Monthly Archives: February 2016

In which I go back to counting blessings

The perplexed man sitting in front of me held out various pieces of paper constituting the mess left to him after the sudden withdrawal of his attorney.  I stared at what he had brought, dismayed.  In my business, we often assume that the serial retention of counsel signals what we reference as the PITA client — i.e. “Pain In The A@@” client.  Not so this time.  Instead, the attorney bolted on the heels of an interim suspension which seems likely to be quickly followed by disbarment.

I gently laid aside the documents and discussed the status of the man’s case, as well as my view of the attorney’s conduct.  I silently thanked my mother, my uncle Bob who was an attorney, and all my mentors for giving me the moral basis that has kept me walking a fairly straight path for sixty years.  The gentleman listened, expressed his gratitude for my time, and left my office.  My shoulders sagged.  Oh how the mighty have fallen.  And there, but for the grace of God, go I.

I’ve made court appearances on two cases, prepared an account of the disgraced lawyer’s conduct for the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, and had lunch with one of my favorite people on the planet, Pat Reynolds.  Work sits next to me on the walnut, glass-topped desk in my comfortable auxiliary office in Liberty.  I have a luscious cup of coffee  and I just nibbled a square of chocolate.

It’s the eighteenth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.   I’ve resumed counting my blessings.  Life continues.


On the wall behind my desk. From the hands of Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley.



I awaken to a request for reference from the city of Raytown on a woman whom I know professionally and greatly admire.  At the computer keyboard, I struggle to fit my answers into their little boxes which my eyes cannot actually see.  I have not yet shaken sleep or stretched but I feel a sense of urgency.  I know this woman’s situation; her agency lost a major contract and what colleagues have not abandoned the ship will soon drown.  I give her the high marks and heavy praise that she deserves and then begin the rest of my day.

I have not excelled as a self-employed person.  But my mornings belong to me if I need them.  I can schedule coffee, tarry at home, or do a load of laundry.  Unless I have court, I usually set my first appointment no earlier than ten.  Trade-offs have plagued me.  I get no paycheck and weeks, sometimes agonizing months, can pass with barely enough revenue to survive.  But I cannot complain.  No one will ask me to clean my desk and take myself off the premises.

The radio blurts a story about art fraud and another about the discovery of an old Spanish colony.  I don’t see the connection; nor do I care about either.  An earlier interview talked about the desirability of having an African-American Supreme Court nominee.  I don’t think that should be the question of the candidate named by the President and considered by the Senate.  I want a Supreme Court justice with intelligence, knowledge of Constitutional  law and precedent, and a firm dedication to equal protection.  The idea of a deadlock on the high court disturbs me.  The gridlock in Washington haunts me.  But I control neither, so I push those worries aside and turn off the radio.  I close my eyes.  I begin to stretch, to let the tension fall from my shoulders.

It’s the seventeenth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  The world might not be sane.  But my life continues.

Never-ceasing amazement

I posted something about the current political / legal situation on social media yesterday and triggered a flood of responses.

I have a rule about posts on my Facebook page.  Everyone must maintain respect towards other posters or I delete their comments.  I delete comments which agree with me or disagree with me — makes no difference.  If the person leaving the comment attacks another person who has commented in the thread, I delete their comment.  I do not make exceptions.  I do not want anyone personally attacking one of my friends or acquaintances via my Social Media accounts.

The human capacity for nastiness never ceases to amaze me.  This tendency knows no boundaries.  I hear persons of all social bents, all political leanings, all ethnicities, all religions, leveling personal insults at one another both face-to-face and in the virtual realm.  I know that I’ve done that in the past but I’ve abandoned that tendency with a vengeance in the last three years.  A public figure can be blasted though I would prefer no name-calling.  But at least they volunteered for notoriety, fame, or infamy.  The rest of us just want to voice our opinions.

I’ve compiled a list of words that I particularly ban on my Facebook timeline when thrown against the average Jane or Joe.  That list includes:  Moron; moronic; stupid; the “R” word (I can’t even type it); any profanity; and any word that casts another in a negative light based on their ethnicity, heritage, gender, gender identity, religion, or physical condition.  I have no problem with disagreement or debate.  I do not condone name-calling and do not tolerate it.

I’m not complaining.  I just set that rule.  It’s a line drawn in concrete.  The world needs balance, which requires at least two points of view.  I accept that.  I reject the notion that we have license to castigate people whose views differ from ours.

Okay, I suppose I can see the possibility of natural limits to my restriction.  Child molesters, known abusers, rapists, murderers — I guess if you called someone from one of those categories a nasty name, I’d be tempted to let it go.  But even so:  Why?  Why not just recite the facts?  We can draw conclusions from facts without contemptuous rhetoric.

Another arduous political season descends on us.  The last such season left deep rifts between me and people whom I really love, but whose political views differ from mine.  I shrank away from debate then and I’ll dodge debate now, though  I do not disguise my views.  I’m a liberal Democrat.  I believe in government assistance.  I’ve been accused of being a Socialist. I didn’t mind the label, though the bitterness of the accusation wounded me.  I will never be Conservative.  But I have friends and relatives who are Conservative and I will fiercely protect them from personal attack.  We need love; we need harmony; we need to find common ground and fix the world together.

That view might not be popular and this entry might cause some who follow my blog to wrinkle their brows.  You might ask: Where is the homesy-folksy story about living a joyful life?  But these emotions rise within me today and bubble over.

I accept that others disagree with my views.  I accept that others will try to change the minds of people with polar-opposite positions.  Just don’t name-call or I will call you out, even if I concur with your political or social views.   I have seen enough sadness in a house divided.

Music pounds loudly in the background at the little restaurant where I’m hiding between court appearances, Succotash.  I watched a family struggle to come together despite their differences this morning.  This afternoon, they will need to present a united front in court, or hard choices will present themselves.  These problems transcend the question of liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat. Drug use and homelessness of two parents threaten the lives of their children, and that, to pararaphrase Isaac Beshevis Singer, poses the potential for catastrophe.

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

Challenges; Monday morning, six a.m.

I’ve had a thousand conversations in my head with people who think they know me but then behave towards me in ways to which I react so strongly and so negatively that I have to leave the room  just to avoid blurting out a stream of vile complaint.

The disconnect between what I will find pleasing or acceptable or tolerable, and what people who claim to know me believe will be pleasurable, acceptable, or bearable astounds me.  I find myself wondering if I know them as well as I think I do.  Does this glaring disconnect go both ways?

Even now — even after two years of exploring the concept of nonviolence and living complaint-free, I need to take myself by the scruff of the neck, march myself into a closet and scold myself.  Your reaction is your CHOICE, I admonish myself in the imaginary mirror.  They meant well!  They wanted to do something nice for you! They had no idea how you would react.

And therein lies the rub.  I know my sister Joyce has developed a late-life, severe peanut allergy.  Exposure to peanuts could be fatal.  Would I give her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?  Uh, no.  What if I had not been paying attention?  What if I focused so little when she spoke, that I did not recall her stories of urgent situations when someone brought peanuts into her environment?  Would I be at fault if, in my self-engendered ignorance, I served PB&J when she came for lunch?

I turn my contemplation inward.  I ask myself, does intent redeem the fumble?  It might not, if I gave Joyce peanuts but should it, if someone says or does something “that upsets me”?   I use quotes here because NVC eschews the cause-and-effect relationship of your action and my reaction.  So, someone acts in a manner contrary to what will fulfill some emotional need of mine.  I control my reaction.  I choose my reaction.   I choose how I view the actor; I choose what I feel inside.

I strive to choose to value the actor and set aside their action, even though it does not meet my emotional needs.  A challenge, to be sure.  But my goal nonetheless.

Monday morning, six a.m.  I’m awake.  I’m reviewing my life.  I’ve slept poorly, as I always do.  I’m thinking of people who’ve reached out to me and accidentally torn open a small corner of a healing wound.  We all experience this.  We all do this.  We tell ourselves to forgive.  We tell ourselves, they meant well.

I rise and start my day’s stretches.  My muscles have contracted in the night; stretching extends their useful life.  As I reach,  I expand my chest cavity, taking in a full measure of air.  Then I release that breath in a long, slow, full exhale.

It’s the fifteenth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  One step forward, two steps backward.  But still moving.  Life continues.


Eyes To See

When I first returned to Kansas City in 1992, I started having my eyes examined at Gerry Optical in Brookside.  Dr. Patrick, the optometrist at that location, took note of the neurological issues that impact my eyesight.  He’d greet me warmly for each annual visit.  In the course of the session, he would say, kindly, There’s going to come a time when your eyes require a neuro-opthalmologist.   When I feel I’m not qualified to prescribe for you anymore, I will let you know.

That point arrived about five years ago.  I sat in Dr. Patrick’s chair, shivering, exhausted.  My eyes had changed so much in the three weeks between the first exam and the readiness of  the new prescription that we had to do the whole process again.  I had been answering questions for forty-five minutes — better or worse? one or two? five or six? — and I could no longer clearly see the chart.

Dr. Patrick came back into the room with a Styrofoam cup of tea.  He pressed the warmth into my hands and I drank.  It’s okay, he said.  We’ll make some glasses with the best prescription that I can determine, and then get you to a ‘real’ doctor.  He said that.   He actually said that.  The man had no arrogance.

For the last few years, I’ve had tri-focals.  I often struggle to see the computer.  Thankfully, they can get the distance plane right so I can still drive. At the end of a long day, I have to take off my glasses to read, holding the book right by my nose.   The prisming in my lenses requires hours of adjustment to perfect.  Even with “a real doctor”, my eyes challenge me and I find myself sorely tempted towards bitterness.  Isn’t there a statutory limit to the number of problems one person has to endure in her life?

Yesterday I stopped at a store which I frequent.  I like it in part because of its good value, but also because it has a flat-surface parking lot with handicapped spots right by the door.  I got out of the Prius and started towards the sidewalk, letting my eyes adjust, reaching for a concrete pillar to steady myself.  I looked towards the door and suddenly felt myself sway.  My eyes fluttered.  The scene in front of me shimmered.  A rush of panic rose in my chest.

The movement of my body caught the attention of a woman coming out of the store.  She stopped mid-stride and watched me.  I’m okay, I called to her, answering her unspoken question.  She paused.  The small circle of people with her stood still.

I held my breath watching them.  What a lovely family you have, I called to her, and then walked the last few paces to stand by them.

The woman held a beautiful child, with luminous eyes.  He wore a flat wool cap and a little brown tweed jacket against the bitter winter cold.  He smiled at me as I approached the group.

What a lovely child, I added.  The woman said, This is my first grandson.  She gestured to one of the two younger women with her.  This is my daughter-in-law, his mother.  She turned further, and introduced the slender man behind her.  This is my son.  He is in the Army.  He has come home to visit.  She spoke like that:  Full sentences, no contractions, rounded vowels mellowed with the strength of her pride.

The last person in the group identified herself as the father’s sister.  I asked where the young man served.  Ft. Leonard Wood right now, he said.  I mentioned that my father had died at the hospital there.  I thanked him for his service.  Each of them nodded.  The grandmother turned to face me again and I studied the child resting against her shoulder. He beamed at me.

We lingered on that sidewalk, in front of the store, for a full minute.

Then we exchanged farewells.  They moved onto the parking lot, and I started towards the entrance to the store.  I looked back at the last moment, and caught the child’s eyes.  His smile broadened; he lifted his little hand in a wave.

In an hour or so, I will head towards Boonville to get my sister Adrienne.  We will journey to Columbia, where we will meet my sister Joyce for lunch.  The temperature dipped in the night, leaving a thin layer of ice on our streets, but not enough to prevent the trip.  I’m glad.  I need my family today.

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


May you rise in my grace

The two men in front of me exude a tender mixture of sincerity and panic.

Their appearance testifies to their relationship:  both tall and slender, with neatly cut straight brown hair.  On the right, the son’s face shows worry in lines that interrupt the smooth contours of youth.  Those lines echo in the face of the father —  but deeper,  angular, and permanent,. They mirror each other in hand gestures and the set of their shoulders.  Father and son; Grandfather and father.  Sitting before me talking about the fate of the third generation.

