In Cat Years……..

Chinese New Year is celebrated on the 2nd new moon after the Winter Solstice. This day is also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. Chinese people around the world gathered for their annual reunion dinner on February 3. They wear new red clothing to ward off evil spirits and start the year anew.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, based on the cycles of the moon. A cycle is made up of 12 months each. A complete cycle is 60 years comprising five 12 month cycles. The Chinese legend has it that Lord Buddha summoned all of the animals before he departed the earth. Only twelve came. He rewarded those twelve by naming a year after each one in the order they presented themselves. An interesting twist is found in the Vietnamese Zodiak where Cat is the fourth cycle animal. According to the Vietnamese legend, Rat tricked Cat into missing the banquet and Rabbit received the honor instead. So the Vietnamese Zodiac honors Cat.

In the Chinese Zodiac I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. Cat’s characteristics are just enough different from Rabbit’s to make me wonder if I really lean more toward the Vietnamese Zodiac lifestyle. Rabbit people are articulate. Cat people are smooth talkers and I am a very convincing recruiter, which is not the same as articulate. Cat and Rabbit people are both talented and ambitious. Rabbit people are reserved, have excellent taste, admired, trusted and often financially lucky. Cat people have supple minds, a patient personality and know how to wait for favorable conditions before taking action. They succeed in their studies and are in conflict with Rat. I am really in conflict with Rat and I patiently wait for the right time; sometimes to the chagrin of family and friends.

There is even more confusion in my life these days. You may have heard there was a dust up recently over the possibility of astrological signs changing. An astronomer, who does not even believe in astrology, gave voice to his interpretation of what early astronomers and astrology believers were thinking all those years ago when they left out some 13th thing. He told his tale to a reporter and the rest is history. Not quite as exciting as the “Colorado Bubble Boy” or “OJ chase,” the astrological sign change was still good for a 24 hour news cycle.

Being a curious sort I checked out my new astrological sign. There is a happy outcome. Others may stick to the old astrological chart. I am going with the new one. I was always uncomfortable with my Aries characteristics before the shifting universe. I am much more in tune with my new sign.

From now on I am a Pisces Cat. I wonder if the whole twelve year cycle thing makes me 5 years old in cat years….……

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved



February 4 is GO RED Day – A special day to promote awareness of the importance of good heart health for women.

Some statistics*on women’s heart health

  • Only 13% of women view heart disease as a health threat, even though it’s women’s No. 1 killer.
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills over 480,000 women a year, about one per minute.
  • One in three adult females and males in the United States suffers from a form of CVD.
  • CVD claims more lives than the next four most common causes of death combined.
  • On average, an American dies of CVD every 35 seconds.
  • Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 single killer of women over age 25.
  • 64% of women who died suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
  • One in 2.6 female deaths are from CVD, compared with one in 30 from breast cancer.
  • Heart disease rates in post-menopausal women are two to three times higher than in pre-menopausal women of the same age.
  • Stroke is the #3 cause of death for American women, and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
  • Stroke kills more women than men. In 2003, females represented 61% of stroke deaths.

 Today is my personal pledge day

  • I pledge to eat 3+ servings of vegetables every day.
  • I pledge to eat at least 2 servings of fruit every day.
  • I pledge to keep my food diary updated daily for 60 days.
  • I pledge to add calisthenics to my morning routine at least four times a week.
  • I pledge to find the time to swim 10+ laps at least 2X weekly.
  • I pledge to lose 10% of my current body weight by April 1.

Do you have a pledge to promote a heart healthy lifestyle?

What have I done ……………………………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved



Grandpa S……….

My cousin, Mike, has his Dad’s 6 leg, 1-1/2″ slate, early 1900, straight line Brunswick billiard table in his “man cave”. During the latter part of the 1960’s, Mike’s father dug a basement and built on an addition to their small ranch house. My uncle told us he was building a place for Grandpa S to play billiards. I am sure Aunt Betty was more interested in the larger living room and the dining room she gained. However, we all believed Uncle Ed.

We were raised on family legends regarding Grandpa S’ ability to outplay and win in all things billiards and pool. I know he loved athletics and competition. He played football in high school before he dropped out to help support his family less than a year after his father was killed. 

Grandpa S started his own business working as a plumber during the depression. Times were hard and everyone did what they had to do to get by. When there was a need for food, Grandpa played billiards for money. My mother and her siblings believe Grandma S would have choked on the food if she had known where the money came from.

Family lore holds that sometime during the 1930’s Grandpa S and Uncle John met and played with world class pool and billiards players during Brunswick US Exhibition tours. According to legend, Grandpa S played and beat Erich Hagenlacher, German Balkline 18.2 billiards champion. Legend, also, holds, Willie Mosconi, a world champion pocket billiards player, would not play three-cushion billiards with Grandpa because Mosconi could not beat him and Grandpa would not play pocket billiards with Mosconi because Mosconi would have beaten him. A side legend is that Uncle John and Willie Mosconi played snooker instead. These are our legends and we are sticking to them.

Grandpa S had impressive agility and athletic ability. He would bend at his waist and lean down and touch his nose to the floor in the triangle he made by putting his thumbs and first fingers together. He could jump over a broomstick while holding both ends. Grandpa was a hunter. Every year there were western Kansas treks to hunt quail and pheasant. Grandpa’s hunting dogs were not pets.

Grandpa S bowled and won a lot of trophies. Sometimes they would take me along on bowling league night. Grandpa would buy me a coke and bag of chips when Grandma was not looking. The plumbing company sponsored a women’s softball team for years. And yes, I went along to many of those games, too. Grandpa would disappear and then show up with a drink and hot dog or popcorn for him and me. Grandma would quietly shake her head.

Grandpa S loved to travel. He took his family to Colorado during the depression and saved his gas rations for his summer Colorado trips during the war.  Grandpa loved to drive. He drove to Colorado, all over the southwest and California, up the Pacific coast to visit his sister in Oregon. He traveled in the south and up to New England to see Aunt Mary’s family and through Canada and back to Kansas again. He had an 8-millimeter movie camera. We have movies of holidays, family gatherings and Grandma and Grandpa Trips.

My oldest daughter was born about the time Grandpa retired. We had rented the little house next door to them. When they were not traveling she would spend an hour or so at their house most days. Grandpa would sit in his rocker lounger and she would lean up against the chair. He would smile while she showed him what treasure she had found or share with him whatever she was playing with. His engagement with her was a reminder of how much he cared for his children and grandchildren. As children we lived close by and were always in and out of their house. Whenever we left he would tell us to “be careful.”

Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of the remarkable man who was our grandfather. I hope my life is being lived as large as he lived his ………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Celebrating Cycles…..

The Spring Equinox marks the passage of winter to spring, which is still six weeks away whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not. According to European legend if the groundhog sees his shadow he goes back into his cave for six weeks. If he does not see his shadow he will stay outside and there will be an early return of spring weather.

Groundhogs hibernate by building winter homes and burrowing in for three- six months depending on the climate outside. It follows they would wake up when the weather is beginning the turn toward spring. What always confused me is the sun vs. cloud cover thing. So if he finds warm sun he goes inside. If there is no sun and it is colder he stays outside? Right!

Being a research geek I went on an internet search about all things groundhog and divining weather. David Beaulieu’s theory* regarding a desire to celebrate our anticipation of spring makes the most sense to me. The origin of Candlemas, a Catholic holiday on February 2, is found in Celtic pagan rituals celebrating “fertility and weather divination.”* February comes from the Latin Februa, meaning “expiatory offerings”. The month of purification for the earth’s annual re-awakening.

Groundhog Day is a celebration in our life cycle. Life is all about cycle. Birth ….. Growth… Maturity…. Dying…. Death….. There are cycles within cycles. Start school, attend school and graduate from school. Start new job, complete job and move onto another job. Birth children, raise children, send children out into world. Celebrating our cycles has a rythmic beat. Birthday, family and holiday celebrations mark passage of our time. Celebrating Groundhog Day makes sense to me now.

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow today…..……


 *Groundhog Day: Transition to the Spring Equinox

By David Beaulieu, Guide

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Phil and Me………..

Years ago we lived in an old farmhouse with some acreage. For daily exercise I created a walking path. I would walk the long way around the farm pond, make a figure eight loop by the back of the barn; bypass the house, walk out by the tree break hedge row, back by the pile of wood from the old shed and up to the house. Walking the path twice took about 40 minutes. While the girls were in school, I would walk the path twice at least once a day.

One warm, sunny late August day, a movement in the grass out by the pile of shed board caught my eye.  I slowed to a stop and looked down at the cutest little reddish brown furry animal I had ever seen. The little thing was very young and, literally, rolled up in a ball. I could not even see her head. Poor little thing, she was hoping if she did not see me, maybe I did not see her.  Feeling an unexplained sympathy with the desire, I backed a step away and gave her space, continuing my walk a little less briskly, a little more contemplatively.  

The memory of that walk is one of my life-defining moments. There was a shallow peace surrounding my life in that time. All had not spun out of my ability to control. A time before the upheaval and chaos in my middle earth life began. We were living in a cocoon spun with hopes and dreams based on a level of denial so deep, I could not even begin to imagine the amount of digging it would take to escape. My imagination at that time was based on a whole other set of priorities, which seems far removed from where I am now.

The little animal baby was a woodchuck and for some reason she symbolizes the beginning of the end of my denial world. Five months later I was having an emotional meltdown in my friend’s kitchen. In my life journey, this particular meltdown is known as the I-am-turning-37-and-I-not-only-do-not-have-life-figured-out-I-may-never-have-life-figured-out-revelation.

There is a really deep peace in my life today. I am on the other side and if I still dabble in denial it is of short duration and there is any number of people in my life willing to remind me of the consequence of straying off my real time path.

Imagine my surprise when a woodchuck came back into my life today. While researching groundhogs for a February 2nd post, I discovered woodchucks are groundhogs. Always pleased to learn something new, I am still wondering how I missed this piece of information all of these years.

You can bet I am going to be paying closer attention to Punxsutawney Phil’s more or less winter prediction tomorrow. After all, he is a distant Pennsylvania cousin to my Illinois woodchuck. According to reliable sources*, he has an 80% prediction rate, good enough percentages for me.

Wonder what message Phil might have for me tomorrow……..

*Wikipedia: “Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time.[24] A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts the success rate level at 37%.[24] Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall prediction accuracy rate is around 39%.[25]

WKBW-TV meteorologist Mike Randall put it a different way: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow.[26]

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Grandpa K…….

My dad’s father always seemed to be working the swing shift, when my cousin, Cheryl, and I spent the night with them. Grandma K would pack us in the old Chevy and we would go pick him up at 11 PM. We would giggle and be silly in the back seat in our pajamas, all ready to be tucked in as soon as we were back at their house. What fun, to be out so late at night. I loved the drive to the mill where Grandpa K worked.  We took the River Road with its curves and the big dip under the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge.  The Kansas River was beautiful and mysterious with the moon reflecting on the water.

The words we shared with our grandparents on those rides are long gone, only the feeling of being valued and loved remains. Grandpa K would greet us and tease us a little. Later, Cheryl and I would giggle and whisper in bed. Grandma K would shush us, we would be still for a second, and then start whispering again.

Grandpa K was a sports fan. He knew all kinds of facts and trivia about all kinds of sports. We were very quiet whenever ball games of any kind were on his TV. Always interested in history and genealogy, I spent hours making family tree charts with information Grandpa and Grandma K gave me. Grandpa K never talked much about his childhood. What little I know I gleaned from Dad, Aunt Norma, Aunt Margie and Grandpa K’s youngest brother, Orville.

West Virginia is where Grandpa K was born in 1901. He was third from the oldest in a family of nine surviving children.  His parents came to Kansas in a covered wagon when he was three. When Grandpa was a young teenager, his father packed them all in a covered wagon again. This time they were off to the “Promised Land” on the Canadian plains. On their way back south from the ‘not so promised land’ up north, they had no food and were starving. Grandpa K walked to the nearest town and begged to work for food for his mother and younger siblings.

In 1918, Grandpa K went to McPherson College in McPherson, KS to become a minister. He fell ill with the influenza. The doctor sent him to Arizona for his health. When he got there, he said there were too many sick people. He turned around and came back home.  After that, he farmed and did whatever he needed to support himself and his family.

The other day I was talking to my Dad’s sister, Norma. I asked her to tell me the warmest memory she had of her father.  Two memories popped into her mind. He would tie one end of a rope to the fencepost and turn the rope from the other end so she and Margie could jump rope together. She said he would be outside, after school when she was in the first grade. They would walk home holding hands. She remembered she has the Bible her mother gave him for his 40th birthday. He could quote Bible verses all day long.

Grandpa K was born 110 years ago today. In 1982, we went back to the small south central Kansas town he loved for his funeral.  An older gentleman approached us. He told my dad that Grandpa K was the hired man on his father’s farm many years ago. He came to pay his respects to the hard working young man he remembered.

Grandpa would have been pleased.………………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


The Name Game……..

Being the oldest in my family I was around for most of the naming games my parents played. As previously reported, I was Susan Kay not Susan Lee or Sylvia Kay. The first born son was named after my dad.  It was the fifties; there were a lot of Juniors in my extended family.  After him was Leslie Ann, pronounced Lesss-lie not Lez-lie, which annoyed my sister no end because Leslie, emphasizing the “s”, was, generally, known as the masculine pronunciation.  Her middle name was, also, my mother’s.

Deb was next in line. To our knowledge there was not a Debra in the family. And the Jean was the same middle name as my Aunt Norma. The drama for Deb’s name was with the spelling. Dad wanted Deborah. Mom wanted Debra. If they had consulted Deb, the name would have been Catherine or Elizabeth. She would have settled for Deborah, pronounced De–boar–ah, and she HATED Debbie. It took her years of glaring looks and annoyed flipping of her long red hair to convince us to call her Deb instead of Debbie.

My second brother was fairly easy. My Dad’s best friend was Max Wade. Max was killed in a car accident when Dad was eighteen. He never really got over picking up the paper one cold winter Sunday morning and finding his best friend had been killed the night before. Now we have a Max Wade, too. After Max is Rick. The Richard came out of nowhere. His middle name was my mother’s father’s middle name, Murrel. My dad’s father’s name was part of the whole Junior thing with my first brother.

The real family negotiations came with my two youngest sisters names. Mom’s favorite soap opera was As the World Turns. Someone on the show had a baby named Sarah Louise. Mom loved the name. She would call her Sally. Dad liked Penelope Jo and we would call her Penny.  The discussion went on for months. Their boy names were Mark Dwayne or Kevin Dwayne. When my second to the youngest sister was born a name was not assigned immediately. Finally, they determined her name was Sally Jo. Sister Sally would have much rather been Sarah Louise. Oh well, the vagaries of parents.

The eighth child name discussion was heated until the end. The boy name was now Mark Dwayne. For a girl, Mom wanted Penny Louise and Dad wanted Penelope Louise. He would call her Penny Lou. The birth certificate was held up because they could not agree.  Penny Louise finally came home from the hospital. To this day, we still tease her by calling her Penelope or Penny Lou.

Happy Birthday, Baby Sister……………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Sesquicentennial Kansas……

The State of Kansas turned 100 years old when I was in the fourth grade.  My classmates and I had a double dose of all things Kansas because fourth grade was the designated year to study Kansas history. My mother was the official classroom mother. She asked my grandmother to make a Kansas map cake.

Making the cake was fairly easy, a rectangle with a squiggly line representing the Missouri River cutting off the northeast corner. What was amazing is she made a map showing all 105 counties on the top of the cake. There was discussion as to what color a Kansas map ought to be. Grandma made beige colored icing for the background. She added cocoa and coffee to make the chocolate county lines.

Fascinated, I watched  as she created a decorating tube with wax paper, dropped her straight line silver tip in the bottom of the cone and added the brown icing. She carefully ran the lines across the cake, occasionally glancing at the enlarged drawing of the Kansas map with counties my mother had made on newsprint. The tip of her tongue was just visible between her teeth. I could feel her concentration.

When she was done we all stood looking at that cake. It was a beauty to behold. I know someone took a picture.  I called to ask my ‘keeper of almost all things archival in the family’ sister, Leslie, if she had the picture in her coffee-table-picture-holding trunk. She does not remember the cake, let alone a picture. Oh well, there is a picture in my mind. All of the teachers and the school principal came to our classroom to see the wonderful cake.

We were to dress in Kansas pioneer clothes. I wore a long skirt, long sleeved blouse with an apron and small handkerchief shawl tied around my shoulders from my grandmother’s upstairs trunk AND I wore my great-grandmother’s lace up high-topped shoes. There was a sunbonnet on my head. I was looking good and walking proud.

Great-grandmother's shoes

Kansas officially became a state in the United States of America 150 years ago today, January 29, 2011. The story of Kansas begins much earlier. There were the oceans and glaciers and the extremely hot dry arid conditions. There are the Kanza* Indians and other Native American tribes which hunted buffalo and used the trade routes which later expanded to become the Santa Fe Trail, the Smoky Hill Trail, the Oregon Trail…….

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition looking for golden cities in 1541. European settlers came in 1830. Eastern state explorers and then pioneers came out in the 1850’s. Kansas was known as ‘bleeding Kansas’ in the late 1850’s when Free State and pro-slavery sympathizers fought over whether Kansas would enter the union as a free or slave state.

After the civil war, Kansas opened up as a good place to grow corn, in the northeast, a good place to grow wheat, south central, and good prairie grass for cattle in most other parts. All of my family came to Kansas in the mid-nineteenth century to very early twentieth century. My great-grandfather came from Sweden in the 1890’s. He married Myrtle, high top shoe owner, and eventually settled on a farm in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The farm is named Meadowbrook Farm and has been in the family for 100 years this year. There is a family reunion scheduled there the first weekend in September. Meadowbrook is English for Engstrom, the name my great-grandfathers’ family took when they stopped using the “son of or daughter of” designation in his native land. He would have been Anders Jonson and his sister would have been Mary Jonsdotter.

Knowing where I come from is as important as knowing where I am going. Most importantly, I know where I am right now.

Happy Birthday, Kansas……………………

*Kanza was the word for “people of the wind”

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


A Sam Down Day

Sam has a fever and an earache. His Mama took him to the walk-in hours at his pediatrician office in the morning. Walk-in hours at a children’s doctor’s office are a really great innovation. The sick children are separated from the well children, the doctor can see you without an appointment and the parent’s anxiety over what is wrong may be relieved quicker.

According to the doctor Sam has a “flaming ear infection”. Mom brings him home to me and then goes out to pick up the prescription. Generally, Sam is upset when anyone leaves his condo, let alone his Mama. He did not even seem to notice.

A child in pain tugs at emotional heartstrings differently than a happy, smiling, playful or sleeping child. They are small and vulnerable. They hurt without knowing why. When sick, I am crabby and cranky and miserable and I know what is going on.

After his Tylenol, Sam was distracted from his pain long enough to give me a little grin every now and then. He wanted me to play our little game only he did not even run from me. He would walk several steps and look back at me. I would pick him up, kiss his neck and put him down. He would take another step and we would repeat the whole process. In a very short while he wanted to be held again.

He ate all of his cereal and mashed bananas as his mother left for her hair appointment. He barely noticed her leaving. We sat on the sofa. He would lean on me or set on my lap or slide down to the floor. Curious George was on the TV. He liked that for a little while. Then he was back on the sofa, leaning on me, sitting on my lap, sliding to the floor. At one point he clearly wanted me to rock him and I complied. So unlike Sam, he fears the sandman during the day something fierce.

Fifteen minutes before his Dad came home, Sam slid to the floor, laid his head down and was asleep almost instantaneously.

Glancing back as I left, my heartstrings tugged, poor baby Sam………..

Disclaimer: Pseudonyms will be used for persons 17 years of age and under

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Network Central….

Networking is as natural to me as breathing. I am curious about people and like connecting them with other people or organizations for both personal and professional reasons. A friend once told me I was a bridge to other people and places for her.  And she appreciated it.

Translating this gift into a more material resource lucrative proposition is a challenge. A woman I met at a workshop suggested I ought to become a recruiter. She meant a professional headhunter type recruiter. They work under a lot of pressure. These days I am interested in a little lower key lifestyle, thank you very much.

My professional career was about recruiting the right people for both volunteer positions and paid employment to accomplish the organization mission. I enjoyed the work and believe wholeheartedly in the objective to provide leadership opportunities for girls. Now I am transitioning my own leadership skills, experiences and education to the next best place for me to be.

Two days ago I updated my Linked In connections by requesting connections to just about everyone on my email lists and searching through the Linked In subscribers. The response has been great.

On Monday I connected someone with a need for a website content writer to a copywriter I met through crossover circles. They are meeting today to see if they can meet each other’s needs. Last night I had a conversation with a friend from New York I had not spoken to for over six months. We made arrangements to get together when she is in Chicago in March. On Wednesday I am having lunch with a classmate from my graduate school days to see if we can work together.

A lesson learned in my 53 years as a girl, volunteer and professional Girl Scout is to look wide for connections, friends, experiences, life lessons. The friendships, understandings and personal growth are the reward. Any resources manifested from them are a bonus.

Taking a deep breath, leaping and looking wider still…….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved