About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a seven-year-old son and a wife living in Los Angeles. I was a public school teacher for twelve years until a chronic medical condition made it necessary to leave my teaching career.

I've always been described as "quiet" - really, I'm just biting my tongue. I've got lots to say, and lots of thoughts to share, I just prefer to write them. That's the purpose of this blog. Each Wednesday, I post a personal essay offering my observations and thoughts.

A few fun facts about me: I've wanted to be a writer since second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me a "book" with a yellow construction paper cover. I have never learned to whistle, have always preferred sunflowers to roses, and have spent my life living within the same zip code.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, DivineCaroline.com, RoleReboot.org, XOJane, and Brain, Child Magazine. Additionally, my personal essays have been included in several anthologies, including: The Barefoot Review, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World, Ka-Pow!, How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times, Breath and Shadow, The Grey Wolfe Storybook, and Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
I am a regular contributor at MomsLA.com, and you can also find me at Goodreads.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Feel free to comment and share my blog with others!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dear Aya

My longest friendship is with a woman who lives in another country.  Aya has been my pen pal since fall of 1993.  We began writing during my senior year of high school and my letters consisted of information about my classes, upcoming exams, and my part-time jobs.  Aya, a few years older than I, wrote of her education, her preference for the color pink, her admiration for birds, and her love all things Elvis.
During these seventeen years, we’ve written about men we’ve dated.  Men who we wouldn’t see again, and men who would become our husbands.  We’ve written about moving, buying cars, becoming teachers, and becoming mothers.  Our worlds have become larger and the subjects we write about have grown as well.
When someone finds out I have a pen pal, they are usually surprised by two things - the longevity of our friendship and the fact that we communicate with letters.  Old-fashioned, hand-written letters that require multiple stamps.  Letters that find their way back and forth at least once a month, with only the occasional e-mail.  There’s always a smile on my face when I see one of Aya’s letters among my utility bills.  Her stationery often features Disney characters or whimsical drawings of flowers or airplanes.  We adorn our envelopes with stickers and send pictures of our family back and forth over the ocean.  
We’re fortunate because we have met - several times.  Aya has many more stamps in her passport than I do.  I admire her courage and fearless spirit for flying hours on a plane to explore various locales.  She visited Hawaii and Las Vegas and Paris before I did.  And for a few months, Aya was an exchange student, residing an hour’s drive away.  We went out to eat, went to the movies, and shopped.  High price tags were not so high for Aya who informed me of the drastic price differences in Japan.
On a regular basis, thousands of miles separate us, yet we are close, and have shared in the milestones of each other’s lives.  I sat on the floor of our first apartment, speaking into a cassette player, recording a message of happiness, congratulations, and good wishes to be played at Aya’s wedding.  And a few years later, I returned home from a weekend in Laguna Beach to a phone message - Aya’s husband had telephoned to say Aya had given birth to a baby girl.  Almost eleven years ago, Reina entered the world and entered my life.  Her pictures hang in my home, just as my nephews’ pictures do.
Almost eight years later, my husband would send an email and a photo, announcing the birth of our son, Ryan.  Reina and Ryan.  Aya and Wendy, friends with birthdays each on the 7th. 
When we meet, we look very different.  Aya is a woman with acrylic nails, a Coach handbag, and high-heeled boots.  I am a woman with silver rings and clogs.  Yet, Aya knows me.  She knows my family, the names of my sister and nephews.  
I do not take our relationship for granted.  Generally speaking, friendships are not easy to maintain.  Written relationships are rare, and thus even more special and precious.  Just like Aya.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Greetings

***  Disclaimer - This blog is a reflection of my own opinions and beliefs.  It is in no way meant to offend, insult, or upset anyone who sends me the types of cards I am describing.  ***
I don’t think it’s an overstatement or an exaggeration of any kind to say that computers and the internet have changed our lives.
And I’m not just talking about making the world smaller or more accessible or faster and more convenient.  I’m talking about the computer’s trickle-down-effect that has extended its reach to holiday cards.
Every year, I receive an increasing number of  digital photo cards.  A family portrait or pictures of the children, sealed and delivered in all their glossiness with a generic message of joy and happiness at this time of year.  And the photo cards I receive are exactly the same cards a next-door neighbor or colleague receives.  And that’s the part that bothers me.
There’s no personalization.  There’s no special greeting specifically for my family and I.  When I open an envelope and find a generic, digital card inside, I feel like I’m opening an advertisement for the World Wildlife Fund.  I feel no personal connection to a mass-produced, mass-mailed holiday card.
Children are growing up with limited knowledge regarding the art of sending mail.
Instead it’s text messages, e-cards, and voicemail that are supposed to take the place for thank you notes, letters, and cards. 
Not me.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think there’s something special about opening an envelope and knowing that the contents inside were chosen just for me.  So, I addressed, stamped, and sealed my holiday cards myself.  I filled the slot on the front of the card with a picture of my son standing in front of a snowman.  And inside each card, I wrote a personal message tailored to the person opening the envelope.  My neighbor, my former boss, and my friend all received different sentiments because I have different relationships with them.  
Maybe you want me to remember that the important part is just receiving a card in the first place.  And I admit, it is nice to see holiday cards around the living room.  But, I want more.  I want a heartfelt, personal holiday card adorning my living room.
*** To all my readers, I wish you a happy holiday season filled with laughter, love, hugs, and hot cocoa!   ***

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear Ryan

Dear Ryan,
   Do you ever feel like you have two different mommies?  They’re both me, it’s just that sometimes I feel like two different mommies.
   For half the year, I’m teacher-mommy.  That’s who I am right now.  I’ve been leaving the house earlier and I miss seeing you wake up.  I miss hearing you call out, “Ma, Da, Ry.”  I miss the first hug of the day, the first kiss of the day, the first rub of your satiny-soft cheek.  This past week, we haven’t shared our first hug and kiss until the afternoon.  Late afternoon.  And by then, I’m tired-teacher-mommy.  I’ve spent all day with other boys and girls - hugging them, making sure they’re safe, making sure they’re listening and following directions, making sure they’re learning.  And I’ve missed doing all those things with you.
   I know you’re having fun during the day.  I know these days are probably harder for me than for you.  And I’m glad you’re not missing me.  But, you have to know I’m missing you.  A lot.
   Soon, I’ll be on-vacation-mommy.  I’ll be home to feed you three meals a day.  I’ll be home to play “squish” with you first thing in the morning.  I’ll be home to sit on the sidewalk and color with our chalk.  I’ll be home to take you to the swings and push you high-in-the-sky.  
   When I’m on vacation, I won’t be waking up at 5 each morning, unless you decide you’re ready to start our day.  I won’t have papers stacked on my desk, waiting for me to grade.  I’ll have more energy to play puzzles on the floor or sing “head-shoulders-knees-and-toes.”
   Sweet Pea, even when I’m exhausted-teacher-mommy, please know that I am always your mommy.  I am honored to be your mommy.  You are what I am most proud of in my life.  My life is for you.  
   I give hugs and kisses and love to children at school.  But I never run out.  I always have an endless supply of hugs and kisses and love for you.  You are my number 1!  
   Ryan, I love you.  I tell you every day, and I won’t ever stop telling you - I love you one hundred, thousand, million, billion, trillion, gazillion, every minute of every day!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Phenomenal Woman

   There are times in life when I feel anything but phenomenal.  I feel run-down, exhausted, unattractive, and frumpy.  I feel frazzled, over-whelmed, and inundated.  This is one of those times.
   As a reminder to myself and my female readers, for this week's blog, I offer you the words of Maya Angelou.

      Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
      I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
      But when I start to tell them, They think I'm telling lies.
      I say, It's in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips,
      The stride of my step, The curl of my lips.
      I'm a woman
      Phenomenal woman, That's me.
      I walk into a room
      Just as cool as you please,
      And to a man,
      The fellows stand or fall down on their knees.
      Then they swarm around me,
      A hive of honey bees.
      I say, It's the fire in my eyes,
      And the flash of my teeth,
      The swing in my waist,
      And the joy in my feet.
      I'm a woman
      Phenomenal woman, That's me.
      Men themselves have wondered what they see in me.
      They try so much but they can't touch
      My inner mystery.
      When I try to show them,
      They say they still can't see.
      I say, It's in the arch of my back, The sun of my smile,
      The ride of my breasts,
      The grace of my style.
      I'm a woman
      Phenomenal woman, That's me.
      Now you understand just why my head's not bowed.
      I don't shout or jump about
      Or have to talk read loud.
      When you see me passing,
      It ought to make you proud.
      I say, It's in the click of my heels,
      The bend of my hair,
      The palm of my hand, the need for my care.
      'Cause I'm a woman
      Phenomenal woman, That's me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Since becoming a mom, I’ve learned that inspiration, sleep, and alone time are all things that you take when you can get them.  And you don’t always find them where you’d expect to.
This week’s blog was inspired by something written on the back of our “Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Color Cracker” package.  
“Sometimes it’s the little things that make life more fun like blowing bubbles or playing ball.  If you stop and appreciate the little things you’ll probably find yourself smiling a little bigger.”
           In honor of those words of wisdom, I have created an acrostic poem celebrating all the little things I am thankful for.  

Turkey handprints.  My son’s hands take on a whole new level of cuteness when his fingers  represent turkey feathers.
Hug-a-bugs.  A full-body hug, with my son’s arms wrapped around me, his head resting against my shoulder, and I’m happily floating in our little hug-bubble.  Our own cheek-to-cheek dance.  
ABC’s.  One of the sweetest sounds I know is my two and a half year old son “spelling.”  Whether we’re shopping at the market, taking a walk in the neighborhood, or reading a book at the library, letters are becoming a part of my son’s world.  As a mom, a writer, and a teacher, I’m ecstatic that my son finds joy in words.
Night.  The house is quiet and still.  I have a few hours to grade papers, clean the house, and do some reading and writing before Mr. Sandman beckons me and it’s time to start a new day and a new to-do list.
Kisses.  On my lips or on Ryan’s feet.  A kiss is an intimate connection to another.  
Flowers, specifically sunflowers.  They are an eternally happy flower.  They are bright and sunshiney in summer, autumnish in fall.
Upside down cuddles.  When my son is in my arms, arching his back, looking at the world upside down, giggles are sure to follow as I kiss under his chin and along his neck.  Life is good, and the world is funnier when it’s upside down. 
Leaves that crunch under-foot.  Star-shaped, crimson leaves.  Heart-shaped, butter-colored leaves.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What If?

My life isn’t playing out the way I thought it would.  My life isn’t bad in any way; it’s just different than I imagined it would be.  I’m different than I thought I would be.  I haven’t studied in France, eaten gelato in Italy, or visited my pen pal in Japan.  I haven’t witnessed a space shuttle launch, driven a convertible, or lived alone. 

And in all fairness, I have accomplished things I had never imagined.  Riding six buses a day as I put myself through college.  Reading a personal essay on NPR.  Navigating the road to Hana in Maui.  Becoming married at 22.  

Generally, I am happy and content with my life’s choices.  But, there are lingering doubts, nagging questions of “What if?”.  What if I had made different choices along the way?  Attended a different college?  Traveled internationally?  Dated a different guy?  

I think of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” and I know exactly where the fork in the road occurred in my life.  It was during middle school and the year I didn’t attend Space Camp.  United States Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama - the place future astronauts go for a preview of life as an astronaut.  

When I was in fourth grade, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing the entire crew.  One member, Christa McAuliffe, would have been the first teacher in space.  Although it wasn’t the way she had intended, she did teach and inspire me.  I decided I wanted to be an astronaut.  Space had intrigued Christa, but she wasn’t a military officer or a pilot.  She was a regular person.  She did it.  I could too.  I was going to be the first woman to walk on the moon; it hadn’t been done before, why not me?  I studied mission dates and statistics.  I knew the names of the seven Mercury astronauts.  I learned acronyms that astronauts use on a daily basis - EVM was an extra-vehicular maneuver and SRBs were the Solid Rocket Boosters.

I needed to go to Space Camp.  I needed to begin my training.  My parents told me if I wanted to attend Space Camp, I would have to pay for it myself.  For years, I saved my money until finally I mailed away my registration paperwork and a cashier’s check.  I bought a duffle bag and engraved luggage tags.  

I had months to wait.  And get anxious.  And get scared.  

My mom didn’t want me to go.  She was nervous and afraid.  Except for a few times at Grandma’s house, I had never slept away from home.  Traveling across the country by myself was a big step for me, and our family.  

I allowed the scary “what if’s” to get the best of me.  “What if my luggage got lost?”  “What if I didn’t make any friends during my week at Space Camp?”  “What if the week’s activities were so difficult and challenging, I didn’t enjoy myself?”  “What if I wasn’t smart enough or clever enough?”  “What if I didn’t have what it takes to be an astronaut?”  

So I canceled.  I got back most of my money, and to save face, I concocted a story that Space Camp had made an error in my reservation.  Better to blame them than myself.  Or my mom.

I cancelled my dream.  And I became someone I wasn’t proud of - a coward and a liar.  And to this day, I’m not convinced I made the right decision.  

What if I had gone to Space Camp?  Would it have propelled me to keep working toward my astronaut goal?  Would I now be actively involved in astronaut training in Houston, Texas instead of teaching fourth grade in Los Angeles, California?  Maybe I would have spent the week there and realized I didn’t want to risk my life by going into outer space.  Maybe I would have become a teacher anyway.  But at least I wouldn’t have this irritating, fly-buzzing-around-my-head feeling of, “What if?” 

I tried to console myself.  I didn’t need to go to Space Camp.  People became astronauts before a place like Space Camp even existed.  I would prepare myself for my future career by reading, learning, and studying.  

Then, during my junior year of high school, I volunteered in a fifth grade classroom.  I met a boy named Silas.  We sat together in the back of the room, working side-by-side on multiplication facts and writing complete sentences.  My work with Silas was monumental.  He became more respectful in class.  His spelling test grades improved.  His handwriting became neater.  And I remembered Christa McAuliffe’s words:  “I touch the future.  I teach.”  Maybe I didn’t need to go to space to make a difference.  

Once again I picked the safer alternative.  I am an elementary school teacher.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do Your Best

“Do your best.”  That’s what the sign says that hangs above my classroom door.  
I am a teacher who hugs, plays multiplication volleyball, uses tortillas to teach fractions, and reads aloud to my students each day after lunch.
I am a Los Angeles Unified school teacher with ten years experience.  I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career at one school.  I’ve made close relationships with students and their families.  And I go home each day knowing I gave my kids my all.  I admit that I’m a better teacher now than when I started.  I admit I still have plenty to learn (why is it so hard to have children walk in two straight, quiet lines up and down the stairs?).
Teaching has never been just a job for me.  It’s been a passion.  Now, though, I’m tempted to call it quits. It’s not the money; it’s the blatant disrespect.  
The Los Angeles Times decided that the fault of public schools rests on the teachers.  We are the reasons our test scores don’t go up.  I’m here to tell you, no we’re not.  As I tell my students, those state tests are important, but they are not the most important thing.  When all is said and done, those tests measure a student’s performance during one week in May.  
This year, I have a class of inquisitive, spunky children.  Two speak very little English.  One has a terminal illness.  One has autism.  One lives with a parent who has a second grade education.  Many do not live with their fathers.  Five of them are pulled out for resource.  Five more are pulled out for reading intervention.  Ask me if they’re smart.  And I’ll say, “Hell yes.”  These children have challenging lives.  And yet, every night, they go home and complete their homework.  It’s not always right, but the effort is made each night, by each child.
I don’t post grades where my students can see them.  Work hung on bulletin boards is representative of each child’s best work.  They are competing with themselves, not each other.
They are trying to do better than they did before.  They are doing their best.
So am I.
The Los Angeles Times disagrees.  The Times decided to publish an online database listing teachers and their perceived effectiveness.  And The Times said I was a “least effective teacher.”  I read those words and the computer screen blurred and my stomach hurt.
How could anyone say that about me?  When my grade level’s test scores have been going up.  When my kids are making progress in all areas of their school life - grades, effort, attitude, and work habits. 
I firmly believe you cannot measure a teacher’s effectiveness based on students’ test scores.  There are too many variables over which I have no control.  I’m with my children from 8:11-2:35.  What is happening to them when I’m not around? 
Not every student is going to score “Advanced” on a multiple-choice language arts and math test.  It’s not how we’re designed.  
My job is to help each child succeed.  My job is to help each child believe in themselves.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

   I was a crier.  
   I cried during recess in anticipation for the upcoming fractions test.  Then I cried during the test.
   At that time I was “Wendy Fraser.”  And Wendy Fraser was a straight-A student.  “Smart” was “my thing.”  Acne had announced itself on my forehead.  I was picked last for kickball.  I had to keep up the standards by which everyone knew me and judged me.
   I threw away my cream-cheese sandwich.  I bit the sleeves of my shirt.  I perched above the toilet in the girl’s room, gripping my sides.  
   At night, I worried about the possible red markings I might find on my Women’s History Month report.  I worried about my report’s bibliography.  I worried about formulas for circumference.  My sister reached across the space between our twin-sized beds and held my hand until we fell asleep.
   Later, my class would learn about the Earth’s axis and the orbit of our planet around the sun.  I found it fascinating to learn that while it was hot chocolate weather in Los Angeles, in Australia it was lemonade weather.
   That's when I felt as if someone had yanked on my waist-length brown hair, the “ding-dong” had sounded, and I finally got it.  
   There were things bigger than me, bigger than anything happening in room 21.  No matter what happened on my social studies quiz, the sun would rise the next day.  And then set.  And rise and set again.  
   Nothing I was doing in Mrs. E’s class was significant enough or important enough to disturb the Earth.  
   I could breathe again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Secret Foam

         Only people who have lived with me know my secret.  And now, it’s only my husband and toddler son who are subjected to my dark side.  Well, not dark, but my white, foamy side.  
I am a messy toothbrusher.
I am not one of those people who can wander from room to room while brushing their teeth.  I need to be standing, perched over the sink, hoping any droppings make their way into my sink basin and not onto my orange slippers.  It’s one of the only things I do without multitasking.
I was taught to use a pea-sized ration of toothpaste.  I do that.  My husband insists I need to brush with my mouth closed.  I try to do that.  But still, I foam.  First at the corners of my mouth.  Then a trickle starts, working its way down to my chin.  And then, the dam breaks, and the bristles of my toothbrush can no longer contain my tri-colored Aquafresh.  My toothbrush has transformed into an uncontrollable stick of foam.  My hand is covered, and the trail continues down my wrist towards my elbow.  A river of spit and toothpaste that won’t stop until I use one hand to scoop up and rinse off the white goo from the other.
My messiness is nothing I’m proud of.  And it worries me.  How will I properly teach my young son to brush his teeth?  Will this be our first example of, “Go ask your father”?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Wise Person Once Said

I don’t remember much from my college philosophy courses.  However, I do remember my professor telling our class that the sign of a truly wise person is acknowledging what one doesn’t know.  
I don’t know if I’d consider myself wise, but there are many things I don’t know, can’t figure out, and don’t understand.
As a disclaimer, let me just say that there are a myriad list of technological devices and feats that I can’t begin to fathom.  This list reflects the smaller, more everyday bits of life that have me puzzled.
  1. Garbage bags.  Why do people spend money on things intended for the trash?  I mean a lot of things eventually wind up in the trash, but that’s a garbage bag’s whole purpose.  That’s it.  Now, I recognize the need for garbage bags; however, I use the plastic and paper bags that every store gladly provides its customers.  These freebie bags don’t always fit perfectly inside my trash cans, but it’s close enough.
  2. Shirts/no shirts.  Who decided that it was okay for a man to walk around without a shirt but not okay for a woman?  Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy looking at people’s chests.  Male or female.  If my chest needs to be covered while I go for a walk in my neighborhood, so should my male neighbors.
  3. Food delivery.  Why are pizza and Chinese food so easily delivered?  They are hot foods, after all.  There’s a whole time issue with delivery because they taste better hot.  Why aren’t submarine sandwiches delivered?  Something cool would, in my mind, be easier to deliver.  And, let’s take it a step further.  If we’re going to make special insulated carrying-cases to keep our pizzas hot upon delivery, why isn’t there a coffee delivery service?  There’s a fortune of money to be made there, for someone industrious enough to realize that tired people will pay to have coffee delivered to their homes each morning.
  4. Squeeze bottles.  Whether it’s body lotion, shampoo, or ketchup it’s a relatively new occurrence to create the bottle with the opening at the bottom.  But it makes sense.  It’s a science lesson, after all.  We have gravity pulling things down.  So, inside my shower, are bottles turned upside down in my attempt to use the remaining last bit.  Why are Ketchup bottles just recently embracing this phenomenon?
  5. War-Crime-Violence as entertainment.  There are television shows and video games that make me want to scream.  Call me old-fashioned, but war is not entertainment.  Hospital emergency rooms are not entertainment.  Crime scenes are not entertainment.  Yet, that’s what people are watching.  And playing.  If I want to see that, I can watch the news.
  6. Over-priced children’s clothing.  Adult clothing comes in all styles and price ranges.  Similarly, so does clothing for little people.  I am a somewhat frugal clothes shopper - I rarely spend more than $20 for a shirt/sweater/blouse.  And because of my self-imposed spending limits, I don’t spend $20 on a piece of clothing for my son.  I’m not a miser, I’m simply being practical.  My toddler-aged son is continuously growing.  His clothes have a relatively short window of opportunity to be worn.  And when they’re worn, they’re likely to be decorated with sidewalk chalk, watercolors, or chocolate pudding.
The quest for wisdom and knowledge continues.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make a Wish

Make a Wish
Up until a few weeks ago, the Make-a-Wish Foundation was just that, a foundation.  An organization I respected.  An organization I sent $5 or $10 to every time a letter came in the mail requesting a donation.  I believed in their premise - granting wishes to children suffering from life-threatening conditions.  And I believe in karma, so I put forth good vibes, try to do good deeds, and donate a little money.
A few weeks ago, the new school year began.  And Heather (her name has been changed for this blog) became one of my students.  On the surface, Heather looks and behaves like a typical fourth grade student - does her homework, chats with her friends, doesn’t like running in P.E.  
But Heather isn’t like every other child.  Heather is being granted her wish, and she will be missing a week of school.  Suddenly, this foundation isn’t just a foundation.  It’s a part of Heather’s life, and it’s a part of my life, because Heather is in my life.
I recently read a bit on the Make-A-Wish Foundation website.  I share with you their guiding principle: “We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.”
I read and re-read that statement.  Yes, this organization does some very special work.  However, the latter part of this statement seems to be something we can all do - “enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.”  
I can, on a daily basis, do something that will enrich someone’s life.  Whether it’s a compliment on a pretty necklace, giving a hug and a kiss to a child who is missing her mother, or calling a friend to tell them “I’m thinking of you.”  
  I can do these things, and everyone can do these things.  Reading that statement, learning more about this foundation, just left me wishing every human being could read that statement.  If every human being spent their day thinking of enriching the human experience in some way (however small, however seemingly insignificant) we really could change our world for the better.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Woman with a Book

I am “Woman with a Book.”  
For much of my childhood, I was either called a “bookworm,” or “teacher’s pet,” or both.  Were those monikers true?  Depends on your definition of those terms.  I honestly don’t want to be compared to a worm, and I’m certainly no one’s pet.  But I did read.  A lot.  I often skipped the recess games of Dodgeball or Kickball so I could sit on the bench and escape into the world that Beverly Cleary had created.  And I did study.  A lot.  And got really good grades, and tried to please my teachers.
That was then.
I am, by no means, an art connoisseur.  I see a piece of art and sometimes something resonates with me.  There is an attraction I cannot explain.  I like it.  I feel a connection to it.  For me, great work leaves a lasting impression.  Picasso’s Woman with a Book did that to me the first time I viewed it at the Norton Simon Museum.
This was a painting of me.  The me that most people don’t know, or don’t take the time to find out about.  Here was a woman, a sensual woman - hair down, breasts exposed- and she had been reading.  Yet, something she read made her stop, and think, and wonder.  But still, in the quiet of the room, seated on her comfortable reading chair, she was there in all her bright colors and sexuality.
Humans are so quick to judge.  Quiet girl, with a book.  You already have preconceived ideas about me.  But you don’t know me.  You don’t know that I once danced on a table in a crowded restaurant.  You don’t know that I went parasailing.  You don’t know that I took a belly-dancing class.
I am not just a woman with a book - end of story.  I am Picasso’s Woman with a Book - beginning of a story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Every front door should have a door mat.  
A welcome mat is a sign.  You’re leaving the outside world, about to enter the inside.  Things will be more calm, more peaceful, more clean.  You use the welcome mat to wipe the dirt off your shoes, wipe the grime from your rubber soles, wipe the frustration away.  You are home now.  You have reached your safe haven.
I’m guessing that the welcome mat was a practical solution to a common inconvenience  - “How do you stop mud and dirt from coming into your house?”  You wipe the bottom of your shoes off.  However, if you have gone out shopping for welcome mats, you know they go beyond your basic, bargain-priced welcome mat to luxurious welcome mats that cost more than I spend at the market each week.  
So what does it say about a dwelling if there is no welcome mat?  Do the occupants not care about tracking dirt through the house?  Do the residents immediately take off their shoes and find such a mat useless and thus a waste of money?  Do these residents just not care about details, about the message that a welcome mat sends to those visiting one’s house?
Then there is the flip side.  People who use welcome mats much the way they utilize the frame around their car’s license plate - to get a message across.  There are people who change their doormats to match the seasons and match the holidays.  There are people who use their doormats to advertise their family’s name and number of children.
For whatever the reason, these houses utilize a welcome mat with a message.  While on my neighborhood walks, I have found several welcome mats that caught my attention.  Here’s my list of recently-spotted, noteworthy welcome mats:
  1. Welcome to the jungle.
  2. Wipe your paws.
  3. Buzz off.
  4. Keep it green.
  5. Got dirt?
  6. Nice underwear
The welcome mat - practical, clean, and funny.  You can’t say that about too many things.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Date With Pinkie

“We’re walking through a tunnel of trees.”
That’s what I heard a father say to his son.  And that’s exactly how I felt as I began the walk from the parking lot into the Huntington Library.
I was first introduced to the Huntington by someone I dated.  And maybe it was the person I was with, but I really didn’t appreciate the place as much as I do now.  For now, when I come to the Huntington, I take a deep breath.  I close my eyes, inhale deeply, and exhale slowly.  Suddenly, I’m in another world.  The high-speed freeway, the big rigs merging dangerously close - none of that is relevant now.  For now there’s quiet and open spaces and greenery.  
Being the people-watcher I am, I find fascination all around me.  Not just in the collections housed here, but in the people who come to the Huntington.  People who choose to visit wearing high heels and mini skirts.  In tennis shoes and big floppy hats.  In ripped jeans and motorcycle boots.  Pushed in strollers and pushed in wheelchairs.
Truthfully, though, I come to see her.  Pinkie.  After navigating the maze through opulent dining rooms and sitting rooms, I find her, waiting for me.  She is floating.  Ready to take off and soar into the clouds.  Her white dress flutters, her pink sash and ribbons dance in the breeze.  Her brown hair escapes from her bonnet.  Her steady gaze never wavers.  Pinkie first captured my attention when I was a young girl.  So much so, that a reproduction of Pinkie hangs in my living room.  I’ve grown accustomed to her there; I forget to pay attention to her, to give her the kind of attention she deserves.  But at the Huntington, in all her grand splendor, I sit and gaze and marvel at my Pinkie.
I stroll through the rose garden and find myself lacking in adjectives to describe their scents and hues.  I smile at their names - “Hot Cocoa” and “Queen Nefertiti.”
I rest under an “umbrella” tree - how else do I describe the far-reaching tree, with the oval-shaped leaves, that shelters me from the warm sun.
Here, there is a suspension of time and place, an opportunity for me to think, imagine, and remember.  I find peace and contentment here.  And I wonder why I don’t return more often.  Because of traffic, and schedules, and “to-do” lists - all the things that make a trip here necessary in the first place.