Rocky Mountain High ……………..

Spending the night somewhere in southwestern Kansas was inevitable.  Experienced from many trips to Colorado by a variety of routes I knew my overnight options in the southeastern part of the state would be thin. My plan was to spend the night in Garden City. I was familiar with one large motel on the highway into town.

The torrential downpour following the spectacular thunderstorm was not in my plan. The motel was filled. The evening motel clerk took pity upon my pathetic dripping wet self and called another motel for me. There was one room left. They would save it for me. Traipsing back out into the univinting elements I headed off with my written instructions. The vintage motor lodge was near downtown with a tiny full parking lot.  Parking on a side street, I opened the door and stepped out into swirling water halfway up to my knees. Grabbing my overnight bag, I sloshed through to the motel office. The hot bubble bath was heaven and sleep came easily.

The next morning the air was cool, clean and fresh. The sky was a wonderful shade of blue. Sticking my book-on-cassette into the tape player, I continued my adventure. Timing was great. I drove into the mountains mid-afternoon. Locating the main house and checking-in area, I received my instructions and keys. While the owner delivered my wood, I unloaded the car. After my brief tour of the pump house,  the springhouse and brand new outhouse, I was left alone to enjoy my stay.

There was a kerosene lamp on the little table, I opted for the battery operated Coleman lantern as the sun began to set behind the mountains. Starting a fire in the wood stove, I fixed an easy supper, heated water to wash my face, put on my flannel jammies and jumped into bed with a book. That night I again slept the sleep of the exhausted.

Waking up without an alarm clock is a luxury. Waking up to only take care of me was an unheard of phenomenon. The cabin was cold and I snuggled in bed until I was too hungry to wait anymore. I jumped up and started the fire. Using my old camp coffee pot I made coffee on the Coleman stove. Jumping back into bed I waited for the room to warm and coffee to perk. My breakfasts during the week were bacon and eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy or oatmeal. I made pizza, muffins, corn bread, meatloaf, baked chicken and a cake in the oven of the wood burning cook stove.

On the fourth of July the ranch family and the “dudes” gathered around a campfire for dinner and fireworks. During the day I took walks across the mountain meadow and checked out the farm or lay out on the fold up outdoor lounger I brought from home. One day in the middle of the week I drove out of the wilderness area into Gunnison and up to Crested Butte. I arrived during the summer wildflower festival and had a great time wandering through the town, eating ice cream and looking over all the flowers and arts and craft displays.  

The week I spent at the Quarter-Circle Circle Ranch was the real beginning of the rest of my life. The road trip to a remote area and taking care of myself with no running water, electricity and indoor plumbing set a new standard for how I wanted to live. The lessons learned were invaluable for my graduate school years three states away from my family support system.

My journey to find myself and carve out my own slice of life had begun………………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved

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It’s the culture……….

Over twenty years ago I was a new program director. My executive director wanted me to explore diversity programs we might be able to offer our members. She gave me brochures and pamphlets she had been collecting for years. Her personal favorite was a Philadelphia, PA based Green Circle Program started in 1957 by Gladys Rawlins. The program was being used by schools, youth organizations, Girl Scout councils and the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) to name a few.

While attending new program director training at the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) national conference center in New York, I met a Green Circle and Valuing Diversity facilitator trainer from Wichita, KS. My home was only 2 ½ hours away from her. We had found our program.

The first week back from the training I contacted my new friend and Green Circle Program ally. The dates for the next facilitator training were about six weeks away. I put together a program proposal and budget and set out to recruit a volunteer advisory group. First I needed a volunteer committee chair or at least a potential facilitator to take the training with me.  With a little help from the membership directors we found a former leader, a woman of color who had helped with a council diversity program in the past. She agreed to go to the training with me.

Let me be clear. I was a novice in the “how to’s” of developing a valuing differences program and clueless when it came to understanding and identifying institutional racism. I have a very basic belief in equality of all humans. This deep conviction is drawn from family dinner table conversations regarding injustices perpetuated on Jews, Gypsies and other enemies of the Third Riech in German Occupied Countries during World War II and the Civil Rights movement playing itself out on the nightly news throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. What I did not have was the language necessary to be an intelligent articulate spokesperson on the importance of valuing differences programs to the development of effective leaders or the knowledge of how to develop and integrate a program like this into an organization.

My experience during the two days we were in Wichita “rocked my world.” I became uncomfortably aware of how people of color are ignored and overlooked.  Both the white desk clerk at our motel and the white waitress at the restaurant where we ate looked at and talked only to me. They glanced at my companion only when necessary and other wise ignored her. We stopped at a mall and had fast food from a taco diner. As it happened I was the only white person eating there. I was not subjected to the same treatment my companion experienced earlier. We had not even had the first session of the training and my education had begun.

The two four hour trainings and the all day session with the regional Green Circle facilitator trainer were invaluable to me in my valuing differences and diversity awareness journey. My training with those facilitators laid the groundwork for years of effective work.

My most important take aways from those days in Wichita…. Our cultural environment incubates either prejudice and discrimnation or tolerance and understanding. We cannot ignore our differences, be they color, economic, environment, family, sexual orientation. Acknowledging and accepting our cultural differences will lead to less intolerance. Education will lead to less ignorance.

Color me convicted and committed to valuing cultural differences , eradicating institutional racism and changing his and her story………………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved

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Everyday Hero……

While reflecting and pondering life transitions and how women make them this past week, I remembered the juggling. For years a constant theme in my journals has been about finding a balance with who I wanted to be for myself and who I needed to be for those most close to me. There was a pivotal moment, a “blinding flash of the obvious” for me, when I recognized the struggle and juggle is the balance.

Remember the delicate act of keeping a teeter-totter straight across when we were children. Others wanted to go up and down. I was always fascinated with keeping a balance; the breathless concentration, wiggling forward and backwards to find the right location to keep the plank steady.

In the late 1990’s I was working as an assistant executive director at a Girl Scout council in Kansas to be closer to my young grandchildren and their mothers. I was learning as much as I could and taking every opportunity available to attend leadership and training programs locally and nationally. With a new marriage, new job, new location I wondered if I was spending enough time on important things, my new husband, my grandchildren, daughters, sisters, friends….

When my granddaughter Alice was four she was at church with me. During story time she went forward to sit at Pastor Marvin’s feet. He was talking about heroes in our lives. He asked the children if they had heroes in their lives. There was mention of policemen, firemen, Spiderman… The pastor noticed Alice waving her hand.

“Who is your hero, Alice?” he asked.

“My grandma” she replied.  

I was stunned. To this day I cannot tell you why she thought I was her hero. I only know I was humbled and proud and I knew I was still taking the right steps because if I was a hero to my granddaughter I was doing okay…..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved

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