Monthly Archives: December 2016

Those who know me

It’s not hard to guess what I like.  I surround myself with the trinkets which please me, such as angels and small coffee mugs with large handles.  Books occupy low shelves.  Two-handled soup cups and mismatched pieces of Limoges flank the breakfast nook in which I sit to drink my morning brew.

Those who know me accept that I buy my clothes second-hand and don’t wear traditional girl shoes with pointy toes and spiked heels.  I like baggy dresses, the color blue, and layers of sweaters and shawls.  I wear flannel pajamas, thick socks, and hats.  I cry at Hallmark commercials and know the words to a plethora of songs from Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Emmy Lou Harris which I load into Spotify and sing off-key.  While most people scoot their chairs under the table, I find it easier to pull the table toward me.  I drink Earl Grey, hot, plain, in a crystal cup.  I read dark, Scandinavian crime fiction (no, not that series with the girl; think Henning Mankell) and read the daily round-up from the New York Times.  I don’t go to church except the occasional volunteer session with my friend Katrina’s Meals on Wheels, but I believe in God, angels, and some sort of after-life in which I damn well expect to see my mother, my little brother, and a few friends with whom I have unfinished business.

When I think of my life as a whole, I realize that I have very little about which to complain.  I don’t make a lot of money but I have a house, lights, heat, and fresh running water.  I live alone but my old dog keeps me company even if she’s kind of annoying.  I have some phenomenal neighbors who check on me, a son who texts or calls every day, and money in the bank enough to buy groceries and pay for cable.  My health leaves something to be desired but hey!  Eighteen years ago, a doctor gave me six months to live!  So, I figure myself to be 17.5 years to the good.

It’s the eighteenth day of the thirty-sixth month of My EVERLASTING Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


1218160930_hdrA few of my favorite things.

The ghosts of Christmas past

Here the tree stood, those years when we had a real tree.  When my son stretched just a bit higher than my knees, long ago before my lungs rebelled, we’d go to the Boy Scout lot and pick one with wide branches.  Its  heady fragrance would fill the house.  We lifted each ornament from tissue, telling the tale of how we got that star or this golden orb.  

After my long year of near-death from asthma, we couldn’t do cedar any more.  When the old Venture closed,  the year I found the giant Batman that he wanted in the January closing sale, I got the artificial one.  

We placed it in the archway to the dining room some years, but sometimes over by the window where the neighbors could see its twinkling lights.  We’d put a strand of lights on the rail outside, strung with an extension cord to the outlet beneath the bushes.  On the window sill we balanced the battery-operated Mary Candle to light the way of the Christ child whose birth we did not celebrate.

We put milk and cookies out for Santa, and little treats for the reindeer.  Mrs. Claus always wrote a note.  “Dear Patrick, I know you have been a big help to your mother this year. . .”.  I still have some of them, carefully penned in a familiar cursive.

By the chimney we’d read Christmas stories.  Not the one my father read, about the crowded inn.  But I used his voice and we told the story of the littlest angel, who longed for a treasure box.  The year he turned six, Patrick asked for a treasure box from Santa.  And Santa delivered.  The box now sits on a shelf in the front sitting room, filled with the little trinkets that a boy collects.  Crayons shaped like race cars and tokens from Chuckie Cheese.  The card that attests to his highest belt in Tae Kwon Do.  A note in the neighbor kid’s lopsided printing, swearing my son into his secret club.

The boxes of ornaments remain in the basement.  The tree rests in a big plastic box with a broken latch next to the concrete pad downstairs.  I threw away the lights last year.  They didn’t work.  I meant to buy new ones but there doesn’t seem to be a point.  I won’t be here for Christmas.  Maybe the house-sitter would enjoy them; but it’s a lot of work for somebody I don’t even know.

The ghosts of Christmas past peer in my window tonight.  Daughter plays on Spotify and the little dog sleeps at my feet.   The year drifts to a close around me.  My tea grows cold.  But I’m not complaining.  When a friend asked me today, Are you doing all right?, all I could think was this:  I’ve been worse.  I’ve been so much worse.

