Monthly Archives: July 2020

Saturday the Nth of Anytime

I have let too many days go by and succumbed to far more excuses for not writing than I should have allowed myself to employ.  The simple truth suffices.  I have been using every spare moment to organize and chair a Sunday Market at Park Delta Bay.  What spare seconds hover between those tasks have been consumed studying for the California notary exam.  After all, I have passed two bar exams.  If I flunk a 30-question notary test, I will be wildly and heavily embarrassed.  So time has passed since last I wrote here, and it could be the nth of any  month for all I know.

In addition to these duties (addressed in the evenings when I am not working), I have been editing a collection of excerpts from my original blog, the Saturday Musings.  I know that some of you have been wondering if I truly intended to publish it.  The answer is, yes ma’am, yes sir.  Unfortunately, I had composed each entry directly to the internet blog site.  Therefore, I had no word version.  I downloaded them and they downloaded in reverse date order.  I had to “flip” them, and then cull them down (multiply ten years times 52, and that’s how many there are).

My idea is to publish a collection of 52, roughly four per designated month, five in the longer months.  The collection spans the golden years of that blog, from 2009 – 2012.  After 2012, so many awful things occurred in my life that the blog got a bit maudlin.  So I have focused on what I believe are the best entries.  Beyond that, I would like to have some visual art with which to illustrate them.  While I search for suitable illustrations, I need to find an editor.  All of this takes time.  But at this point, at least, I have a working  manuscript. 

As though all that were not enough, I have attempted to launch into a campaign of self-healing.  From a practical standpoint, I gained 15 pounds in the last year — or maybe 20 — and that weight must be shed.  It greatly impacts my ability to walk.  But deeper than that, I have spent hour upon hour in personal reflection.  After all, the desire to change propelled me into this blog in December of 2013.  At the time, I wanted to change to save my marriage.  That did not work.  I should have known it wouldn’t, but nonetheless in the most honest moment, I admit that the desire to repair that relationship compelled me to tackle my shortcomings.

Failing that, I have spent the last seven years embracing change for its own sake.  I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be.  I was told at the outset by someone I loved that, and I quote, “people don’t talk that way”.  Well, I beg to differ.  I’m a people, and I talked that way.  My goal is now, as it was in 2013 – 2014, to be the best version of myself that I can be.

This requires me to examine everything I do and say.  When I err, I approach the person with whom I engaged outside of my preferred behavior.  Though Marshall Rosenberg did not embrace the word “apology”, I find it convenient as a term of explanation.  In his terms, I identify behavior that did not meet my need or the other person’s need.  In my specific case, I articulate that behavior and pledge to the person that I will choose different behavior in the future.  It is easier to call that an apology.  Sincerity drives mine.

I also look for joyfulness and for opportunities to dwell in joy.  That pursuit challenges me.  Therefore it takes substantially more energy than anything else.    But the pay-off — oh, the pay-off!  My journey to joy has many lovely rest-stops.

But the journey itself seems lonely at times.  I find many folks prefer a simpler existence.  My life cannot be called simple.  The complexities confound me at times.  But as my Nana cautioned, I keep putting my best foot forward.  I hope and pray that when I stumble, my guardian angel will leap forward to cradle me and ease the impact as she has always done.

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

Situation normal

Every so often, the city lures me.  I head west to the edge of the nation.  The song of the sea would be enough, or the soft caress of the morning fog.  I slowly stroll along the closed stretch of the Great Coastal HIghway with my walking stick and my crossbody satchel.  Bikes fly past followed by small sturdy children on scooters.  I trudge down the pavement, with the ocean’s voice in my good ear and the wind on my face.

Yet another young specialist has delivered an uncertain verdict, with echoes of the circles and arrows and paragraphs explaining each of the fluttering pages on the sterile desk.  This one had a more fervent tone.  He didn’t snap in my face, or touch my knee, or crinkle his face and call me “Missus Corley”.  He spoke with perfect grammar.  But he had no more answers than any other whiz kid, nor more certainty than the venerable oldsters.  He offered even fewer solutions than most of them: a drug that I do not like and probably will not take; referral to an even more esoteric set of scientists; and fulfillment of my request for another round of neuro-physical therapy.  He gathered his sheaf of papers with its twin reports — one study of 18 persons, another of 6 — in total, a tale of 24, of whom this nice fellow thinks, maybe, I might be one.  The twenty-fifth. 

With two more, I could be a study.  Maybe I’ll stand in the street.  I’ll binder clip the print-outs and accost passers-by from behind my stay-safe surgical mask.  You could be in a cohort,  I’ll urgently say, to anyone with even the suggestion of a gait like mine.  

Not bloody likely.  

We did not shake hands, the doctor and I.  Nor the med student, though she walked with me to the elevator and made small talk.  I left the hospital and took my stroll along the oceanside, trying to find a cut-away that would take me close enough for a photo without having to climb a sandy berm with my unsteady legs.  I had to walk for thirty crippled-girl minutes, then thirty more back to the car.  Fatigued but determined, I navigated the streets of San Francisco to a pre-selected destination for what promised to be a perfect vegan dinner.   

Mid-feast I got a new waitress, and a little vessel of sea salt which the otherwise exquisite plant-based, gluten-free pasta dish desperately needed.  Hailey served a wonderful gelato so luscious that I had to ask twice if she guaranteed that it had no cream.  She laughed as though she’d answered that question a thousand times but she admitted that she had just started working at Wildseed last week.  She gestured to the sidewalk booths.   Some had been part of the original restaurant.  Some had been built since the world stood on its ear and everything moved outside.

After dinner, I walked on the grounds of Fort Mason.  In the past, I would have stayed at the hostel there but it had not yet re-opened when I made my reservations.  I rested on a bench and watched the fog roll across the bay.  I breathed the freshness. I watched the clusters of friends walk across the grass.  It struck me that life has returned to normal; a new normal, possibly.  One in which you cannot see the lower half of anyone’s face; where you do not shake anyone’s hand; and where you have to laugh a little louder and smile with your eyes.

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

Feels Like Home to Me

I bought my first house in 1989 in Windsor, Arkansas:  Two-thousand square feet, half unfinished, on three or four acres with the south fork of the White River running along the back edge.  I loved it, but I fled back to the city when a high-risk pregnancy threatened the loss of the surviving baby of the twins with which I had begun.

My second house sat on a maple-lined street in a sleepy neighborhood in near-south Kansas City, just west of the city’s infamous Troost Blvd but three stop lights east of the high-dollar neighborhoods.  I loved it, too.  I raised my son on its hardwood floors and its screened-in porch.  Three of our pets lie under the garden in the side yard.  My heart broke and mended in a rocking chair in the pine-clad upper room with its cathedral ceiling and wide windows.

Grief-stricken from a difficult divorce and craving a fresh start, I stripped my belongings to the bare essentials and boxed it all inside an 8 x 24 tiny house on wheels.  I parked on a lot on the south side of a meadow in Park Delta Bay on the San Joaquin River.  I live in a circle of other dwellings in which people have chosen to live a nontraditional life.  Our side has a dozen tiny houses on wheels and a couple of trailers.  Across the bridge over the creek sits a row of RVs, a converted school bus, a 400-square foot tiny beauty, and a few rag-tag trailers that have seen the backside of better days long gone.

In each of those dwellings, hearts of gold beat out a joyful rhythm.  Stalwart souls rise to meet challenges, cancer and corona virus and heartache and loneliness.  These people who live around me breathe, and cry, and shake the dust from the hems of their jeans when they come into their rigs after a walk on the grounds.  They saunter up the levee to see the sunset.  They sit at dinner and patiently wait as their neighbor spins a long tale, waiting for an opening to show support.  They  cultivate succulents, they trim basil and spend hours making pesto in their compact kitchens.  They show movies on a sheet draped down the side of a house.  They hand buckets of popcorn around to everyone settling in for the show.

And they rise to any occasion — oh, how they rise!  They lend a hand, an ear, and a dollar.  They haul tables when you get the crazy idea to have a Sunday Market.  They flip burgers because, well, I’m a vegetarian, aren’t I? And even my son would scold me if I played with fire.  They bake goodies to sell to raise money for a poolside umbrella so their friends can enjoy a warm cloudless afternoon.  They scoop ice cream in the heat and serve bottled water to visitors, and walk along the Market pathway admiring the local creativity.  They show up.  They take names.  Then they kick off their shoes and jump in the water and let the weariness of the day fade from their muscles.  When the cool of the evening settles around them, they start planning the community dinner for Bastille Day, and next Sunday’s Market.

I have been asked many times if I saw myself living in an RV park when I decided to go tiny.  The truth?  I did not.  But these people — Louis, Helix, Pattie, Candice, Noah, Robin, Bill, Jason, Tammy,  David, Jackie, Carol, Gerri,  Wayne, Joe, Alex, Travis, Josh — and all the rest — they feel like family.   I miss my son, and my families in Missouri both by birth and by choice.  But after two-and-a-half years, I can honestly say, this feels like home to me.

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



Monday’s Child

I would like to say that I resisted the onslaught of labor which threatened to bring about my son’s birth two days ahead of his planned delivery because of the old children’s verse about Monday’s child.  But I did not.  I started into labor early on July 06th.  A C-section had been scheduled for July 08th, six weeks before full term.  When my contractions grew close enough for concern, the midwife checked me into the hospital early Saturday evening.

The names for female functions often irritate me; and so too did what they called an entire eighteen-hour saga.  “Unproductive contractions, my dear,” intoned the midwife in her Irish accent.  I took it calmly enough until midnight and then began to roundly protest.  I had good reason for not wanting my son to be born on the 7th, the birthday of his absent father.    But the midwife would not stop my labor for sentimental purposes. I lay in the bed for another four hours with periodic glances into the region of the most evident unproductiveness.

I slept for a few hours. They gave me medicine and sent me home at noon, with instructions to present myself, as scheduled, at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning.

And so Patrick Charles Corley came into the world on the 08th day of July, 1991, with a calm disposition.  Today he turned twenty-nine.  In the last year, his life has changed in immeasurable ways of which I will not here speak because they happen to be his story to write.  Suffice it to say that even when I miss him, even when I wish that I had turned north instead of west with my tiny house in tow so as to be nearer to him, I know that life holds promise for my son.

I’ve given him whatever start I could muster.  I’ve taught him by good example and horrible warning.  In recent years, I’ve cautioned him to glean more from the nuances of my failures than the tinsel of my successes; more from the character of people of whom I’ve shed myself than the worth of the few to whom I cling.  You could say that my greatest gift to him has been permission to analyze whatever I have shown him and do the opposite.

I wanted a girl. I wanted a  husband, 2.6 children, a three-story house, and a Buick station wagon.  I longed for the apparent normalcy in which I saw other women cloak themselves — ice tea in tall glasses on a wide wraparound porch; summer evenings with a soundtrack of cicadas; croquet on the lawn, church on Sundays, pot roast in the oven, and white saddle shoes.

I got a little boy who made faces when I cried so that smiles would emerge from behind tears; who tied his shoes in double knots and buttoned his Boy Scout uniform to his chin; who told me that God must be the glue which held the world together and that he would annoy me until I turned 103 as I nagged him every day along the way.  My boy collected coats for the homeless, wrote stories about sorrowful teenagers and papers about the US China policy, and called me from his first semester of college to thank me for teaching him perfect grammar.  He weathered his scrapes large and small.  He has stood between bullies and their victims.  He has marched for fair housing, safe streets for college co-eds, and an end to police brutality.  He speaks his mind but without cruelty.  He has never stopped fighting for justice, equality, and liberty for every person, of every ilk, in every last corner of America.

I could not have gotten a better son.  I could not be more proud, more humbled by what he has become, what he has done without asking for fanfare or accolade.  He took the meager heritage that I handed him, and spun it into strands of silver, gold, and glory.  My greatest honor remains the privilege to have born him to this world; my greatest regret might be that I did not have more to give, and left him to forge ahead with so little armor.  But he has done far more than I ever dreamed, and with a certain grace that takes my breath away.

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

In Berkeley, 2018.

In Chicago, 2020.



Duckfeet, Big Ships, and Missing Robin Williams

The half-moon shone her pale mask through the fading blue of the early evening as I drove home yesterday.  I slowed my car, groping for the camera that I had not thought to bring in the rush of morning.  I let my eyes record the fade from the grey edge to a ribbon of gone midway.  Then I continued home.

After the Tuesday Community Dinner — the second since we resumed, the last until we can return — I stashed my folding chairs in the car and headed to the end of G-Row for movie night.  I had never attended before yesterday.  My neighbor Louis had scheduled a special showing of The Birdcage in honor of Pride Month.

I’ve previously seen the movie, but never in the company of a half-dozen or so gay friends from a lawn chair in a meadow at a tiny house community in Northern California projected onto a sheet via YouTube.  As darkness gathered and the mosquitoes followed, we laughed, we held our collective breath, and we whispered to one another.  Oh, I had forgotten this part. . . What’s “palimony”?. . . Such a good actor!  We applauded the wicked little gesture with which Albert launched his most clever scheme to save the day yet again.  We sighed as the wedding scene unfolded.  We loudly applauded through the credits.

Afterward, I struggled to my feet, and reached for the arm of the young man next to me, asking for help back to my car.  His partner moved to my other side.  Thusly championed — Alex to my right and Travis to my left — I made my ginger way.  

What year was that movie, Alex asked.  I thought a minute, during which Travis supplied, Early nineties, I should think, which I affirmed.  

God, I miss Robin Williams, Alex softly admitted.  Same, I replied.


A brutal work day followed my late night.  I’m clearly too old to hang with the twenty-somethings, even for such a golden opportunity to observe a clutch of cultural icons.  I struggled through the tedious hours as well as I could.  Back home, I fetched a parcel from the lockbox and slung my camera over one shoulder for the trudge from parking spot to porch.  

The package turned out to be my latest attempt at shoes in which I can actually walk, this time a pricey pair handmade in Denmark.  I drew my pale blue Duckfeet from their swanky box with its leather handle, inserted the separately purchased orthotic, and buckled them over my lily white spastic feet.  Back and forth I paced in the slim corridor of my home.  Maybe.

As night fell again, I remembered seeing a ship making its way from Stockton to the sea as I dashed to Rio Vista this morning.  My camera had been on the seat beside me.  I grabbed it from its case and tarried at the bend in Brannan Island Road, straining to capture something of the wonderment.  Come evening, I scrolled through the SD card, studying the slightly blurred images.   One or two might do, I told myself, sliding into my desk chair.

Simple gifts offset the burdens of my life:  The occasional thrill of beholding masters at work; the comfort of a sturdy pair of shoes; and the sight of a freighter making its ponderous way down the San Joaquin.   There could be other rewards ahead.  If I hold steady, I might see them still.

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