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


Play it again, Sam……

Today was a Sam* day. When I arrived he smiled at me around his pacifier and ran down the hall and back before greeting me. He is all about motion these days.  Sam is my youngest grandchild. He is 18 months old this week. And we love every minute we spend with him.

Every other Thursday I drive 49 miles from my house to his condo to spend the day with him. Sometimes my daughter works around the house while I distract him from the action with books, singing, musical toys and instruments or PBS Kids. Other times she goes out for the day. She might get her hair done or run errands or hang out somewhere. Occasionally, the three of us do something together.

In the beginning we did not have a really formal arrangement. Last fall we started the every other Thursday schedule because my daughter’s sister-in-law was pregnant with twins and on bed rest. I would come over and be with Sam. My daughter would go over to her sister-in-law’s to help out. Two healthy girls were born the day after Thanksgiving. December was filled with their Dad and their  grandmas.

Today was Direct TV installation in the morning and Sam’s Mama off to help the newest Mama in the afternoon. Sam and I hung out. We played the ‘slow motion chase each other up and down the hall and around the center wall that divides the living room, kitchen and dining area’ game. If I do not catch him as fast as he thinks I ought to, he stops and waits for me to grab him up. Then he tilts his head so I can kiss his neck and make soft gobbling noises and tell him I love him. I put him down and we start the game all over.

Sam’s newest skill is scaling the stools at the kitchen bar. Before his mother left he shimmied up and was pushing the mom buttons by not sitting down on his “bum” like his mother wanted.  In fact he was holding onto the back of the stool, bobbing up and down and grinning from ear to ear. She got up to go over to him and he quickly and carefully sat down.  

After she left, we played with his new toys while the PBS Kids lineup played in the background. The stools caught his eye again. He shimmied up and sat down with his hands folded on the bar. He was pretty proud of himself. Grandma leaned on the bar and talked with him. Things were okay until he pushed on the underside of the bar with both feet. There was a little resistance as I helped him slide down to the floor. The stools were on top of the bar when my son-in-law came home. The afternoon was too short to mess around with bar stools and climbing toddler monkeys.

See you in two weeks Sam…….

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

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Cycling Time………

We have always wanted a pond in our garden.  We planned one for the garden in Kansas and moved before we could get it done. In Illinois, visiting grandchildren started digging in 2007.

Alice and friends

What with one thing and several serious health setbacks for another, the pond was not completed with plants, flowers, backfill, landscape flagstones, tadpoles and goldfish until this past spring. Our granddaughter Alice has spent part of her summers with us the past three years. She helped move dirt and flagstone the past two years.

When grandchildren visit, we plant flowers and vegetable gardens, play games and take walks, cook and bake, take field trips to museums and aquariums’.  The time I spend with them carries on the family tradition of connecting generations. The continual renewal of this generational connection is part of the same cycle of growth, dormancy and renewal we find in our gardens.

My grandmother Dorothy had a wonderful garden in her yard. I helped her weed and plant and transplant many different kinds of flowers and plants. When I was a young wife and mother, we lived next to Grandma Dorothy. My children had the opportunity to see Grandma almost every day. They were in the garden with us a lot.

She told me of going with her mother to visit her mother. While they talked, my grandmother would cross the yard and visit her great-grandmother in her garden next door. Her great-grandmother shared stories of when she was a 12 year old child living in Virginia during the Civil War. My grandmother listened and learned while spending time in her Grandma Mary Jane’s garden.

This continuous cycle of learning and listening and loving is made possible by the generosity of time and sometimes material investment of the parents of the children. I want my daughters and son-in-laws to know how much we appreciate them sharing their most precious gifts with us. My time with my grandmother is still a blessing to me. I hope my time with my grandchildren is a blessing to them.

Today is my daughter Jami’s birthday. Grandma Dorothy watched her trying to keep up with her sisters. She laughed and called them Big Bit, Middle Bit and Little Bit. Grandma always made either a lemon or chocolate sheet cake for birthdays. We would play games and talk and be together. The memories we created are priceless.  Birthdays mark the passage of time and are symbolic of our personal life cycle.

Happy Birthday, Little Bit…….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


January…more than ice and snow….

Today, my hair tech mentioned the lengthening days and said January would be over soon, February was a short month and then spring would be here. Since one of my particular desires this year is to be present in all areas of my life I thought speeding through January might be counterproductive.

After she left, I wondered what made January unique. Below is a list of national month of January observances compiled from several websites. January as National Oatmeal Month because more oatmeal is consumed during the coldest month of the year makes sense. National Hot Tea Month and National Soup Month are understandable. National Book Month was a surprise. However, I am willing to do my part and read extra books this month. Get Over It Month, National Thank You Month and my personal favorite, Yours, Mine and Ours Month did puzzle me a bit

Yours, Mine and Ours Month. Really? A month about a movie? Not believing what my eyes were seeing I put “Yours, Mine and Ours Month” in the search engine. The first page of sites popped up. Hmm…I was not interested in buying the movie CD and or watching a movie trailer on YouTube. Anyway, my favorite version of Yours, Mine and Ours is the first one with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.  Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo and the updated movie script do not really work for me. There were several sites about couples combining their checking, savings and credit cards, or not.  Check out http// and let me know what you think. There is an answer in there somewhere.

