Monthly Archives: March 2022

Oh, not much. You?

30 MARCH 2022.  Dateline, the California Delta Loop.  Countdown, T-16.

Between now and 15 April 2022, here is what I have to accomplish:

Edit an article for next week’s Rio Vista Beacon.  Design ad for same.  Deadline, Friday, 01 April 2022 and it is not lost on me that the timing coincides with April Fool’s Day.

Work for a living for nine eight-hour days.

Have lab work done.

Get my vehicle’s belated smog test.

Drive to Modesto to retrieve a small settee which I purchased to replace the oversized French provincial loveseat which I sold.  Hand-off a cedar storage drawer to a friend while in Modesto, along with several bags of clothing to donate to her not-for-profit which works with a hundred homeless families in Modesto.

Drive back home and get the settee into the house.

Do laundry.

Make a supply list for the season opener Sunday Market of which I’m a volunteer manager, buy such supplies, and touch base with each of the twenty scheduled vendors.

Clean out the storage cubby on the back of my house to figure out why the bottom is falling out of it.

Coordinate the volunteers for the Sunday Market’s Spring Market.

Market the Market.

Rise at 7:00 a.m. on 10 April 2022 to set up and then host the Spring Market.  Coordinate breakdown and clean-up late that day after standing on my feet for ten hours.

Resume work-week.

Take down all of the art and decor in my entire house.

Pack all of the dishes in my entire house.

Take all of the mementos out of my mother-in-law’s antique secretary and pack them.

Stare at the antique secretary and try to figure out how to stash it to protect its gorgeous glass from breaking.  Implement the conceived solution.

Call my propane company and arrange for the relocation of a 100-gallon leased tank.

Call my satellite company and arrange for the relocation of a dish which I foolishly let them concrete into the ground smack-dab in front of my tiny house.

Gather all of my outside plants.

Pull up two sidewalks.

Unpost a porch.

Batten the hatches.

Tie down the sails.

Stand back and watch as the park guys take up the porch, deck, plant-stand, all of the extraneous stuff on the outside of my house, and the flag pole which broke in a Delta wind last December and now waves from my trailer hitch announcing “Peace” in twenty-five languages.

Shudder as they put air in tires which have been sinking into the Delta soil for fifty-two months.

Bite my lip as they hitch my house to a tractor and pull it forward into G-Row, and then hold my breath as they back it into the neighboring lot.

Then reverse all the unpacking, removing, shifting, sorting, and securing.  Unbatten the hatches.  Rehang the flag.  Repost the porch.  Re-settle the plants.  Stash the dishes, straighten the cupboards, and unwind the secretary from six yards of shrink-wrap.  Find an antique metal “7” to replace the “8” on my house.  Hang the angels back on the door.  Straighten the wreath. Thank the propane guys for reconnecting the tank, the satellite crew for resituating the dish, and the park staff for engineering the move.  Settle the new settee.  Then sit in my rocker on the newly secured deck and gaze at the sunset from Lot G-7, next door to G-8 which will soon be a pit where a new sewer line is to be laid.   

Four years and change in this spot has been good; but life begins anew with a fresh perspective on 15 April 2022, one click to the east.  

So that’s what’s up with me.   You?

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

Angel’s Haven on 10 November 2017, the day it arrived at Park Delta Bay.  I’m standing next to my builder, Kevin Kitsmiller.  He and his wife Kim drove my tiny house from Missouri to California.




My mother and I stared at each other across the length of the bedspread covering her frail body.  Neither of us spoke.  Finally, I eased my body down onto the corner of the mattress farthest from her bony and breakable legs.  I shook my head.

The cancer which her hapless gynecologist had mistaken for female hysteria spread to her bones after the botched hysterectomy which required additional healing and delayed treatment.  Earlier in the week, an X-Ray technician had broken one of her arms transferring her to a table for radiation.  Or maybe it was a wrist.  Either way, Mother had snapped that she was done.  They needed to let her go home and enjoy, to the extent that she could, whatever time remained.