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




Click here to hear Daughter performing Mothers live.

Me by the numbers

Here I am, numerically measured today:

Number of coats on the backs of chairs in my dining room: 7.

Number of hats sitting on my dining room table: 3.

Pairs of gloves by said hats: 2.

Eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet this week: 4.  Number of unbroken yolks: 1.

Happy clients so far this week: 1-1/2 (too early to tell on one of them).

Hours slept since Sunday: 25.

Cups of coffee so far this morning: 1/2.

Leftover Hershey’s kisses eaten yesterday: 5.

Number of hugs that I’ve gotten this week: 10.  Percentage which came from Rotarians: 50%.

Christmas presents for other people sitting on my buffet: 13.  Portion wrapped so far: 6.

Score between me and the trash: 3 – zip, my favor.

Positive attitude barometer:  100%.

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


Hey, that’s MY line!

The room filled with cheerful Rotarians by 5:15, all eating that “meat-lovers” pizza which stood steaming and lovely on a side table.  As the greeter, I pressed the cold hands of almost all of them as they blew into the room from the frigid Kansas City streets.

Our speaker glowed with something close to nuclear good cheer.  He threw a box of books-for-sale down on the bench and clutched my hand in both of his.  Great to be here! he chuckled, and I cleared my mind of its customary cynical reaction to let my genuine agreement shine back at him.

By evening’s end, I actually found myself liking the guy, despite the fact that his profession typically galls me.  One of those “motivational speakers” who sells himself, Gregory B. Knapp talked about “Finding Your Passionate Purpose”.  But he had a pleasant air and it’s the way of Rotary to give everyone the room to be themselves, so I listened.

Later, at home, I got online and checked out his webpage and the PDF download you can get for free.  I stopped short when I saw this:

5) The 15-minute trick.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and say you will only work until the timer goes off. You can do anything for 15 minutes. Most of the time you will want to keep going. But, even if you quit when the timer goes off, at least you did it for 15 minutes. When you do that every day, it starts to add up.

Hey!  Wait a gosh-darn second!  That’s MY line!

I found myself immersed in memory, back in the mid-1980s when my mother had just condescended to take her own damn time dying and left me half-orphaned at 30.  I found my way to the world of single malt Scotch and wallowed in miserable contemplation of my failure as a daughter, an attorney, a law student, a woman, a person.  I drifted from day to day, sliding closer to oblivion.  Dark moods deepened to thoughts of what-if-I-just-check-out.

I no longer recall who or what sent me to the realm of What-If-I-Live-Instead.  But I know how I finally returned to the land of the living.  I took a thick yellow pad and scheduled my every moment in fifteen-minute increments.  I only required myself to commit to fifteen minutes at a time.  I told myself that if any particular fifteen-minute period proved impossible to endure, then I had permission to stop living.  Conversely, if I got through fifteen minutes, I would try the next fifteen-minute task.

Within a month, I found myself able to re-allocate the days to 30-minute divisions.  A half-year later, I threw that tablet on a fire and kept living.

I would see dark days again, even this century.  I would use the fifteen-minute rule twice more in my life.  I’ve recommended it to several folks — a friend, a client.  Just force yourself to live for fifteen more minutes.  And if you make it for that fifteen minutes, commit to fifteen more.

As I got ready for bed last night, weary from a long day in an endless series of long days, I found myself laughing at the idea that the fifteen-minute rule can be used for something other than mere survival.  I smiled and silently chided Mr. Gregory B. Knapp for stealing my line.  Then I thought about my friend Aneal Vohra, a videographer and IP paralegal, who always urges me to register my work.  Day late, dollar short!  But I’m not complaining.  The fifteen-minute rule works.  I’ll give it away for free.

I’m halfway through the thirty-sixth month in My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



The Real Mother

On days like today I can say with 100% certainty that I am honored to represent the client whom I served.

