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


Games We Play…….

Starting is always easier than stopping. I had never played a computer game until last March. The first was a jewel matching game. Next there was Scrabble, then Bookworm Deluxe, Plants vs. Zombies, Jewel Quest 3. I have been through two rounds of Jewel Quest 3 on two different computers and three rounds of Plant vs. Zombies.

Several months ago I succumbed to the Farmville and Frontierville craze. They are fun to play. The time they take is incredible. I was able to stop playing after 6 weeks or so.  My neighbors are still un-withering my crops and sending me free gifts. Talk about feeling guilty.

Mike tells me there is a game addiction reality show. Really? He says they talk about the pitfalls of playing video games. There is the taking-time-away-from-your-spouse downside. No surprise this one came up at the breakfast table. My worry has been more along the line of reading fewer books, less time to cook and garden and no time to swim at the Park District Athletic Center. Men really are from Mars and they are pretty predictable, too. Let me check the TV memory chip for number of reality tv shows viewed!

The upside of these games is the incredible workout they have given my brain cells. My memory is better than ever and my mental reflexes are better than ever. Take that reality TV show……

At Rotary this week a friend was showing all of us a game her grandson plays on her phone. The game is awesome and I am working on a new set of skills. You can find the Angry Birds game app in the market section of your Android or I-Phone.

Happy playing ……..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Soothing waters…

After the rain let up and the sun came out we went for a drive down the Fox River on Highway 25. There is a small riverside park on the water’s edge. We parked and watched the river flow past. Water watching is soul soothing.

As we watched the rain swollen water roll swiftly by, I thought of canoe trips to the Minnesota Boundary Waters and Quetico wilderness  in Canada, trips on the Wisconsin River, the Current River in Missouri and the Fox and DuPage Rivers in Illinois. No matter how tough those trips were, the experience of being on the water is life changing.

Water therapy, in, on or out, is great for a stress filled, troubled mind and body. My becoming a swimmer with lifeguard certifications and a Red Cross Canoe Instructor was not an accident. I remember Aunt Mary taking me into the Gage Park swimming pool when I was three or four. I stayed close to the steps and railing in the shallow end and loved every minute of it.  

One of my stress relievers after a particularly hard day of divorce negotiations mixed in with school and work was a stop by the Copper Oven to pick up a cup of cheddar and broccoli soup and their wonderfully moist corn bread followed by a drive out to Lake Shawnee. There I would eat my meal and then walk along the water’s edge until dusk.

There are at least eight water sound CD’s in my CD case. Another stress reliever is a hot bubble bath with water sounds playing softly in the background. And I love hot tubs and whirlpools, beaches and hammocks on Jeness Pond.

Mike is not an in-the-water person. He is a water watcher. He did  notice the riverside park was a canoe and kayak put-in location and asked if canoes tipped easily. My response was swift – the only time I have tipped over in a canoe was during training when we deliberately simulate a tipping incident. He wondered about canoeing and camping.

 Maybe there are more canoe experiences in my future………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved





Procrastination machination ……

It is 9:00 PM and I am sure my children are at home with their children, which has nothing to do with why I am doing a little self inventory right this moment. Sam, his mom and I are leaving for a Kansas trip in the morning and I am not packed.

Years ago, maybe 1981 or 1982, I read an article on procrastination. The only thing I remember is the phrase “procrastinators have a fear of failure”. This statement became part of my mantra whenever I was tempted to wait until the last minute to prepare for a test, presentation, training…. just about anything at all. I repeated the phrase over and over as I created a list and/or timeline to organize myself.  I ask myself why I think I might fail and what actions might I take to avoid failing. The ritual helps me even now.

Several areas of my life still have serious procrastination symptoms. One of them is preparing and packing for a trip. Wondering why I would be afraid of failing a trip, I typed procrastination into my search engine. Reading the information* helped me avoid the packing for awhile.  I learned “fear of success” and “afraid of failure” are still among top reasons for procrastinating. Imagine that, procrastination 30 years ago is the same as procrastination now.

I will have to worry about my trip packing procrastinating behavior and whether or not Procrastinators Anonymous is the group for me when I return, because it is now 10 PM. Maybe I will go to bed and pack really early in the morning…..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved




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


Authentic Living..……

My first visit to my very own therapist, not the marriage counselor or the family therapist for the adolescent behavior disordered female living in our home, was a relief. The therapist asked me to make her a list of everything I was responsible for in my life. Two weeks later I turned in my homework and went to the washroom.

“Well, well, here comes the walking life jacket,” she said to me as she sat at her desk, watching me walk down the hall towards her, holding said list.

With those words my axis tilted and I experienced a paradigm shift. This ‘blinding flash of the obvious’ forced me to examine and re-examine everything I thought was true about myself and the role I had chosen to play in my life. At that moment I really understood what being a co-dependent caretaker meant.  I, also, understood the need  to change my behavior or lose myself.

So the journey began. In the beginning I read everything I could get my hands on. I was at the public library at least once a week. There was a book outlet at the mall were my daughter worked in her college town. Whenever I visited her I checked out the self-help section to see if there was new reading material on the subject. Eventually I stopped reading so much about changing behavior and embraced the behavior change work in earnest.

The dawn of my life changing journey was almost twenty years ago. Several years into the journey, shortly after my divorce, I found myself in graduate school. There was a young woman in the program with an internship in the same village as me. We carpooled to work sometimes. She began asking me questions about my marriage and the breakup. She was married with young children. Her struggle to maintain her current life soon became apparent. One day, as I cautiously shared a little of my story with her, the phrase “care-dependent co-taker” rolled off my tongue. I literally stunned myself into silence as I realized the implications of my words.

Looking back I can see a pattern to my life changes. Realizations and epiphany’s abounded in the beginning.  The pendulum swing of realizations and old behavior versus new behavior changes was extreme for awhile. Practicing new behavior years and distancing from old behaviors years were covert emotional wringers. There came a point when the best of the new was integrated with the best of the old and I did not question my motives as much. And now life is less tied to others perceptions and more to my reality.

Living an authentic life for me is embracing myself, flaws and all, for who I was and who I have become. Being the best person I know how to be is the legacy I want to leave to my daughters and grandchildren……..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Smiley Face……

My first trip to the dentist occurred when I was eight. My mom took my brother and me at the same time.  We thought it was cool to get out of school in the middle of the day. There were several visits to the dentist’s office resulting in two  mouths filled with silver amalgam. I clearly remember Mom telling us we would not be drinking any more soda or Kool-Aid for a very long time. She was correct, although, it might have also been a cost cutting measure.

The very utilitarian dental cubicle, uncomfortable chair and bright, shiny instruments are burned into my memory. There is a nasty metallic smell associated with the use of the scary looking drill. I do remember thinking the rinse and spit routine was kind of cool.

The other memory I have is my Dad going to the dentist just before we went. His teeth were not in very good shape either. They found out he was allergic to Novocain in the dentist chair. The discovery required an ambulance visit to a hospital emergency room. After that experience, the dentist decided to not use Novocain on my brother and I. Years later another dentist did use Novocain on me. I am happy to report there was not a trip to the emergency room for me.

Over the years I have had a lot of work done in my mouth.  I had at least four permanent teeth erupt and grow in front of or beside baby teeth too stubborn to fall out. When I was around 16 my Mom found a dentist to pull several of the baby teeth. There were still several baby teeth with no permanent ones in sight. I was very self conscious about my gaps-between-crooked-teeth and jutting-out-front incisors. For years I would not give a full smile or smiled with a hand over my mouth.  

When I was in my early thirties I decided it was time to fix this glaring problem. Our family dental insurance did not cover orthodontia for adults. It did cover the oral surgery necessary to get ready for the metal tighten and turn routine in my mouth. I went to work at a local Girl Scout council to pay for the orthodontic work. The metal came off and the retainer went in the same month I resigned from my job.

The post oral surgery recovery was the worst physical pain I ever went through. I remember telling a friend I would rather have “do over’s” on birthing all three of my children than go through anything like that again. The two positives, other than the many years and fading pain memory thing, coming out of the experience are: I go to the dentist prepared to endure anything because I have already survived the worst and I brush and floss religiously. There are way too many personal and material resources tied up in maintaining my smile.

My current dentist is the most wonderful young woman. She is funny, bright, competent and extremely compassionate. And that is a good thing. My husband has a dental phobia.  We are working on this problem. There is a website for people like Mike. www.dentalfearcentral.com  I am glad someone had the foresight to set it up. There is a little bit of humor on the site. Anyway, I find it humorous. Mike finds nothing humorous about dental work.

When I had my teeth cleaned yesterday, Dr. Davis asked me how we were going to get Mike in for a check-up.  She offered to meet him in the reception area and not even look into his mouth for the first visit. Or, she says she has met fearful patients at Starbuck’s for a cup of coffee and conversation about sedation dentistry. I will keep you posted on the outcome.

I like her. I wonder if she meets resigned-to-the-inevitable patients at Starbuck’s…………………….

©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



Make a Difference…

In 2001-2002 a friend of mine worked to bring youth serving organizations and agencies in Reno County, Kansas together. As Director of YouthFriends, a youth mentoring program in county schools, she thought a National Mentoring Month in February was something we would all support. She was correct.

She prepared a Youth Mentoring Month Proclamation which was presented at a County Commissioners meeting the first of February for several years. The Girl Scouts provided cookies and several girls in uniforms to pass them out. Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, 4-H, YMCA and several after school programs were represented.

In 2005, President George W. Bush announced January as National Mentoring Month. We moved our events and proclamations up one month. Obviously we had a good idea. President Barack Obama has proclaimed January 2011 as Youth Mentoring Month. A good idea continues.

For many years I was a leader in the youth mentoring/developing young leadership profession. I know how important caring adults are to children and youth. At the same time, I understand the need to take care of self and not over commit ourselves so we can remain caring adults. Balance in all things is my mantra these days.

In December I was speaking with a young woman I have known since we moved back to Illinois. She is an Alderman in our city and a longtime friend to Girl Scouts. She mentioned she had not been able to find anyone to help her with a troop last fall. I only hesitated for a minute. The timing was right and I do know how to help with Girl Scouts. I volunteered to help her start the troop up again with the goal of finding other volunteers to continue with the troop. We met with the parents and our Girl Scout area professional. There are several possibilities among the parents.

The troop is registered with seven third graders. They have made Snowmen magnets for the local retirement center and sang songs and are selling cookies. The girls are all pleased to be at the meetings and they are looking out for each other already. We are making Valentines and practicing songs to sing for the retirement center residents. Sharing the responsibilities with my friend and the other parents lightens the amount the responsibility we have for these young ladies. I am delighted that all I have to do is help them organize the calendar, provide craft materials, sing and play games. We are having fun.

There are other opportunities to volunteer. Be a tutor for a student through your local school district. Volunteer with an afterschool program. Be a Big Brother or a Big Sister. Volunteer with a local Boys and Girls Club. Check in with your local Communities in Schools programs. Be a Sunday School teacher. Provide the home where your children’s friends want to hang out. Create your own opportunity to be a caring adult in a child’s life.

The difference you make in a life might be your own…….

 Mentoring Youth has positive results and research to back it up. “Researchers at the Search Institute identified “adult role models,” “supportive relationship with three or more other adults,” and “adults in community valuing youth” as essential to youth’s health and well-being (Benson, et al., 1998) and access to “ongoing relationships with caring adults” constitutes one the Five Promises of the Alliance for Youth. Moreover, researchers working from within a risk and resilience framework have repeatedly called attention to the protective influence of supportive relationships with adults (Masten & Coatsworth, 1998; Garmezy, 1985; Werner & Smith, 1982). Rutter & Giller (1983) highlighted the importance of “one good relationship,” and Gamezy (1985) discussed the critical importance of significant adults in promoting the healthy development of highly stressed youth.” Rhodes (2001)

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


I think I can…I think I can…

After a meeting this morning, I came home and sat down with this really good book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, by Rebecca Traister. My favorite sofa spot was feeling particularly comfy, the cat was on his way in to lie beside me and I settled in to enjoy a really good read.

There was a vague unease in the back of my head. Visions of swimsuit body filled me with dread.  Okay, okay, I said out loud. No more excuses. Off to swim laps I went. Wait, there is not a lock for the locker and a beach towel was nowhere to be found.  

Beach towels are apparently not a hot commodity at Wal-Mart in January. There were toddler hooded swim cover-ups, on sale….not the right size for granddaughter Haylee and not the right style for grandson Sam. Where do they keep the padlocks? Not with the tools, bicycle or workout paraphernalia. They are in the aisle just down from the Rubbermaid and plastic tubs. Don’t ask.

After checking to make sure the combination numbers were on the back of the lock and started towards the cash registers. Wait. Did I really believe the combination would stay in my head long enough to get the lock open after the swim. Turn back. Grab the one with the keys. What to do with the key while swimming. Sigh. Large safety pins will work. Off to the sewing section.

Checking out and thinking to myself ….I want to hike up to the glacier. Walking to the van and thinking to myself….how will I get this shoplifter proof plastic off the lock? Standing beside the van, stabbing the plastic with my keys and thinking to myself….scissors in the glove compartment would be nice. Circling the parking lot at the athletic center and thinking to myself….I want to hike up to the glacier.

Finally, I stuff my bag and jacket into my locker, find the lap pool and ease myself into the water. The membership person was correct, the water temperature is reasonable. Pushing off from the side of the pool and getting into the rhythm of the stroke, the memory of how much I really like to do this comes back to me.

Leaving the center, my 10 laps (20 lengths!) completed, thinking to myself……I will be hiking up to the glacier………

Disclaimer: Youth 17 and under are referred to with pseudonyms

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved