a higher retail value but none pleased its winner more than this.  As a second gift, I claimed a copy of “Naked Toes”, the volume of poetry by Sara Minges.  I feel quite victorious.

Gazing on the pile of birthday cards which I collected as I greeted my guests on Thursday, I realize that this might be the best birthday ever.  What more could a woman want besides having sixty of her friends come to a benefit for her favorite charity, hug her on their way into the room, and sing Happy Birthday with the band?  Throw yourself a birthday bash, people; as long as you include a charitable component, people will come.

As I gather my gifts to safely stow them for the various side trips which I’m taking before heading west, I recall a book which my mother had us read decades ago.  Its plot followed an imaginary time traveler who came into the time of Jesus Christ and found him to be a simple child, plagued with something unidentified which caused mental retardation.  The protagonist, a devout Catholic from the 20th century, felt compelled to follow in the steps of the Biblical Christ, unto the Cross, not knowing if he carried anything like the divine spark which would let him rise, reborn, on Easter morning.  He put a great deal of faith in the God of his youth.  The name of the book?  Pearls Before Swine.  

I have no fear of making such a mistake as casting any cherished thing before the unappreciative.  Only pearls surround me; there are no swine among the faces in this crowd.

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

Many Happy Returns of the Anniversary of Her Auspicious Birth to Jane Williams; and to my heavenly aunt Dode, aka Joyce Lyons Orso.  Two fine woman who share a birthday!

My thanks to everyone who honored me.  I love you all so very much.

Stay tuned for a final tally of the proceeds of the benefit for Rose Brooks Center.   It’s not too late to donate and be included in the benefit total; just click on the DONATE link at their website, and tell them it’s in honor of the Corinne Corley Birthday Bash & Benefit.

Or give to a center in your town.  Or volunteer.

And remember: 

If you or anyone you know struggles with the terrible burden of family violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7/365 at:




Birthday Bash & Benefit for Rose Brooks Center

Good afternoon, from tLoft on State Line Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
On Thursday, September 05th, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., I will stand in front of several score friends and invite them to join me in raising funds for survivors of family violence.  It seems as though I have been doing this for decades, and in truth, I have.
You might not know this history.  In 1977, I got a job as the assistant to the lobbyist for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis.  Our mission was to secure passage of the Adult Abuse Remedies Act, which we did in the spring of 1980, just before I started law school.  That legislation gave Missouri victims of violence and stalking, the remedy which they needed to get  a civil restraining order with criminal penalties for violation.
During my time at LSEMo, I was privileged to help form the Missouri Domestic Violence Coalition and author its newsletter for two years.
In 1983, as a young attorney, I volunteered at the original Rose Brooks Center.  I taught a workshop to its clients on “Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence”.  From that day forward, I’ve done what I can to help survivors, both adults and children, including serving as a guardian ad litem for children in foster care due to abuse or neglect.
From 2013 – 2017, my cohorts and I hosted an annual fundraiser in the public art space that was “Art @ Suite 100”.  Our principal charities were SAFE HOME in Kansas and Rose Brooks Center in Missouri.  Last year, from California, I did a Facebook fundraiser for Rose Brooks Center.
This year, my friends offered to help me reprise the benefit for Rose Brooks Center. Will Leathem at Prospero’s gave me the venue.  Karla Hull, who had run the raffle for the last few years, promptly volunteered to do so again.  Poet and therapist Sara Minges swiftly started gathering donated wine. My eternally optimistic friend Cindy Cieplik joined the crew, as did Kimberley Kellogg.
I’m here, now; in Kansas City.  Sitting at my old table at tLoft.  I’ve eaten an over-priced but tasty gluten-free vegetarian “bowl” and I’m drinking chilled water.  I feel “of this place”, yet not really a part of it any more.  I drive the streets and everything seems familiar, and yet, I’m clearly a stranger.  My rental car has Iowa plates, which I find somewhat ironic.
But I’m here.  Tomorrow I will stand in front of everyone who attends the “Birthday Bash & Benefit“, and I’ll ask them to buy raffle tickets and throw coins in the mason jars scattered throughout the room.  The lovely Angela Garrett-Carmack and her handsome husband Jake Carmack will entertain us.  The Hon. Martina Peterson will share views from the bench as she has done the last several years.  We’ll pour wine, lay out the cheese  &  crackers, and remind everyone how blessed we are if we do not live in fear.  We’ll raise money, but we’ll also raise awareness, I hope.  Katy McCoy from Rose Brooks Center will be there with information about their programs.
At past events, we’ve seen powerful connections.  Victims have sought solace and advice.  Widowers have donated their wives’ clothing for the clients of Rose Brooks.  Tears have been shed, including mine.
My siblings, my mother, and I, experienced the terror of domestic violence before it had a name or an industry.  No social worker came to call.  The police did not arrest my father, because they could not make a warrantless arrest on a misdemeanor and they could not get a felony warrant.  They “talked” to my father; they encouraged him to “sleep it off”.  Once they took my mother away in an ambulance, while we children stood frozen amid the shattered glass of the French doors through which my father had thrown her.  I was five years old.  I have never forgotten that evening. It was my  parents’ wedding anniversary.
Somebody once told me that he assumed that I had exaggerated the stories of my childhood, if not completely fabricated them.  I could only stare at him, dazed, confused.  I did not.  I think only someone who has experienced family violence can believe its contours, its devastating impact, its complexity.  I turned away from his disbelief.  I continued with my life, with the healing that only time and distance can bring.
When I first started working in the field of domestic violence, one of the few books about the subject was titled, “Scream quietly or the neighbors will hear”.  I completely get that.  Those years of silence nearly destroyed me.  For the latest forty years, I have been searching for my voice.  I have found it.  I will be silent no more.
I ask you to join me in supporting this important cause.  Give to Rose Brooks Center; or to a domestic violence agency of your choice.  If you need help, remember, there is a way.  Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.  Help is near.  
I hope to see some of you tomorrow evening.  Thank you for your patience in reading this long missive.  Be well.
As always,
Corinne Corley
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