Monthly Archives: March 2023

Pain Scale

The image came to me last night in the midst of a haze between coming fully awake and trying to claw back down to the depths of sleep.  The pain would not let me be.  I surrendered, finally, and allowed my mind to drift upwards.  I saw it then:  A brass scale, like that held by Lady Justice on the steps of every courthouse that I’ve haunted over the last forty years.

I squinted at the stacks of weights sorted in ascending order:  One ounce, two ounces, all the way to a pound.  I let my mind drift.  My legs twitched.  The muscles in my calves contracted into hard knots.  I reached for the heaviest weight and placed it the right side of the scale, which instantly crashed to the desk beneath it.  One pound, I murmured into the dark of my tiny house.  Sixteen ounces.  That’s how much this pain must weigh.  I figured myself to be dreaming.

Through the murk, I reflected on the rest of the shiny disks.  One plus two plus three plus four plus five plus six.. . . Each little brass weight slightly bigger.   I suddenly realized that the combination of the fifteen remaining weights would tip the scale.  I grabbed the pile and chucked them onto the left-hand side of the scale.  That thing clanged right down!  If the pound weight represented my pain, each of the smaller weights must be something else in my life.  Friends, my son, my career, my writing, travel, the glorious ocean.   The cumulative heft of them far surpassed that damned blob on the right-hand platform.  One plus two plus three plus four plus five plus six plus seven. . . 28. . . plus eight. . . 36. . . plus 9. . . 45. . . plus 10. . . 55. . . plus 11. . . 66. . . plus 12. . . 78. . . plus 13. . . plus 14. . . plus 15. . . 120 ounces altogether.

The sum total of my life outweighed the measure of my pain by 104 symbolic ounces.   

I let go of my wakefulness and fell into a dreamless slumber.  I woke just before dawn to the sound of a gentle rain dancing on my roof.     In the cold morning air, my legs ached just as much; my calves still cramped against the slight weight of the comforter.  I struggled out of bed and eased myself down the stairs.    I thought about the pain scale.  I found myself listing everything that I had placed in the left tray; the measure of my life, wildly more significant than the everyday inconvenience of my disability.  When I passed the heart-shaped mirror above my little  dresser, I caught myself smiling. 

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Do you think they might be arguing? Perhaps one of them got out of the wrong side of the nest this morning.

If you want to learn more about my book, check out the website HERE.

What It’s Like

In my son’s childhood, we tried to use a “swear jar”.  Mostly for the adults, the Mason glass jug sat on the keeping shelf as a warning for our foul mouths.  My then-husband and I avowed to insert a quarter for each uttered profanity.  My son had to contribute something less, since most of his “swearing” consisted of mimicry.  The haul would be donated.

We filled the container many times.  The act did not cure us of swearing, but it gave us a nice pool of change if we ever needed any.  Once in a while, we’d dump the coinage into another container and send a check to Habitats for Humanity.  We kept using the curse words of which we yearned to divest ourselves.  I still do.  I’m often reminded of a little tin button worn by a colleague at the Ag law firm where I worked in Arkansas.  In tiny letters, the badge proclaimed, “Sometimes You Just Have To Say ‘What the fuck?'”  Indeed.

Though the swear jar did nothing to tame my vocabulary, in retrospect, it gives me a rueful idea.  I should have carried one with me all these years and collected a quarter for every person who queries about my ‘walking problem’.   I’d be retired now, instead of still slaving away with six inches of grey roots and increasingly weak legs.

I have never understood the license that people seem to accord themselves when confronted with someone of a different ability level.  I strive to quell my grumbling about their ineptly articulated curiosity.  I have encountered this unsettling proclivity from coast to coast, year in and year out.  I’ve responded with various levels of acrimony.   Only children and the patently gracious get a straight answer, though for the youngest ones, I pick an explanation that allows me to reinforce road safety.  “I didn’t hold my mother’s hand when I crossed a busy street, and I got hit by a car,” I will say, bending to their level.  All true; but the incident, which happened during my second year of law school, only explains about 10% of my issues.  The kiddos inevitably stare and reach for their care-giver as they assure me that a similar folly would never befall them.  I mentally dust off my hands and inwardly smile.  Another tiny life saved.

Children often ask if my mommy kissed the boo-boo on my leg.  The youngest, least-inhibited among them pat my closest appendage.  A few wrap their small arms around my legs and try to heal me with their own affectionate bestowals.  I assure those little doctors and nurses that their ministrations help the situation.  I feel so much better, I cry, in a small but cheerful voice.  Their radiant smiles linger long after they skip away behind their parental units, the latter of whom often apologize if I’ve been offended. I fervently assure them otherwise.  

With adults, the charitable aims do not ring as true.

Numerous “tiny house influencers” have made their way to my minuscule doorstep to interview me.  I’ve become the poster child for sustainable living “in spite of” a disability.  On my own YouTube channel, the most-watched clip addresses challenges living in a tiny house despite my disability.  Clearly, the idea of life as a gimp fascinates folks.

For myself, I find the fixation on my wobbly legs mystifying.  I consider the manner in which I matriculate the earth’s surface to be the least interesting aspect of my persona.  My writing takes center stage.  The experiences that life has afforded me sits second on the list.  Personal philosophy formed by those experiences allows me to maintain lively conversations.  Stop me when you’ve heard enough!  

Putting aside my serious response to the gentle queries of children, I gauge my answers by the intent of the inquiring adult.  The focus on my disability seems to stem from two diverse considerations.  Half of the folks who want to know about my medical condition hold a look of smug self-assurance in their eyes.  There but for my superior genes go I, their gaze informs me.  The other half shine with genuine compassion and interest.  How do you cope; and what can I learn from your perseverance, they ask, in less direct but equally clear language.  

I feel like someone’s lab experiment.  I want to say, let’s talk about the weather — Rainy where you are?   I want to point out that I’ve coped with so many greater challenges.  I can’t list them, lest my enumeration should read like lament. Oh, don’t get me wrong!  Living as a disabled person in an ableist world frustrates me.  I decry the barriers over which I daily stumble.  But I also disdain the pitying glances that inevitably make their way across the street as I climb the curb.  So many times, people have judged that I fall beneath their notice because I walk with what my ex-husband once described to his daughter — whom I had not yet met — as a “gimp in [my] get-along”.  How much I would rather he have raved about my wonderful writing, my dazzling smile, my prowess in the courtroom,  or the smattering of adorable freckles across my nose!  I suppose he thought he had to warn her, like cautioning that I might be contagious or suddenly break out in a chorus of Broadway song.

What it’s like living as a disabled person apparently intrigues so many.  For my part, I strain to fit myself into an able-bodied box.  I’m unabashedly ambulatory.  I’ve only recently, and due to the development of a new and progressive condition, started regularly using a walking stick.  For years, I imagined that I looked more normal without a cane, despite an unending supply of blunt remarks to the contrary.    Like my crooked teeth, my wild Syrian curls, and my short stature, the wobble in my legs should be just another quality that draws little attention.  

As I near my seventieth year, along with my quest to live complaint-free, I strive to accept anything about myself that cannot be changed.  I can’t make myself less disabled despite sixty-five years of effort.  Instead, then, I’d like to make myself less intolerant of my disability and of the often hurtful reaction of others to my condition.  I’ve not attained either goal as of yet.  But I’m still trying.  And, to paraphrase the now-famous words that might actually have been uttered by Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley, while existence persists, there’s room for improvement.

It’s the twenty-second day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Many thanks to all who’ve purchased my book.  You can directly purchase it from me HERE.  If you have already read it, would you kindly go to my site and leave a review?  Thank you!

In Which A Tiny Redemption Rescues My Day

I drove home from the Bay area with the sense of dejection that always dogs my heels as I head east from the ocean.  I had not glimpsed her in my two days, though I had hovered near her voice.  Rain hung over the city.  The clouds did not break until the morning of my exit.  But my time had run out.  I averted my eyes from the rise of blue above me, and headed for the Delta.

That evening, over a glass of wine with a friend, I recounted the news, both  the good and the dreary, from my two days of doctor visits.  Then she spoke of her winter travels.  I longed to hover in the wind on her heels as she moves along the coast.  I’d wrap my arms around myself and lean against the bumper of her trailer.  I’d press my cheek against the cold glass and let myself drift lulled by the endless sound of her wheels on the road.  Freedom would become my mantra; cares would fall from my shoulders.

This morning my neighbors invited me to a St. Patrick’s Day lunch.  I threw together a pot of herbed potatoes and pulled my one green sweater over my head.  As I stood in our community room, a bunch of little dogs scampered around on the tile floor in their festive bandanas.  We ate cilantro rice, and cheese-covered chips, and delicate sprinkles of micro-greens.  I never tasted such splendor.

Later I drove to Lodi for groceries.  One clerk tried to sell me yams when I wanted purple potatoes.  I tilted my head and tried to discern whether she didn’t know the difference or thought she could fool me.  One of her cohorts came to my rescue, guiding me around the produce section until we determined that they didn’t have what I sought.  His good-natured spirit lifted mine.  His clumsy colleagues forgotten, I headed for home with bags of good food, a few liters of Icelandic water, and high hopes for a cup of tea on my porch in the afternoon air.

But traffic slowed to a crawl behind an accident.   I watched as flashing red lights swiftly maneuvered around us to the damaged vehicles.  One car door hung open.  I closed my eyes, clung to the steering wheel, and whispered a prayer for the unknown fate of the humans within the bent metal.  My mood sank.

The sound of the radio drew my attention.  A young voice, telling of her experience performing with a singer whose background her parents had to explain.  I lifted my phone from its cradle and scrolled through the internet until I found the twenty-minute piece.  Then, stuck behind a long row of waiting vehicles just outside of Lodi, the magic of one man’s music into which he drew a small group of high school students carried me away.  By the time the first responders began to let us through, the day that had nearly been ruined glittered with rapturous redemption.

It’s the seventeenth day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Monday at the Bay

On Monday afternoon, I left work at a few minutes past one and headed to the Bay.

One of the unexpected advantages of living in California and as an employee rather than an employer has been the potential for paid sick leave, which California mandates.  I’ve chosen to use some to finally visit an eye doctor who might understand the optho-neurological implications of my weird existence.  I haven’t had functioning glasses since I left Kansas City.  Every eye doctor whom I’ve seen to date could correct two, but not all three, of my vision fields at the same time.  I’ve opted for glasses that allow me to drive and recognize faces.  For everything else, I squint.

But I got a lead on someone knowledgeable.  By way of the kindness of strangers, I got a referral, a review, and then an appointment.  This doc sees children and adults with my particular disorder.  I’m hopeful the waiting room will have at least one Mugwump-sized chair.

The hostels have re-opened for solo travelers.  Ft. Mason’s one has an ADA suite, and I’m sitting at its kitchen table watching the light rise over the Bay.  Earlier what I took for a reflection on the window proved to be a boat passing with its sail unfurled.  A gentle rain touches the glass now and then.  

This wing has two guest rooms.  The other one has at least two occupants, one of whom seems a bit fuzzy about reality.  The other speaks very little English.  I heard her trying to buy laundry soap from the front desk.  Frustrated with his simple explanation of the amount required for the exchange, she finally handed him a bunch of folded American dollars.  He gingerly extracted two and slid the rest back toward her.  She’s lucky this place hires mostly woke young libs who wouldn’t dream of cheating her.

Sitting near the east-facing window yesterday, I spied an ancient outbuilding in front of which a brave row of surprise lilies fluttered in the wind.  I thought about my friend Samantha and her proclivity for photographing rusty tractors.  I couldn’t help but turn my cell phone’s camera toward the sight.  Hopefully Sam will see the picture and know that she’s on my mind.

Later I sat at a picnic table and watched people stroll down to the public marina.  Dogs and babies outnumbered the grown-ups.  I could see the clouds gathering to the west.  Sunset would happen on the edges of a foggy roll of rain.  I sat for a few more minutes, watching the traffic weave itself around the rows of buildings rising to the sky.  Later, I slept as I always sleep near the voice of my Pacific: deeply, long, and without interruption.

It’s the fourteenth day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I took the six photos in this gallery with my cell phone.

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Thank you.  Be well.



March Moon

Parked in my vehicle with the motor and heat running, the window down, and the nip of  March air surrounding me, I must have looked ridiculous to cars passing on the levee road.  I did not care.  just as the voice of the Pacific calls me, pulling me toward her more often than time allows me to relent, so, too, does the bright orb in the midnight sky pull my eyes upward.

I have not skill to capture her glory, nor words to describe the peace that I find in her glow.  As I ease the car into drive and make my way back to my tiny house, I watch the moon in my rearview mirror.  She continues to smile upon me as I park.  I take my stick in hand.  My weight falls on its length and I tightly grasp its handle.  I place my feet with care  on each stone of my walk, then climb the stairs to my porch.    All the while, the light in the spring sky guides my steps.  I close my door against the night air, but fancy that the moon has lifted herself into the southern sky, that she might join my feeble porch light in keeping watch as I sleep.

It’s the seventh day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

The Kind Moon, by Sara Teasdale

I think the moon is very kind
To take such trouble just for me.
He came along with me from home
To keep me company.

He went as fast as I could run;
I wonder how he crossed the sky?
I’m sure he hasn’t legs and feet
Or any wings to fly.

Yet here he is above their roof;
Perhaps he thinks it isn’t right
For me to go so far alone,
Tho’ mother said I might.

All the loveliness

Chance drew me outside this morning shortly after the rain spent itself.  I had purchased new plants to stage on my garden trellis.  My friend Dani would come, later, and pot them for me while I stood by and endeavored not to get in her way.  But an inexplicable desperate insistence  urged me into a wool sweater and through the open door before my second cup of coffee.

Eventually, I staged the project for her deft ministrations.  But first, I held my breath, reached for my camera, and captured an astonishing sight.  Too far from the water, an egret perched on a branch high over our meadow.  To see such splendor, I gladly stood in the morning chill, my coat not yet buttoned, my hands reddening from the last sting of the night’s biting wind.  A cloudless sky rose above the towering tree.  Eventually, the bird would take flight and with any sort of luck, find its way back to the marshy banks and the drifting clouds of hyacinth just beginning to bloom out on the river.   

Far below the lofty path of that majestic being, I went about my humdrum morning.  But you can be sure  I kept the loveliness of that egret with me for every hour of this cold March Sunday.

It’s the fifth day of the one hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Barter, by Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

The epitome of privilege

I spent a luxurious three hours in town today, drinking wine and eating small bites of fruit and crackers from a china plate.  No war waged around me.  The cost of the fare made no difference to my budget.  My phone never rang with demanding creditors or devastating news.  No one arrested me.  I spoke my piece on whatever subject came to hand with no social or political repercussions. 

When I returned to my home, I stood beneath the stars photographing the moon.  I left the door open without thinking about the flow of warmth trickling outside.  I moved the car backwards and parked in the middle of the road so I could get a better shot without standing.  When I had finished, I went inside and chatted on the phone to one friend while scrolling through messages from my siblings.  Soon I will sleep, rise at will, grind fresh coffee beans, and boil bottled water for my morning brew. 

Evenings like these remind me how privileged I am, to live in peace,  to have ample food and adequate shelter, and to make a decent living in exchange for my efforts.  Whatever trials or tribulations I might lament, on balance my days pass with little conflict and with comfort beyond the reach of millions of people on this small planet.  I have never felt this so keenly as I did this evening, standing in my warm clothes, secure in the fullness of my belly, doing nothing more challenging than gazing skyward. 

Certainly some would point to the meagerness of my material goods and call me impoverished.  I realize wealth is a relative calculation.  In response, I would gesture to the moon and smile.  True enough, I have never had the kind of bank account that anyone would envy.  But oh,  can they not see how rich I am!  I have a thousand stars, and each one of them brightly shines  just for me.

It’s the fourth day of the one hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I believe the slightly blurry orb is Jupiter; and the two twinkling lights are Jupiter and Venus.  If I am correct that Jupiter appears to be higher this evening, then the slightly blurry orb by itself in two of the photos is definitely Jupiter.  It is the upper body of the two seen in the western sky tonight.  The other photos are the nearly full moon.

Taken 04 March 2023 with my little Canon PowerShot on “auto” , above Park Delta Bay, in the California Delta, on the levee road which runs along the north bank of the San Joaquin.

Thank you for reading my blog.  If you have not yet purchased my book and wish to do so, please note that every month this year, I will be raising money for worthy causes. 

A percentage of all sales for the rest of 2023 will be donated to nonprofits, with a different charity chosen each month. 

Check out my website to learn about this month’s cause

If you have purchased my book, please consider visiting my shop and leaving a review. 

Thank you. 

I Meant To Do My Work Today

I woke this morning under the weather in a vague, undefined sort of way.  Like Yossarian, I didn’t get better or worse.  With the memory of last Friday’s intensity still lingering, I decided to do nothing much of anything for a few hours and see if things improved.  I suppose the fact that the park’s waterlines had burst so that I couldn’t shower contributed to my malaise.

 I ate some eggs and chucked the pan into the growing mound awaiting restoration of the water flow.  A few hours passed in which I did nothing more challenging than watching a couple of YouTube cooking videos and writing a few brief emails.  As I ate lunch, I booked my flight to Missouri for a writer’s workshop that I’ve been asked to present.  All of these small efforts could have been finished before nine but I stretched them into mid-afternoon, when an alert from the office announced that water would soon be gushing through our pipes.  Oh happy day!  

By five, I realized that I still felt a bit punk but my outlook seemed to have considerably cheered.  Then it dawned on me:  After seven consecutive days of working to a mad frenzy, I had just given myself a generous reward.  Down-time.  I opened the front door and stepped into the warm air.  For a long moment, I gazed upwards at the tender blue sky.  We might get rain next week, but today wore itself as a proud precursor of a glorious spring.   

I drove around the circle watching the scrub jays flit from roof to roof.   I got a package from the office, then started back, slowing for a line of crows pecking at the road.  I went the long way and chatted with a few of my neighbors.  As I parked in front of my tiny house, I realized that I no longer felt the least bit sick.  In fact, I suddenly felt rather fine.

It’s the third day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I Meant to Do My Work Today
by Richard Le Gallienne

I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?


Thank you for reading my blog.  If you have not yet purchased my book and wish to do so, please note that every month this year, I will be raising money for worthy causes. 

A percentage of all sales for the rest of 2023 will be donated to nonprofits, with a different charity chosen each month. 

Check out my website to learn about this month’s cause

If you have purchased my book, please consider visiting my shop and leaving a review. 

Thank you. 

In Which I Might Yet Live

As a child I did not embrace the inevitability of happiness.  I never perceived myself as the Cinderella type.  I accepted that if I ran from a ball, I would trip and tumble over my shoes.  Buttons would pop and scatter.  Silk scarves would flutter skyward.  Tucking my scarlet face into my trembling hands, I’d stagger home.  A whipping for disobedience awaited.  The prince would shake his head at the folly of the peasants and sail at dawn for a majestic kingdom with its delicate princess.  My little friends would gather round, chirping their sympathy, weaving wreaths of wilting roses to console me.

Most of my life went much like that fractured fairy tale.  Flashes of relief did light the dreary corners.  While I didn’t get the picket fence, the perfect marriage, or the ten children, my son never disappointed me.  I got to help a few people along the way.  I hosted some amazing art shows.  I collected a stellar portfolio of friends, even if most of them matriculate on distant paths.  I determined to allow myself the comfort of contentment.

The last five years changed my perspective.  I realized that I had not yet lived, because I had never been the first car in line behind the gate slowly closing for the lifting of a drawbridge.  I had not yet lived, because I had never strained to catch a glimpse of egrets resting on the branches of a tree in the quiet air of a sleeping marina.  I had not yet lived, because I had still to pull into a swathe of pear trees to watch the sun set over a mountain. I had not yet lived, because I had never tightened my lens to see a sweep of snow on that same peak, a lady who watches over us with her perennial grace.

A few years before I moved to California, a woman of my casual acquaintance started calling herself a “bright sider”.  The sound of that appealed to me.  I tried to wear that label for a while, but eventually it seemed too artificial.  But the deeper into the California Delta my roots dig, the more possible happiness seems.  The ocean will always draw me; and by and by, I hope to rest in the comfort of her lullaby.  In the meantime, though, I have a life, and I might yet come to live it.  As I stopped to photograph those egrets this morning, one of them looked right through my windshield.  I swear to you, he winked at me, before turning to strike a steady pose.

It’s the second day of the one-hundred and eleventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Thank you for reading my blog.  If you have not yet purchased my book and wish to do so, February will be a good month as it’s the first month in my new campaign to raise money for worthy causes.  A percentage of all sales for the rest of 2023 will be donated to nonprofits, with a different charity chosen each month. 

Check out my website to learn about this month’s cause

If you have purchased my book, please consider visiting my shop and leaving a review. 

Thank you.