Phil and Me………..

Years ago we lived in an old farmhouse with some acreage. For daily exercise I created a walking path. I would walk the long way around the farm pond, make a figure eight loop by the back of the barn; bypass the house, walk out by the tree break hedge row, back by the pile of wood from the old shed and up to the house. Walking the path twice took about 40 minutes. While the girls were in school, I would walk the path twice at least once a day.

One warm, sunny late August day, a movement in the grass out by the pile of shed board caught my eye.  I slowed to a stop and looked down at the cutest little reddish brown furry animal I had ever seen. The little thing was very young and, literally, rolled up in a ball. I could not even see her head. Poor little thing, she was hoping if she did not see me, maybe I did not see her.  Feeling an unexplained sympathy with the desire, I backed a step away and gave her space, continuing my walk a little less briskly, a little more contemplatively.  

The memory of that walk is one of my life-defining moments. There was a shallow peace surrounding my life in that time. All had not spun out of my ability to control. A time before the upheaval and chaos in my middle earth life began. We were living in a cocoon spun with hopes and dreams based on a level of denial so deep, I could not even begin to imagine the amount of digging it would take to escape. My imagination at that time was based on a whole other set of priorities, which seems far removed from where I am now.

The little animal baby was a woodchuck and for some reason she symbolizes the beginning of the end of my denial world. Five months later I was having an emotional meltdown in my friend’s kitchen. In my life journey, this particular meltdown is known as the I-am-turning-37-and-I-not-only-do-not-have-life-figured-out-I-may-never-have-life-figured-out-revelation.

There is a really deep peace in my life today. I am on the other side and if I still dabble in denial it is of short duration and there is any number of people in my life willing to remind me of the consequence of straying off my real time path.

Imagine my surprise when a woodchuck came back into my life today. While researching groundhogs for a February 2nd post, I discovered woodchucks are groundhogs. Always pleased to learn something new, I am still wondering how I missed this piece of information all of these years.

You can bet I am going to be paying closer attention to Punxsutawney Phil’s more or less winter prediction tomorrow. After all, he is a distant Pennsylvania cousin to my Illinois woodchuck. According to reliable sources*, he has an 80% prediction rate, good enough percentages for me.

Wonder what message Phil might have for me tomorrow……..

*Wikipedia: “Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time.[24] A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts the success rate level at 37%.[24] Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall prediction accuracy rate is around 39%.[25]

WKBW-TV meteorologist Mike Randall put it a different way: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow.[26]

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Grandpa K…….

My dad’s father always seemed to be working the swing shift, when my cousin, Cheryl, and I spent the night with them. Grandma K would pack us in the old Chevy and we would go pick him up at 11 PM. We would giggle and be silly in the back seat in our pajamas, all ready to be tucked in as soon as we were back at their house. What fun, to be out so late at night. I loved the drive to the mill where Grandpa K worked.  We took the River Road with its curves and the big dip under the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge.  The Kansas River was beautiful and mysterious with the moon reflecting on the water.

The words we shared with our grandparents on those rides are long gone, only the feeling of being valued and loved remains. Grandpa K would greet us and tease us a little. Later, Cheryl and I would giggle and whisper in bed. Grandma K would shush us, we would be still for a second, and then start whispering again.

Grandpa K was a sports fan. He knew all kinds of facts and trivia about all kinds of sports. We were very quiet whenever ball games of any kind were on his TV. Always interested in history and genealogy, I spent hours making family tree charts with information Grandpa and Grandma K gave me. Grandpa K never talked much about his childhood. What little I know I gleaned from Dad, Aunt Norma, Aunt Margie and Grandpa K’s youngest brother, Orville.

West Virginia is where Grandpa K was born in 1901. He was third from the oldest in a family of nine surviving children.  His parents came to Kansas in a covered wagon when he was three. When Grandpa was a young teenager, his father packed them all in a covered wagon again. This time they were off to the “Promised Land” on the Canadian plains. On their way back south from the ‘not so promised land’ up north, they had no food and were starving. Grandpa K walked to the nearest town and begged to work for food for his mother and younger siblings.

In 1918, Grandpa K went to McPherson College in McPherson, KS to become a minister. He fell ill with the influenza. The doctor sent him to Arizona for his health. When he got there, he said there were too many sick people. He turned around and came back home.  After that, he farmed and did whatever he needed to support himself and his family.

The other day I was talking to my Dad’s sister, Norma. I asked her to tell me the warmest memory she had of her father.  Two memories popped into her mind. He would tie one end of a rope to the fencepost and turn the rope from the other end so she and Margie could jump rope together. She said he would be outside, after school when she was in the first grade. They would walk home holding hands. She remembered she has the Bible her mother gave him for his 40th birthday. He could quote Bible verses all day long.

Grandpa K was born 110 years ago today. In 1982, we went back to the small south central Kansas town he loved for his funeral.  An older gentleman approached us. He told my dad that Grandpa K was the hired man on his father’s farm many years ago. He came to pay his respects to the hard working young man he remembered.

Grandpa would have been pleased.………………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


My Favorite Things…….

   Birdhouses….. boxes ….fluffy clouds ….toasted marshmallows… babies laughing…. children playing…. unicorns…. kittens…. puppies…. Fourth of July parades…. white sand beaches…. purple mountain majesties… waving golden wheat fields…… glass of Merlot…. blue patterned china… magic of Christmas…. music boxes…. chocolate…. campfires,,,, clean sheets…. marching bands…. hammock time on Jeness Pond…. river otters…. smell of new mown grass….. rainbows…. blue moons…… picnics… road trips…. penguins… panda bears…… sunflowers……. meadowlarks….. lily pad floats……

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


River View…

Fox River, Illinois

This is the view out the window from one of our favorite restaurants. My husband and I sat and talked about our week. There was a baby in his mother’s arms several tables away. The baby was around three months old and very interested in his surroundings. Mike asked me about parent-child bonding and what did I think was on a baby’s mind as they look out at the world.

I responded cautiously that babies did not have words forming in their brains like you or I. When they are exposed to outside stimuli their brains are adapting and changing to accommodate the new information so one day they would have the words to describe what they were seeing. He nodded his head slowly and then commented, so it is a visual thing. Yes, I said, images in their brains. Whew, I wished our friend Cheryl, with her early childhood education and experience, was having breakfast with us.

Wondering where the conversation was going, I sipped my coffee and waited. The conversation ranged from gun control laws to societal and cultural mores surrounding use of guns to what was in the mind of Jared Loughner as he shot a nine year old girl in a Tuscon Safeway parking lot. Mike’s theory was there must be some kind of pop-up shield in the brain that allows people to shoot another person.  And he wondered out loud about the difference between hunting an animal and shooting a human. I asked why he used to hunt. He said there was a feeling of excitement. He no longer hunts with a gun, he prefers shooting with a camera.

My husband’s next question caused me to sit up a bit straighter. Did I think parents feel guilty for the actions of their children?



Because, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, we feel our children are reflections of ourselves?

He nodded his head and looked at me. We sat in silence wondering just how Jared Loughner’s parents might be feeling and the parents of all of the shooters in the world.

We have no way of knowing how we might feel, the mind boggles….imagine the pain…..the loss….the sadness…..and we bow our heads with heavy hearts……..


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 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.


New Year motto*……..

When I was a lot younger I made New Year resolutions. Sometimes I kept them. Sometimes I did not. Years ago I realized each year had a theme indicating where I am in my life journey. The theme is revealed in a title or line from a book I am reading or want to read. Other times the words or phrase describing the essence of my life come to me.

Towards the end of each year I reflect upon the past years discoveries and accomplishments. Reading through my journals, scratch paper/writing pad thoughts, musings and just plain scribbles, the motto for the next year sometimes reveals itself. Some years the theme has been slowly revealing itself throughout the year and bubbles to the surface at the right time.

For example, 1993 was my “Co-Dependent No More…” year, obviously, taken from Melody Beatty’s title for her bestselling book of the same name. A friend loaned me Co-dependent No More and Beyond Co-dependency in September 1992. I avoided reading them until January 1993. On New Year’s Day 1995, while shopping with friends at Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, I found a Mary Engelbreit poster, “Don’t Look Back” and the message was perfect for 1995.

In 1996 I was completing my first year of graduate school and wondering if I had what it takes to finish the program, find a job and start the next phase of my life. My motto was “The Next Right Step Will Be Revealed…”.

I remember 1999 as the “Year of the Child”. My youngest daughter’s family moved to Wichita where we were living.  The self- examining scrutiny to which I had been subjecting myself for six years was exhausting me. I spent the whole year embracing, enjoying and playing with my grandchildren in town and out of town. It was an exhilarating exhausting experience.  

The next year, 2000, was the year of “Testing the Resting” and I read Anne Wilson Schaef’s Living In Process.  There are still messages from her book resonating in my life.  My favorite quotes are “We exist in context. “, “All I have to deal with and clean-up is my side of the street.”, “When we are present in the moment we bring the accumulated wealth of our past to that moment.” Thanks Dr. Schaef, I have great memories of my year with you.

The year 2005 was about “To Move or Not to Move….” This was the year of deciding to seek a job, in my profession, in a bigger market thereby increasing my salary and requiring relocation or change fields and stay in our smaller town in Kansas.  I ended the year in the Chicago area with a challenging new job.

Living a simpler life was my goal for 2006. My companion for a year was Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy which gave me a look at who I was right then. My year with her and her book was very important to my ability to summon courage and fortitude for the next three years.

2007, 2008, 2009 were all variations of “I WILL SURVIVE,” Volumes I, II, III.

2010 was the year of Recovery and Rediscovery. After taking my employers early retirement offer, I have spent the past year living life one day at a time and developing the self-discipline to stay on my chosen tasks. I do not know which was harder – choosing the task or staying on the task.

“If Not Now, When…….” is my 2011 motto. I have a lot of things I want to do… eat healthier, find an exercise I am willing to follow to do regularly, write a book, make money doing what I enjoy most, save money, hire a maid … And if I do not start now when will I ever?

I will confess to making two resolutions for the New Year: I will find my Bluetooth and figure out how to connect it to my cell phone. And I will not text or respond to emails while driving. If it is that important, I will find a safe place to stop and then hit reply. Okay (big sigh) I feel safer already and those who are on the road with me will be safer too.

*Merriam-Webster’s definition of motto:

  1. A sentence, phrase, or word as appropriate to or indicative of its character or use
  2. A short expression of a guiding principle

Origin Italian from Late Latin muttum grunt, from Latin muttire to mutter

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved.