My life has changed again…..

 Mike is recovering from his death brush. I am working full time once again. Alice is here for several weeks. We have a half grown kitten named Jasper giving Jem fits. There is a TV in the living room.  

“Chaos Theory is a scientific theory describing erratic behavior in certain nonlinear dynamical systems”, according to Wikipedia. The concept of a chaos theory has always appealed to me. Especially as applied to life systems and processes. Chaos is how I would describe my June. My insides were jumping around like the inside of a shaken maraca. I would have to retreat to a quiet place in my head to listen for my instincts telling me the next right step to take.

There was a certain order going on around me. I could only grasp outside myself and reach toward the linear process from the Emergency Room, to the Intensive Care Unit, to the Immediate Care Unit, to the Rehabilitation Unit to Mike’s release. Now we are in the building back the muscle mass to improve strength and come back physically and emotionally to where we started. The slow march of the process was my sanity line. Surviving what life throws at us is the game in life,

I love my life and am really good at games ……

©2011 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


Food, family, fun ……

Reunion picnics are part of the crazy patchwork quilt of our childhood. When we were young, my siblings and I measured the progression of summer by the family reunions we attended.

For us, summer began with the Memorial Day Picnic. This reunion always started with the obligatory visit to the Silver Lake Cemetery where my mother’s father’s parents and grandparents were buried. The anual family picnic started in the 1890’s as a celebration of my GGG-Grandmother Elizabeth’s May birthday. When Mother’s Day became an annual event, her children got together with her the second Sunday in May.  After WWI and the Memorial Day observation began, the reunion date moved again. The reunion had moved from the G-G-G parent’s farm to the shelter house in the Rossville Park near the high school and wonderful old ball diamond with a wooden viewing stand.  Lots of softball games with old and young were played there. The playground next to the shelter house was pretty awesome, too. My mom remembered playing there when she was young. The slide was huge and had wooden rails. I was always terrified and went home with lots of splinters.

Every summer, Aunt Mary and her family made a visit from Massachusetts. There were several family picnics and outings with my Mom’s family. Those picnics always seemed to be around my Cousin Pam’s birthday. I am thinking she may be the only cousin with a July birthday. If I am wrong, someone will let me know shortly!

The next family reunion was the first weekend in August in Alta Vista, Kansas. This was my Grandma Dorothy’s annual reunion. GGMa Myrtle’s siblings, cousins and descendants were at this picnic. The Alta Vista Park had a huge water tower a short distance from the shelter house where the reunion was always held. We were always trying to climb the water tower. My brother made it to the top once. This was the same brother who climbed over the side of the suspension bridge at the Royal Gorge when he was four. I remember wondering why my parents seemed so surprised and upset about the water tower incident when he was nine. What did they expect? He did survive both incidents. Mostly, I remember how hot a Kansas August is and wondering what the adults were thinking. The best Kansas August reunion was the time cousins came from Washington D.C. We went to someone’s farm. It was cooler there, we had the best time playing in the barn and under the trees and there was a new cousin my age.

The annual family reunion marking the end of summer was held the first weekend in September. As previously reported, Grandpa K, my dad’s dad, had 10 siblings spread throughout the US. The Topeka brothers and their families had their picnic Labor Day weekend at the Gage Park shelter house closest to the zoo. Sometimes out-of-town siblings and/or their families would show. This reunion often involved a zoo visit and maybe a last-weekend-of-the-summer swim at the big park pool.

This past weekend was the Memorial Day picnic. My sister called me on the way home from Rossville. They had a great time. I waxed nostalgic for a few minutes, remembering really good times. After we hung up, I made tuna and egg salad sandwiches, four bean salad and brownies.

Excuse me. There is iced tea and food to eat outside in the heat with bugs and humidity. There is not a playground in our backyard, the covered swing in the backyard will have to do. BTW, my mother’s birthday is in July…. lemon cake…. ice cream .…… yum …..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Middle Bit…….

The middle child often does get left out. In some families they act out more than the other children. In some families they simply remain quiet and become the peacemaker, friendly with all sides. Our middle kid tends to be quieter and is closer to her sisters than they are to each other. She is sometimes a bridge for them.

The year of the second child pregnancy Sam’s Mom was a baby. She was very busy and not into naps. She did like to be held and rocked. I managed to find time to indulge in my favorite past-time, reading. I read all of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring trilogy and I read Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. I wanted to name the baby Keridwen after the sorceress who was Merlin’s nemesis. We would call her Keri. At that time, I did not know that Keridwen was based upon Ceridwen, (hard “C”, Celtic pronunciation, please) the witch, sorceress, temptress found in Celtic folklore.

The baby father and I disagreed upon the proposed name and discussed other options. Julie Robin was one option. As I played around with all kinds of name combinations I came up with Keri Robin. Pretty close, don’t you think? Baby father agreed and her name was Keri Robin.

Years later the baby father told me he ought to have let me name her Keridwen. He could not remember why he did not want to. The name was still prophetic. Miss Keri took Latin, loved it and all things mythical and mystical came her way. She had a wonderful imagination and is exploring her writing muse these days. She can draw and create and is gentle with animals.

Keri earned every art and horseback riding badge in Girl Scouts and still found time for swimming, canoeing, camping, cooking and friends. She has lived her life bravely, with love and enthusiasm. I want to share the portion of the Kahlil Gibran poem I hand wrote on her homemade birth announcements. In 1972, the words raised some family eyebrows. His words touch me deep down in my heart………

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you, and yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday

Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet

Happy Birthday, Keri Robin. Wishing you many more………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Bling Glam Bloom…….

Alice’s dance to the prom was strewn with dresses, gloves, nail polish, Goldilocks curls, hair accessories and wrist corsages.  MomJami and her cousins glammed* Alice up and took some cool pics.

 Alice has done a really good job at school this year.  She took her family’s 175 mile move from one town to another with as much grace and dignity a 16 year old can muster. Alice has faithfully attended school and made new friends. She attends church and participates in her youth group.

I am so proud of my granddaughter and the choices she is making.  Isn’t she beautiful?

*I really like this new phrase “glammed up”. I am pretty sure an English grammar teacher is somewhere having a fit. Today I do not care. This phrase really conveys the message.

©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


A season in every thing……..

According to my former flower shop/green house owner cousin, any plant is a weed if it is not growing where you want. I have pulled up and replanted my fair share of plants and bulbs. I admit to having a hard time actually throwing away a flower or plant. If I dig them up and leave them around long enough before finding an appropriate place to relocate, Mike has no such compunction. 

Last summer we lost our beautiful Bradbury pear tree during a summer storm. I say tornado, in Illinois they refer to the circular motion as a microburst. We were pulling into our driveway after an early evening round of storm chasing. There were sirens going off and based on the wind whipping the tops of trees we decided to come home and go to the basement. We watched the neighbors 100+ year old birch tree twist, turn and crack down the middle, falling onto our house and splitting our tree.

We went from beautiful shade gardens to lots of direct sun. Our hostas were banged up and looked pretty ragged the rest of the summer. The impatiens we always plant flattened and did not do well with the sun and heat. We were not sure which plants would make a comeback this spring. I am happy to report the gardens look good for the time being. We are having a cool, wet spring. I am not sure how the July and August sun will affect the previous more shade-than-not plantings. We will be keeping an eye on them this summer.

The parallels of planting, nurturing and growing gardens and living a balanced life have always been obvious to me. The need to weed out unwanted plants and unwanted behaviors and attitudes in our lives are the same need. The cycle of life is the same as the cycle of seasons. Just as there are seasons of planting seeds, growth, maintaining and dying off in a garden, our lives are about birth, growth, maturity and death.

The annual cycle is a microcosm of our entire life journey. I see it as a smaller spiraling circle moving up, or down, within the larger upward spiraling circle of an individual’s life passage. Occasionally the smaller circle loses ground and may spiral down before continuing the upward journey.  Sometimes the downward spiral is a blip and sometimes it is a massive derail.

There are all kinds of psychological diagnoses and names for blips, derails, perversions, neuroses, psychoses……when I think of them in the context of my spiraling circle analogy I think we are sometimes stuck in a particular place in the spiral. Some of us more than others and none of us for the same reason or reasons. We are all unique in our own way, just as we all fall down and get up, or not, in our own way.

What happened in our shade garden last summer was a cycle interrupted. Things are looking pretty good at the moment, I am thinking they may not look so good later on this summer; we are moving upward and hoping for the best. The past year of my seasonal cycle has been filled with ups and downs. This year the downs have never gone below the previous spiral up.

I am feeling thankful and grateful and blessed……..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Tornado Alley…….

Tornado sirens and taking shelter have been a part of my life since always. I do not remember not knowing about finding a safe place in the basement or storm cellar. The next best thing is under a sofa or a bed against a wall or in a hallway in the middle of the house or building. Where I went to school, tornado drills were held as often as fire drills.

My up close and personal tornado experiences were scary, even traumatizing. When I was 15 an F5 tornado tore a 22 mile, ½ mile wide swath from southwest to northeast Topeka. My childhood home was located on the northeast edge of Topeka. On June 8, 1966, around 7:30 PM, I stood in my front yard while the atmosphere around me turned an eerie green and the deafening silence was overwhelming.

The sirens began wailing. I watched my sister and cousin come tearing down the street with a toddler in a stroller. Dad came tearing out of the house telling us to get to the basement. When he joined us shortly, I knew the tornado was pretty bad. Dad never came with us to the basement. He was usually outside playing macho man, ready to fight the weather, I guess. I can also report that an F5 tornado does sound like a train and a jet. And this noise was as deafening as the silence. There is a lull in the action, when the eye passes over, where the stillness is palpable.

Another tornado experience happened in 1982 or 1983. The girls and I were driving to Kansas in our Toyota Corolla. We were on I-29 north heading towards I-670 south around the north side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The weather was looking a little unstable. I saw the eerie green light and the trees twisting the same time as the radio blared out the tornado warning. The clouds were twisting, and forming and un-forming a circle, dropping down from the wall cloud a little to the north and west of us. Then the rain, thunder, lightning and hail hit.  The car was shaking. We survived and lived to tell.

There are other stories; a freaky November tornado rolling across Topeka and dropping down one street over from Mom and Dad’s house the week before Thanksgiving. The sirens went off the same time as all of the windows and doors blew open and we were running for the basement. There was the time I crested a hill between Lawrence and Topeka when I saw boiling and roiling, very angry looking black cloud bouncing up and down out of a huge black wall cloud.

 I could go on with my accidental and surprise brushes with the funnel cloud. Today’s post is about Mike’s penchant for seeking out storms, tornados, etc. He was a trained weather spotter in Kansas.  Since I have met him we have been chasing storms, been caught in storms and been scared in storms. We always try to stay outside the dangerous zone, far enough away to take pictures and observe. We have been caught a few times, we had a hail damaged windshield to prove it. One time Mike threw the car in reverse and backed out of the way of a dangerous downdraft from a wall cloud. It was a weird tornado spawning storm that did most of its damage after dark.

Tonight, I barely registered a protest as we drove out west to see what the storm was doing near Farmville. We watched from a distance and saw some pretty scary looking clouds. Eventually they dissipated and we came home, ready to chase another day…………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Swinging Barbie……

The local Exchange Club sponsors an annual fundraiser to support their children’s programs.  Restaurants provide a sampling of their food; we pay $25 for four food tickets and a public parking ticket.

Mike and I started with lobster stuffed potato skins at The Historic Roundhouse. Yum! We moved on to the River’s Edge Café located on the Fox River. The chicken salad wrap and brownie were delicious. Our next stop was Tecalitlan where we had an enchilada with rice and beans. The beans were wonderful, made exactly like I remember from my Mexico City exchange student days.

All of the food was great and we met people we knew all along the way. A new friend’s young daughter has taken to me; she thinks I look like her librarian. She helped me Twitter from my @auroranightout account.

Our dessert spot was Le France. I have wanted to stop in since they opened last year. We had chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse. They provided a free cup of coffee. We shared a bistro table with two sisters who had driven over from other towns. We learned they were originally from Poland and enjoy getting out and exploring new places.

The décor in the French style bakery was delightful. My favorite display was the “life-size” Barbie swinging in the middle of a cake display. There is something about dolls that appeals to the little girl inside of me. I love the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland.

The evening was wonderful and Swinging Barbie was worth the trip. The chocolate mousse cake was pretty good too………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


I believe……

Inspiration for good is easy to find if you are looking……

Laughing with a baby is the most joyous pleasure in the world….

Teenagers really think they do know it all…….

The darkest hours of the night are meant to be slept through….

Insanity really is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results….

Life is meant to be lived not observed from the porch….

If you do get off the porch expect to play with the big dogs….

Love means wanting only the best for your beloved……

Gardens are the closest place to heaven on earth……

Intergenerational relationships are essential for a balanced life…….

Bacon and eggs cooked outside over an open fire and eaten while watching the morning sun reflect on Lake Isabel are the best…….

The walking wounded are everywhere among us…..

There is no obstacle too large to overcome with tenacity, stubbornness, determination and sheer willpower…..

New England in the fall is so beautiful it hurts to look for too long……..

Purple majesty does describe the Rocky Mountains….

The call of the loon is a lonely sound……..

Children are “the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself”, Kahlil Gibran……..

Friends are essential to the elixir of life……

The perfume of viburnum blooms in the spring is incomparable….

In You………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved