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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:

800-799-7233

#ThereIsAWay

 

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
 
CC Rose Brooks.jpg
 
 

#BeingHere

Recently someone back in Kansas City messaged and asked, among other things, “what it is like living in a park?”  I pondered for a delicious while, but I could only think of one genuine response:  “Exactly like you would think.”

The spiders merrily spin their webs over my succulents, the side of my house, and the stair rail on my porch.  I splash water and wield a broom,  striving to keep pace with their earnest endeavors.  I don’t mind their efforts; everyone needs a place to gather their resources and rest on a warm afternoon.  Overnight, the Delta winds barrage my walk with shards from the trees, splinters of leaves, and scatterings of petals from wildflowers in the meadow.  I sit with my coffee in the rocking chair and smile.

On evenings when I feel strong enough, I stroll the perimeter of the  five acres on my side of the park.  Halfway around, I close my eyes and let the breeze wash over me.  The willows rise into the tender sky.  The air carries a soft scent of grass mixed with the heady fragrance of river silt.  No perfume from the finest counter in the cities of Europe could please me more.

I cut across on the footbridge and climb the hill behind my house.   I pause halfway to study the row of tiny houses, remembering its skeletal appearance when I first arrived.  Now a half-dozen tiny houses flank my home on either side.  The fullness of the summer trees shade us; the meadow forms our backyard.  

What’s it like living in a park?  Being here feels like home to me.

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

Angel’s Haven sits on the far right in this photo.

 

 

Don’t forget, KC folks: 

I’ll be in town this week for my Birthday Bash & Benefit for Rose Brooks Center.  Check it out on Facebook HERE.  05 September 2019, 6pm to 9pm, at Prospero’s upstairs venue,  on 39th Street in Kansas City, Missouri.  If you can’t make the event, but want to donate to the cause, you can find Rose Brooks Center HERE.  Tell them it’s in honor of my birthday.  Our contact is Katy McCoy.  Or give to an agency of your choice which helps survivors of family violence. 

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with family violence, you can get it HERE.  There’s always a way.

 

 

Out beyond

Most nights the whimpering of my neighbor’s dog wakes me two or three times.  I listen to its sorrow manifest as small low moans and short yips.  I don’t know if it yearns to be inside or if strains to run with the coyotes in the meadow.  I fall asleep wondering.

Two days ago, a motor’s roar broke my sleep.  From the volume and nearness, I knew it had to be a big rig, come into the park late, its owner scrambling to settle.  A Class A, perhaps; or at least a large truck pulling something heavy.  I drifted in and out of consciousness, wondering why they didn’t shut down, hoping they had not gotten into trouble, wishing for silence.

In the morning, the noise had not abated.  As the sun rose, I came fully awake and realized that no one would leave their motor on til dawn.  I stood, looking around my tiny house, perplexed.

Then I began to laugh.

One of my trusty metal 14-inch fans had vibrated until it touched the banister leading to my writing loft.  In turn, the vibration of the balustrade had traveled to the upright, which had set the floor of the loft to a low rumble.  That floor forms the ceiling of the daybed chamber where I struggled to sleep despite the constant hum.  In my dazed state, I had mistaken the tiny efforts of the little fan to right itself for a new, inconsiderate neighbor running an engine for hours.

Last evening as I sat on my front porch, I glanced in the direction of the road, beyond which lies the San Joaquin.  The sun had eased itself to the horizon, its rays rising from the river bed like flame on dry timber.  I watched until the glow faded, then went into my little sanctuary and closed the door against the chill of the Delta night.

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

Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field.  I will meet you there.      –   Rumi

 

A Shameless Pitch for Joy

Now that I have your attention with this beautiful shot of a sunset in the far end of the meadow at Park Delta Bay — taken from my front porch — here’s what I want you to do.

Stand.  Walk over to a window.  Gaze on nature.  If you’re alone, wrap your arms around yourself and remind yourself that you are lovable and capable.  If you are with someone whom you love or who loves you (or both), enfold them in the circle of a completely unbridled embrace, and tell them how you feel about the gift of their presence.

This is my shameless pitch for joy.  I want you to close your eyes, and allow the tension to ease from your body.  Open your heart to the possibility of this moment, the only space of time which you know for absolute certain that you will have.  Savor every breath which follows the one you have just taken.  Let each inhale, each exhale, bring fresh air into your heart and excise venom from your mind.

If you have pain in your body, know that I understand.  If you dwell beyond my gaze, outside the reach of my voice, listen for the flutter of the angels’ wings.  Allow their softness to ease any ache, any twinge, any searing agony — wherever these plague you.

Joy can be yours.  I’ll tell you about one small, silly event from which I trace a decades-long journey to that stunning and simple realization.  Many years ago, my staff and I got involved in a distasteful piece of litigation.  I needed the money; I had a child to support and my health flagged.  We served as honorably as we could.  On one occasion, I managed a telephone call involving about ten plaintiffs’ attorneys, all out for the blood of my client.  One lawyer hollered that I stood between them and victory, and that I was, in the process, withholding information to which he thought himself entitled.  “I’ll file a motion for sanctions against you, PERSONALLY, Ms. Corley,” he bellowed.  I smiled over the speaker phone at my friend-and-assistant Alan White.  “Mr. Poland,” I replied.  “I’ve been shot at, run over, raped, robbed, and given up for dead.  I think I can handle a motion for sanctions.”

You can handle what life brings to you.  Find the angels, in every manifestation — human or animal, or the celestial souls who hover over you as night falls.  Find the strength inside you.  Remember:  I am here.  Send me an email if you need a few words of empathy or support.  I’ll answer.  You can message me at: ccorleyjd@gmail.com.  I’m not going anywhere but forward, one foot at a time.  I can pause to give you whatever time you need.

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

Don’t forget, KC folks: 

I’ll be in town next week for my Birthday Bash & Benefit for Rose Brooks Center.  Check it out on Facebook HERE.  05 September 2019, 6pm to 9pm, at Prospero’s upstairs venue,  on 39th Street in Kansas City, Missouri.  If you can’t make the event, but want to donate to the cause, you can find Rose Brooks Center HERE.  Tell them it’s in honor of my birthday.  Our contact is Katy McCoy.  Or give to an agency of your choice which helps survivors of family violence. 

If you or someone you know needs help dealing with family violence, you can get it HERE.  There’s always a way.

In Memory of Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley

To Mother, Who Has Gone Home

It is morning. Around me a dim room.
My cousin’s house. Last night
And the night before, we talked too late;
last night we picked scriptures.
We laughed over my story
of my sisters and I choosing your
casket, which, you’ll be happy to know
comes with a warranty. But no vault, so
to dust ye shall return. I sleep
on a sofa. It is 7:00 a.m. and I
am afraid. In Kansas City, my
soon-to-be-ex-lover is just
finishing his workday. I dreamed of
your death, and now lay panting,
thinking of your stretched skin, your
cold hand. Beads of sweat rise
across my forehead. We have
all known it will be today
because Sunday you said: I am
waiting for them to come, and the eldest
of your children arrived only hours ago.
And then it is 7:30 and the phone rings
And my sister says Mary it is time to
come home and I know, and the
sun rises but you are gone and
we do not see.

c. C. Corley 1985 – 2019

I believe this is my mother’s graduation picture.

IN MEMORY OF LUCILLE JOHANNA LYONS CORLEY
09/10/26 – 08/21/1985
GONE HOME TOO SOON BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN.