2012 remembered……

This has been a tough year.  Up really was the only way to go and up was almost as hard as down. The only difference was attitude and sheer determination to be UP where we needed to be.

The learning curve on the new job has been challenging. However, being a recovering perfectionist makes everything a challenge. Everything I was learning started to gel about four weeks ago. There is a reason for a six month introductory period in human resource terminology.

Halloween party with my sisters and our children and grandchildren was so much fun; one of my grandnieces is having a repeat at her birthday party in March. I guess it is an un-Halloween party. Her grandmother, Sister Penny, said, at least, the birthday party décor was cheap!

Thanksgiving was really good. Sam and Abby brought their parents to Kansas and they stayed with us for five days.  They were delightful. Sam found some of his favorite grandma’s house cars had made the move and were waiting for him. Both Sam and Abby discovered their mother’s Fisher Price Castle was every bit as much fun in 2012 as it was in the 1970’s. Granddaughter Hayley had fun reconnecting with Sam and playing with Abby.

Niece Tricia and granddaughter Alice were a huge help in unpacking and arranging the family room and sleeping area in the basement so there was room for visitors to play and sleep. The open house for family and friends was enjoyed by all.

Christmas gathering were easy and enjoyable. New traditions entered our family culture and old traditions were fondly embraced.  Even though we could not find the traditional pickle ornament to hide on Christmas Day, (do not know where that box of Christmas ornaments is located) granddaughter Alice found a new pickle ornament to hide and find at our, almost annual, Epiphany Party on January 6.

2013 is shaping up to be the Year of Leaning Forward to meet the future………


©2012 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Welcome Back…….

Mike is 60 years old today. Thirty-six days ago he was admitted to a local hospital with pneumonia and sepsis. The twelve days in intensive care were an excruciating exercise in patience, faith and hope. The eight days of his sedation and intubation because he could not breathe on his own were almost unbearable.

He went in to the hospital on June 1 and came home on July 1. During that very long month.….  Kyra Rose graduated from high school and got her first job…. Alice and Peter celebrated birthdays….  Kahlan made the high school age traveling soccer team… Jacob went to Boy Scout camp on his own… Sam’s parents celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary…. all of our children came and stayed on a staggered schedule for several days each…. my sister Leslie adjusted her life to be there for me…. sister Sally welcomed a new grandson into the world….  sister Penny endured her own hospital stay…. I locked myself out of the van in the library parking lot at 8:30 PM one evening…. neighbors and friends and family mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, paid our bills, showed up and took me to the hospital cafe for coffee, sent encouraging notes,  emails and voice messages, visited Mike in the hospital, sent flowers……..

We are very thankful for everyone in our lives, grateful for each other and excited about new possibilities. Happy Birthday, Mike.

And life goes on……..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Navigational Pull……

We were the grandparents in charge Saturday night. Sam’s parents went out to a friend’s birthday party. Staying over for Easter festivities was an added benefit. According to his mother’s video, Sam had a great time coloring eggs before we arrived. Seven eggs survived the drop into the dye and were waiting for the Easter bunny to hide.

After the obligatory crying jag at the door following his parents departure. Sam settled down to play with his Baby Einstein music square and help me polish the silver tea service. Around 8:00 he was tired and led me into the bedroom where he was asleep in the middle of the second song he likes me to sing. When I came back to the living room, Mike looked up, smiled and said, this was a really easy gig.

I nodded and mentioned easy was good. The past year has been dramatic enough. What with my early retirement, Mike’s unemployment, new job and being unemployed again, my new business ventures, mortgage loan modification, trees down during last summer’s storm, budgeting with the Peter ‘n Paul school of personal finance, everyday has been harder than life ought to be at our age. We have found a contentment and peace in life’s small pleasures and are learning “old dogs” still have new tricks to learn.

Sam picked up the ‘finding eggs and putting them in the basket’ skill pretty quick. He appreciates the little things in life. We enjoyed our Easter Sunday with Sam, his parents and our son-in-law’s family. There was good food, conversation and babies to watch… a very good holiday.

On the way home this afternoon we drove down Lake Shore Drive. Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline never fails to thrill and inspire me. The grandeur of the skyscraping buildings are awe –inspiring and satisfy an inner need to know we humans are capable of achieving greatness. We followed the detour signs to I-290. This route took us on Wacker Drive, across Michigan Ave., where I always pause to think about Fort Dearborn wilderness growing into a vibrant metropolis. Mike wanted to know where the Trump building was and mentioned his desire to take a boat ride on the Chicago River.

As we wound around through downtown and eventually found our way to I-290, we acknowledged detours, gave us the opportunity to see things we have not seen before, provide us with new knowledge as we make our way forward and show us there is more than one way to reach our destination. Good information to know as we follow the navigational pullls our lives take.

Easter greetings from the lily pad float, where we float with our navigational pulls ………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


St. Patrick’s Day……..

The day began at Le Chocolat’ in Naperville with a Raspberry Mocha Latte and my Ladies Who Launch group. We swapped women entrepreneur stories and talked about helping each other “push forward” our businesses. Once again I was impressed with and uplifted by how empowered women are and what we are doing with our lives.

For lunch I had quiche and a nonfat latte at one of my favorite Barnes and Noble bookstores in downtown Naperville. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I bought two books and a CD. The CD is a collection of Celtic Woman Lullaby’. The inspirational book of the day was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubib. My brain candy read is a two book collection of Linda Lael Miller’s McKettrick family characters.

I listened to the CD as I drove from place to place all day. The music is wonderful, of course.  I started reading The Happiness Project over lunch and am saving the brain candy reads for a really relaxing ‘put my feet up and enjoy a fire in the fireplace day’ in the next week, maybe my birthday.

Sam and his mom met me at the outlet mall. We shopped for new clothes for Sam and birthday clothes for Hayley. Sam’s mom is sending the birthday package in the next few days. Hayley is the proud new owner of a really cute pair of sweatpant Capri’s with the roll-up bottoms and a really pretty lavender-purple GAP shirt. She will be styling. Sam’s present to Hayley is play food for her play kitchen.  I wish Sam and I could be there to play with her.

Sam clothes shopping is always fun.  His mother is into design, style and color. Sam is developing some really strong feelings surrounding his attire. We discovered in Kansas last week his preference for his long sleeved grey hoodie. He cries when his mom takes it off and would wear it to bed of she would let him. The problem is the size. He needs to move into an 18-24 months and GAP does not have the grey. The color this season is navy blue. He was not having any of it yesterday.

I used my $20 off birthday coupon at the Vera Bradley outlet. Purse shopping is almost as satisfying as shoe shopping. We met Mike at Cracker Barrel for a wonderful dinner. Thursday is sweet potato casserole day at CB. Their sweet potato casserole is made with walnuts and eats like a dessert. YUM.

I closed out the day at Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca. The once a year National Girl Scout CEO meeting was being held there. Three of my CEO training colleagues are still part of this elite group. We met after their last session for the day for a really good catch-up session. We all met as new CEO’s 10 years ago this week and have become  good friends.

Home by 10:30, slept like a baby. Very satisfying day…………………..

 ©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Ever After……

After Mike proposed, I suggested we wait a year to be married. Valentine’s Day would be on a Saturday the next year so why not get married one year from the proposal. Mike agreed. He is always getting man congratulations for having the foresight to propose and be married on Valentine’s Day.

The year in between the proposal and wedding was busy. I finished my graduate school coursework, took a job in Kansas, welcomed a new grandchild and planned a daughter wedding. My wedding vision included standing in a living room in front of a fireplace filled with love for Mike, surrounded by family and friends. We were living in a leased duplex in Wichita, and we had children in Topeka and Olathe, KS and Woodridge, IL. There would need to be some pretty fancy coordination to carry this off.

We rented The Governor’s Row House in Topeka within two weeks of the proposal and started the planning process. My journals and lists from February 14, 1997 – February 14, 1998 are filled with guest lists, food lists, vendor lists, DJ lists, music lists for two weddings. There are drawings of cakes, dresses, shoes, flower arrangements intertwined with job interview angst, dithering over staying in Illinois or moving to Kansas, marketing plans to increase GS membership, new grandbaby, wedding dress and bridesmaid dress shopping, moving vans, housing deposits, new children…..

There were times when I wondered if we ought to go to the courthouse and save the money. My Aunt Mary reminded me of all our families had been through the past few years, deaths, divorce. She thought we needed to go ahead and have a ceremony and party. Everyone needed a celebration.

Our big day finally arrived. We stood in front of a Victorian fireplace surrounded by family and friends.  The buffet table was beautiful. Flower arrangements were made by daughter Keri. The fondant icing cake I wanted was affordable because Sister Sally had a friend. Our snowbirds, Aunt Mary and Uncle Chuck, were in from Florida. The reception room was decorated beautifully with hearts, flowers and burgundy tablecloths. The DJ was ready. We were ready.

Upstairs in The Governor’s Row House there were rooms where small children would be entertained throughout the festivities. We hired another sister friend, brought in videos players, monitors, books, games, toys for after the ceremony. The children were upstairs and doing great for several hours. Around 9:30 PM the child care provider was distracted by babies. A 3 ½ year old Alice crept down the stairs. She found her way to the ballroom at the back of the house. Aunt Mary spotted her at the entryway. The child look of delight was shining bright. Aunt Mary told me later when she saw Alice floating across the dance floor she knew it was all over, the children were coming to the party.

A really good time was had by all. There was good food, good friends, good music and great fun. Happily ever after is a good place to start ………


©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Bee My Valentine….

Valentine’s Day is such a fun holiday. Fourth of July is red, white and blue bunting, parades and fireworks. Halloween is all about creepy crawlies and dressing up. Thanksgiving is giving thanks, stuffing turkeys and eating pumpkin pie. Christmas is …well… Christmas family, friends, snowmen, Santa Claus, presents, music, trees, stockings, lights….

I loved decorating a box or bag to hold my Valentines; working with construction paper, glue, crepe paper and sequins is just plain cool. At home we would each have our package of valentines, a ballpoint pen and our list of classmate’s names.  Carefully selecting the appropriate valentine, writing each name and checking the name off of the list gave me such a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of goodwill toward classmates.

The origin of Valentine’s Day was not really important to me. I have vague memories of elementary school teachers talking about a saint in Italy, patron saint of affianced couples, marriages, love, beekeepers ….

Winter in DeKalb, IL was cold and snowy. Mike and I had been long distant dating for several months. Jill and Mike traveled from Kansas to visit me over Valentine’s Day weekend. For our Valentine’s Day dinner I fried chicken and made mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, biscuits, apple pie and ice cream. Jill’s eyes were wide and she mouthed a big “WOW”. She told Mike her Mom had not cooked a meal like that for a really long time.

After dinner Mike and I went for a drive. He pulled into the parking area of a small forest preserve on the north side of DeKalb. He was very quiet. After a minute or so he raised his head, looked at me and asked me to marry him. I was very quiet and thought about what he was asking. He knew I was not sure if I ever wanted to marry again and there were many things still left for me to accomplish.  Speaking from the heart, he told me he loved me and understood my fear of committing to being part of a couple again. He said all he knew for sure was I was the woman he had been waiting for and wanted to be with me for always.

Taking a big breath, I agreed. The rest is now our story. Through the years I have given and received many valentines from family, friends and a husband or two. The night in the forest preserve parking lot on the north side of DeKalb is where I received my very best Valentine Gift.

Now about Saint Valentine and those beekeepers ………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


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


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, About.com Guide

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Living History……

The year I was born 13 parents filed a class action suit against the Topeka Board of Education in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas and a young black man entered Boston University for graduate studies.

My parents were building a house in the country while  the US Supreme Court reversed the District Courts decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education* and held that, “even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional.” The young black man, Martin Luther King, Jr. married Coretta Scott and moved to Montgomery, AL.

With the birth of a fourth child our house was too small. My parents sold the house and we moved back into the city while the Supreme Court delegated the desegregation of schools to the district courts and ordered them to do it “with all possible speed.” In the same year Martin Luther King, Jr. received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology and joined the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL after Rosa Parks was arrested.

The year I started kindergarten there were no longer segregated elementary schools in Topeka, KS and the Supreme Court ruled bus segregation illegal.

The governor of Arkansas called out the Alabama National Guard to block the entry of two black students into Little Rock High School and Dr. King gave a speech to 15,000 people in Washington, D.C., the year I was a flower girl in my Aunt Mary’s wedding

We took our first family vacation to the Lake of the Ozarks the year Ruby Bridges became the first black student to attend a white elementary school in New Orleans. Dr. King was arrested at a restaurant “sit-in” while waiting to be served in Atlanta, GA and I asked my mother to explain to me why a person would not be served at a restaurant because they were a different color.

The evening news showed Alabama Gov. George Wallace blocking a door at the University of Alabama in order to prevent the enrollment of two black students. Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and I started junior high

Dr. King was arrested during a voting rights demonstration in Selma, AL, my parents let me have my first boy-girl party and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

The year Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN and Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles I spent the summer with my Aunt Mary and her family near Boston. There were hippies on Boston Commons and I could feel the fresh air blowing on the winds of a societal shift.

In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a National Holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday of January. Monroe Elementary was designated a U.S. National Historic Site unit of the National Park Service in 1992.

I am sure no one in my family thought there was anything historically significant about the year 1951 in Topeka, Kansas, USA. As for me, I am glad society ground forward, cultural shifts were made and racial segregation mores were broken open. I have lived this piece of history and it is good……..

*http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=347&invol=483 – 47k –

©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.