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, August 31, 2011

Oldies but Goodies

        They say that everything comes around full-circle.  What was once new and fashionable will reappear sometime in the future.  I believe it.  After all, I played with Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake when I was a kid.  My fourth grade students are always shocked to learn that these characters aren’t new, and are in fact, old.  Because to them, while I may not be as old as other people they know, I’m definitely not young.  
   I’ve noticed something similar with music.  Musicians I used to adore, musicians I used to dress up as and dance around the house belting out their lyrics are not new any more.  Consequently, their songs are played on different radio stations than they used to.
   In Los Angeles, KRTH was known as an “Oldies” radio station.  I used to hear the Beach Boys singing about “California Girls,” I’d hear the Beatles asking for “Help!,” and I’d hear Chubby Checker encouraging us to “Twist!”  It was the station my family listened to in the car.  KRTH played songs we could all agree on.  Oldies are fun songs; many of them are ideal for group sing-alongs.  These songs have lasting-power.   
   Now, KRTH advertises itself as playing “The Greatest Hits on Earth!”  Those hits, include songs by Madonna and Michael Jackson - songs that I was listening to when I was in elementary school.  Now, I’m teaching elementary school, driving to work, listening to songs that I used to own on cassette.  (I sound like my mom, discussing her 45 records and 8-tracks for her Ford Pinto).
           Have I gotten old?  No.  Older?  Yes.  And, truthfully, it’s rather unsettling.  I’m not getting older the way I thought I would.  I thought I’d feel older.  I don’t.  I’m still terrified  of earthquakes.  I’m still in awe of rainbows.  And I still dance and sing to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”  The songs I liked as a kid, I still like as an adult.  I’m just hearing them on different stations.  As my husband  reminds me, these songs are 20+ years old.  That designation, by themselves, make them “Oldies.”  Oldies, part 2, because let’s face it, “Billie Jean” isn’t as old as “Peggy Sue.”
   So, I can look at this from the glass-is-half-full perspective. I can find a multitude of songs I like, from across the years, on one radio station.  Less channel-surfing, more singing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Night with Sade

   On the day my oldest nephew turned ten, my husband and I saw Sade in concert at the Staples Center.  Sade was last in Los Angeles ten years ago when she played at the Hollywood Bowl, and we attended that concert too. 
   I’m not, in any way, a big concert person.  All those people in a confined place make me nervous.  The alcohol.  The noise.  The women who look like they forgot to put on the rest of their clothes.  The expense (ten dollars for popcorn and an icee).
   Nevertheless, this Sade concert was ... (Here a long pause, as I contemplate the proper word.  Mesmerizing.  Astounding.  Incredible).
   Usually, listening to music is a personaI experience for me, as I listen in the car or in my home.  All of a sudden, a woman takes the stage and the thousands in attendance become united in the pleasure they receive from the music.  
   I felt the music - in my chest, in my seat.  Maybe that’s why I was intrigued by the sign language interpreters I saw working during the concert.  The interpreters alternately took turns, translating the lyrics of each song.  But, the songs played at a live concert transcend the lyrics.
   A live concert is really about so much more than just listening to the music.  You see the music through the colors, the lights, the costumes, the displays on the curtains that drape down over the stage.  It is a way to experience familiar songs in a new way.  Music is the show and is intercepted through all the senses.  At home, music is usually in the background, while I’m cooking or cleaning or writing.  There is no “music in the background” at a live concert.  Music is front and center.
   Attending the concert also allowed me the opportunity to observe the instruments that contribute to the sound of a particular song.  I saw a background singer play the flute and another band member play an instrument reminiscent of my mom’s windchimes.  And together, these bandmates, these instruments, and these vocals create the songs that mean so much to my husband and I.  
   I might have been familiar with the sound of some of my favorites, “All About Our Love” and “By Your Side,” but Saturday night I witnessed these songs anew.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The A to Z List of Things I'm Afraid Of

A Airplane crash.  Mechanical problems, engine failures, freak weather patterns are all possible causes of an airplane crash.  But now, since September 11th, there is a whole other breed of airline crashes.  
B Bees.  Not the usual, garden-variety bees.  But, the big black bees.  Those bees are just mean.  They buzz by like the ferrari in the fast lane on the freeway.  Someone once told me those bees don’t sting.  I’m not sure, and I’m not volunteering to find out.
C Car Accident.  When I was learning to drive, my dad told me it wasn’t me I had to worry about; it was all the drivers around me.  It’s true.  Both my car accidents were of no fault of my own.  I fear the damage reckless drivers, arrogant drivers, oblivious drivers may cause. 
D Dropping Ryan.  I’m sure most parents fear dropping their newborn babies.  As my son has gotten older, and heavier, I still fear dropping him.  I did fall once, while holding my son.  Somehow, in an adrenaline-induced moment, I fell and managed to keep my son upright.  He enjoyed the ride; I bruised my legs.  But bottom line, I did not drop my son.
E Earthquakes.  A fear I have not outgrown.  During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, I fainted.  My sister and I stood in our doorway, watching the worried faces of our parents in their doorway, and I remember thinking, “This is it.  This is the big one.  I can’t handle this.”  So I fainted.  Tornados and hurricanes come with warnings.  Fires can be put out.  There’s nothing for me to do during an earthquake but be afraid.  I am powerless and out of control.
F Falling.  I am afraid of falling down stairs.  I am afraid of falling on a rainy day.  I am afraid of falling and hurting myself beyond bumps and bruises.  
G Guns.  I do not like guns.  I do not understand guns.  They are weapons.  My son will never be allowed to play with a toy gun.  Guns shouldn’t be available to the public.  Seems to me more harm, more “accidental” shootings wouldn’t occur if there weren’t guns in the first place.
H Hospitalization.  I went through life thinking hospital stays happen to other people, not me.  It’s not true.  It happened to me the summer of 2010.  I was unexpectedly taken from my son for four days.  I spent those days confined to a bed, missing my son so much that the sound of his voice over the phone made me cry.  And now I know it can happen.  And I’m so afraid it’ll happen again.
I Iran, Iraq, Israel, India.  The “I” countries I have no desire to visit.  The “I” countries that scare me with their wars and bombs and explosions.  The “I” countries that scare me with their poverty and harsh living conditions.
J Jail.  Jail is for bad people, most times.  Jail is for people who have done bad things, most times.  Although I know there are exceptions, there are people in jail who are innocent and are being wrongly held.  But, for the most part, jail is for “other” people.  Jail scares me.  I know some of it is the movies.  Some of it is the news of riots and escapes.  Bad things happen in jails.  Driving on the freeway, reading a sign for the men’s colony that will be up-ahead on my right, makes me double-check the locks on my car doors.
K Knives.  I don’t consider myself completely comfortable with a knife, since the night I cut myself while attempting to cut an avocado.  My cut required a trip to the emergency room and stitches to my hand.  Since then I am extremely careful when slicing vegetables, bagels, and eggs.  A butter knife is the knife I first try to use. 
L Losing a student.  Field trips provide students with wonderful educational opportunities, a chance to go beyond their world and experience something new.  Hopefully, something that supplements what they have been learning in the classroom.  As a teacher, field trips are scary.  Big open spaces.  The possibility of losing a student.  I have been entrusted with the care and well-being of children’s lives.  It is not a responsibility I take lightly.
M MRI Machine.  I have experienced two MRI’s.  With the first, I didn’t know what to expect but walked away feeling traumatized.  The noise.  The coffin-like space.  For the second test, two sedatives still didn’t relax me.  My body is being sent through a tube.  A tube that will make loud noises, examine my body, and all I can do is lie there - still and straight.
N Needles.  They come in all shapes and sizes and they inflict pain.  They take out blood.  They don’t always enter a vein the way they’re supposed to.  They leave large purple bruises on my arms.  I do not watch any procedure involving a needle.  As a result, I am entirely closed-minded about acupuncture.
O Operations.  Operations are scary; you are putting complete faith in the person(s) who is cutting you up, trusting that your body will be properly re-assembled.  You are completely involved and then completely un-involved at the same time.  
P Poison ivy, or poison anything for that matter.  Some poisonous flowers and plants are difficult to identify and I worry that I will unknowingly place my son and I in harm’s way.
Q Questioning my choices.  Should I have tried to transfer to another school when I became increasingly unhappy at my present job site?  Should I have taken a loan and bought a car all those years ago, instead of riding six public buses a day to attend my college courses?  Should I have been less afraid post-9/11 and traveled more?  Should I have ... they’re dangerous words and they scare me.  A quick thought but beyond that I need to make peace with the choices I have made.
R Robbery.  Bad people do bad things.  They broke into my family’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom home and ransacked through our things.  Years later, they stole our jeans when my husband and I were doing laundry and not standing vigil while our clothes were in the drying cycle.  I fear a person so heartless, so desperate, so devoid of morals and values that they rob me while I’m with my son.
S Sharks.  I don’t trust them.  I know they are nature’s creatures like dolphins and seahorses.  I just don’t worry about a seahorse attack.  Even at the aquarium, on the other side of a very strong piece of glass, I don’t like looking at sharks.  I’ll leave them to their business and trust they’ll leave me to mine.
T Time, more specifically, time rushing by and leaving me wondering, “Where did it go?”  and “What have I done with it?”  I go back and do the math - out of high school for, gasp, seventeen years.  My first batch of kindergarten students will now be entering tenth grade!  My little ones, fourteen boys and six girls, are now in high school, looking ahead to college.  And where am I?  What have I done?  Sometimes, I have answers aplenty - answers that leave me feeling proud and content.  Other times, the answers leave me feeling dissatisfied, yearning for more.
U Underground passages, such as caves.  I will not explore a cave for any reason.  Regardless of how beautiful the crystal formations are touted to be, I refuse to put myself in that situation.  Bad things happen underground.  Caves collapse.  Coffins are buried underground.  I’m not going there, willingly.
V Violence.  Violence is sometimes like an earthquake.  Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.  People are simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and through no fault of their own, bad things happen.  It scares me.  There is the very real possibility that I could be sitting in a coffee shop, engrossed in my novel, and an act of violence could occur.
W Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the original movie featuring Gene Wilder.  I saw the movie as a child and there’s only one image that continues to haunt me - a little girl choking on a piece of candy and transforming into a giant blue balloon.
X Xenophobia.  People with irrational fears do irrational things.  What if I’m traveling abroad one day, and someone decided they don’t like brunettes from the United States?  What if someone in another country observed my husband and I holding hands and decided they didn’t like foreign couples, especially inter-racial foreign couples?
Y Yoga.  Okay, maybe it doesn’t entirely scare me, but it definitely unsettles me.  The idea of yoga is not calming and centering; in fact, it has the opposite effect.  Thinking about yoga makes me anxious and uncomfortable.  It must be the covers of the books I would notice when I worked at the library, but the word “yoga” brings to mind human beings transforming their bodies into curly-pretzel shapes.  And me, I’d be in a pretzel-shape, and become stuck.  Unable to remove my foot from behind my ear, if it was even possible to get my foot back there in the first place.
Z Zoo animals attacking.  I know this last fear may seem irrational, but I never forget that the animals I’m admiring are, at their essence wild animals.  Wild animals do misbehave, do behave aggressively and can be unpredictable.  I know this may sound selfish, but I just don’t want one of those animals to behave in an unsafe way on a day my son and I are visiting.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Walk This Way

   I purchase shoes from “The Walking Company,” a company that touts itself as being the “world’s largest selection of comfort footwear.”  I don’t know if that claim is true.  I haven’t visited enough of the world to compare The Walking Company’s footwear selection to other store selections.  I do know that through The Walking Company, I purchase comfortable, cute clogs.  I know that periodically The Walking Company will mail me catalogs.  And it is in these catalogs that I find a great discrepancy.
   Must be years of critical thinking classes paying off, but I can’t help but look through my catalog and notice something blatantly missing from the glossy photos on each page.  The photos don’t actually show the models wearing the shoes.  There are photos of a waitress, shown from the waist up, holding a tray which contains clogs.  There is a photo of a woman in a bright sundress, walking on a beach, but the photo doesn’t show her feet.  Another picture shows a chef squeezing a lemon onto a salad, but again, the shot is from the waist up.  And on the page advertising all-purpose sandals, there is a woman wearing a bikini top.    
   What messages are being conveyed?   Wearing the sandals will give me a bikini-ready body?  Wearing the clogs will leave me with a smile on my face, much like the waitress’s?  
   My college professors should smile proudly.  I was listening.  I paid attention.  I know that advertisers are manipulating me - all the time.  They are trying to sell me things you can’t buy - things like happiness and a slender body.
   I shop from The Walking Company despite their ads not because of them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Skirting the Issue

   For most of my jobs, wearing a skirt just wasn’t a realistic option.  You don’t wear a skirt and babysit an infant.  You don’t work in a flower shop - unloading bunches of roses flown in from Ecuador, designing corsages and boutonnieres for a wedding, sweeping and mopping the floor at the end of the day while wearing a skirt.  And, you don’t wear a skirt to shelf books in a public library.

   When I became a teacher, wearing a skirt wasn’t easy either.  Teaching kindergarten required me to spend a great deal of time each day sitting on the carpet.  When I began teaching fourth grade, I decided to wear a skirt once a week.  Jeans one day, skirt one day, slacks the other 3 days.  That was my un-official uniform.  
   The year I was pregnant, I deviated from my uniform policy.  And this past year, the year I began having trouble with my legs, I stopped wearing skirts completely.  Now, my skirts were never shorter than my knee, but even that length suddenly felt too short.

   My legs look different than they used to.  I have blue, purple, and red veins snaking down my legs, weaving in and out like the interchanges on a busy freeway.  I am self-conscious.  Children look.  Children wonder.  Children ask (“Why do your legs look like that?).  And children comment (Your legs have a lot of veins).  Now, to further “decorate” my legs, I have a one-and-a-half-inch scar on the upper left portion of my calf.

   So, I stopped wearing skirts.  

   And, if I’m honest, I didn’t just stop wearing skirts because of my students.  I also stopped because of my colleagues.  Adults don’t always have a much better filter than children.  They often say the first thing that comes to their mind.  And sometimes, those first thoughts are hurtful and unkind.

   But I miss wearing my skirts.  I find that when I wear skirts, I carry myself differently.  Stand a little straighter.  Sit a little higher.  Feel a little prettier and more feminine.  

   There’s a part of me that thinks, “The heck with it;” I’m going to wear what I want to wear, and maybe just invest in some dark panty hose.  I’m going to celebrate the fact that regardless of the pain my legs are causing me, they are still functioning.  

   And then there’s the other part of me that sighs - loudly, and thinks, it’s just not worth it.  Put on a pair of pants and don’t worry about it.