And though I am not religious, I have no better words to pay tribute to her than these:

One day two women[a] came to King Solomon,  and one of them said:

Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home,  and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.

One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died.  Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.

 In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn’t my son.

 “No!” the other woman shouted. “He was your son. My baby is alive!”

“The dead baby is yours,” the first woman yelled. “Mine is alive!”

They argued back and forth in front of Solomon,  until finally he said, “Both of you say this live baby is yours.  Someone bring me a sword.”

A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him.”

 “Please don’t kill my son,” the baby’s mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.”

The other woman shouted, “Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”

 Solomon said, “Don’t kill the baby.” Then he pointed to the first woman, “She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.”

Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.

 Today I watched a real mother stand with her head held high and acquiesce in a judgment that kept her baby from being torn in two.  While we did not have the wisdom of Solomon at our disposal today, we had the heart and soul of a real mother who would not let her baby be cut in half and the acumen of a judge willing to allow  her wishes to be respected.  I have no complaints about anything today.  The privilege of being her attorney elevates me to the highest level of my chosen calling.

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


The truth about hairpins

Many years ago, my mother gave me a copper hair pin which she said had belonged to my great-grandmother.  I used it to hold a long braid wrapped around my head in the days when I still believed that a woman’s hair could be her crowning glory.  A U.S. Marshal confiscated that hairpin in 1990 at the federal courthouse in Springfield, Missouri.  He had insisted that I take down the braid to demonstrate that I hadn’t hidden a weapon in the mass of curls. The same zealous defender of our rights took the 1-inch adjustable wrench which my considerate spouse had provided for me to tighten the recalcitrant nut on my windshield wiper.

The marshal never returned either of them.

When I had just the one hairpin, I always could find it.  After its theft-under-color-of-law, I discovered Goody hairpins.  Plastic, 3 inches long and sturdy, these hairpins could once be found hanging on the racks in most drugstores.  I bought multiple packages and became quite cavalier about their storage.  Any drawer in my home could have a handful rattling in its depths.  I shoved a few in my pocketbooks, on bedside tables.  I carelessly scattered them around the house here and there.

A year or so ago, I broke down and bought a thick bone hair pin to form my court-do.  I have two hair styles:  Up, and down.  Up is for court.  Down is for everything else.  I found a smooth bone hair pick on Amazon and liked it so much that I bought a second one from the same vendor, though when it arrived, I got a small shock.  Less than half the size of the first, the new acquisition seemed flimsy and useless.

The darn thing broke yesterday.  One of its stems snapped in my hand.  I stared at it for a few seconds, then tossed it down beside the thin wire hairpins that I got from a stylist one time, when I tried to get my hair done.  I had to laugh at her enthusiasm for the small slender pins she used.  It took about twenty of them to hold my mass of gypsy waves.

As I stared at the remains of my broken hair pin, understanding that it clearly had been made of plastic and not the advertised bone, I remembered my grandmother’s copper pin.  I thought about the care which I took to keep track of it, back when I only had one and it worked really well.  I didn’t need dozens.  I kept it in my jewelry box and took it out when I wanted to wear my up-do.  I always knew where it was.  It never failed me, right up to the moment that the U.S. Marshal said, Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step over here and show me what’s in your hair.

I thought about getting on Amazon and reviewing the defective hair pin.  I hunted down the bigger one, the successful purchase, and examined both of them.  Did I really get them from the same place?  How can one be so perfect and the other so lame?  I thought about the stylist who did my hair that day, with dozens of tiny wire pins that barely held a wisp of curl; and the old reliable Goodies, three or four of which keep a French braid neat and tidy all day.

I won’t send a photo to the vendor in outrage.  I can’t; that would be complaining.  But the truth about hairpins has been revealed.  It took me sixty years to see the metaphor.  But it’s there.  Oh, my heavens; it’s there.  And I’m wishing I had that copper pin, and the little wrench too.  They served me well.

