No Matter What Happens …


“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Maya Angelou


A New Order


With so much to do, I sneak into the attic, and there they are, right where I left them, the year before.  The Christmas Stockings.  All of them.  Seven.  I snatch them, leaving behind the lights and talking santas, that I decided were too much now.  Left behind in the cold quiet.

The stack feels familiar.  So bright.  So different.  Nothing matching about the ones that belong to our four kids – one has a dancing Winnie the Poo and Tigger, the other has lots of sequins hand stitched by an ambitious aunt, one is perfectly needle pointed with a name embroidered on top and one has snow men on it with real cotton.  Mine is sophisticated, because I was trying that on that year, the year that I bought it.  My husband’s has an old, comfortable santa on the front.  And my mother’s, the 7th, is blue and looks antique, with a tree surrounded by vintage toys.  She told me that it looked similar to the one she had as a child.  She loved it, and loved having such a special place in our family, with her own stocking and all.

Once to the mantle, I find 7 nails, all perfectly aligned.  If I don’t hang hers, the 7th, they’re out of order.  Out of order.  Yes, we’re out of order now.

You see, she died at Thanksgiving.  Still writing the words she died seems new to me.  She was old, so sick, with different kinds of cancer here and there and on Hospice.  It hurts, because I stand here, with 7 stockings, and 7 nails, but there are 6 of us now.

She lived down the street, when she was well.  And when she wasn’t, she lived in the little bedroom off our kitchen.  She babysat the kids.  She was passionate about them.  She hugged them and held them tight and played with their hair.  She loved that they came to us through adoption.  “Oh someone different, I can’t wait!”  She made dinner, she barked orders, she loved the dog, and she hated the dog.  She was part of our fabric.  Part of our order.

It ached moving up to it.  Her death.  I knew it was coming.  I cared for her.  In best times, I took her to doctor appointments, rode in the sunshine, ate soup at restaurants, and laughed about old stories.  Hoping for miracles.  In worst times, I fed her soup, combed her hair, kept her warm, and laughed about old stories.  Still hoping for miracles.

The hurt on the way up to her death made me cry, like a wild animal.  The hurt on the way down makes me cry, like a wounded one.

So, 7 stockings, 7 nails, 6 of us now.  I kept her nail empty, and put her stocking behind mine, filling up my nail to the brim.  Hers held mine up.  Hers made mine strong.  Even though the order had changed.

Over the summer I’ll move things around and rearrange those nails so that 6 fit perfectly over the mantle.  And her stocking will be in the attic, nestled behind mine.  And when the next all-too-soon Christmas rolls around, I’ll put hers on the nail behind mine.  And it will hold mine up.  And make mine strong.  And there will be a new order.

Written at Christmas Time 2004

He’ll Take Longer Than The Time He’s Been Given and Will Apologize Later

Doug will speak to hundreds of people from all over the world this morning in Chicago on behalf of A Long Swim and the Les Turner ALS Foundation on the formula of taking an audacious goal and using it to raise funds for a cause.  Here he is practicing on our back porch last night.  I took this photograph from outside, he didn’t know I was there.  He practiced for over an hour, until he got it right.  The day will be full of speakers, and Doug has been given 20 minutes.  He’ll take longer, I know, and will apologize later.

Welcome Home Bob!

Bob Lee … finishing his Ride For 3 Reasons … circumnavigating the United States on a bike while raising funds for ALS, Hospice and Cancer … has arrived home to Barrington. Donations are still being accepted AND TRIPLED on his website  Here is a photo essay from his arrival …

a cake for 3 reasons:
1. We
2. Love
3. You!


Decorations by Peter Yankala and Friends
Bob’s whole family met him upon his arrival
Bob shows his route on the map

The best picture from the night?  You’ll have to wait to see it in the November/December issue of Quintessential Barrington Magazine.

Catalina Channel Complete With Bagpipes

Catalina Here We Come … 

Starting Wednesday, September 26th at 10:00PM Doug will begin his swim of the Catalina Channel off the coast of Santa Catalina Island.  21 miles in 60 degree water that gets up to 3,000 feet deep with 5 foot swells that originate off the coast of Hawaii.  There are jellyfish, as there are in the English Channel, but this channel is also home to seals (can’t wait to get pictures) and sharks (can certainly wait to get pictures).  
It takes a year to secure your reservation for this marathon swim that 260 people have successfully completed, the first being George Young in 1927. 
Our boat pilot is one of only two who are certified by the Catalina Channel Federation; Greg Elliott and his boat Bottom Scratcher.  Word has it that early in the morning as the sun comes up Greg belts out a set on his bag pipes.  Here’s a picture of Greg doing this thing … 

Doug crewed on this swim a couple of months ago for his friend, Goody Tyler.  Goody’s swim was not successful and that experience was one that made Doug postpone this swim so that he could train more extensively.  Here is a really good picture that Doug took and texted to me early in the morning of Goody’s swim:  

And here’s a picture of Doug with Goody taken aboard the pilot boat … 

The Crew This Time ... 

The crew this time will consist of a few of Doug’s swimming friends and our oldest son, Mack.  Mack, who lives in San Francisco, is also an accomplished swimmer.  He did, however, miss the English Channel swim by one flight, since the boat left earlier than expected, so this will be a nice pay back for him. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of Mack taken on the beach of Wissant Bay in France …

Missing Meg … 

Missing will be my good friend and project manager extraordinnaire Meg, who has accompanied us on ALL of our previous swims.  She should really think about leasing herself out for managing these marathon events.  With the school year in play, and after losing time to the Chicago teacher’s strike, she’s going to sit this one out.  I’m going to miss her every single moment and I’m hoping that the Megalodon doesn’t come up from those 3,000 foot depths looking for my Meg. 

Here’s my Meg crewing for the 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim … (with Gordy McConnell)

And here she is crewing on the English Channel … (with Bill McConnell) 

 How To Watch and Get Information … 

I’ll be reporting, and this is important, in real time on Doug’s personal Facebook page and my personal Facebook page.  So make sure you are “friends” with us.  When I reported from the English Channel the signal was weak and I found this the most efficient way to get things done.  I’ll include pictures and videos taken with my trusty iPhone.  Don’t forget we are two hours behind most of you. 
Once the swim is done I’ll get all of the photographs up on the Facebook pages for A Long Swim and My Bionic Boyfriend.  Here are links to those: 
A Long Swim’s Facebook Page

Follow along on Doug’s Spot Link which will update the map every 10 minutes:

Doug’s Really Cool Spot Link

Oh, and the most important part, Doug is doing all of this in the name of his Dad, Dr. David McConnell, who died from ALS.  Doug has raised almost $200,000 so far for the Les Turner ALS Foundation.  Donations may be made on Doug’s site
Good Luck Doug!  We are proud of you!

Susan McConnell Photography … Celebrating Barrington’s Fashion Night Out!

$79 photo sessions from 4:00 till 7:00 during Barrington’s Fashion Night Out!  This is your chance to get the best shot of you ever, on a digital file, to use in all your social media or to have it printed your own way.  Come on over dressed in your most fabulous fashion, have a glass of wine and have a great time.

And we’re totally flexible.  Bring your boyfriend, bring your best friend, bring your baby.

Your photographs will be listed on a secure, private on line site for your selection.

Email Susan with questions at or just show up…

Bob Lee Rides Again (and stops over to say goodbye)

As he prepares to leave, tomorrow, on the third leg of his quest to circumnavigate the perimeter of the United States, Bob Lee stopped by to say goodbye to Doug.  We were actually just getting ready to head over to his house to say goodbye to him.  Bob and Doug share something very different in common.  They’re both attempting uncommon feats as they raise funds and awareness for the Les Turner ALS Foundation.  Bob and Doug are both members of the Les Turner board, and they further tune their efforts as they drive to their board meetings together.  And through Bob’s mentoring he and his inspiring wife, Anne, have become great, great friends of ours.

While I have always felt like I volunteered my photography for causes, Bob came along and quietly nudged me to bump it up more than a notch.  I didn’t even feel it happening and the next thing I knew I was everywhere with my camera and he was right there, quietly nudging more and more.  For his cause, Ride For Three Reasons, I have been there nonstop.  And during the next two months, as Bob rides his bike from Vancouver to Tijuana, I’ll be writing some more about my friend and I promise some surprising and moving stories about his wife, Anne, who I want to be just like when I grow up.  And, believe me, I’m not alone.  Stay tuned.

Watch Bob’s progress on his blog …

And PLEASE like his facebook page to show him the love while he’s on the road …

A Fun English Channel Photo/Video Essay

As Doug celebrates the one year anniversary of his English Channel swim, what I remember is this … there were times when things weren’t so pretty and during those times I was holding on for dear life rather than using my camera.  The swells were sometimes 5 feet and coming from all directions.  The last half of the swim was in the pitch dark so I don’t have any photographs for that segment either.  (I do have some video, however, some of which I’ll add here.)   In all I took about 400 photographs.  For an event of this magnitude I would normally take over 1,000.  
This is a photo/video essay of some of the moments I captured from the English Channel … some you’ve seen and some you haven’t …

Here is Doug recapping his swim a few days after he had a whole lot of sleep … Ashley took this video while she froze inside Dover Harbor …

During the swim, pretty much a few of the kids were sick most of the time … 
And one was happy-go-lucky and on deck the whole time … 
Our boat captains were Lance Oram, who grew up taking swimmers across with his father, Mike Oram, and Chris Streeter, the famous Alison Streeter’s uncle, the same Alison Streeter who has crossed the English Channel 46 times.  These guys were characters but when the going got tough they didn’t fool around.    
This picture makes it look like it was all fun and games … and at this moment, when we first took off, it was. The White Cliffs of Dover are in the background.  I was using a little Fuji camera that also took video and also worked under water.  All of the video from this event was taken with this little camera.  
Here’s the crew goofing around … 
Here is a video of Doug swimming in rough water while the boat captains were listening to music and enjoying themselves … 
Here is a video that I took from the galley of the pilot boat.  I had to brace myself with my legs and hold on tight.  The noise you hear is from the bilge, it’s not someone screaming.  
Here is a video where you can see Doug’s night goggles in the pitch darkness of the English Channel.  
Once darkness hit, once he landed, once he reached our pilot boat, I didn’t take one photograph.  It just didn’t seem right.  But I did take some photographs as the sun rose as we headed back to Dover Harbor … 

Ashley, 13, took this video while she froze in Dover Harbor, with that little fuji camera I mentioned … 
Honestly, in the beginning of this swim he made it look so easy that I thought, “I have got to do this next year.”  I have since changed my mind.  

Helping Goody Tyler Swim The Catalina Channel

Doug is on the pilot boat as Goody Tyler swims the Catalina Channel.  Doug is scheduled to make the same swim on July 25th.  This is an email that Doug sent out this morning …

We left the Long Beach Harbor around 7 pm and started to motor out to the Island. There are 14 people aboard, between 3 boat people, 2 Channel observers, 8 swim support crew and Goody in the Speedo. It was a rough ride out there, and several people were sick.

By the time we got to Catalina, it was dark and time for last minute prep with Channel grease.

Goody hopped in at 10 pm under beautiful stars and a quarter moon. His kayak escort is Neil van der Byl, whom I met for the first time here today, and he is amazing. Totally focused on the swimmer, managing feedings, and always on top of things. What a difference the right kayaker can make.

Feedings have been 30 minute cycles with a product called Cytomax. Marcia is concerned it doesn’t have enough oomph (I think that is code for protein) for him, but he is suppplementing with gels and a bar here and there.

He just had another feeding and is getting cold and stung. Gord Gridley is getting ready to hop in the water with Goody, which I am sure will help a lot.  
I will report back.