I arrived by dinner the following Friday, a half-court day for me.  I had dragged my weary self across the state to do my shift and give my St. Louis siblings a chance to tend to their children, housework, or beauty sleep.  On Saturday, I helped my mother get clean and she noticed my careful maneuvering.  You’re so thin, she observed.  Do your legs hurt a lot today?  I couldn’t deny it so I stayed quiet, dusting and straightening her vanity, wiping its mirror.  I turned to her and smiled, saying, I’m fine, Mom; besides, I’m offering it up for you.

She gasped and responded, Oh no!  I’ve been offering my pain up for you!  Do you think we cancel each other out?  

We gaped at each other for a few minutes before I sank to the bed and burst into the giggles that only mothers and daughters can share.

I thought of my mother offering up her pain for me a lot this winter.  My degenerating back plagued me.  The spasticity in my legs seemed to worsen.  I gained more weight and struggled to keep myself from falling on stairs, curbs, and rough pavement.  All the while, I heard my mother’s gentle voice, asking me if I was all right and telling me that she had chosen to silently endure her pain to buy me a few more indulgences.  

By the time my mother died, the cancer riddled her brain and she wailed in the night, begging for mercy.  Yet in her conscious moments, she reminded me, I’m still your mother, and she held my hand, told me that she loved me, whispered that everything would be all right.  I believed her then and I believe her still.  Because of my mother, I’ve got a fistful of get-out-of-purgatory-free cards, and a golden ticket to paradise.

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

My mother and me, at the Bissell House in Jennings, Missouri, 1970.  Always and ever my favorite photo.

Call and Response

Every year a pair of owls returns to a nest high in a tree on the far side of the park in which I live.  We hear them swoop through the night sky and call across the meadow as the sun sets.  As their babies grow, we hang from the porch of an old park model to snap photos with our long-range lenses or fancy iPhones.  We post the pictures on our residents’ page, wary of being more public with their location.  We fear that the sightseers will flock to our community even more than they already do, coming to stare at the tiny houses and the occasional lingering wild peacock.

A few days ago, I mentioned to one of the ladies that we soon should see babies in the owl tree.  She frowned and said, we noticed a bunch of crows making a commotion up there the other night.  Apparently it’s a thing crows do — attack owls.  I strained to remember if I’d seen or heard the pair.  It seemed to me that for the last few nights I had only heard one mournful set of hoots after the other, without the mimicking answer.  I began to worry.  

I drove the circle after work every day this week, craning my neck out the window.  I thought of stopping to ask one of the couples who lives near the nest what they’ve seen.  Mostly I fretted.  How dare those crows disturb the seasonal return of our owls!  For three years, those two have given me hope.  They herald spring.  When I see them, I know that the rains, however meager they have been, will soon vanish.  The winter winds will die down.  The buds will appear on my gardenias and my Japanese maple will unfurl its tender leaves.  The overhead growth will thicken but through the branches we will spy the owlets drowsing in the nest beneath their mother as their father soars across the park to distract predators.

This evening as I sat on the porch, I heard the warm ripple of an owl’s call.  i strained to hear, holding my breath.  Then the great male owl landed on the branch overhead. I ran for my camera.  He began his evening serenade.  Suddenly, I heard an answer, sweet and sure, ripple through the air from a nearby tree.  I waited, my camera raised and ready.  Then, as the light began to fall, she came and settled on the branch above him.  One after another they hooted into the evening air, first him, then her — call and response.   I closed my eyes and listened for a long minute to the duet of these lifelong mates, singing together in a towering oak above my neighbor’s house.

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


If falling were an Olympic sport, I’d take gold.

I once fell headfirst into the bush alongside my front steps when I went outside to get the paper at 5:30 a.m.  My neighbor Marcella Womack found me a half-hour later and pulled me out, clucking and chuckling in turns as I giggled my relief.

I toppled backwards on a Westport sidewalk in Kansas City when my friend Alan White stopped to look over my head into a shop window as we strolled with our arms locked.  He glance down at me and quipped, Don’t you have reverse?

I tripped going across the stage at both my high school and college graduations.  My mother couldn’t believe that I didn’t fall crossing  to get my law degree.  When I took the stairs offstage on my bottom, legs akimbo, she thought, That’s my girl!

You’ve heard these stories at length before now, I’m sure; over coffee, in this blog, in the long-running Saturday Musings.  But did I ever tell you about dumping my baby, groceries, pocketbook, and my own damn self on a sidewalk in front of our regular grocery store?  The entire cart tipped sidewise.  Food rolled down the street, followed by coins, lipstick, eyeglass cleaner, and other assorted debris that we women insist on carrying in our handbags.  As I lay on the cracked, dirty curb, my hands still gripped the cart.  I stared into the wide orbs of my baby’s eyes.  The strap had held:  He barely wobbled as passers-by flew to our rescue and righted him.  

I gasped my gratitude, over and over, while my angelic baby smiled and cooed at the attention from little old ladies sure that they should call Social Services and report his dimwitted parent.

Yesterday nearly went by with no mishap.  I started the day in a good mood. I visited with a friend; consulted with cohorts; and took myself out to breakfast on the way to Lodi to buy groceries.  As I continued east, I got the idea to stop at Goodwill and look for old iron pieces for my yard.  A pleasant half-hour later, I headed back to my car with one of the regular clerks, an amazingly cheerful man named Melvin, walking beside me to help unload my purchases.

Melvin and I started laughing the minute we hit fresh air.  He called me ma’am and I said, Oh you don’t need to be so polite with me! and he grinned and unwittingly used one of my lines:  That’s how I was raised!  I started to add, And if I don’t say please and thank you, my mother rolls over in her grave — when suddenly, the world turned sidewise, taking me and my cart with it.

I scared the living daylights out of Melvin.  He wrung his hands, then calmed himself and urgently asked how he could help.  A woman ran over shouting that she was a professional caregiver and she would get me up!  I used my calmest voice to assure them that I was uninjured, could manage to hoist myself, please, let go of my arm, please!  The lady stepped back, only slightly offended.  Melvin said, You got this, you can do it, and surely enough, I did and I could.

A few minutes later, my purchases loaded in the car, I turned to Melvin with the warmest thanks I could summon.  I asked him, Can I give you a hug? and we embraced.  As I drove away, I scolded myself for not taking a photo of our radiant faces.  But I shall not forget the relief on his, nor the sincerity in his voice as told me that he would look forward to my next visit.  I believed him. I cannot imagine why, but I know he will be glad to see me walk through the door, especially if I manage to stay on my feet.

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



Looking for peace on the San Joaquin

The last two weeks have left my stomach in a constant state of turmoil.  Though I am not Ukrainian and only know a few Ukrainian people back home in Missouri, I awaken early with thoughts of President Zelenskyy’s safety driving me to tremors.  I scroll through Reuters, AP, the BBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, looking for the most accurate information and the keenest insight in commentary.  I tell myself that I cannot control what Putin does to the Ukrainian people or its democracy but I find myself reading the updates from World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders, and ShelterboxUSA to understand their efforts.  I calculate what i can spare each week to help in any small way.  I post sunflowers on my Facebook page even though I realize such efforts have little meaning.

Yesterday morning I left early for work.  Productivity sometimes calms me.  Since I cannot control the crisis in Ukraine, I reasoned that I could tackle the stack of files on my desk.  I drove through the sweet air of the Delta, where spring already seems possible.  I rolled down my window to hear the song of the geese as the flocks cut through the cloudless sky.  The air danced around me as  I slowed for the hairpin turn just west of my home.  I glanced over to the deep-channel curve in the San Joaquin and gasped.

A ship!  My landlocked Midwestern soul still thrills at the sight of the silent, slow-moving giants.  I pulled into a layby and reached for my camera, aiming its rudimentary zoom lens to capture the turns and forward motion of the heavy freighter.  I clicked, and paused, and shot a few more frames every couple of minutes until the cargo vessel made its way to the closest stretch of river.  I took one last photo and then just studied her as she eased past.  

I started the engine but left the vehicle in park as I spotted the ship in my rear view mirror.  For a few more minutes, I let the wonder of such seemingly effortless voyaging distract me.  When I finally engaged the transmission and pulled back onto Brannan Island Road, my heart felt just a bit lighter.  I did not make it to work early after all.  But I found a few minutes of peace on the San Joaquin, in the California Delta, on a gentle March morning, far away from the terrible toils of war.

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

There are 41 photos in this slideshow.  If you click on them, you will see the titles.  I labelled the first one “LPG on the SJ 1”.  The numbered photos stop at “LPG on the SJ 40”, followed by, “LPG on the SJ last”.  I mention this so that you can look at this MAP of where I live.  I shot these sitting on the east side of the road right after the 90-degree turn in Brannan Island Road west of Park Delta Bay.  I used my Canon’s zoom lens to see the ship as it made the curves in the San Joaquin.  I was sitting adjacent to the slough which leads to Brother’s Island Marina and Owl Harbor.  I find the experience of watching these ships eerie; it looks as though they are traveling on land or in the shallow sloughs because you are looking across the river islands with a clear sight of the ship’s passage downriver.

Family Heirlooms

After my father’s mother died, my own mother brought a few trinkets home from the nursing home where she had spent her last days.  Though Grandma Corley had once had a lot of lovely pieces, the Corley girls of my household got mostly costume jewelry.  But somehow, my mother came away with a cameo and a locket that she believed belonged to my great-grandmother Corinne Hahn Hayes.  Somebody apparently thought I deserved them, being named after her.

I held the items in my hand for a long time, sitting at the breakfast room table while my mother washed dinner dishes.  The cameo had been broken.  It had no back but even  at eighteen I understood it to be valuable.  On the other hand, the locket seemed to made of brass with an enamel painting on the front and slightly damaged filigreed edges.  I ran my finger over its surface and then put them in my pocket.

They’ve traveled with me ever since then, to inner-city apartments, to Boston, home to Missouri, to Arkansas, and back to Kansas City.  Twenty-years ago I started wearing the locket on a silver chain, with a picture of my son inside.  One day during a trial, the chain broke or the locket fell off; I can’t recall quite what happened.  I scurried around looking for the thing, with a few people helping me and the judge letting us take a little break from testimony so we could find it.  

The client’s mother said, Let me put that on a better chain for you, and took it home with her.  A week or so later, she stopped by the office with my locket clipped to a long green string of beads which I took for plastic.  I thanked her and took it back, and have worn it that way ever since.  Occasionally I open the back and study the snapshot of my son’s face, thinking about his childhood, wondering how he’s really doing, 2500 miles away in the windy city.

I never met my great-grandmother.  She died in 1944.  I have pictures of her that suggest a formidable personality, but that could just be how they posed in her time.  I think I look like her a little, maybe.  I study her face and wonder what she would think of me.

A while back, the string of beads gave way to the shenanigans of a cat that I had for a few weeks.  I frantically searched for the locket, which had skittered under a cedar chest.  I commissioned my friend Rachel Warren to create a more suitable piece for the locket, gave her my thoughts, and patiently waited, with only a few opinions solicited and voiced back and forth.

She brought the finished work to me this weekend.  She had also repaired the chain made by my client’s mother, which turned out not to be plastic but a type of Jasper, to my infinite embarrassment.  I held Corinne’s locket to the light and watched the new beads shimmer.  When I opened the tiny oval door on the back, my son studied me with his child’s knowing eyes.  I smiled at my friend as she sat across from me in a rocking chair that another lovely comrade here in the Delta gave me.  Rachel might not have known this, but I could barely hold back my tears.

I didn’t inherit riches, or land, or a house filled with saleable antiques.  I have a garnet pin from my mother, miscellaneous china and silver-plate which once belonged to my maternal grandmother, my mother’s Cub Scout Den Mother pins and Defense medal, and Corinne’s cameo and locket.  I don’t need much more than this to remind me, now and then, that I come from a long line of strong women.  When life overwhelms me, I shall don Corinne’s locket, tilt my chin a little higher,  put my best foot forward, and keep walking.

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