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


Now you see me

One of my faithful readers grows anxious if an entry doesn’t land in her inbox by mid-day.  I find her anxiety in that regard quite comforting.  I know of a woman who fell down her basement stairs and fatally injured herself.  Widowed and childless, she had no one to check on her.  A neighbor found her several days after the fall.

I think of myself like that sometimes.  Other than my son in Chicago and my sister in St. Louis, no one phones me for days, sometimes weeks on end.  No one comes to see if I need anything.  When I have “bad days”, clutter piles higher and higher.  I’ve long since accepted that I have a very limited amount of energy.  My clients and my causes need me more than my housework.  So I tolerate occasional lapses of order around the house.  I don’t ask for assistance because it doesn’t seem worth bothering anyone.

But now, because of my faithful fan, I rest a bit easier in the knowledge that if I should stumble and lie on the floor out of reach of any means to summon help, she will ponder the absence of a blog entry and eventually seek me out.  She’s a client, with only a vague notion of where I live, but she belongs to the small circle of those who have my cell phone number.  She lives her own life with fierce determination. I feel reasonably certain that if a couple of days go by and no installment of MYWOC appears, this lady would find out why.  She’d rescue me.

For those of us who live solitary lives, knowing that eventually someone would investigate if they don’t see us brings a certain relief.

This weekend, I could not move well enough to get dressed from Friday night until Sunday morning.  I’d been in trial almost without a break for weeks, following which I hosted a Holiday Open House for 150 or 200 folks.  A handful waited until the last guest had left so that I could join them for a late supper.  By 10:30, I realized that something dire had happened to my entire left side.  I struggled to get out to the car.  My dear devilish buddy Scott Anderson held my arm all the way, then  quizzed me quite closely on the potential for my safe navigation home.  With only a little guile, I assured him that I would be fine.  I did make it, but just barely.  I struggled upstairs and for the next forty hours, I found myself completely worthless.

I’m not complaining.  I’m saying all this to open your eyes.  I’m sure you know someone old, infirm, or alone.  They’ve got a phone.  Call them.  Your path takes you past their home.  Stop to see them.  Most days, they get along great without company.  But once in a while they stumble.  They stand in a dusky room and wonder how they’ll get the groceries inside or the trash to the curb.  Their light bulbs pop, high out of reach.  The dog needs a bath.  Dust gathers on the chandelier.  A little knot builds in the pit of their gut.  They’ve asked for help so many times, they’re sure they will bother you.  Don’t let make them wait.  Volunteer.

It’s the twelfth day of the thirty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.   In a state of gratitude to Miss AP, for sending a note on Saturday expressing relief when my belated blog entry finally reached her, I’m here, in Brookside, on the warm side of a night-time window.  Life continues.


Don’t Tempt Me

Marshall Rosenberg shuddered in his sleep, an eternity from the courtroom where I sat flanked by a young hotshot, across from a good-old-boy.    The former slid his eyes in my direction, pretending not to see the client who sat next to me.  I don’t see how you have seven witnesses, he smirked.  I’ll object to character witnesses.  To his left, the other lawyer said, And I’ll join that objection.

It’s an unwritten rule that lawyers don’t make fun of each other’s clients.  I have honored this ethical mandate for my entire tenure as an attorney.  As these two cast their snarky jabs in my client’s direction, I closed my eyes.  Her tension flowed towards me; my eyes snapped wide.  I turned and placed my hand on her arm.  Don’t listen to them, I urged.  They intend to intimidate you.  That’s bully talk.  It’s about them, not you.   I did not lower my voice to whisper.  She needed to know that they could hear.

The younger one protested.  I’m not trying to intimidate anyone.  He lied.  His words had no other purpose.  I kept my voice steady and even as I continued.  Don’t lose sight of that.  What these lawyers are doing is trying to upset you.  What they think of you is about them, not you.

