Monthly Archives: June 2017

Service Above Self

One could say that I’m a natural Rotarian because I have a tendency to adopt causes and finagle until I have a positive impact on them.  What does not come naturally to me is the concept of always putting service above one’s self.  I’ll have to grow into that.

As has happened to me on many occasions, here among others aiming to meet that goal I find myself straining to think of ways that I can.  But my natural tendency kicks like a horse spooked by gunshot.  So my brain starts to tack and gybe, and call out, Mind your head! while the sails billow and I strain for fair winds and a following sea.

When the Stars and Stripes unfurled today at the opening ceremonies of the Rotary International Convention, I stood and placed my hand on my heart.  The moment moved me, even though I knew that the entire affair had already been done once since we had the second seating.  Presumably the past RI President had already presented her one million dollar contribution and received her honorary plaque.  But still: she kindly came to the stage and did it for the second half of the gathered faithful; and still:  we applauded.

My traveling companion has more energy at 81 than I had at 21.  She slows her pace for me, and scurries ahead to reconnoiter.  Her program guide tells us where we need to be while mine stays in the pocket of my bag where I crammed it.  We’ve only finished one day, with three to come.

I’m looking forward to hearing Bill Gates talk about the mutual pledge our two foundations have made to eradicate polio.  Then I will wander over to the Friendship Hall and look for a man from Nigeria whom I met at the shuttle stop, to hear more about the project that he and his fellow Rotarians have underway in Lagos.  A man from California invited me to his booth to learn about his Educational Foundation.  Everywhere, smiling faces of people just as willing to talk of their home towns as the folks whom I have already met will reach to shake my hand and read my name tag.

And we will represent, my companion and I.  We will speak of our club, the Waldo Brookside Rotary Club, with its young folks and its earnest dedication to our neighborhood.  From time to time, the swell of souls will overwhelm me.  I will find a bench, and lower my body.  I will close my eyes and let myself ease into repose.  When I feel refreshed, I will rise and wander back towards the multitude to hear about the good works of Rotarians around the world.

Because what could possibly be more invigorating than hearing about the ways in which these thousands and thousands of Rotarian have made a difference in their home countries and abroad?  What could move my spirit more than hearing all the ways in which they have put service about themselves, in countries with no running water, no paved roads, no electricity, and no doctors?  Where children cannot go to school because they have no shoes?  Or where young adults leaving foster care need caring adults to hep them make their way, maybe just around the corner from home in Waldo, in Kansas City, Missouri?

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


Vegetation thrives in my yard, drinking the rain and stretching to the sky as the sun shimmers in golden waves through the air.  I walk from car to house amid the surprise lilies, blooming mint, and the hostas, breathing the fragrance of the herbs in their pots on the porch as i pass.

Each spring I start with a yard pruned by able hands.  Weeks later, it turns into a jungle.  I stand on the deck and pick the wilted flowers to make room for the buds about to burst into full bloom.  If I sit very still, the vines will creep from the yard and coil themselves around my legs.

This growth pleases me.  Like the wildness of my curls and the stubborn bent of my hands, the dandelions and clover follow their own natural form.  I make no effort to impose my preference other than spreading a little mulch laced with Miracle Gro and Preen.

As a child, my son told everyone that green was my favorite color though I actually preferred blue.  Now I think he might have been prescient.  The wide expanse of soft sky stretches beyond the verdant crowns of the neighborhood trees but I feel comfortable in my rocker surrounded by begonias, pansies, and jade.  I have no need to move.  I sit until the sun begins to set and the old dog barks for entry into the house.

It’s evening on the tenth day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

There Will Come Soft Rains, by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

My thank you song

I don’t get a chance to thank people often enough. Oh, maybe that’s not quite right.  I don’t take the chance to thank people any where near often enough.

So, here it is: My thank you to the world at large and to a few people in particular, some of whom I will name and identify by act of kindness; and some of whom will just get the oblique nod.  Here goes:

To my sister Ann for encouraging me to believe that I’m not too old to fly

To my sister Joyce for calling me every day, sometimes twice, and understanding what I sob through tears

To an unnamed supporter who steps up to the plate and gives me the assist (see, a mixed sports metaphor!) whenever I need one, regardless of obligation

To my neighbor Scott who spent countless hours hauling my trash, hanging my flags, picking my sorry butt off of the driveway, and in general being a hero

To Miranda, who has been a willing accomplice to my crazy ideas for three years

To Patrick, who has been there through everything and let me move his bedroom around every time I needed a space for someone else

