Winter Inspiration for Fun

A few weeks ago—before our deep freeze– we had the PERFECT Illinois winter snowy day. That day I cross country skied and shot the pictures I posted on this blog a couple weeks ago. My 16 year old son Ronan and his friends sledded all that afternoon.  I was secretly smiling that the boys adventures . Are you ever too old to sled?

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My 3 kids so long ago, with one of our Aussie, playing in the snow

“There were a lot of kids there. I feel like the parents were looking at all of us weird, since we were older,” Ronan said when he got home, after he said how much fun they had. And how tired they were.

“No way,” I replied. “I remember when we used to take all of you sledding when you were younger.

“ I would watch all the older kids on the hills, playing, having fun. I was so glad that they were having a blast outside, rather than watching TV or playing video games. That they still let themselves be kids.”

So, one simple idea for me this year is to find time to have more fun. Step away from the screens and daily responsibilities, just to let loose and laugh.

C

Biking in the Woods…of Memories

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©Cindy Kennedy

The leaves crackle under our bike tires, burying the path underneath the trees.   There is a sense of golden aura, with splatters of rust and green throughout, as we wind along the trail flanking the river. The geese chatter, the slight scent of decay emanates throughout.

As we ride past the mirrored lake, the swing set adjacent, I am transported immediately to my past. I remember coming to these same Captain Daniel Wright Woods often as a child. We would spend the day with our neighbors, the boys and dads fishing, the girls running, laughing, chasing dragon flies, moms relaxing with a smile.

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Afterwards all we kids played together with new friends, made up games on the jungle gym. The picnic was unpacked onto long wooden tables, my mom offering up delicious pans of fried chicken still warm in foil, bowls of cut fruit, homemade chocolate cookies, the rare treat of a can of soda.

When I was in high school, my dad taught me to cross country ski on these snow filled paths. The woods turned magic, covered with sparkling snow, as we careened through the forest.

As we continued on our current bike ride , those memories morphed into later visits, when we brought my kids, their cousins, and our dogs to enjoy that same playground. We clomped over the bridge to a hidden pond for the kids to catch frogs, skip stones, and throw bread bits as the fish broke the surface again and again.

I hope that someday my kids will come visit here, and they will remember all the times we came to the forest preserve with poignant smiles. And better yet, I hope that they can create their own memories here with their friends or family.

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Sunday Night Blues

Sunday, during the daylight hours, has that “weekend” feel. We enjoy some free time, pursue hobbies, run errands, start or complete projects, or just chill. But by dinnertime, it whispers in our conscious that the Week is starting soon.

Sunday, after our evening meal, that voice is hammering in my head: time to start the Monday-morning-prep. Mentally and physically, it can tarnish the end of a stellar weekend.  During the school year and with fewer daylight hours, time seems to compress further. And it is the whole family who feels the end of the weekend, not just me.

The minutia starts to over power my restless mind—the upcoming week’s work and family schedule overlaps. I set priorities now so we can start Monday by doing, not necessarily thinking. We are not all morning people, especially on Mondays!

I keep trying to think of ways to extend the weekend feelings until Monday morning. But, I think it would exhaust me out more to wake up Monday and not be ready to jump into the week.

I wondered, do similar feelings reverberate through our neighbors homes?   Asking a couple friends, they confirmed that similar routines and emotions run through their households. After writing most this piece, I found a 2015 Monster.com poll that showed a whopping 78% of American workers have these “Sunday Night Blues”. Wow, I had no idea!

How can we extend that weekend feeling a little longer? Most weekends we try to have a family dinner on Sunday night, which brings us together to relax, catch up, and plan for the week. We recently took a spontaneous drive to the beautiful Lake Geneva WI to wander and eat alongside the lake, which was a great change of pace. Maybe we should tweak our Sunday schedules, allow for a little more flexibility and surprise. Keep the weekend feeling alive just a few hours longer, leaving us just a smidge of time to gear up for Monday’s alarm clock ring.

If you have found successful tactics for easing into Monday morning, let me know!

C

Olympic Envy

I am obsessed. With the Olympics that is. Our family has been cheering on our US athletes in Brazil in many sports as they earn a medal, my quiet heart dropping when they don’t earn a trip to the podium.

And I am a little depressed. Watching these Olympic athletes, the incredible work and dedication they put into their lives, striving for the Gold. It makes me wistful that I don’t have that concentrated talent in anything I know of, that even younger I don’t think I could have shared “the Olympic dream”.

I listen to the athletes talk about their focus, the life events they have skipped for their dreams, the goals they set for themselves. Then re-set after they win or lose an event. Gymnast Aly Raisman came in 4th place in the all-around in the London Olympics four years ago, due to some crazy tie-breaking loss. Then she fought back to compete this year in Brazil, better than ever. The overwhelming emotions she expressed when she won the silver medal, a private moment gone global, showed how hard she worked to earn that medal.

I get so wrapped up in everyday work and life my daily goal is often so simple, like feed this family. Or get the dogs walked or go to the gym. Or get my son’s haircut before school starts. Or in a few free minutes to clean off a dresser, write a thank you note. Not all in one day, of course.

Maybe I need to set my goals a little higher.  Think a little more into the future, set some personal and family goals. It hit me that just going through the routine without any goals is also without the reward of accomplishment. I think I will have more pride in my week (month? year?) if I try to lay out some concrete goals bigger than the weekend to-do list and actually accomplish them.

C

Just Show Up

Who Shows Up? and when? It is easy to show support during joyous times. It can be far more stressful –and sometimes uncomfortable–to be available in times of crisis, confusion, or death. There are some people who you expect to Show Up during those latter times; others shock you when they reach out. Those few especially make you glance outward from your grief, realizing that circle of people you hold close is wider than you think.

It’s been a month since my dad passed away. I am still amazed at who I have heard from—and who has remained invisible– the last difficult months. Every word and action has truly made an impact on me:  a short text or phone call, stacks of cards (some from people I didn’t even know were aware my dad was gone), delivering food for us, sending flowers, reaching out a hand or hug, giving a gift card for a meal, driving people to the airport, sharing some wine, a kind word, an impactful memory, traveling to see us.

There have been foggy days and sleepless nights, my brain running in the opposite direction from where my focus needs to be.   So those gestures can jolt me back to today, now.

It is okay to feel uncomfortable when acknowledging your sentiments to me. Stumble, if you need to. You may be articulating your feelings for the first time, while I have been addressing mine for many, many hours already. Whether you express yourself with grace, anger, grief, humor, surprise, tears, hope or couched in your own experiences of someone close to you dying, it means so much when people share.

So Just. Show. Up. I know I will be more conscious of Being There in the future, during those times of mourning. Sadly, I can relate.

C

Eulogy for my Dad

My dad, Richard Albert Cardinal, died on June 23, just about 3 weeks ago. I gave the eulogy at his local service this week. Here are the words I wrote and said about him, since a couple people have asked to read them.  We miss you already.  Love you.  Cindy

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My dad leaves behind a wonderful legacy of faith, family, and friendship. He knew the importance of embracing each day, since he first died when I was 15 years old. Now, that might seem crazy since we are here today, but it is true.

He suffered a major heart attack and was clinically dead for more than 10 minutes. During that time he argued with God that he was too young to die, that he still had to support me, Sharon, Dave, Steve, and my mom Barb. And he won that debate with God, which shows what a persuader he was. We were blessed to have him amongst us for 38 additional years.

His Catholic faith remained extremely important in his life. I especially remember him and my mom working on Spring Fever fundraiser at Holy Cross. He performed on stage with his friends, bringing down the house with their song and dance routine.

We moved from New Jersey to Deerfield IL when I was in second grade. During our childhood, my highlight was our annual trips back to the Jersey shore from Illinois. (though we learned early not to help him pack the paneled station wagon). We spent long days hanging out at the beach, went crabbing, and it felt like a huge family party every night. Many of those family members are here today.

After one of his heart surgeries, his friend gave him a book about drawing. I had never seen my dad draw, though he and I often had dueling cameras on trips. Art changed his life. He showed us all that you are NEVER to old to learn. He continued to take classes and paint until just a few months ago.

We were so lucky to have my parents spend the last 10 summers with us in Hawthorn Woods. My parents became surrogate grandparents to my kids’ friends, and friends with our friends. The last couple years they came in right on July 3rd, and the first time we would see them was with all our friends at the local fireworks show.

My dad spent many days here giving art classes to my children Tara, Devon and Ronan and their friends. He would create a lesson plan that Tara would diligently follow, Devon (at 3 years younger) would try to imitate Tara’s work and become very frustrated, and Ronan would just want to draw pictures of animals or spaceships. And my dad would oblige them all. His motto to them was always “paint what you see.”

During their time with us he and Bob would grill together—or Bob would grill while my dad sat and drank wine, he and I spent many hours in my garden, they golfed, we had raucous family games nights, and day trips to Chicago.

Our kids often said that Bobbi and Papa had a busier social life than they did. This just might be true, as my dad has retained friendships from his childhood in NJ, our Lake Eleanor days, and more recently from the Fountain Hills Art League and Men’s Club in Arizona. People were drawn to him because of his sense of humor, that twinkle in his eye. And once you met him, he could be a friend for life.

My siblings and I are spread from here to Arizona to California. We cherish our time together, since we see each other infrequently. There is always laughter and debates whether we are in Puerto Vallarta yelling “watch out for mangos”, exploring Phoenix or the Grand Canyon, realizing that hike down Snowbird was 3 times the length we thought, California, Chicago and Abba dancing Christmas’, Colorado, and several extended family reunions.

I learned how to live by watching my dad and mom. My dad infused in me the love I have for my family, the importance of my friendships in times of laughter and heartache, how to overcome health issues, creativity, standing up for my beliefs and for others, to give back. Most importantly, that life can be short. That we need to live each day to its fullest and never stop trying new things.

We will miss my dad greatly, but we know that he was at peace when he passed away.

 

Lifeline

With an ill family member a plane ride away
that little rectangular tool
called the Cell Phone
so full of need
and escape
in a hand-held box
that I sometimes abhor,
(when others are hypnotized
and friends engaged in the screen
instead of today
and engaging conversation)
has become my lifeline.

I carry it on my person–
every step in the house,
during meetings,
while at the gym,
a brief escape with friends,
the ebony hour.
The buzzer is at the ready,
for a call
a text
an update
from afar.

It is a hope
an anchor
a wish
my reality.

So thankful I have it
to desperately grasp,
rather than the old-school landline,
to keep me truly tethered to my home,
while I wait
for the latest change
by voice or written word.

C