I don’t understand ugly behavior.  I want to buy a dozen copies of Non-Violent Communication and anonymously mail it to all these diehard jackals.  I want to buy a pair of thin plastic gloves, print a copy of this blog entry, and mail it to those lawyers from somebody else’s zip code tucked into an envelope on which I would leave no prints.  None of that would protect my client from their small-minded meanness.  I’d be sinking to their level, without question.  But at the moment when I fixed the stamp and smoothed the flap, I’d have a brief sensation of getting even.

I’ve got a good standard printer and a full box of #10s.  It’s tempting.  Truly, terribly, tempting.

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


The late Marshall Rosenberg using puppets to demonstrate violent v. non-violent speech.

To read an interview in which he described “giraffe talk” and “jackal talk”, click HERE.

If you wish to read today’s Saturday Musings, click Here

Grateful for Genevieve

A great gal, is Genevieve.

Out beyond the border of complaint lies a field of gratitude.  My Year Without Complaining pushes me in that direction.  A  wide expanse of lovely flowers, Dorothy’s poppies perhaps, or Queen Anne’s lace, dances in the delicate breezes.   I find so many wonderful women walking strong and sure among the fragrant blooms.  They season my life and ease my sorrows.  How can I complain when the universe sends so many sister leopards with their matching spots?

One such creature celebrates the anniversary of her birth today.  Genevieve McBrayer Casey eased herself into my life with lilting tones and splendid photographs.  I enjoy her art.  Even more, I admire her  spirit.  The radiance of her smile has no match.  I know that she has met challenges but she remains unbroken.

I can only guess at the compendium of chance which weaves itself around her being to bolster what she knows and keep her steady on her own path.  Whatever comes her way seems to fall on the floor of the spinning room in gossamer threads.  Hers might be the gentlest Midas touch the world has ever known.

I am grateful for you, Genevieve.  May you have the most fabulous of birthdays.  Know that when I am around you, I nearly abandon any glimmer of complaint.  Your  influence lifts me above the quagmire of self-pity.  Thank you, my friend.

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



Genevieve McBrayer Casey and I standing in front of one rendition of her photograph, “Floating”, of which I own a different version. Mine is printed on canvas and framed in wood. The one depicted here is printed on metal.

 To see more of Genevieve’s work, click HERE.

Time passes

A few years ago an advertising campaign for some inexpensive wine pitched wine as a timeless gift.

Guy gives girl flowers.  Time passes.  Flowers die.  Guy equals dead flowers.  Guy gives girl wine.  Time stands still.  Guy equals eternity.  In case we’re wrong about this, we put flowers all over the label.”

Today I spent the day negotiating a parenting plan involving two parents with no trust for each other.  They are Chinese citizens and their child is an American citizen.  One parent will stay in America and raise the child. One parent will return to China.  The lack of trust and the fact that only one Chinese province has joined the Hague Convention complicated our negotiations.  Each parent had family from China here for court, and none of the visiting family spoke English.

It took six hours and two calls to an attorney in Bejing to devise language that each parent felt comfortable accepting, but we got it done.

When I got home, I cut tofu on my favorite cutting board.  My father made it from the trunk of a fallen tree.  He dried the wood and cut slabs for each of us.  A small tornado had toppled the old tree in our back yard.  As I cut the curd into squares, I felt movement in the cutting board.  After I rinsed it, I saw that a crack has developed that goes through; soon the board will split.  I stood in the kitchen holding the cutting board in my hands.  I felt my father’s touch in that piece of wood.  I closed my eyes and tried to remember when he gave it to me.  I think I have had that cutting board since 1973.

Forty-three years.  So much time.  So many days.

I rinsed it and gently set it on the counter.  I don’t know if it can be salvaged.  I have so little of my father, other than the contours of my chin, a proclivity for writing sentimental verse, and his surname.

Night descends on me.  I have one more trial this week, a wicked one.  By the time Friday comes, I will be tired.  I should rest.  But I sit, instead, and think about time passing.

It’s evening, on the sixth day, of the thirty-sixth month, of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Just three more days until our HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE.

I hope to see you all at Suite 100.  Don’t forget your canned good or nonperishable item for the Harvesters Barrel!