To Katrina, who tolerated my obsessive-compulsive late blooming

To Joe Brewer, the original ID guru who saved my life the first time

To Alan, who knows where all the bodies are buried including the ones for which he dug the hole and threw the dirt down

To Jay and Joanna, who treated me like a daughter and redeemed me

To Penny, who first suggested that I might be crazy but I’m still beautiful

To Kelley, who treats me like a queen and makes me beautiful if only for a few weeks at a time

To my faithful readers, and I’ll mention a few: Andrea, Pat, Linda, Cousin Kati, Jane, Brenda, AV [yes, I know you don’t read often but you’re faithful and you send me chocolate] and so many more

[Edit:  It goes without saying that Sandy Thomas Dixon and Chuck Dixon rate as my number one blog fans.]

To Jenny, for square plates

And to every singer of every song of hope ever, especially the one whom I discovered today — Mandy Harvey, who re-learned to sing after losing her hearing.

Thank you all.  And so many more.  If you don’t see your name in this list, don’t think I am not grateful.  I am; I’ve just made myself cry so I have to close.  I love you all.

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

Special thanks to Season, for being herself.



A solitary soul in the city

Above the broken slats of the wooden blind, I can see a whisper of pale blue sky shot through with silver clouds.  Looks like rain, I tell myself, out loud, with my unused voice.

The neighbor’s dog emits three barks in her deep tones.  Further toward the street, our old Beagle-Lab sends her insistent high yap into the street and I think, not for the first time, that I am lucky the new guy next door likes her.

A fog clings to my brain.  The worst problem with sleep disruption is not the level of fatigue but the slowness of my thought and the lack of coordination as i stumble through the morning.  In order to secure a handicapped spot near the courthouse, I have to leave in an hour but I can barely walk,  much  less drive or even trust myself to stand in the shower.  Luckily my lily-white spastic hands can find their clumsy way across the keyboard.

But I’m  not complaining.  Eventually the synapses will bear the weight of the matter which needs to fly across them in its broken pattern.  I  understand the rhythm of my body, in all its jittery dissonance. I’ll get the rings on my fingers, sort out the mass of curly hair falling in my eyes, and find shoes in which I can stand and move across the floor.  By the time I pull out of the driveway, I’ll look as much like a lawyer as I ever do and my smile will flash at the neighbors walking their own dogs before they leave for their own jobs.  I’ll make my solitary way through the city.

I hope to get out of the house in time to grab a coffee on the way downtown.  The college kid at the Unbakery will ask if I want a gluten-free scone and I’ll make my usual joke about not tempting me with the carbs.  I’ll go out the wrong way because they put the exit on the left side for reasons I still don’t understand.  I’ll have the same thought about not getting hit; then I’ll turn into the morning sun rising in the east, casting its light over the grimy streets of my neighborhood.

I’ll shake my head as I drive down Troost, wondering why no one realizes how easy it is navigate the wide boulevard.  I’ll think for the thousandth time that it is unfortunate that the street carries such a stigma.  As I make the wide turn past the Health Department, I’ll look to the right and wonder, yet again, who lives in all the new buildings that have appeared along that stretch.  At that moment, as I crest the hill, the city will lay before me.  I’ll gasp at its clean lines and  modern beauty.  I hardly recognize the place sometimes, yet I call it home.  I hide within its concrete, safe, unmolested, secure, alone and yet, almost never lonely.

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


View of downtown Kansas City from near 24th and Troost.


Human congress

Every time I write an entry about relationships, some ex-friend messages me and suggests that the thrust of the post related to the demise of our human congress.

Mind you, I have few ex-friends.  I’m still on reasonably good terms with all of my five hundred former spouses, most of my high school classmates, and one or two old supervisors who still walk this earth.  The ghost in my house seems to enjoy my presence and the poltergeist who formerly threw knives has fallen quiet, apparently approving of my current life style.

So perhaps I exaggerate in my appellation.  But suffice it to  say that one or two people protest the zing of arrows perhaps not meant for them.  No doubt this shaft, too, will find its unsuspected mark.  Bear with me, then: but it must be said.

I do not consider my connections with people to be business relationships.

Therefore, when that connection splinters, the phrase “lost opportunity” does not apply.  The people who enrich my life weave through the tapestry of my story, gossamer threads livening the landscape.  When the weaver pulls a strand, I mourn the rift in a glorious and beloved tableau.  No patch can truly restore its splendor, though even a quilt of scraps has its own grandeur.

Even though I am loathe to lose people, I don’t hold hostages.   If someone squirms in the place where they’ve landed, I release them.  I offer a spot distant but still within view.    If I loved you once — man, woman, or child — I will love you to eternity.  My nature dictates this abiding affection.  You have the right to take yourself as far from me as necessary but the welcome light will shine for eternity.  I am not a business deal that can be shunned, nor a partner who turns bitter and files suit to sever all ties.  My humanity allows me to adapt my thinking to let you play whatever role you choose.

I have endured criticism for this approach.  Moreover, some folks behave in ways that prompt me to remove their square from the overall design though thankfully not often.  I think I have grown adept at seeing through most veils to the virtue within each heart that I encounter.  Most people carry their goodness near the surface; and few souls harbor only evil.  I’ve met  a half dozen men and women over the years whose presence I could not tolerate in any measure.  But on balance, luck or divine guidance has steered me out of the path of the rare, truly ugly spirits who walk among us.

Everyone else graces my life.  I crave grace.  It is that simple, that pure.

So:  see yourself in these words.  However, see the words for what they are:  A joyful noise.

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

A good kind of tired

This morning, every moment of three days of intense preparation combines with my 61-3/4 years, that five extra pounds that I regained (with ten others) and can’t compel myself to lose, and the nasty little virus which eats at my synapses.  This quadruple whammy sends me stumbling through the house.  I don’t care though.  It’s a good kind of tired.

When I started my “miracle drug” regimen in December of 2014, the Stanford gurus warned me not to overdue my activities.  It’s a big mistake our patients make.  They start to feel better, do too much, and experience symptom whiplash.  I shook my head in amusement.  Their ideal patient would have been well enough for a full life; stricken; saved by their efforts; and then resume normalcy.

I’m not that woman.

I’m the woman who has never known a day without pain and impairment since age eighteen months.  But I’m also the woman whose mother said, If you walk every day of your life, you’ll walk every day of your life.  So keep walking.  I buckle my spastic feet into heavy Doc Martens to keep from toppling into bushes.  A walking stick lies on the floor of my car but I’d rather use the walls for the occasional need to rest, because my hands remain free for my work satchel.  With a computer slung over my shoulder and a pocketful of hopes, I forge ahead, doing too much, trying too hard, smiling too wide.

I’m the person who won’t let a damned bug get me down.  I laugh boldly, hitch my leggings to my waist, and wade into any fray.

This weekend, my efforts, my attitude, and my rock-star secretary drove the bus to a successful event, raising funds and awareness for the bravery of fire fighters, police officers, and other first responders who dash to our rescue at the touch of 9-1-1.  In the process, we opened our doors to 150 or so folks who stood mesmerized before John Howe’s Kansas City Veterans Portrait  Project and the fabulous sculptures of Wes Casey.  People gasped when they learned that the lovely wooden boxes came to life under the hands of a blind, retired KC firefighter.  They gazed on the ethereal forms in photographs by Scott Anderson.

They also bought raffle tickets and bid in our silent auction, hoping to win one of the marvelous items donated by generous sponsors who give every time I ask.

We raised $1200.00 to share among three organizations:  Warriors’ Ascent, which provides counseling for first responders and combat veterans experiencing PTSD; SAFE, an organization working with surviving spouses and the families of law enforcement injured or killed in the line of duty; and the Good & Welfare Fund of Firefighters Local 781, which does the same for the firefighters in Independence, Missouri.  We also gave these organizations an opportunity to mingle and talk about their work.

How can I let worry about my fatigue level stand in the way of such an important undertaking?

It’s 8:09 a.m. on a Monday morning.  I need to get my muscles moving enough to shower and dress.  I’ll get there, soon.  Not on time; not early; and not dressed in the starched linens of a “real” lawyer.  But I’ll be present and accounted for, as I have striven to be every blessed day of my life, virus be damned.  I think my mother would approve.

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

Four of KCPD’s finest posed at our event yesterday.

Lessons Learned

This morning I pulled the car down my driveway and stopped at the sight of a thick yellow hose running across where I needed to exit.  The construction has gone on all week, starting well before the permitted hour and continuing until dark.  But usually we can get around the mess.

I glanced to and fro, looking for some indication of humanity.  No one.  I waited.  I tapped my horn.  Still no one.  What the heck, I decided.  They see people live here.  If they left a hose it must be safe to drive over it.

When I started forward, all hell broke loose.  A gang of MGE workers catapulted down the block screaming Stop!  Stop!  so I did, halfway over the rubber and almost in the street.  I rolled down the window and said, What?

Lady, didn’t you see the hose?  I sighed.  Of course I had.  The bright yellow snake, three or four inches in diameter, strung down the block across all of the driveways.  How could I have missed it?  What I had not seen was any warning indicators or notices not to drive on it.

They hollered at me for a few minutes and then told me to go ahead the rest of the way.  The experience soured me all day.  I found myself conducting an inner dialogue, scolding myself for not having gotten out of the car and walked a block to look for advice.  What if I hurt the car?  What if I damaged their hose?

How could I have been so stupid?

When I got home this afternoon, I found out that my neighbor had the same experience, except she had kept driving.  The gaggle of men yelled at her boyfriend since she had made her escape.  With thirty years between us, she stood complacently in their doorway.  She shrugged and said, They should have communicated better.  She seemed unfazed.  She certainly didn’t hold herself accountable.

I learned a lesson today.  I have gone around my entire life assuming myself to be at fault whenever things go awry.  It never occurred to me that my perception might be skewed — not really, that is.  I have acknowledged that it’s an academic possibility but never believed it.

Some people can look the facts dead in the eye and believe the contrary of what they see.  I observe it every day, in my clients, my colleagues, my friends, myself.  Everywhere I went today, people told me what they thought; of politics, of Missouri; of Kansas; of their spouses; of the interactions between us; of their children.  I laughed a little.  I mentioned a time or two that there might be information that they had not considered, but nobody wanted to hear any refutation of their convictions.  One person even told me to keep it to myself.  He believes what he believes, regardless of contradictory evidence.

But I feel differently about this Corinne-is-always-to-blame thing.  My ears pricked when my neighbor said that she had done exactly as I had, but put the responsibility for the situation in the hands of those surly workers whose hose had no doubt taken quite a beating under the wheels of everybody trying to go about their plans for the day. She’s right.  I can say it now:  I didn’t cause the hose to be there; I wasn’t the person who failed to instruct people as to how to deal with the situation; and I had no idea that anybody cared whether I drove over the hose or not.  It was not my fault.

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


Be Prepared

A long time ago, my father told me that an independent woman should always have a hammer, a pry bar, and a measuring tape.  My first husband added “duct tape” to the list of requisites, and since I started writing practically at birth, my instincts told me to throw a supply of notebooks and pens into the toolbox.

Others taught me the value of good coffee beans, fresh loose-leaf tea, zip-ties, and contractor bags.  But it took sixty-one years of hard living to find out about wound sealant.

The black powder comes in little foil packets or two-inch tubes.  You can dump a generous amount on an open cut to stench the flow of Warfarin-laden blood.  I’m a klutz; I carry the stuff in every pocketbook and keep it at the office.  Kudos to the person who taught me about it; he knows who he is.

Now, I’m not complaining, but I do take a bit of umbrage with the size of the container in which it’s sold.  I often need an entire allotment just to get to the point at which I can apply a taught bandage.  But it works; and many’s the time when my incapable left hand has applied a sprinkle to a slice in one of my right fingers.

I like being prepared.  My computer bag has a pouch filled with all sorts of items that could come in handy:  Ear buds, an extra mouse battery, a USB cable, and eye glass cleaner, just to name a few.

But at times, I rummage through my bag and come up empty, like Dorothy hovering on the perimeter while the Tin Man gets his ticking heart, the Lion accepts an award for courage, and the Scarecrow proudly displays his diploma.  The tools which I need to weather some storms can’t fit into a box stowed under the sink or in the garage.  And far worse:  My first-aid kit can’t save the world.  Even the industrial size of WoundSeal won’t mend a broken heart; fill an empty belly; ease the suffering of refugees; comfort a mother whose son has stepped in front of a terrorist’s knife or soothe a man when a stray bullet fells his brother.  Nothing seals those wounds, not time nor the tender mercies of the most devoted of friends.  I feel helpless to heal those whose anguish I see in the daily news.  At times, I can’t even ease the sorrow in faces around me.

I won’t complain, though.  I just keep putting my best foot forward, as our Nana told us to do.  I haul my box of supplies everywhere I go.  If something gets stuck, I pull out my father’s little crowbar and tackle the job, then wipe my brow, and soldier forward.

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