It is that time of year again……

Once again, I have succumbed to the allure of making myself over into a healthy, physically fit human being so I might look reasonably acceptable in warm weather clothing sometime in May. 

This year I am doing something I used to avoid. Swimming has always been my exercise of choice. Swimming in January has never been my choice. I know, I know, it is inside a building. Doesn’t  matter. When I swam laps regularly I would quit in November and start up again in March.

The young man who gave me the tour today at our local park district athletic center told me the water in the lap pool was a warm 80+ degrees. He cannot fool an old lap swimmer. When you leave the building and the 0 degree wind whips around your body, it does not matter what the temperature of the pool was…

So I have a pair of fleece sweats and a hooded sweatshirt to put on after my shower and soft faux furry boots to pull on my feet. I will bundle up and brave a northern Illinois January to help develop  the stamina, endurance and strength I need to keep up with my grandchildren on our trip this summer.

……….I want to hike to the glacier… I want to hike to the glacier…… I want to hike to the glacier…I want to hike to the glacier………

“Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse.” George Sheehan

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved.


“on the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me nine ladies dancing…..”*

Today is the ninth day of Christmas. There are not a lot of ladies dancing at my house. We are getting ready for tomorrow. The real start of the New Year in our society’s culture is the day children return to school and the employed go back to work.  Most people do not even know that December 25 is the First Day of Christmas and the celebration continues until Twelfth Night, January 5. 

Festivals and celebrations have been evolving since the dawn of our human existence. Family traditions all begin somewhere. Sometimes they are carried on for specific reasons and sometimes are carried on just because they were always done that way.

When the children were young we lived in Illinois most of their elementary and middle school years. We alternated going back to Kansas for Christmas one year and Thanksgiving the next so they could have Christmas in our home half of the time.

Years later they still say things like “We always spent Christmas (or Thanksgiving) at Grandma’s.” Even though we alternated Christmas’ and Thanksgivings in Kansas at different grandparents who lived 90 miles apart. I have also heard them say, “We were always home for Christmas (or Thanksgiving).”

When I was a little girl my grandparents lived in the same town as we did. We always had Christmas morning at our own home and two Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, one at each set of grandparents.

When we grew up and started creating families of our own, my mom began the custom of alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving with her children’s in-laws.  As we started adding serious relationship contenders to the family group, she asked everyone to coordinate schedules so we could all be together at least once a year on the actual holiday. I admit to messing with her schedule by moving to Illinois. We adjusted and the years we were in Kansas for whichever holiday were spent in two different homes 90 miles apart.

As our children have grown and created families we have managed to alternate Christmas and Thanksgiving. Every year is better than ever as we continue to add new people and traditions to our gatherings of family and friends. This year was a good year, lots of telephone calls, packages exchanged by mail and new Christmas dinner menus.

Our oldest granddaughter will graduate from high school this year. I can see more adjustments to the annual holiday schedules on the horizon. As long as I have sausage balls for Christmas breakfast I am okay with any variations of the holiday.

Okay. Let’s get started on the New Year……..

*Twelve Days of Christmas

In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve. The Lord of Misrule symbolizes the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten. The person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signaled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. The Lord of Misrule tradition dates back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

In colonial America, a Christmas wreath was always left up on the front door of each home, and when taken down at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. any edible portions would be consumed with the other foods of the feast. The same held true in the 19th-20th centuries with fruits adorning Christmas trees. Fresh fruits were hard to come by, and were therefore considered fine and proper gifts and decorations for the tree, wreaths, and home. Again, the tree would be taken down on Twelfth Night, and such fruits, along with nuts and other local produce used, would then be consumed.


Lilypad living room

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved.


New Year motto*……..

When I was a lot younger I made New Year resolutions. Sometimes I kept them. Sometimes I did not. Years ago I realized each year had a theme indicating where I am in my life journey. The theme is revealed in a title or line from a book I am reading or want to read. Other times the words or phrase describing the essence of my life come to me.

Towards the end of each year I reflect upon the past years discoveries and accomplishments. Reading through my journals, scratch paper/writing pad thoughts, musings and just plain scribbles, the motto for the next year sometimes reveals itself. Some years the theme has been slowly revealing itself throughout the year and bubbles to the surface at the right time.

For example, 1993 was my “Co-Dependent No More…” year, obviously, taken from Melody Beatty’s title for her bestselling book of the same name. A friend loaned me Co-dependent No More and Beyond Co-dependency in September 1992. I avoided reading them until January 1993. On New Year’s Day 1995, while shopping with friends at Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, I found a Mary Engelbreit poster, “Don’t Look Back” and the message was perfect for 1995.

In 1996 I was completing my first year of graduate school and wondering if I had what it takes to finish the program, find a job and start the next phase of my life. My motto was “The Next Right Step Will Be Revealed…”.

I remember 1999 as the “Year of the Child”. My youngest daughter’s family moved to Wichita where we were living.  The self- examining scrutiny to which I had been subjecting myself for six years was exhausting me. I spent the whole year embracing, enjoying and playing with my grandchildren in town and out of town. It was an exhilarating exhausting experience.  

The next year, 2000, was the year of “Testing the Resting” and I read Anne Wilson Schaef’s Living In Process.  There are still messages from her book resonating in my life.  My favorite quotes are “We exist in context. “, “All I have to deal with and clean-up is my side of the street.”, “When we are present in the moment we bring the accumulated wealth of our past to that moment.” Thanks Dr. Schaef, I have great memories of my year with you.

The year 2005 was about “To Move or Not to Move….” This was the year of deciding to seek a job, in my profession, in a bigger market thereby increasing my salary and requiring relocation or change fields and stay in our smaller town in Kansas.  I ended the year in the Chicago area with a challenging new job.

Living a simpler life was my goal for 2006. My companion for a year was Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy which gave me a look at who I was right then. My year with her and her book was very important to my ability to summon courage and fortitude for the next three years.

2007, 2008, 2009 were all variations of “I WILL SURVIVE,” Volumes I, II, III.

2010 was the year of Recovery and Rediscovery. After taking my employers early retirement offer, I have spent the past year living life one day at a time and developing the self-discipline to stay on my chosen tasks. I do not know which was harder – choosing the task or staying on the task.

“If Not Now, When…….” is my 2011 motto. I have a lot of things I want to do… eat healthier, find an exercise I am willing to follow to do regularly, write a book, make money doing what I enjoy most, save money, hire a maid … And if I do not start now when will I ever?

I will confess to making two resolutions for the New Year: I will find my Bluetooth and figure out how to connect it to my cell phone. And I will not text or respond to emails while driving. If it is that important, I will find a safe place to stop and then hit reply. Okay (big sigh) I feel safer already and those who are on the road with me will be safer too.

*Merriam-Webster’s definition of motto:

  1. A sentence, phrase, or word as appropriate to or indicative of its character or use
  2. A short expression of a guiding principle

Origin Italian from Late Latin muttum grunt, from Latin muttire to mutter

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved.