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, 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.