Greatest Family Hits on the Piano



October Honorees

My piano fills our world with beauty and it is not because it ever gets played. It doesn’t.

We are a family of non-musicians. Of sure, the kids took a smattering of lessons here and there, violin, drums, guitar for sure and once the piano arrived, the first three took a year or two of lessons.

The piano came from my mother’s house, I learned to play (so to speak) on it in my younger years. In spite what must have been hundreds of dollars in lessons, I never quite got it. My piano teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, lived up the street and I remember how hard she tried while Mr. Jenkins watched TV.  My lack of talent wasn’t her fault, nor the teacher after that in high school. I did give it a good try.

So when my mom wanted more space in her living room, she shipped it to me. Not with official piano movers but with two guys who schlepped it 300 miles in their pick-up truck and rolled it into my home. Some folks get excited to see it and assume someone must play. Not true. It is also horribly out of tune.

The best use of the piano is a photo gallery. Each month I rotate a series of pictures to honor people and events in our family that have a connection to the current month. I used to have the same ones resting on top month after month and it got so boring.

This month features our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding from seven years ago, our granddaughter’s birthday party from yesterday, my brother and I from about 1952 (his birthday month also), a great shot of a fun family time three years ago in October and one of my husband’s mom taken when she was about four in 1929. She will be 91 later this month. All October honorees.

The photos remind me of our legacy.  Who we are a part of and where we have come from. I look forward to updating it each month.

The piano has found a good use at last. Maybe some day it will play music again for my ears but for now it is playing a sweet melody to my soul.

Where do you display your legacy?

Hope for the best,


How Do You Feel About Your Middle Name?



I didn’t used to like my middle name, Louise. Most of my friend’s middle names were Ann (without an E), Lynn (sometimes with an E), Marie or Mary. I didn’t know any other “Louise’s.”

All the other first names were more “normal” than mine too. I was the only Tish EVER in any of my classes. Did you have any in your classes? See, I told you.

My husband’s middle name is Gary. His mom wasn’t sure if she would have any more boys so she gave him her two favorite boy names. Tom has four younger brothers.

Frankly, I was a bit irritated at my parents for choosing both “unique” first and middle names for me. I grew to really love my first name but the middle one…let’s just say L. I have never used it.

When we on the other side and delegated with the task of choosing names for our offspring, I felt some regret about being so complain-y about my middle name. A lot of thought goes into those choices. But still, why not Elizabeth?

When our four were each born we chose “distinctive” first names and intentionally provided very mainstream middle names in case they wanted to drop the first part and go by the one in the middle like Paul McCartney and Tina Fey did. So far they haven’t.

Some women use their maiden name as a middle name and kind of drop the original one into oblivion. Didn’t want to do that either.

Then my precious women’s group prayed for me during a crisis and had a sense of the word “warrior.” Most people don’t associate that word with me, I’m usually calm, not “warrioring” around. I was intrigued. BTW, none of them would have been able to tell you what my middle name is.

When I found out about a week later that Louise means “renowned warrior,” I was stunned. Wow, that was my name all along.

All of a sudden, I am quite endeared to it. Perhaps I’ll add it to my signature line.

I was thrilled to find “Louises'” on both sides of family trees during my occasional searchings. Wonder if they knew about the warrior meaning. I’m glad to be in their company.

How do you feel about your middle name?

Hope for the best,


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Is Your Nest Too Empty?

empty-nestI ran into her in the parking lot of the grocery store, I think she had been crying in the car. My… “how are you doing?” must have sounded sincere because she didn’t bother with “fine” but let me in on the anguish of her too empty nest. A pain I was familiar with.

When my first of four left for college it was the unoccupied hook on the coat rack that sent me spinning. The hook was his first stop walking in the door after school each day. When # 2 left, it was the bin of nectarines in the grocery store. One of his favorites and the sight of them broke me down.

My daughter’s leaving got me a spot on Oprah The Day I Met Oprah . By the time the hoopla died down I was feeling better.

Then the last one left. Since I was so experienced at this, I thought I would bounce back quickly.

I didn’t.

By the third week, my therapist husband gently suggested I might consider what would help. I knew right away what I needed, a ritual! I am good at rituals.

Since this was the last one out of the nest, I decided I needed a longer ritual so this is what I came up with…

Day One: Let Go

I headed to the Chicago Botanic Garden and walked and wept about everything I loved and would miss about having kids around the house. From the mundane to the monumental, I wrote it all down. Very cleansing and satisfying.

Botanic Garden

Day Two: Grab On

After a morning of work on day two, the beach was the setting to begin to daydream about all the possibilities waiting for me now. Many were often elusive these twenty-six years. I spoke them out loud as I walked and got more excited each step. As usual, all made it to the journal later.


Day Three: The Party

I invited a handful of girlfriends who already crossed the empty nest bridge to join me for an evening. I dressed in a favorite outfit and served a variety of nice treats. After a little chit-chat we gathered in my living room and I brought out a tray of lit candles.


I invited each of the women to share something they missed about having their kids at home and passed around the candle snuffer to extinguish a light with each statement. As we sat in the darkness, I then asked them to share something they enjoyed about an empty nest. We passed around a candle-lighter to relight the flames with each shared delight.

Finally, they gathered around and blessed me for my new season of life. A champagne toast ended the evening.

It worked!  OK, I did have some moments now and then but not the crippling kind. The nest was still empty but I was redecorating it.

Yeah, some came back a few times for short stretches which I enjoyed too but I was off and running and so were they.

Hope for the best,



Ready for the “Real” New Year?*

Happy New YearA magazine arrived today with MAKEOVER written across the front.  Great marketing as I am ready for a fresh start now that my beloved summer is ending.

The turning of the calendar from August to September always seems like the most dramatic page-turn of the year. In the heat of summer, it is so easy to relegate events, appointments, people to see and even things to think about to that elusive time zone of “after Labor Day.”

Suddenly, Halloween candy shows up in Walgreens and those magazines flaunting the dare, “Make all your Christmas presents in a weekend” line the racks.  Life must once again be tightly planned rather than decided by whim and thermometer reading of the day.

September has show up to reclaim us again and remind us of all that we really want in our lives.

Before the fall hits with a flurry, here are three ways to mark the Real New Year:

Carve out some planning time.  New strategies and solutions don’t just show up.  Honor the opportunity for change provided by the new season by claiming a few hours or long lunch to sort out the fall agenda. Here are a few questions to ask yourself… The September Shift

Make A   Resolution.  What’s a New Year without a resolution?  Skip the “exercise more” ones and go for a really NEW change.  Join a book club? Try Yoga? Find a spiritual community?  Making resolutions at your own pace  scores a higher success rate than trying too many changes at once.   If you need a boost, ask me about my “10 Goals in 90 Days” coaching packages.

Re-Choose your YES’s and NO’s.  There are about twelve weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.  Enough time to set some new patterns and finish what gets started in a few areas.  If you choose to say YES to family dinners this fall, a NO to going to the gym after work will be in order.  Likewise a YES to thirty minutes of personal time in the AM will mean a NO to late night TV.  You get to make the choices.

By the time the novelty of the change of seasons passes, the holidays will be here and then another chance to begin again will come in January.  Happy New Year!

Hope for the Best,


PS Stay tuned for my upcoming new book, Getaway With God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat

*Originally posted 8/30/12

Six Things I Miss About Having Kids in School

Washington School

Washington School, Evanston

Facebook is bursting with first day of school pictures this week. I’m feeling left out of a party everyone else is attending and miss having kids in school. Nostalgia is flooding in which is never hard for me!

Let me say, I was never one of the moms who couldn’t wait for them to go back to school. I detested (and still do) all the hype of buying school supplies right after 4th of July when the ads started. I have never liked packing lunches and the “back to school” shopping for four kids seemed to take a whole paycheck some years.

But mostly I just loved (usually!) having them at home and hanging around the house and yard. The first day of school always had at least one weepy moment in it.

It’s been thirty years since my first-first day of school as a mom and thirteen since the last (not counting college) but I still miss a few things like…

  1. The Rhythm of the Day: As a first stay-at-home then work-at-home mom, I structured my day by the first and last bell and knew how much I could get done in between. Now I’m in charge of the bells, a lot of responsibility!
Selah first day of first grade

First Day of First Grade

2. After School Snacks: This surprised me too when it popped up! I usually planned a snack long before I knew what was for dinner. A simpler decision which seemed part of the great hello and welcome home. Honey Milk Balls were the favorite. Popcorn and cookies smelled the best. Excuse me while I go rustle up an after-writing snack.

3. Meeting the Friends: I liked meeting my kid’s friends and getting some of their story. I’m still in touch with some of those friends now. Once they leave home, that opportunity is usually not readily available. They go “out with a friend” and that’s all you get.

4. The Community of School: We showed up at events with some of the same parents for over a dozen years. We knew enough data for little chitchats and enjoyed seeing the familiar faces. We haven’t run into hardly any of them since then. Where did they go?

5. Learning Along: One of the things I love about being a mom is the chance to feel like a kid again but still in charge🙂 I liked learning or re-learning stuff along with them and usually read the extra books they were discovering. I got lost in some subjects in high school but it was fun while it lasted.

6. Knowing they were right around the corner. We could see the first school from our kitchen window and I liked knowing they were close by. After high school they took off for college and spent time in a few international locales. Now three of them are nearby and the other an easy plane/train ride away , just where they belong but I miss the proximity of a few minutes.

Honor Roll stickers

Four Honor Roll Stickers

If they were still in school, though, we wouldn’t be enjoying the adult-adult relationship we have now, the longest lasting one with your kids. I like this the best but I have said that about each phase.

If your kids are out of school, what do you miss?

Hope for the best,


Summer Book Report: 2016

Beach chairI knew this title would pull some of you in! If you wanted to make sure I read something you posted, about anything actually, stick it in a list of “favorite books” and I’ll be sure to notice it. I’m nosy about what other people read and like to pick up some great titles I might have missed.

I start and end my day reading and often sneak out to the back yard to indulge in a few pages during the late afternoon. Here are a few that have delighted me these past few months:

The Non-Fiction:

  1. Roots and Sky: A Journey Home In Four Seasons  by Christie Purifoy. Sigh, a most beautiful book. I finished it on the beach with tears running down my face. Will definitely come back to this.
  2. Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that matter by Annie F. Downs.   I received this as a freebie at at writer’s conference and tossed it in the morning prayer basket. Soon I woke up wondering what Annie would have to say today. Definitely a “lovely.”
  3. Finding Your Name: From Insecurity to Influence by Jane Rubietta  I’ve been reaching into the basket every morning for a book in this series for almost a year. Each devotional lasts 3 months to read but much longer in my soul.
  4. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful way of Living  by Shauna Niequist  True confession: This just arrived yesterday but I will have it read before some of you read this post and I know it will be a favorite!

The Fiction:

  1. Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion  by Jody Hedlund This book won the 2016 Christian Book Award and filled me in on a whole other side of the Reformation. Very good!
  2. The Swans of Fifth Avenue  by Melanie Benjamin. Captivating story  from my lifetime about New York society and Truman Capote. I picked it up because I like the author and the fascinating true story was enthralling.
  3. Me Before You  by JoJo Moyes I didn’t like the ending which you probably already know about but I loved the book. And yes, I read the sequel which was okay too.
  4. As Waters Gone By  by Cynthia Ruchti  The word “water” in the title got me going and the story kept me there. Another award winning book.

At least a half a dozen others spent time on my bedside table and the to-read pile is ever-growing but these are the favorites.

You  have your lists too, please share!

Hope for the best,


Funeral Cousins

Funeral food

Funeral Food

“We’re going to a funeral” my mom announced when I got off the train last month. I hadn’t exactly brought “funeral” clothes but my mom assured me you can wear anything to funerals these days. Fortunately, I had a small window to stop in at my favorite resale shop in town to get something appropriate, at least according to my standards.

The funeral crossed state lines which included a bridge. I hate driving over bridges but I couldn’t tell her that.

Her first cousin had died, she hadn’t seen her for many years and I even more. Like many funerals, I felt I got to know her more from the shared stories than my handful of memories. Seems like part of the loss.

My distant cousins were there too. I hadn’t seen most of them since childhood so it became like a family reunion right before the service. “I remember sitting in the car with you at one of the reunions listening to the Beatles right after they came out!” remarked one cousin. That might have been the last time I saw her until that day.

We didn’t go to the cemetery as my mom wasn’t feeling well so we waited in the church hall and watched the serving bowls go on the tables. There must be a category of “funeral food” in some cookbook as the menu is always about the same and chock-full of comfort. Might be sacrilegious but I do like those lunches.

A few more “so good to see you” and “let’s stay in touch” and we headed back over the bridge.

I often lament the miles between my mom and me but on the funeral day I felt the tug of separation from all the cousins I used to know by name and face. Was sad we had to re-introduce ourselves in our adult clothes and wondered what our lives would have been like if no one had moved away. But we did.

The older I get, the more precious are the connections. Oh for just one more family reunion!

Do you see your distant cousins?

Hope for the best,


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Letitia Suk, Author, Speaker, Life Coach

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