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 28, 2011

Me, Naturally

   There isn’t one thing that defines me - although sometimes it feels like it.  Sometimes it feels like I am MOMMY (yes, all capitals are intended).  Every fiber of being is consumed with taking care of my son.  Other times, I have 32 students who are each demanding my attention and I am not “Wendy,” I am “Mrs. Kennar.”  When there are quiet moments to reflect on my life, I realize that I associate with different natural entities, and for different reasons.  

   Here’s my hybrid:

   Butterflies have become one of my hallmarks.  Although, I didn’t always like butterflies.  Mainly because of my dad’s mother, and here I use the term “mother” loosely.  She was biologically his mother, my grandmother, but where it counts - in actions, in love - she wasn’t.  She liked butterflies, had butterfly prints and butterfly specimens framed and adorning the walls of her house.  And if she liked them, I couldn’t, out of principle.  

   Now, I am a butterfly person.  I admire their transformative nature, the way they begin their lives as less-than-attractive caterpillars and evolve into beautiful creatures.  Butterflies appear gentle and dainty, yet they’re strong and go the distance.  I like to think that’s me.  For most of my early years, I saw myself as a caterpillar, and now I like to think I’ve evolved into a more appreciated, more respected butterfly.

   Whales are commonly referred to as “gentle giants.”  For a while, I entertained the idea of becoming a marine biologist, working at Sea World or on a ship studying and observing these phenomenal creatures.  These large animals gracefully, and seemingly effortless, glide through the water, breech and leap in exuberance.  Whales are intelligent, and respected for their intelligence.  For a while, I was embarrassed by mine.  I was tired of being the “smart girl.”  I wanted to be the pretty girl, the funny girl, the popular girl - anything but the “straight-A girl.”    Whales are who they are, and we study them and respect them for it.  Whales are also quite social, living and traveling with their family pods - a concept I don’t quite understand as the older I get the relationships with my siblings unravel.

   And then there’s the moon.  For many years, I was going to be an astronaut.  No question about it.  More specifically, I would be the first woman to walk on the moon.   The moon was mysterious and enchanting, captivating and alluring, indescribably beautiful.  People studied it, wrote poems about it, painted it.  From a distance, nothing compared to the moon.  Up close though, the moon looked like a different terrestrial body.  Pockmarks and craters interrupted the surface.  And that was my teenage face - disturbed by acne markings.  If only, someone could stand back and see I did have beauty also.  I could be appreciated for my looks.  

   Now, I’m in my mid-thirties (gasp! when did that happen?).  I am who I am.  And, I’ve got some admirable personality traits that I intend to celebrate and be proud of.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When I Grow Up

   I asked my son “the question” for the first time.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  

   Ryan is three-and-a-half-years old, and up until now, the conversation had never come up.  But we were reading (and re-reading) the charming Tina Louise book When I Grow Up, and I was curious.  What was my little boy thinking?  Which scenario did he picture himself in?  

   His answer, and the way he answered, surprised me.

   He stopped, put his finger to his chin, giving my question careful consideration and answered, “A firefighter.”  My son has never demonstrated an enthusiasm for any firefighter-related subjects.  We visit our neighborhood firehouse each year on its open house, we listen for sirens, notice some firetrucks are larger than others, but that’s about it.    And yet from all the careers mentioned in the book (teacher, nurse, fashion designer, president, Olympic athlete, magician, police officer, scuba diver, archaeologist), he saw himself as a firefighter.

   But then came my favorite part of his response.  Ryan asked, “What else?”

   I love this freedom, my son’s utter belief that he doesn’t have to restrict himself to one answer, and that any career is possible.  Because it’s true.  It’s true for all of us until someone tells us otherwise.

   No one has yet put any labels or limits or restrictions on my son.  No one has told him he’s good at this and not so good at that, and for those reasons his career choices are already decided for him. 
   I wish I felt that same confidence.  I wish I saw a world of opportunities and possibilities open to me.  Maybe then I would be more brave and undaunted and more willing to make a change with my own career. 

   With kids,you never know.  I can ask my son “the question” next week and get an entirely different answer.  I might ask him again and receive the same “firefighter” reply.  Whatever his answer, my response will be the same, “You can be anything you want.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Necessary Teddy

   I don’t always sleep alone, and I haven’t for years.

   In my memory, the first bear that kept me company during the night was a bear resembling Winnie the Pooh.  He was the color of sand and wore a striped shirt that didn’t quite cover his belly.  He was a gift from my Godfather; a man I had heard about but didn’t meet until years later on my wedding day.

   Then I slept with “Michael,” a bear I named after my older brother.  Michael was home from his army training and brought my sister and I each a small teddy bear.  Michael had a string on the top of his head, and I often looped my finger through it, watching Michael dangle and dance while my Michael was probably marching in Germany.  Teddy- bear-Michael wore a red sweater, and he was my comfort when I worried about an oral presentation in school or an upcoming test.

   Now, I’m 35 years old, and still seek comfort and company in a teddy bear.  This bear is lavender and holds a felt purple pillow to his tummy that proclaims I am the “#1 Mom.”  (I think my mom deserves that distinction).  My son and my mom gave me this bear to celebrate my first Mother’s Day.  During the day, he rests on my bedside table.  At night, he’s often in my arms.  

   My days are over-planned leaving me with no choice but to keep moving.  At night though, things change.  The house is quiet.  I want to sleep and need to sleep, and yet I can’t always relax and let go of all my preoccupations.  My little purple bear is my worry doll.  He’ll worry for me and protect me during the night so that my mind and body may rest.  

   The bears change, the reasons for worry change, the need for a teddy bear remains.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To Write

   Writers write.  It seems obvious, but there’s more to it than that.  The writing part is solitary, sometimes down-right lonely.  Non-writers don’t always understand the agony of searching for the right word, the self-questioning fear of, “What am I writing?  And who will ever read it?”

   Writers write, but we also need to read and share, discuss and brainstorm, and critique.

   That’s what I did this past weekend.  For two days, I was inspired by nineteen other writers.  Individuals with fascinating stories to tell - stories of their pasts and their presents.  Stories of their experiences, their families, their histories.  

   We wrote, of course.  We asked ourselves the difficult questions - questions about titles, and themes, and potential readership.  We set goals for ourselves.  

   And then we shared.  We shared the stories that form in our hearts and souls.  

   When it seems that our world is on fast-forward, text-messaging and twittering, getting to the nitty-gritty of a message, this class proves that humans have an insatiable need to connect.  The short messages we send back and forth aren’t enough.  We need to hear each other’s stories, to see the homes we grew up in, the schools we attended, the dinners we ate with our families, the hospital rooms we’ve been confined to.  

   We all have stories.  Rich, true stories we cultivate within and then are brave enough to share aloud.  We wait for the compliments and the criticisms.  And we need both.  It’s the compliments that keep us going; it’s the criticisms that make us better.  

   Then we go back.  And write some more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The A to Z List of Places I'd Like to Visit

A   Australia.  I’m curious about the land down under.  The home of vegemite sandwiches, kangaroos, and koalas you can hug like teddy bears.  What would it be like to explore a continent while experiencing a completely opposite season than at home?
B   Bali.  Elizabeth Gilbert found love amid blue waters and the kindness of people who became like family.  For me, my son has been cared for by two amazing, gentle women (cousins) who hail from Indonesia, and I would like to visit their homeland.
C   Cape Canaveral.  The center of manned space flight.  The place humans first tried to escape the boundaries of Earth.  The place from where men left our planet to walk on another celestial body.  I want to see it, breathe it, marvel at it.
D   Denmark.  A country where commuting via bicycle is the norm not the exception.  And a country whose residents are deemed among the happiest in the world (according to a 2010 World Gallup Poll).  I’d like to find out why.
E   Egypt.  The land of Moses, the pyramids, and the land my dad has always wanted to see.  He’s intrigued by Egyptian art, and a bit of that has rubbed off on me.  
F   Four Corners.  One spot in the United States where it’s possible for a multi-tasker like myself to stand in four states at once (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah).
G   GreeceI’ll be honest - it’s the movies that have really gotten me intrigued about traveling to Greece.  I’m thinking of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “My Life in Ruins.”  Academically, I also appreciate that Greece is the foundation of many elements of our society - democracy, astronomy, and philosophy.
H   Hiroshima.  Some want to visit for the history.  I want to visit for Aya, my pen pal of 18 years (as I type that I can’t believe that number is true.)  We’ve met several times, but always because she crossed the big, blue ocean.  I want to visit her home, see her country.  
I   Iowa.  Specifically, Madison County, Iowa.  The place made popular by the love affair written by Robert James Waller and played out on the screen by Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.  
J   Jamaica.  It’s the place where Stella got her groove back (thank you, Terry McMillan).  Endless turquoise waters, coves and cliffs, an island paradise.  
K   Kauai.  I’ve read that Kauai is the “Grand Canyon of Hawaii.”  Really, who needs more of a reason than that?
L   Lake Tahoe.  Mountains that touch the sky.  Cotton ball clouds, water the color of a Jolly Rancher candy.  Natural beauty.  Peace.
M   Maine.  The eastern-most part of the United States.  Literally, I’d be able to go from one extreme (Southern California) to the other.
N   New York.  I’d be the typical tourist.  I want to see the Statue of Liberty, from the inside out.  I want to go to the top of the Empire State Building and think about romance and destiny.  I want to see if the streets are really as crowded as they appear on the movies.  I want to feel the energy.
O   Okay, Oklahoma.  Truthfully, Oklahoma doesn’t call to me like Paris does.  However, it’s a part of our 50 states, and I’m a curious person and would like to see this state for myself.  What better city to stop in then Okay, Oklahoma?  The writer in me loves the play with words and letters - Okay, OK.
P   Paris.  Our first time there was 6 years ago.  And once just wasn’t enough.  I didn’t make it into Notre Dame.  Didn’t get to the top of the Eiffel Tower (only the second level, due to wind).  Didn’t spend enough time wandering the streets.  Didn’t spend enough time eating bread and cheese and chocolate in small, corner parks.  
Q   Queenstown, New Zealand.  Reading about Queenstown online, it sounds like the type of place where you can do everything - bungee jump, enjoy a massage, go for a family bike ride.  Eat well, enjoy your surroundings, learn about history, and be exposed to a different country, a different time zone, a different culture.
R   Rome.  But if I can be greedy, why limit myself to one Italian city?  After all, there’s Florence, Tuscany, and Venice.  There’s gelato and sunflowers, architecture and history.  There’s pizza and pasta.  There’s art and gondolas.  
S   Sedona.  “The red rock country.”  I’ve been told that Sedona is magnificent - I’d like to see for myself.
T   Tahiti.  It’s one of those places that doesn’t look real.  The water looks too clean and clear, the beaches too white, the vegetation too green.  
U   United Kingdom. (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) Honestly, these countries offer the convenience of being populated by people who speak English.  And, Scotland is the home of my dad’s favorite pastime and the birthplace of my maiden name.  
V   Versailles.  On our trip to Paris, we didn’t stray from the city.  Next time in France, I would like to venture out and explore Versailles.  I don’t think I can properly fathom the opulence, the extravagance, the mirrors, and the gardens until I’m there.
W   Washington D.C.  I want to see the center of our country’s government.  Want to see where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and Forrest Gump ran through the reflecting pool to reunite with Jenny.  I want to see the Smithsonian and the cherry blossoms.
X   Xenia, Ohio.  Disclaimer - I never knew of this city until researching this blog.  But now, I’m intrigued.  I do wish to visit the 50 states, and when stopping through Ohio, what better city than one that prides itself as being the “City of Hospitality.”  A city with such numerous bike paths that it has been named as one of “America’s 10 Fittest Cities for Women” by Health Magazine.
Y   Yosemite.  I want to marvel at a place that is timeless and yet constantly changing.  A place that depicts the seasons in a way I’ve never seen before.  A place that makes me feel small and yet blessed to be a part of it all.
Z   Zurich, Switzerland.  Looking at pictures online, Zurich looks like the quintessential European city -  majestic mountains, charming architecture, rich history.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Seeing Clearly, Now

   Used to be my mom’s photographs were dutifully developed, dated and tagged, placed in protective albums, and stored on a shelf where they were rarely viewed.  My mom has since emptied her albums, filling a large wicker basket with photos spanning the life she and my dad have shared for over thirty-five years.

   I recently stuck my hand into the basket and saw the seventh-grade version of myself smiling back at me.  Hair in a pony-tail, standing in our living room, modeling my new p.e. uniform for junior high school.  I felt very grown-up, wearing the same colors as USC.  

   I was going to junior high school.  I would have several different teachers.  I would use a locker.  And  I had p.e. class.  Every day.  With boys.  And I had to wear these shorts.

   The picture shows me smiling.  I was home; it was safe.  

   School was another story.  In school, the shorts were never long enough to cover what I thought were chubby, chunky thighs.  I wanted knee-length shorts, not burgundy shorts that ended inches above my knees.  

   I never saw myself as pretty.  And truthfully, it’s something I still struggle with.  Back then, I knew I wasn’t pretty.  Except the picture shows I was.  My legs were slender.  My smile, wide and open and bright.  And I didn’t see it then.

   It saddens me to know that I beat myself up back then for no reason.  All that time and energy wasted, worrying about the way I looked, telling myself how awful I looked.  And I didn’t.

   I’m honest enough to acknowledge that I am my own worst critic.  I can’t always see what’s really there; I can’t always see myself the way others do.    

   But seeing that picture of myself in my p.e. uniform really made me take notice.  I don’t want to keep repeating the same mistakes.  I don’t want to miss out and not see, not acknowledge the me that’s really there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas with a Bang

   Sunday evening was the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Grove in Los Angeles.  Aside from the fact that I firmly believe Christmas decorations shouldn’t make an appearance until after Thanksgiving, the Grove also celebrated the occasion with an elaborate fireworks display.  A display I could see from my bedroom window and could feel as every window in my house vibrated.  And I wondered - what do fireworks have to do with Christmas?

   And then my mind, working overtime as it often does, wondered about the money that was spent to produce that fireworks display.  And I thought of my students who would be coming to school the next morning - some with holes in their shoes, some qualifying for free lunches.  And it made me sad.  Sad that Christmas is being celebrated in this over-the-top, extravagant, premature way.  Sad that in the “land of the free and home of the brave” things are still so unequal.  Kobe Bryant will always make more money throwing a ball in a hoop than I ever will teaching children.  (Let’s just remember he wouldn’t be a Laker without first getting an education from his teachers).  Miles away from this retail center that has been compared to Disneyland, children sleep in homeless shelters, and children go to bed hungry.  

   Don’t get me wrong; I’m no selfless saint.  I indulge in my occasional over-priced, speciality coffee drinks.  I splurge and purchase a certain face-wash.  But, I also donate.  My heart and soul to my students (for my efforts are never properly monetarily compensated).  And I donate small amounts of money to several different organizations.

   Christmas is a time of good-will.  So, I’ll look at the “glass-is-half-full” view of this situation.  The fireworks were presented to celebrate the time of the year we acknowledge those in our lives with tokens of appreciation.  We acknowledge miracles and joy, happiness and possibility.  And maybe in the midst of merriment, we’ll all remember to spread the joy in any way we can.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thank You

   “In my day, something just was.  None of this analysis a hundred times over.  None of these college courses with people graduating in Whys and Hows and Becauses.  Sometimes, love, you just need to forget all of those words and enroll in a little lesson called ‘Thank You.’ ”
   Those words were taken from Thanks for the Memories, the novel I’m currently reading written by Cecelia Ahern.  An elderly father is speaking to his daughter.  And yet, I read his words and felt like he was talking to me.  
   I’m a planner, a list-maker, an organizer.  Daily to-do lists, weekly menus, gift lists.  And if there’s anything I’m learning from this year-and-a-half medical ordeal, it’s that I can’t plan everything.  It wasn’t me who planned a hospitalization, a biopsy, or tests checking for cancer.
   So, I surrender.  No more wondering why this is happening.  It just is.  And now we’ve got to diagnose it.  
   There are a lot of things in my life that feel unsettled, ill-at-ease, and I can’t figure out why.  Maybe I won’t know why until some time quite later.  I think of movies that have moved me, stories that resonate, and often the why’s aren’t evident for years after the fact.  I recently re-watched Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep.  On the night of her big concert, she acknowledges that if her husband hadn’t left her more than ten years ago, she wouldn’t be preparing to perform at Carnegie Hall with her violin students.  If her marriage hadn’t dissolved, Frances Mayes would not have traveled to Tuscany, bought and renovated a villa, and written a best-selling memoir (Under the Tuscan Sun).
   I don’t know why these things are happening.  Yet.  For now, they’re happening, and I’m trying to deal with them.  Some days, some moments of days, more successfully than others.
   All I know is that there are still plenty of good, plenty of wonderful, plenty of miraculous aspects in my life.  And to those, I do say “thank you.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trick or Treat

   Halloween really bothered me this year.  And it shouldn’t.  It should be a light-hearted day, full of merriment and silliness.  Not that I need an excuse to eat candy, but any holiday that celebrates chocolate is okay in my book.

   I guess it’s because of the way Halloween is evolving.  Our doorbell was busy Halloween night, and most of our visitors were people I had never seen before.  And yes, I did say people.  Because while I did distribute candy to the child pirate and witch, I also passed out candy to the high school boys who said they were dressed as “skateboarders” and the high school girls dressed in pajamas.  When did Halloween become the day you knock on strangers’ doors accepting, and expecting, sweets?

   Then there was the child Darth Vader and his brother, dressed as Superman.  Although these two children do live on our block and used to play in our yard, their mother has decided not to acknowledge the presence of my family.  She will literally walk by me as I say “hello” in passing, yet there she was with her two sons, watching as they accepted candy from my hands.

   364 days of the year, we teach our children not to accept candy from strangers (let alone, ask for it.)  Suddenly, one night of the year the rules change.  And I’m not sure why.  

   I appreciate the allure of wearing a costume.  The freedom to masquerade and behave uncharacteristically, to try out a different persona, if only for a night.  But why must I feed these people too?  
         I’m fortunate that my son is 3 1/2, and so far, Halloween is just what we expose him to.  Pumpkins we decorate with Sharpie markers.  A hand-me down costume for him to wear to the local park.  Sweet and simple, inexpensive and easy - as it should be. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Think Different

   In our house, he was referred to as “Stevie.”  To everyone else, he was Steve Jobs.  But when you’re married to someone who works for Apple, Stevie isn’t always your favorite person.  Stevie is the guy dangling the newest toy in front of the child (or in this case, my husband) and I have to be the strict mom (or in this case, the no-fun wife when I say, “You don’t need that.”)
   Because let’s face it, most of what Stevie introduced to the world we don’t actually need.  His tools are helpful and beneficial, but not absolutely necessary.
   Stevie’s keynotes were a source of excitement and anticipation for my husband (What did Santa bring?) and a source of dread for me (How much will this cost?).  
   Stevie’s premature passing has got me thinking about him in a different sense.  Whether or not you’re an Apple fan, there’s no denying Steve Jobs was internationally influential.  Steve Jobs knew people in all industries, had a multitude of resources available to him, and yet, it still wasn’t enough.
   Because no matter how lightweight a computer becomes, how small an iPod, there are certain things that are still beyond human understanding.  Why do some people get sick and not others?  Why can’t all ailments be cured?  
   I think Stevie didn’t just advertise Apple products, but a way of living.  Be comfortable with who you are.  (He never seemed to stray from his tennis shoes, black shirt, and blue jeans for his keynote addresses).  Live passionately.  (Even I could see his enthusiasm and excitement for his products).  Think different.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

D-I-Y Life Improvement

   If you’re not familiar with Ikea, the short explanation is that Ikea is a furniture store. Ikea, though, has evolved into more than a furniture store.  It now advertises itself as “The Life Improvement Store.”  
   That’s quite a claim to make.
   I think most people are looking for some way(s) to improve their lives.  Whether shorter commutes, a better phone plan, a more efficient way to clean the bathroom - we’re all looking for ways to improve our lives.  Can Ikea really do it, though?
   First off, let’s remember that most products purchased at Ikea require assembly.  They are do-it-yourselfers.  And, isn’t that what life is?  Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to take the step(s) needed to improve our lives - cut down on soda, cut down on time spent in front of the television, cut down on negative thoughts.  So, we can go to Ikea, look for inspiration, look for encouragement, but then ultimately we’ve got to do it ourselves.  
   To be fair, Ikea doesn’t send us home without any guidance.  Each piece of furniture I’ve bought (bookcases, dressers, desk chairs, tables) comes with instructions.  However, most of those instructions utilize drawings rather than written directions, and the instructions are often  ambiguous and not at all easy to understand and execute.  Such as life.  I may know I need to sleep for an hour more each night; however, knowing how to accomplish that isn’t easy.
   Let’s not forget - Ikea is a furniture store.  And, honestly, my home is just one part of my life.  Yes, I crave the sanctuary my home offers - my king-sized bed, my patio swing, my red dining table.  But having a tranquil home isn’t all there is to my life.  Let’s not forget our relationships, our workplaces, our cars (because some people probably spend more time in their cars each day than their homes).
   It’s a wonderful tag line.  I gotta give Ikea credit.  Such a promise, your whole life improved, simply by purchasing Ikea’s products.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Cry for Help

To the Powers That Be:
   I need help.  I’m tired of hurting.  Tired of this “undiagnosed medical condition” ravaging my body.  It’s spreading, and I really don’t know how much longer my body can hold on.  
   First my legs.  Now my arms.  Extending down from my fingers and into my toes.
   And there’s the other kind of hurt.  The hurt in my head, the hurt in my heart.  The hurt that comes from relationships not going well, or not going at all.  Relationships that have fizzled away like the bubbles in a cup of soda.
   The self-inflicted hurt, because I know I’m not being entirely true to myself.  And yet, I’m not doing anything about it.  I’m too scared to make the changes I should make.  And so, I suffer and I hurt. 

   I fear the breaking point.  I fear the point where I’ll be down on the floor, building a puzzle with Ryan, and won’t be able to get back up.  I fear the time when I’ll be driving and be unable to maneuver the steering wheel.  Fear the moment when a student will call my name one time too many, and I’ll crack.  What happens then?  I am the person who holds it all together for so many, while inside, my shell is slowly cracking.
   Please, help me.  If this medical condition is your way of telling me to leave my job, I’ll do it.  Is there something fundamentally wrong with me that causes so many of my relationships to fade away?  What should I be doing differently?  How have things gotten to this point?

   I need help, and I’m asking for it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The A to Z List of Movies that Have Moved Me

For my readers who may not know me well enough - I enjoy what my friends call “Wendy-friendly movies.”  Meaning- no horror films, few action films, and movies that won’t have me covering my eyes at something depicted on the screen.   
A Apollo 13.  I read the book, saw the movie with my dad, own the soundtrack.  I knew this movie.  I understood the acronyms, the significance of Gene Kranz’s white vest, and admired Hollywood’s ability to film segments of a movie in weightlessness.

B Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  These two movies go hand-in-hand.  I have one negative comment - I didn’t want the movies to end.  I love the idea of two people coming together in these beautiful European cities, having conversations, revealing bits of their souls, and realizing they share a deep connection.

C Cutting EdgeWhen I watch the movie as a thirty-five year old woman, I watch with eyes and a heart that have grown since I first saw the movie in high school.  But, there is a part of me that understands the loneliness and isolation Kate feels.  She asks her father, “Why are we doing this?”  and I understood.  (My endeavors were straight-A’s in high school, but still, I could sympathize.  Many of my classmates didn’t understand me, kept their distance, friendships were few, and dating was non-existent.)  But still, Doug falls in love with her, and I believed there was hope for me too.

D Dirty Dancing.  When I was in elementary school, this was the movie.  Everybody watched it, even when we didn’t understand everything we were seeing.  We liked the music and the dances - that was enough.

E Eat, Pray, Love.  I was a fan of the book, and was not disappointed with the movie adaptation.  Although, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I enjoy the movie more each time I watch my DVD.  I envy the freedom of vacating one’s own life, traveling to exotic locations, and getting back in touch with basic necessities while, in the process, re-discovering the person you once were.  

F Father of the Bride, the version starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.  My sister and I saw the movie with my dad, and upon leaving the theater, promised him we wouldn’t want swans at our wedding.  And, for whatever reason, Steve Martin’s opening monologue is a permanent part of my memory bank:  “I used to think a wedding was a simple affair.  Boy and girl meet.  They fall in love.  He buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say ‘I do.’  I was wrong.”  

G Grease.  The big skirts, the dances, the songs - Danny and Sandy.  I wanted to attend Rydell High.  I wanted to be a Pink Lady (my sister and I owned pink cardigan sisters, that’s as close as we got).

H How Stella Got Her Groove BackFor my tastes, another successful film adaptation.  A book I’ve read more than once, a movie I own on DVD.  The island of Jamaica, the comedy of Whoopi Goldberg, and a good-looking cast.

I It Could Happen to You.  There’s an expression, “movie magic.”  I think it’s supposed to refer to the tricks of the trade, movie makers convincing audiences of one thing or another.  I think this movie shares a different kind of movie magic.  The idea that random, wonderful things can happen, and do happen, to deserving people.  That karma does exist, and happy endings are possible.

J Julie & Julia.  After we saw that movie, my husband convinced me to start a blog.  Truthfully, I write for me.  I have a deadline to meet - a new essay a week.  I hope, I dream that one day someone will read my work and realize I really should be working for their magazine.  But in the meanwhile, I am writing.  I am acknowledging that I am a writer.  And I have my faithful readers to keep me company.

K The Karate Kid.  I don’t practice karate, but I did learn from the wise Mr. Miyagi - “paint up and paint down,” “wax on, wax off”, and  “the sun is warm the grass is green.”  I consider Mr. Miyagi to be the human equivalent of Yoda.

L Letters to Juliet.  A love story set in Italy.  Need I say more?  But if I must, there’s that idea of two people being meant to be even if things (like the span of fifty years) get in the way.  This idea of what could have been, might have been, can still be.

M The Music Man.  Some movies just make me smile - such is the case with this film.  Who can resist little Ron Howard singing about the approaching Wells Fargo wagon?  Or the Marion-Librarian scene?  

N Notting Hill.  Hugh Grant’s character owns a bookshop.  He’s got an amusing circle of friends.  He’s a nice guy.  He gets the girl.  Recipe for a Wendy-friendly, put-you-in-a-good-mood-movie.  

O Oliver Twist.  I remember very little of the actual movie, except that I watched it with my dad.  And I remember my dad singing to me “I’d Do Anything.”  And I know he would.

P Pretty in Pink.  Andie.  Duckie.  Blane.  I wanted to be Andie.  I wanted to drive a cute pink car, make my own clothes, and not be afraid to dress according to my own fashion sense.

Q Quigley Down Under.  Okay, in all honesty, it’s not a movie that moved me.  But it’s a movie my dad enjoys.  A movie I remember my dad watching from the other room, the music playing, while I read in the living room.  It’s a daddy-movie, and if I wanted to score points, I’d sit down and watch a few minutes with my dad.

R Rudy.  I am not a football player or a fan of the game; however, I loved this game.  I admired the determination and fierceness that our hero works towards his goal.  Most didn’t understand him, most wrote him off, and I wondered if I’d be as strong as Rudy.  He went for it, no matter what happened or what others said.  The score was beautiful and added another dimension to the story-telling.

S Star Wars.  My favorite remains the original, Episode 4.  Star Wars has just become a part of our popular culture - the phrases (“use the Force”), the characters (Han Solo’s good-looking arrogance), and the fashions (Princess Leia’s cinnamon-bun hairstyles).

T Ten Commandments.  When I was a little girl, I watched this movie with my dad.  Our movie was on VHS, and our video player had a remote control that only worked if it was attached to the machine with a long cord.  I didn’t understand the religious significance of the story - I was mesmerized by the dresses and bracelets, the bush on fire, the parting of the Red Sea.

U Under the Tuscan Sun.  This is one example where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.  I think it was the written descriptions of the food that lost me.  But the movie was a joy to watch, and re-watch on my DVD.  Bad things sometimes lead to good things, and sometimes the bad things have to happen otherwise we’d never be brave enough or hurt enough to make the leap.

V Valentine’s Day.  I love the idea that within this crazy city called Los Angeles, all these lives are somehow inter-twined, our lives do touch others, do matter to others.  And, as a former sales clerk in a flower shop, I was intrigued to see a filmmaker’s depiction of a flower shop on one of its busiest days.

W When Harry Met Sally.  For many years, our New Year’s Eve ritual included a viewing of this perennial film.  I never tire of watching Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan navigate the bumpy road of dating and love.  The honesty, the humor, the conversations - and a fake-orgasm scene in the midst of a bustling New York deli.

X The X Files.  Okay, this is certainly not a Wendy-movie.  But, it was the movie for a good friend of mine, so it makes the list.    

Y You’ve Got Mail.  This movie pairs Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and never fails to make me smile.  It’s gentle and kind-spirited.  It features two people you want to get together.  And, to tip the scales at Wendy-friendliness, The movie is set among bookstores.

Z Zookeeper.  I admit it.  I haven’t watched the movie.  But, my students were writing creative stories about what zoo animals would say if they could talk to each other.  Then this movie reached theaters.  And, how in the world did Mrs. Kennar know they’d be making this movie?  Suddenly, my cool factor went up, and the fun factor in my writing assignment went up as well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Clogs in My Closet

   I’m not like a lot of women.  I am a girl who acknowledges the importance of comfort and practicality.  I don’t totter around on high heels.  I slip my feet in and out of clogs instead.
     I started wearing clogs during my last semester at city college - during the period of time I started dating the man who would become my husband.  At the time, I found some soft black clogs at Payless Shoes. They were black, and squishy, and instantly comfortable.   And, in the odd way life works, my now-husband was working for a family friend who sold authentic Swedish clogs.  The hard ones with wooden bottoms.  The ones you could only wear for a short time each day until you broke them in.  
   Now I wear clogs that are somewhere in between.  Clogs with a cushioned sole that come in patent leather blue or black embroidered with flowers.  Except for the one pair of lace-up tennis shoes that I keep for reserve purposes, open-backed shoes are my shoe of choice.  I wear them with skirts and slacks, and the only time I really run into some trouble is during rainy days.
    Limiting myself to clogs, does limit my shoe choices, especially since I wear a size ten.  But they’re comfy, and when so much of life isn’t comfortable, I do my best to make sure that my shoes and clothes are.
   I found out that clogs were originally “workers shoes” made popular in many countries throughout Europe.  And I know that presently clogs are especially popular with chefs and physicians.  
   Clogs or not, by the end of the day, my feet are tired.  But at least with my clogs on, my feet have gotten little breaks, little moments of freedom when I slip my feet out of my clogs, stretch, and tuck them back inside and gear up for the next part of my day.  My own worker’s shoe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


   My son has two Mr. Tickle dolls.  He called them brothers.  He knows about brothers from some reliable sources.  His nephews are brothers.  Mario and Luigi are brothers.  And Elmo’s friend, Mr. Noodle, has a brother, conveniently also named Mr. Noodle.
   Ryan asked me who his brother was.  I told him he didn’t have a brother, but he did have lots of people who loved him.  And I started listing them.  But he interrupted me.  He said his brother was on Mommy’s computer, in PhotoBooth.  That’s where he sees “two Ryan’s.”
   There’s the part of me that recognizes this brief conversation as exactly what it is - an adorable interchange between a son and mother, a chance for my son to make connections with new words and familiar experiences in his life.  But, there’s the part of me that jumped ahead, and wondered if my son will ever present me with the real question, “Why doesn’t Ryan have a brother?”
   Before my husband and I decided to start our family we were constantly asked when we were having a baby.  Now that my son is 3 1/2 years old, the question has become, “When are you giving him a brother or a sister?”
   The answer is, “We’re not.”  
   I certainly don’t have all the answers about life, but I knew enough about myself to acknowledge that I wasn’t ready to be a mom for a while.  And now, I’m wise enough to admit that my marriage and our current family dynamic will not function successfully if we have another child.
   The older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that I can make all the plans I want, but life is going to happen regardless of my plans.  So, ten years ago if you had asked me how many children I would have, I would have confidently answered, “Two.”  That was then.  
   Now, I am the mother of an only child.  An only child who has an endless supply of love surrounding him.  
   My son is an only child - just like Elmo.  And look how happy and loved Elmo is!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nine Ways Fourth Graders Are Like Kindergartners

   I have recently begun my eleventh year as an elementary school teacher.  This year marks the shift - I had taught kindergarten for five years, and this begins my sixth year teaching fourth grade.  The curriculum is entirely different, but the longer I’m teaching, the more I realize that kids are kids, and many similarities exist between the grade levels.
  1. All children need to be reminded that scissors are for cutting paper.  And only paper.  
  2. Children are still largely afraid of the dark.  A recent hour-long power outage at school sent my fourth grade students into a bit of a panic worried about ghosts and other bad things.
  3. Children enjoy writing on the whiteboard - whether it’s the large class board or individual white boards.
  4. More children will participate during math if the lesson involves food.  With kindergarteners, we sorted and graphed M & M’s.  For the fourth graders, we estimated the number of Smarties in the jar.
  5. Any grade enjoys a “honeymoon period” - like the first few dates when you’re getting to know someone.  Everyone’s on their best behavior and haven’t revealed their “true selves.”  Yet.
  6. Children respond to hugs and stickers.
  7. Books in the library corner are even more enjoyable when read while snuggling with a stuffed animal.
  8. Children will tell you the truth, or at least their version of the truth.  I’m mean.  My shoes are cool.  Math is boring.  They’re more concerned about getting their point of view across than they are about protecting my feelings.
  9. Children are children.  They need love.  And the ones that are most difficult, are probably the ones needing the most love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Mom, My Friend

      Growing up, I thought moms were just “moms” - telling you to check your homework, insisting you eat your spinach, making your dentist appointments.  I imagined my grown-up self as someone who would have a small, close-knit circle of female friends.  Women I would spend time with - laughing and crying, women who understood me and would love me anyway.  
   I do have that small circle of friends.  However, my closest friend is my mom.  She is the woman I turn to with parenting questions, career concerns, marital worries, and cooking challenges.  She is the woman who knows when to give me a push, when to give me a hug, and when just to be there and listen.
   I used to think moms weren’t supposed to be friends.  They’re moms; the two seemed mutually exclusive.   Moms set curfews and bedtimes.  Moms say “no” when you want them to say “yes.”  Moms appear to be this whole species that couldn’t possibly understand a teenage daughter’s embarrassments, worries, and fears.  Moms just don’t get it. 
   But now I’ve grown up.  I’m a married woman with a son.  And I see things differently.  My mom always got it; it was me that didn’t get it.
   My good friends are people I can trust, people I know wouldn’t hurt me.  People that share similar values.  People I enjoy spending time with.  My mom is one of those people.