Monthly Archives: August 2016

Here’s to you, and you, and you

I’d like to raise my Saturday afternoon mug of coffee to everybody who has given up on me.

To you — and you — and you and you and you.  Sixty years of living  haven given me a mighty large peanut gallery.  Men and women alike:  Folks who see my passion and find it irresistible until they cannot dissuade me from my chosen causes.  Or people who admire my fierce independence as long as I’m willing to surrender to their control.  Here’s to those who tell me how brave I am for enduring pain, then flinch when I cannot endure any more and fall apart.

Here’s to what I learned from their rejection of me; the lessons that I use to weave my Super Woman cape, or my shroud, or my hair shirt — as the case might be.

Most of what I am comes from those who nurtured me, but a tough thread of strength comes from those who found me too much to handle; too little to satisfy; too incapable, too bull-headed, too tenacious.  I learn a lot from everyone who wanders into my orbit, whether they stay or drift away; whether they cling to me or scramble in the opposite direction.

Listen:  I know my strengths but more keenly do I understand my shortcomings.  I strive to minimize their impact and change my ways to overcome the damage that my failings have done and will do.  But even when I err, I have worth.  The noble side of love takes faults into account and never wavers.  I appreciate those who flee, for keeping me humble; but I do not buy their silent condemnation any more.

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

“These Days”, as sung by Jackson Browne

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days, these days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to

And I had a lover
It’s so hard to risk another of these days, these days
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life that I have made in song
Well it’s just that I’ve been losing for so long

Well I’ll keep on moving, moving on
Things are bound to be improving these days, one of these days
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don’t confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them

Written by Bradley Kirk Arnold, Christopher Lee Henderson, Matthew Darrick Roberts, Robert Todd Harrell • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group



A special toast to any one who feels that I gave up on them.  


Years ago when people asked how I fared, I would reply, “On a scale of Nirvana to Bosnia, I’m somewhere in between”.  Recently I’ve reminded myself that it’s not a competition, it’s an exhibition.

But in all this platitude-tossing, I still keep in mind that no matter how lousy I feel, somewhere, someone has it worse than I do.

Two thoughts arise at this contemplation.  The most stark finds a voice in that video which punched us all in the gut of the little five-year-old in the airstrike.  View it HERE.  No one could look at this tiny being wiping blood from his face onto the ambulance seat and not suck in their gut and shoulder on.   His anguish does not make me less entitled to my pain;  his suffering does not make mine irrelevant.  But if he can sit in the back of that sterile place, without his parents, alone and bleeding, without wailing in grief, then perhaps I can use him as an inspiration.

People often say something like that about me.  I don’t want to be an inspiration for enduring pain, though.  I want to inspire people to look at themselves and see their potential.  I long to wrap my arms around everyone I see and cry, “You are so wonderful!  You can be outstanding!  I know you will fly!”  So much better to be known as someone who reached for my best self, then to be remembered as a martyr who endured pain and sorrow without complaint.

Back in college, an old classmate from high school told me that she’d always seen me as leaning against a pillow in bed surrounded by books and paper, typing away on my first novel, unable to walk but pursuing my dream of writing.  I did not know how to respond to her imagery then, and I still do not.  I’m not somebody’s saint; I’m not taking arrows for the team; I’m not lying down and accepting my fate.  Rather I’m busting out, bursting forth, tackling the mountain trail with a vengeance.

What am I saying here?  It’s early and I have not had coffee.  My brain lies in fog.  So draw your own conclusion today.  Just don’t count me out.  I’m not particularly brave, but I can be fierce, and I’m not done fighting.

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


Back and Forth

For six hours, I traveled back and forth between a huddle of my client and her family in a witness room; and the courtroom outside of which the other side occupied a bench handy to their lawyer.  Periodically, the two lawyers moved into the courtroom.  We drew lines through copy, we paced, we told a few jokes to break the tension; but most of all, we argued our clients’ respective positions.

By 2:30 in the afternoon, we had devised a parenting plan by which a mother and a father with nothing in common except their ten-year-old son could forge a smoother path towards his adulthood.

On the way to my office, I thought about the decampment of my son’s father from my life before my son’s birth.  For the thousandth time, I realized that raising my son without his father cost my son a lot, but spared me the potential of being on the receiving end of all that arguing.  I know that my son loses a lot for not having his father.  I do as well.  I can remember being pregnant and crying when I saw all those other pregnant women with their loving husbands’ arms protectively slung around their shoulders.  The memory of my lament haunts me.  Why don’t I get that?  What’s wrong with me?  

But not every one of those happy couples remain like that.  Half of all marriages end in divorce, and that means many scenes play out in the way that my yesterday unfolded.  Two lawyers with only contractual concern for a child hammer out the roadmap of the child’s holidays and school attendance.  What a system!  With high emotions, a mother and a father who once loved one another enough to form a human life now situate themselves as far apart as the corridor allows, surrounded by disparate allies amid a fog of anger and blame.

I hope that my work gives some relief to those who hire me to represent them in that battle.  I hope the directions which I strive to impart give them some path to comfort.

It’s the eighteenth day of the thirty-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  From the top half-story of my airplane bungalow, in Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri, I send you all warm thoughts.  Life continues.


editedThe prodigal son himself.


Jackie O

Yesterday I watched a young woman whom I have known since she was 3 sit across from doubters and haters with regal poise.  How do you do it?  I later asked her.  Jackie O, she replied calmly, wiping away a tear which had escaped once I pulled her from the room for a break from the unrelenting beratement of her former spouse and his father.

My client, the daughter of decades-long friends, kept her calm throughout the emotionally challenging mediation.  I occasionally touched her arm — stay strong, I tried to tell her with my eyes.  But she had gone past the need for my warning and lived in the realm of the serene.  Knowing she had conquered the storms of yesterday gave her the confidence to endure the antipathy slung at her from the other side of the room.

She has made mistakes but owns them.  She has lost custody of two children; she takes what time she can have with them and does whatever the system requires of her to claim and increase that time.  Standing beside her, helping in the fight to keep the terms of the parenting plan moving towards eventual reunification, any sniveling about my life in which I might have been tempted to indulge fell away.    This young woman has endured much and walked through the storm fending off the arrows slung in her direction.  She has acknowledged her deficiencies and overcome each one of them.

Jackie O would be so proud.

It’s the sixteenth day of the thirty-second month of My [Endless] Year Without Complaining.  Taking my role models where I find them, I continue with my life.


Losing Weight

While on my stepper this morning, I played a Cooking Channel show called Drop 5 Lbs.  Three boisterous women chatted about fish, fat, and folate on a sunny set.  I could stand to drop 5 lbs but if I have to talk loud  or listen to raucous laughter to get tips to jump-start the re-dropping of 5 lbs that I lost six years ago along with another eighty, I might pass.

This weekend I heard several podcasts in which adult survivors of childhood family violence shared their emotional aftermath.  I closed my eyes during one such story, imagining the scene which the speaker had just described.  At age 15 he had begun protesting his father’s abuse of his mother.  By age 17, the conflict accelerated and his father threw him out of the house, pointed a gun at him, and pulled the trigger.

Thirty years later, he reunited with his father.  He wanted to ask his father why did you shoot me?  But in the end, he refrained.  He said, “The weight on him of telling me would be worse than the weight on me of not knowing.”  I recalled talking to my father right after my mother’s death.  I asked him in bitter tones if he knew what his abuse of us had done to our mother, what it had done to his children.  He protested, I wasn’t so bad.  I did my best.  I gasped and retorted:  If that was your best, I would no brag.  I’ve talked about that incident in a previous entry, taking myself to task for the meanness of the remark.  But this weekend, I looked at the incident from my father’s point of view.  I thought of his burden.  The weight on him of explaining.  The weight.

I close my eyes and let my body float as I push myself on the stepper.  Losing the weight.  That’s what I hope to achieve on this journey.  That’s my goal:  To lose the weight of my burdens.

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


Attributed to Rumi.

Attributed to Rumi.

To hear the full account of the man whose father shot him, check out  the episode “Shot in the Dark” on Snap Judgment’s podcast for 12 August 2016.

Value Added

I learned an enormous lesson this week.

Wait — that’s not quite right.

In reality, I had an opportunity to experience a sequence of events which provided me with a chance to deploy effective tactics to deal with adversity.  I did not employ those tactics.  A corporate entity which does not depend on me or people like me for its existence prevailed in a battle with me.  I have been put to considerable inconvenience and even expense in wrangling the resultant quagmire.  I did nothing wrong, and the machinations of the corporation involved had actually injured my interests.  But because I got upset, the humans working for that corporation closed their faces and wielded its power to stymie my efforts to protect myself.

Granted:  When the incident occurred, I stood to lose actual money.  I also had just stumbled in the parking lot of the business in question, and my chest pounded from the pain of an asthma attack triggered by a combination of muggy weather and stress related to the incident.  But then the first person whom I encountered at the business laughed at me, and told me that he was laughing because — and I quote — he could not believe I was upset.  And he laughed while he said it.  Laughed.

I could have backed away, calmed down, waited until I got control of my emotions before responding.   Maybe I could have manipulated the situation to good ends.  I did none of that; instead,  I got more upset, I called him out, and I demanded access to his supervisors.  The entire situation snowballed beyond the fact that I originally was the actual victim of their corporate failings, focusing instead on my agitation, with which they had no desire to deal.

No, I did not get arrested, banned from the premises, or anything like that.  Most of my complaining took place later, on the telephone.  Harsh, strong, but not profane; however, in the final analysis, I now have had to file an official complaint.   I took my business elsewhere to considerable inconvenience for myself.

Could nonviolent communication have engendered a different outcome?  I am not sure.  They had taken their unreasonable stand about the actual incident before I got upset, so possibly not. Had I used NVC,  I would have had a better day — that is one-hundred percent certain.  I did try to remain calm but failed.  I did try to use diplomacy but they had no regard for me.  Someone who helped me deal with the situation held out the opinion that the business in question treats everyone the way I was treated.  Possibly.  Still, I think had I remained calm, though the outcome might have been the same, the experience might have been easier on me.

In setting up my business elsewhere, I met a marvelous customer service agent three years younger than my son who handled the establishment of my account with grace and style.  I appreciated his warmth and professionalism.  I actually prefer the new company, and had been considering switching even before this horrible affair.

I got through the day, embarking on a path to control any fallout.  I meditated my way to calm.  The value added to my life by this experience cannot be understated.  Some days I easily traverse my path. Some days I stumble.  Some days my actions make a difference.  Some days, what I do cannot change anything other than how well I sleep when I finally get through a difficult serious of events.  I had both kinds of days this week, in wild extremes that emphasize the roller-coaster life which I have led.

For the last two and a half years, I’ve tried to orchestrate my emotional reactions to avoid the bumpy ride.  I thought I had made progress.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

It’s the fourteenth day of the thirty-second month of My [Endless] Year [Trying To Live] Without Complaining.  I’m still here.  Still trying.  Life continues.



For Those Who Wonder

Good evening.  I am going to post this; and then your next MYWOC from me will be Sunday.  I have a very challenging day tomorrow; and on Saturday, I post my musings.  If you want to read them, go to

So:  for those who wonder.  I cannot speak for other disabled persons, but I have never conquered the drag downward that any situation which challenges my disability brings. I well know that thousands face greater restrictions than I, but nonetheless at times, mine overwhelm me.  When I encounter an obstacle, every ounce of me yearns to crumble.  Sometimes I conquer it; sometimes i do not.

This witch’s monkey wraps itself around my back and screams into my ear.  You are worthless, you are garbage, you are ugly, you are awkward.  You deserve nothing.

I wrote this years ago, and I offer it as a glimpse into my world, for those who wonder.


My soul is in my spinal cord.
I know it’s there.
When I walk across the street
people stare.
Men watch my stride
and not my face
and then decide
if I’ve a place
in heart or home.
It’s not a shame, a lie, or ruse;
it’s true.
My soul is in my spinal cord.
My tears
gather like crystal drops.
My fears
cluster in my heart.
My soul is in my spinal cord.
It’s like my back
a bit off track
a little wobbly
and always aching.

c. 17 December 1978  M. Corinne Corley

It’s late on the evening of the eleventh day of the thirty-second month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining.  Today’s score:  Life, 1 —  CC, 0.  Call the angels.




Some Days

Some days, I run around like Wonder Woman, whipping my lightening bolt and slaying dragons.

Some days, the buckles on my shoes defy me.

Some days, I leap on the stepper and do my ten minutes like a rock star.

Some days, I put on my grandmother’s pink house coat and eat crystallized ginger by the handful.

Some days, the dog’s silly look amuses me and I take her picture to send my son.

Some days, my feet trip over the dog’s water dish which my blurry eyes have not seen.

Some days, I hammer out paragraph after paragraph of brilliant prose.

Some days, words elude my grasping, exhausted brain.

Some days my heart swells with belief in possibility.

Some days I want to throw myself through a plate glass window.

* * *

My grandmotherused to tell me to put my best foot forward.  I would look down at my shiny new penny loafers which she had just purchased for me at the shoe store next to her office.  I would pause on the curb and say, Which foot is my best foot, Nana?   She would reply, The one going first.

It’s the eleventh day of the thirty-second month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I wish I had a picture of me in penny loafers.  I loved them!  These remind me of the ones Nana bought me.  I always donated the pennies to the Mission collection at our grade school (I'm ashamed to say this but we called it "Pennies for Pagans".

I wish I had a picture of me in penny loafers. I loved them! These remind me of the ones Nana bought me. I always donated the pennies to the Mission collection at our grade school (I’m ashamed to say this but we called it “Pennies for Pagans”).

Life Without Complaining

I scrolled through social media last night to understand the news of the day which had occurred while I attended court appearances and met with clients.  I tried to ignore the photos of the outcome of the Olympic games which I intended to watch all evening.  Photos of the Republican presidential candidate got a similar miss.  I hopped from Twitter feed to Facebook timeline, to e-mails from the news sources on which I rely to keep me up-to-date.  Meanwhile the dog paced through the room, the television played, and my stomach rumbled.

In the same way that one sees chocolate everywhere when dieting, I started to notice that about half of what I saw on the internet constituted complaint.  Maybe more.  I thought about my day.  A judge scolded a lawyer for not having his client, then snapped at the client when he arrived fifteen minutes late.  On the radio, angry members of each major political party took those in the other to task.  The prospective client sitting in front of me for two hours criticized her prior attorney, the other party, the guardian ad litem.  Rightly or wrongly, valid or false, the complaints nonetheless bombarded me from every direction.

By the end of the day, I longed for a prism like that held by the Romper Room lady.  With my Magic Mirror, I would peer through the monitor, into the eyes of people across the table, behind scowls and frowns.  My super power would be revealing to everyone what life without complaining could be like for them by sharing what life without complaining is like for me on days when I get it right.

I recently told someone whose behavior conflicted with my desire that I thought their choice nonetheless had been right for them.  I got a tight-lipped, brow-drawn, fierce-eyed response of, That’s a very odd thing for you to say.  I did not reply for a few minutes, lost in wonderment, thinking,   How could I have more effectively communicated my stance borne of empathy?  

This path to joy sometimes challenges me the most because others regard me as insincere or smug.  I am neither.  I am merely one woman, trying to make life better for myself, one complaint-free day at a time.  If the lives of people with whom I interact also improve, I consider that a bonus.

It’s the tenth day of the thirty-second month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



At the end of a long day, I turned away from my vehicle tired and tense.  My keys slid from my hand and I dropped my bag trying to retrieve them.  I had just spent 30 minutes on the phone with a friend.  I thought to myself, Perhaps I should get back in the car and make another call.

As I pulled my back straight, juggling phone, keys, and purse, I spied the results of my Saturday weeding.  The night’s rain had brought forth another surge of greenness and a burst of color.  The day lilies behind the mess of bush had pulled themselves taller, coming out from hiding.  There, too, stood the barrel of weeds, spilling out.  I had accomplished more than I realized.  I raised my cell phone to snap a picture, suddenly feeling lighter.  I shifted my burden and started up the driveway, glad to be home.

It’s the ninth day of the thirty-second month of my year without complaining.  Life continues.