Maybe you can find something to celebrate, honor or be aware of  this month. If you know anything about Yours, Mine and Ours Month, please feel free to share.

National Hobby Month
National Soup Month
National Staying Healthy Month
National Thank You Month
Volunteer Blood Donor Month
Get Over It Month
It’s OK to be Different Month
Love Yourself Month
Clean Up Your Computer Month
Personal Self-Defense Month
Poverty in America Month
Reaching Your Potential Month
Yours, Mine & Ours Month
National Stamp Collectors Month
International Printing Month
Autism Awareness Month
National High-Tech Month
International Creativity Month
Celebrate the Past Month
Crime Stoppers Month
National Letter Writing Month

 Happy January!

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved



A friend and I had breakfast last week. She and her partner have been remodeling an old farmhouse. They bought the property for the land, location and the outbuildings and decided to take the house down to the frame and make it over.  They plan to move in sometime this spring.

When we visited them in October we had a tour of the house project, met the new cats, petted the dog and stroked the horses. They have recently acquired rabbits and chickens.  Several yearling calves were to arrive at 3 this afternoon.  

Let me be clear, this is not a petting zoo, although she invited us to bring our grandson out after the new rabbits (NOT to be called baby bunnies!) are born in February. The calves will grow into beef for the freezer. The rabbits will be raised for meat. She would like to have geese because they help keep the insect population down. She did not mention eating them, although I am pretty sure the goose could be cooked.

A variety of garden seeds have already been ordered.  She offered to start tomato plants for me. We discussed growing and preserving eggplant, squash, parched corn, onion, herbs, beans and other vegetables.

This woman is in a really good place in her life. She has a successful insurance business, sells her beautiful handmade jewelry and is building a large craft room in her Morton building so friends can socialize and work together. She has raised three sons, been married and divorced, surprised to find herself a grandmother last year and is forging a new partnership.

Creating the life we want, working hard, having fun and enjoying friends and family……. life does not get much better……….and she is living her authentic life…..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Grand Parenting…….

A baby shower is such a fun place to be. A longtime friend of mine is becoming a grandmother for the first time next month. The gathering of family and friends to share food and gifts with the new parents-to-be was this afternoon. When the new mother-to-be was 5 months old I gave her a first taste of the joy of ice cream.  Times were different back then. Introducing foods slowly and being careful about sugar, eggs and preservatives were not even on our radar screen.

My friend asked me how being a grandparent is different than being a parent. I think there is a more relaxed joy in welcoming this new little person into your life. Certainly there is less accountability for the outcome most of the time. A grandparent has already experienced the child life stages so is generally more relaxed when the new baby cries, the toddler throws a tantrum, the adolescent has a crying jag and the teenager spouts vows of hatred.

Parenting is like a journey without an updated map, filled with the scramble and stress to find the most useful updates before they are obsolete. Grand parenting is less stressful and less of a scramble. You and your grandchild update the map as you travel.

Here are a few guiding principles to being a grandparent;

1. The feeling of love for a grandchild is often instantaneous and  overwhelming. I think the lifetime act of loving a grandchild requires effort and action on the part of the grandparent.

The first definition, by Merriam and Webster Dictionary, of love as a noun, is “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.”  In Merriam and Webster, love as a verb is “to hold dear: cherish” and “to like actively” as in “take pleasure in.”  This may mean kissing baby necks while making funny noises, dancing to the oldies while holding tiny hands, crawling around Discovery Zone tunnels, reading a wide variety of children books and/or watching adolescent angst movies about vampires, werewolves and the teenagers who love them.

2. Have conversations with the child’s parents regarding the role of a grandparent, or grandparents, in the life of their child.

Set up boundaries and guidelines with your child (see Parenting is a journey without an updated map…. above) and their parenting partner flexible enough to accommodate both parenting and grand parenting desires. Be sure and repeat back to them how you see the boundaries and guidelines unfolding. They might have a different vision than you.  Repeat this guiding principle as often as necessary. It helps if you spend a little time thinking about what kind of grandparent you want to be. Talk it over with your co-grandparent partner, if you have one, and/or other grandparent friends. Remember your own grandparents and your children’s grandparents? What did you like? What did you not like?

3. Whatever the age of the child their needs, wants and desires are important to a positive, healthy, loving relationship with you.

Pay attention to your grandchild’s cues, physical and verbal, and respond with sincerity. Make time to sit down and play with them.  Tea parties, storming the castle and Go Fish are part of my repertoire.  

These basic guiding principles will serve you well on your grand parenting journey. You might come up with a few more as you and your grandchild update your map. Your reward is lots of hugs and a lifetime of love.

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Animal House…

There are several pets living in our house. The cat and I are most in tune with each other. We respect each other’s privacy, allow for each other’s occasional need for attention and do not get upset if the other is moody. The dogs are more in my face and very much in need of attention. Hmmmm….kind of like the other human living here.

Eugene is a Jack Russell Terrier. He is intelligent, athletic, fearless, and vocal……..he is stubborn at times and can be aggressive towards other animals and humans. He protects us by barking even before the postal carrier drops mail through the front door mail slot; continuing to harass the letters, magazines and advertising circulars as they lie on the floor waiting to be picked up. I appreciate his sentiment, if not his method. Eugene terrorizes the backyard squirrels and birds and anyone who walks by on the sidewalk.


Princess is a Schipperke, a small Belgium dog known for herding sheep or working on boats. Princess is, also, very stubborn and extremely intelligent. We have to spell words…..o-u-t…d-o-g…c-a-r … when talking in front of her. I used to call her “P” instead of Princess and I cannot even do that anymore. She is mischievous and has a headstrong temperament. Schipperke’s are sometimes referred to as the “little black fox”, the “Tasmanian black devil”, or the “little black devil. Schipperkes* are “very smart and independent; and sometimes debate listening to owners, instead choosing to do whatever benefits them the most.” Princess is the alpha animal in our house. She would really like to be the pack alpha. Eugene recognizes her superior abilities and the cat does not care what she thinks, he is simply not interested in being in charge. The humans are on to her little games.

Jem’s name is taken from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Jem came to us as a kitten with his female litter mate, who I named Scout. Scout disappeared several years ago. Jem missed her for awhile and then he moved on. Jem is an indoor and outdoor cat. He uses the pet door as easily as the dogs. He is inside most of the time in winter and deigns to show up for food in the summer. He terrorizes the goldfish in the pond, the ground squirrels and the neighbor’s cat. The neighbor told me her cat and Jem have made an uneasy peace this past year. Jem still follows her cat into her house whenever he is in the mood.

Sometimes it is hard to keep the “children” home……


©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


A Rose by any other name might be Myrtle…

The name Susan is derived from the Hebrew word for Lily. The root for Lily in Hebrew means “to be joyful, bright and cheerful.” My dad wanted to name me Sylvia Kay. Sylvia comes from Latin and means “from the forest.” My mom wanted to name me Susan Lee. My baby book actually says Susan Lee. My birth certificate says Susan Kay.  There were, obviously, spirited conversations over my name.

My mom’s name was Betty Ann. My grandmother told me that she named my mother Betty and my aunt Mary because she really did not like nicknames. She thought people should be called by their given names. The name Betty is a nickname for Elizabeth. Elizabeth is derived from the Greek Elisabet which is a form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning “My God is an oath.” Interesting.

Dorothy, Betty, Myrtle, Susan

My maternal grandmother’s name was Dorothy May. She did not like Dot or Dottie. She would say “Call me Dorothy.” She did have one long time friend she allowed to call her Dot. I remember thinking she must be a really good friend. Dorothy comes from the Greek Dorothea meaning “gift of the gods.” My grandmother was a “gift of the gods” to me.

My mother’s maternal grandmother’s name was Virginia Myrtle. She was called Myrtle because there were already cousins and aunts and great-aunts using the names Virginia and Ginny.  She never liked the name Myrtle at all. When her granddaughter was named Janet Virginia, GGMA tried to pay her grandson to call her Virginia. According to the website MYRTLE is “simply from the English word myrtle for the evergreen shrub, ultimately from Greek μυρτος (myrtos). It was first used as a given name in the 19th century, at the same time many other plant and flower names were coined.” GGGMA, Arbelia Harriet, named her daughter after her own sister Virginia and a flower……..

 ©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Playing the percentages……..

When decisions have to be made I tend to automatically go with the most likely or the least likely outcome scenario and the view from the top rail on the fence usually shows solid ground on both sides. Applying the 80/20 rule* to most situations really makes sense to me. As we gain knowledge and experience in a targeted area, chances are we will eventually make enough correct decisions to equal 80% overall.

The rule applies to political and societal issues, too. There are always about 10% of people with an extreme view and 10% on the opposite extreme position. That leaves 80% hanging out shuffling around tripping over each other in the middle of the road. I have, also, observed the extreme 10% on each end never seem to grease their squeaky wheels.

However, if the 80/20 rule formula is about Dr. Juran’s “vital few and trivial many”, and 20 percent of my productivity produces 80 percent of my results… I might have to give up surfing on the web, checking Facebook, reading as many books and making purely social contacts.

Spending my time on 80% of my trivial pursuits and scheduling days to fill with 20% productivity does have a certain appeal. Sounds like a healthy balance to me and I might become really productive.

Odds are……..

*Pareto’s Principle – The 80/20 Rule

“In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth…………..

After Pareto made his observation and created his formula, many others observed similar phenomena in their own areas of expertise. Quality Management pioneer, Dr. Joseph Juran, working in the US in the 1930s and 40s recognized a universal principle he called the “vital few and trivial many” and reduced it to writing.”  

F. John Reh

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved.