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, February 29, 2012

Five Things I Can't Explain to My Son

   Life isn’t fair.  As adults, we know it, we see it, we live it.  For children, they learn this uncomfortable lesson in different ways.  Sadly, my toddler son sees it all the time.  Not all people follow the rules.  Not all people do what they’re supposed to do.  And even though they aren’t, we will continue to do the right thing.  The “right thing” doesn’t always match with what my son sees out in the real world, and I am sometimes at a loss for explaining what he does see.  
   Here are my top five things I can’t explain to my son. 
  1. Billboards showing women wearing their underwear.  My son is learning that only ladies wear bras and that mommy doesn’t leave the house until her bra is on and a shirt covers her bra.  Mommy can’t go outside wearing only her bra, yet there are large billboards all over town showing strange women in their bras and underwear.
  2. Adults wearing pajamas while shopping at the market.  My son knows we don’t leave the house until he is dressed.  (Sometimes getting dressed is more of a struggle than others).  Yet, on our weekly visits to the market, we see adults shopping in their flannel pants or their Hello Kitty tee-shirt and drawstring pants.
  3. Men standing on a street corner in their underwear.  A few months ago, five minutes away from our home, three men stood on a street corner wearing boxer shorts, shoes, socks, and neckties.  They held signs advertising a new men’s clothing store that opened nearby.  Adults were getting paid to do something my son (and his father) aren’t allowed to do - stand outside in their underwear.
  4. People littering.  As soon as my son was old enough to understand, he was taught that we do not throw trash on the ground.  We don’t throw trash anywhere except a trash can or recycling bin.  Accidents happen, things fall, but we pick them up.  And we do - we pick up the stray raisin or cheerio that has escaped my son’s grasp and fallen under the table of the restaurant we’re eating at.  Other people don’t.
  5. Not all people wait, share, and take turns.  This a biggie.  It’s hard for little ones (and not-so-little-ones) to understand you can’t always have what you want, when you want it.  My son knows that sometimes he has to wait for a turn on the slide or he has to get off the swing after a while so another child can have a turn.  Apparently, not all parents are teaching their children these lessons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The A to Z List of Books on My Bookcase

   My reading log began in July 2003.  Since then, I have chronicled the books I have read in a spiral-bound journal.  I record the title, author, the date I completed reading the book, and my thoughts on the book.  I am a bona fide book person.  
   As a writer, I read with appreciation and gratitude.  I know that putting words to a page isn’t an easy task, so I highlight gorgeous phrases and poetic descriptions.  There is an art to making good writing look effortless.  
   Limiting myself to one  selection per letter was not always easy.  But I did it, and here I share with you my list of A to Z books found on my white Ikea bookcase.
A Aunties by Tamara Traeder and Julienne Bennett.  I read this book while sitting at Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters - waiting for my paperwork to be processed before beginning my first teaching assignment, and awaiting the birth of my first nephew.  I had such high hopes for developing a close relationship with both my nephews.  Distance, work, and disagreements with my sister have complicated our relationships, but the book still has a special place in my heart.

B Beyond the Diaper Bag edited by Megan Bekkedahl and Melaina Lausen.  My first book.  Okay, the whole book isn’t mine.  But one of my essays is included in this anthology that explores motherhood.

C Courage and Craft by Barbara Abercrombie.  Several years ago, I decided I was ready to take my writing seriously.  I enrolled in a weekend class offered by UCLA Extension and taught by Barbara Abercrombie.  I will forever credit Ms. Abercrombie with giving me the nudge I needed to write and send my writing out.  

D Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg.  I cannot adequately describe Ms. Berg’s writing.  It’s honest, it’s beautiful, it’s touching.  It’s full of rich images and sensory details.  And this story, the relationship these sisters have, the sacrifice one can make for another, the forms true love can take, deeply resonated with me. 

E Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center.  This book got me at the first sentence:  “The day I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front.“  While reading, I marked pages with post-its, and in my own review, I wrote, “I needed this book.”

F France, A Picture Book to Remember Her By designed by David Gibbon.  Paris, France was always my dream destination.  I remember celebrating an elementary-school-aged birthday at Benihana and receiving this book as a gift.  I fell in love with the Eiffel Tower, the street lamps, the gardens.  I knew I was meant to go to Paris. 

G God on a Harley by Joan Brady.  I first read this book many years ago, and re-read it again, and know that I’m due to read it again.  It’s the story of a woman who questions her life’s choices, who is introduced to the opportunities that do exist for herself.  It was a fun, fast, re-affirming read.

H How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan.  It is a book I have read more than once.  I thoroughly enjoy Ms. McMillan’s conversational writing style.  The pages flew by.

I I Touch the Future...The Story of Christa McAuliffe by Robert T. Hohler.  The space shuttle Challenger exploded when I was in fourth-grade, killing teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe and her six crew mates.  I was completely inspired by this teacher who wanted to take all students on the “ultimate field trip”.  

J Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray.  It was this novel that exposed me to Ms. Ray’s subsequent novels (all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed).  This story may sound like the familiar premise of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, yet with a twist.  Plus, as a former florist, I enjoyed that the story was set in competing florist shops.

K A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks.  Mr. Sparks crafts beautiful stories - stories that make you cry, stories that make you believe in goodness and true love.  As with his other books, this is a love story that lingers.

L Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern.  A complete page-turner written as a series of emails, letters, and notes.  A romantic story that explores the idea that two people are meant to be together, but sometimes, the timing just isn’t right to allow it to happen.

M Multiple Choice by Claire Cook.  It was this novel that made me fall in love with Claire Cook’s writing style.  The novel explores a mother and daughter enrolled in college, at the same time.   (No further synopsis necessary)

N The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski.  A woman is on a quest to finish another woman’s life list.  An incredible premise, but the things on the list make it even better.  

O Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.  This is the book I read during those first few months when my son was an infant and a full night’s sleep became a distant memory.  I’d feed him, kiss him, and place him back in his crib.  Then I’d sit in the next room, making sure he was asleep before I went back to bed.  And I’d read Anne Lamott’s honest account of motherhood (re: including curse words) and know that I wasn’t alone.  Motherhood isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun, isn’t always anything, except permanent.  

P Promises to Keep by Jane Green.  I’m a Jane Green fan, but this novel was especially poignant and touching.  Maybe because I know it was inspired by Ms. Green’s close friend.  Maybe because it’s about family and being there for one another.  Maybe because it’s a reminder that life is short, and unpredictable, and we really don’t know what is around the corner.

Q The Kids’ Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.  This book I discovered before I was a teacher, and knew that someday, I’d refer to it, searching for journal prompts for the students I would someday teach.  

R The Radiance of Summer Sun.  Back in 1999, I became a published writer.  One of my poems was included in this anthology published by poetry.com.  Granted, I had to pay for the book and most people haven’t heard of this book, but it was the first time I saw my name in print as a published author.

S A Summer in Paris by Cynthia Blair.  I don’t remember how old I was when I first read this book.  I do know that I’m 35 years old, and the book is still on my bookshelf.  I wanted this summer trip to Paris.  I wanted the experience.  My book was a connection to my dream.  

T Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.  This is the book that introduced me to Mr. Albom’s writing, and since Morrie, I’ve read others.  This story touches me - the idea that our teachers are all around us, that we can take a second chance, get back the person we used to be. 

U An Unfinished Marriage by Joan Anderson.  I read Ms. Anderson’s first memoir, A Year by the Sea, and had to see how things were working out.  How do people stay together for so long?  How do they grow and change and still continue to love each other?  How do they not lose the “he” and “she” and the “they”?

V The Victoria’s Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming and Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer by Jennie Nash.  I read this book because I took a class given by the author.  Ms. Nash’s medical story is not mine, but I can read her book and appreciate her honesty, her candor, her writing style, her organizational decisions in presenting this period of her life.

W The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.  This novel was an unexpected find for me.  I fell in love with the story, these women, their bond.  Women who are wives and mothers, women who become family, women who are writers.

X Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss.  I admit; I like reading this book.  Liked it as a kid, liked it as a kindergarten teacher, and now like reading it to my son.

Y Your Future in Space by Flip and Debra Schulke and Penelope and Raymond McPhee.  Half of my childhood was spent dreaming of becoming an astronaut.  My bookshelves at the time were full of space-related books.  And while I have not held onto my entire space library, this book is still there - reminding me that there is a place like the United States Space Camp in Alabama, that some people will grow up to be astronauts, and for a while, it was my dream.

Z Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic.  This was the book that was being compared to Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl.  I only read it once, honestly, don’t remember all the details.  I do remember being impressed by a young girl’s eloquence, honesty, and courage.  And I remember being saddened, that fifty years later, another girl was in hiding, trying to survive a war.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

   My fourth grade students recently completed a Language Arts Assessment that included a writing component.  Students were asked to read a short piece of fiction, summarizing it and responding to it by making a personal connection.

   In the story, a young boy discovers a purse full of money and has to make the decision to return the purse, and money, to its rightful owner (identification was inside) or keep the money for himself so he could buy the bike he wanted.  (The boy was tempted to keep the purse, but he decided to return the purse to its owner.  The woman who lost her purse was also the owner of the bike store and rewarded the young boy with the bike he wanted for half its selling price).  

   I will say this -  my students are honest.  Some wrote that they would return the purse because it’s the right thing to do.  Other students wrote that they would keep $10 or $20 and return the rest.  One student wrote that he would take just enough so that others wouldn’t be suspicious.  And some students claimed justification for keeping all the money in the whole “Finders keepers, losers weepers” mantra.

   I read these essays, and it scared me.  This is our future.  Will my retirement years be in the hands of selfish young adults?  Or maybe that’s too cynical a view.  I’m not entirely objective, after all.  I do spend all day with these children, seeing them at their nice and not-so-nice sides.  

   So, I remind myself that these are nine and ten-year-olds answering this question.  Maybe, if the situation presented itself to them, their conscience (or their parents or their teacher) would be the voice of reason.  

   I hope so.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Super Bowl vs. Super Trip

   As a society, our values are largely out-of-whack (if you’ll pardon that informal vernacular).  The Sunday Los Angeles Times came to my front door and on the cover of the “Parade” Magazine section I saw the impassioned faces of three zealous football fans.  Granted, Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday.  But, there is more going on in the world than men running up and down a field in tight pants, kicking and throwing a football.

   For buried on page twelve, was an article about a single father, taking his two sons on an around-the-world trip.  The story speaks of a son coming home from school, asking his father why their family wasn’t doing more to help others.  And so, this family is spending twelve months, traveling to twelve different countries on six different continents, to help others.  (Check out their blog at twelveintwelve.org)

     I read that article and thought, “Incredible.”  What an adventure.  What a learning experience.  What selflessness.  What open, giving hearts this family shares.  And yet, the story didn’t even get a mention on the front cover.

   The Super Bowl was over in a few hours.  And I get it, it’s a money-maker.  A family on a humanitarian trip isn’t.  But what’s more important?  What lessons should we be sharing with our children?  

   Sometimes, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle, destined to follow in the footsteps of the Greek God Sisyphus, never accomplishing the task at hand, and always having to begin again.  

           And then, I’m re-affirmed.  I read an article, such as this one about the Lewis Family, and know I’m doing the right thing.  I’m teaching, and doing what my heart believes to be right.  And that’s all anyone can really do.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The A to Z List of Songs in Frequent Rotation on my iPod

A “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals.  I always enjoyed that song, marveled at how my mom could reach the high notes as she’d sing along in the car.  When I became a Mommy, the song took on a deeper meaning.  It’s one of “Our Songs” - a song with special meaning for my son and I.  I slow-danced with him when he was an infant, as a toddler I sing it to him as we’re driving around town.

B “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder.  It’s one of those songs that isn’t often played on the radio, but when it is, it brings a smile to my face.  It’s one of those uplifting songs about staying upbeat, staying focused, and hanging in there.

C “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley.  I never felt this song, until I became pregnant.  From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I have experienced a love 
previously unknown to me.

D “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest.  There’s no special memory connected to this song.  Just a sweet sounding song that brings a smile to my face.

E “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles.  An 80’s song that I enjoy singing out loud.  (Sweeter still is my three year old, trying to sing along with his own version of the lyrics.) 

F “Fernando” by ABBA.  The song starts off slow and quiet, builds louder and faster, and it’s just fun.  I sing, I dance, I smile, I feel good.

G “Grease” by Frankie Avalon.  It’s one of those songs that you learn the lyrics to, without ever trying.  I sing along.  I smile.  And I will forever refer to John Travolta as Danny Zucko.

H Hang On to Your Love” by Sade.  It’s got a good beat, it’s got singable lyrics, and it’s got a message.  Love isn’t always going to be easy, it is easy to turn away from it, but you’ve got to hang on.

I “Imagine” by John Lennon.  This is a song that needs no further explanation.  Except, it takes on an even more poignant meaning when my three-year-old-son attempts to sing along. 

J Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.  My husband introduced me to this song and told me it was meant for me.  A lovely, romantic reminder that my partner does love me just as I am.

K “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys.  A song about places promising to be paradise - Aruba, Jamaica.  A song about escaping to the place we all hold as our special place.  A song with the harmonious vocalizations of one of my favorite groups.

L La Vie en Rose” by Louis Armstrong.  I can’t think of another song more characteristic of, more reminiscent of Paris than this one.  I never tire of hearing it.

M “My Life” by Billy Joel.  When I was in high school, this was my mantra, my theme song.  I was so tired of teachers and counselors telling me what I should do, but in the end, I had to get strong and stay true to myself.

N “No One” by Alicia Keys.  While my son sat in his high chair, I’d cook and serenade him.  Now, it’s one of the songs we (try to) sing along with in the car. 

O “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five.  It’s just one of those songs that is fun.  No deep meaning, no challenging lyrics.

P “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie De Shannon.  It’s a beautiful song, full of hope and possibility and the belief that we all can make the world a better place.

Q Que Reste T’il de Nos Amour” by Charles Tenet.  This song comes from the Something’s Gotta Give soundtrack.  It slows me down, makes me smile, and transports me to Paris.

R “Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale.  It’s the song my son and I first began singing with our microphones (what other people might call red plastic salad servers).  

S “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies.  Okay, when I sing along to this song, I amend the lyrics and include my son’s name.  So while others sing “Honey, Honey,” I sing “Ryan, Ryan.”

T “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA.  One of my favorite sing-along, foot-tapping songs on my ABBA greatest hits collection.

U Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers.  Yes, this is the song from “Ghost” - a movie and a song that were huge when I was in junior high school.  And, yes, it’s still a romantic song all these years later.

V Venus” by Bananarama.  This song just gets you moving.  It’s got “you-go-girl” attitude.

W “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.  This is the song for peace, beauty, and hope.

X “Last X-mas” (or “Last Christmas”) by Wham.  I’m stretching the letters here, but in all honesty, this is a song I don’t just listen to during the month of December.

Y “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry.  This is just one of those songs that is fun.  Fun to hear and fun to try and sing along with (I never have learned all the lyrics).

Z “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.”  It’s a song I used to sing when I babysat part-time while in high school.  It’s a song that is timeless; it circulates, all children will hear it at some point or another.