The son’s voice drops as he describes how his eighteen-month-old son’s mother has begun to put the brakes on time spent with papa.  It was okay for a while but now she makes excuses.  I put the inevitable question:  When did your romantic relationship end?  He looks at his father before replying, December.  I also turn to his father, who shakes his head and adds, They were off and on.  She lets him see the boy when they are “on”.  I sigh.  So many have told this story, sitting in these same chairs, wearing these same earnest expressions.

The older man asks, Why do women do that, and I tell him, Control.  They feel pain, they get back  by inflicting pain.  Then I turn  to the younger man and we talk about what he wants.  I explain what “joint legal custody” means; I describe a parenting plan’s components; I talk about “parenting time”.  He adamantly insists that he wants to spend as much time with his son as the mother does.  He doesn’t care about “principal residential”. He already pays child support, and a fair amount.  He has moved back with his mother to save money.  The man on the left winces when his ex-wife’s name comes into the conversation but I don’t let the story get derailed.

At the end of the meeting, they shake my hand and thank me for staying late.  They have a lot to discuss.  I watch them leave and then I start gathering my things for my own departure.  My heart feels the lingering heaviness.  May you rise in my grace, I whisper into the stillness of my office.

This morning  I feel the salt in my joints from last night’s carry-out dinner.  The six o’clock appointment capped a ten-hour work day.  I had no energy for cooking.  But I’m not complaining.  I am grateful, today, for that prospective client who sat in my office pleading his case  to be a full-time father.  What a fine son you’ve raised, I said, as the two departed.

And what an honor that they came to me for help.

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


Here’s to all the girls with vertigo

On the way back to Kansas City from court in Independence yesterday, I stopped at a store to make a single purchase.  I found the item which I wanted and approached a bank of registers.

From twenty feet away, a clerk called out in a cheerful voice, Are you ready? and I started towards her station.  I noticed the radiance of her smile; the length of her dark hair; the smooth olive of her skin.  I thought, I wonder if she is from Mexico, as I set my purchase down.

She spoke again, startling me.   You walk like me! and then I heard the definite accent, not American.  My brow furrowed and I answered, What did you say?   She repeated, and I asked, Are you disabled?  I couldn’t tell if she was making fun of me; I didn’t think so but I was not sure.

She shook her head as her fingers danced over the keys of the machine.  No, no.  I have vertigo.  I sway back and forth when I walk!  She took my money and made change in a smooth gesture that left me envious.  As she put my item in a plastic bag, she continued with her explanation.  I saw you walking and I thought you must have vertigo, just like me.  If possible her smile widened.  Her eyes danced.  I found myself wishing that I could explain about my limp, my broken artificial knee, the shudders in my legs.

I found myself wishing that I had vertigo.  Just like her.

Today is the eleventh day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I’m not sure if my shell is hardening or cracking.  Perhaps the change that I set about to embrace over two years ago has finally reached my soul.  It might be too soon to tell.  I’ll keep you posted.  Life continues.

Photo by Maggie Mason.

Photo by Maggie Mason.

To read the story from which I borrowed this photo, click HERE.


In 1994, my son began his career as a Purple Dragonner.

As anyone with children can attest, a good pre-school can change a child’s life.  My son attended two pre-schools before Purple Dragon, both well-known in Kansas City, both undeserving of their good reputations from what I saw.  Luckily, we knew Punky Thomas who owned PS1 Elementary School, an ungraded K through 4th “one-room” schoolhouse on the second floor of the building where Magda Helmuth ran Purple Dragon.

What a gift.

Patrick learned to read, write, add, subtract, and divide at Purple Dragon Pre-school with Mrs. Helmuth’s loving guidance.  He also acquired a taste for every vegetable on the planet and a preference for foods which start with the letter “B”, including brie and beets.  But perhaps most importantly, we each acquired life-long friends:  The family of curly-headed Chris Taggart.

Each Christmas, Katrina Taggart (mother of Chris) brings an amaryllis bulb to my home, in a gorgeous stone pot filled with smooth stones.  The long leggy stalk eventually erupts into a stunning flower.  As I watch the unfolding, I think of all the times that Katrina has come to my rescue, sat by my side, shared laughter, meals, sorrow, triumphs, and troubles.

Without Katrina, I do not think I could have raised my son with any measure of success.  Certainly, many people formed the village in which Patrick thrived.   But Katrina’s deft touch helped both of us bloom.

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



Today I am grateful for my hypercoagulable state which dictates my need for warfarin, a blood-thinner.  Without the nasty virus which triggers my blood to thicken as it courses through my veins, I’d have no need for this medication and thus would not bruise easily.  Without the softball-size bruise on my thigh, I would have no tangible reminder of the helpfulness of the two Vulcan’s Forge employees who came out to the sidewalk to hoist my sorry self back to a vertical position in response to my frantic babbling over the cell phone.

As I exited my car to cross the sidewalk towards Vulcan’s Forge yesterday, I dodged a sheaf of sugar-gum pods scattered on the sidewalk by the fierce winds.  I told myself, Oh no you don’t!  Not again!!! I flashed on a day two years ago when I dragged my computer to Tea Drops to console myself for new and ragged troubles with a pot of Earl Grey.  I fell then, too; tripped by the same dastardly trick of nature.  The owner and two customers catapulted through the front door and lifted me from the sidewalk.  Later, settled at a table with my tea — on the house — I opened my computer and blogged about the kindness of strangers.

I forgot to be careful when I left Vulcan’s Forge yesterday. I turned my ankle, toppled to the ground, and banged my head on the sidewalk.  But thankfully, the clerk had given me a receipt. I pulled it from my pocket, called inside the store, and the cavalry came!  Falling might be my second job, as someone once observed; but I can’t get myself off the ground without a handhold.  Those Vulcan’s Forge employees saved my bacon!  See?  The kindness of strangers. . .

It’s the ninth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  My days hold much richness. Gratefulness overwhelms me.  Life continues.


The talented silversmiths at Vulcan’s Forge replaced the clasp on my lovely antique butterfly pin.




Happy birthday to my beloved shared daughter, Tshandra White!

Because of you, I no longer remember February 09th as the anniversary of getting run over by a car!  Instead, it shall always be the anniversary of the birth of a beautiful woman whom I am proud to call “daughter”.  Have a FABULOUS day!




From the early hour when the wind buffeting against the house awakened me, the risks of ambulation have occupied the back of my mind.  I’ve been blown over while trying to walk from my car to the courthouse.  I weigh about five more pounds than I did on that particular blustery day, when I struggled to climb the wheelchair ramp of the downtown courthouse.  Today’s hearing lies to the east, in Independence, and the distance from the curb to the door there is not as great.  Still, unless I get there an hour early to assure a close parking spot, I run the risk of being blown away.

I eat my yogurt and watch a few minutes of an adaptive yoga video while browsing the NYT online.  Hauling myself from the breakfast table, I spend fifteen minutes stretching, pushing my muscles, holding my head still, trying to avoid dizziness.  A half hour later, I pull clothes from the washer/dryer unit in the front sitting room and drag the laundry upstairs.

Now I hear the wind whipping through my neighborhood.  The trees bend to its will.  News of the presidential primaries blasts from the radio.  I have little interest in the analysis.  I ruminate about wearing heavy shoes for stability; and the relative merits of carrying a heavy bag.  I could use the ballast but might struggle from the weight.  Certainly I will fatigue.  Which is better? I ask myself.  Safe navigation or lightness of being?

There’s always a down-side to every solution.  But I’m not complaining.  I keenly feel my blessings this month.  It’s a bittersweet month — anniversaries, birthdays, heart-wrenching memories.  But also survival.  My six-month death sentence fell on my head from the mouth of a pulmonologist in February of 1998.  He died a year later; I’m nearing my eighteenth year since his pronouncement.

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





Happy Birthday to my shared daughter Kim Fariello!