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 29, 2012

The A to Z List of My Unconventional Life

A Alphabetize.  My A to Z lists are proof that my brain is wired a little unconventionally and has this need to put things in order, alphabetical order.  

B Brushing my teeth.  Somehow, I never learned how to brush my teeth neatly, ladylike, meaning, keeping all the toothpaste inside my mouth.  As I brush, I always have an overflow of Aquafresh oozing out of my mouth, dripping down my wrist.  It’s certainly not me at my most attractive.

C College.  I was the straight-A student who attended a community college before transferring to a public state university.  Additionally, I was the still-straight-A student who commuted on six buses a day in order to attend college.  I wasn’t going to let a minor detail like not owning a car get in my way of earning my college degree.

D Dinners.  I am a list-maker.  I plan my dinners for the week and dutifully record them in my Day Planner.  When meal-planning, I take into account work schedules and items on sale at the market.

E Expressing myself during labor.  I had decided I would try to bring my son into this world naturally, without any medication.  (I did).  And I had made a promise to myself that I would not curse or blame my husband for my predicament.  I didn’t want my son to enter the world hearing his Mommy uttering curse words.  So I stated the obvious, “This hurts.”  “Owww.”  I expressed myself in a g-rated format and gave birth to a beautiful boy who entered the world with wide 
open, alert eyes.

F Feet.  My feet are freakishly cold, even in hot weather.  This isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been one of my quirks since I was a young girl.

G Growls.  My stomach growls when I’m lying down, trying to go to sleep.  It growls during my acupuncture treatments.  It growls when I’m watching “Elmo’s World” with my son.  It growls even when I’m not hungry.

H Hygiene.  The unconventional part is the way I refer to my hygienic supplies.  My shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, and lotion all have very pleasant names and scents, such as “Sweet Pea,”  and “Blackberry Raspberry Vanilla.”  They sound like sweet edible treats; hence, I don’t refer to them as scents but rather as flavors.

I Ice cubes.  I like my beverages cold.  Consequently, I add ice cubes to my morning mug full of juice (apple or orange).

J Jar of the season.  On my coffee table, sits a clear glass jar.  The jar’s contents change to reflect the season.  In winter, it is filled with pinecones.  Easter eggs fill the jar in spring.  Seashells occupy the jar in summer, and in fall, I stock the jar with colored leaves.

K Ketchup.  As a little girl, I dipped my scrambled eggs in it.  Now, I use it for cold left-over meats, specifically Thanksgiving turkey and my mom’s meatloaf.  

L Lupus.  My autoimmune disease isn’t officially lupus, but it has many symptoms of lupus (among other conditions).  Because, of course, I go ahead and suffer from a disease that most people don’t know of and that there’s no cure for.

M Maintain a pen pal relationship.  Aya and I have written since the fall of 1993.  We’ve written through romantic relationships, navigating motherhood, and full-time jobs as teachers.  And we write letters on decorative stationery, with only the occasional email.

N Newspaper.  Generally, it takes me almost a week to read the Sunday paper.  I don’t read every section (skipping the sports and business), but I do browse through the others.  I don’t read every article (the countries may change but I can only take so many stories of bombs and catastrophes), but I’m curious.  I never know what will pique my interest, what may prove to be inspiration for some future writing.

O Observe monthly anniversaries.  My husband and I exchange cards each 14th of the month, not just on our yearly wedding anniversary.  

P Phone.  I use a flip phone as my mobile phone, and I use it only as a phone.  I don’t text.  I don’t go online.  I don’t use the camera or calendar features.  (I also don’t use Facebook or Twitter).

Q Quote.  My brain works in strange ways.  In elementary school I was required to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, and it’s still there in my memory, waiting to be recalled each September when I teach my students about the Constitution.  I also have memorized Steve Martin’s opening monologue from Father of the Bride.  Not sure why that particular scene resonated with me enough that it stuck in my memory, but there it remains.

R Rings.  Eight of my ten fingers are adorned with rings.  Sterling silver or white gold.  

S Shoes.  My shoe of choice is a pair of clogs.  Something easily slipped on and slipped off.  Taking a look in my closet confirms my preference for an open backed shoe - I own one pair of lace-up sneakers.

T Tomatoes.  I don’t like them - on a sandwich or in a salad.  I do, however, like ketchup and spaghetti sauce.

U Utter words.  I have spoken to my houseplants.  When my life was less busy, I spent time naming my houseplants and talking to them.  When I was pregnant, I spoke, read, and sang to my son all the time.  While we drove, I told him where we were going.  I gave him the recipe while we cooked.  I sang the alphabet song while I dried off after a shower.  

V Videotapes.  I still watch movies on this pre-DVD format.  The tapes still play and I haven’t found a reason to replace them with the more high-tech version.

W Wedding.  My husband and I were just shy of our twenty-third birthdays when we wed.  We opted for simple - a ceremony in a neighborhood non-denominational chapel.  A champagne and cake reception in my parents’ living room.  The number of guests was less than the number of students I teach each year.  We helped each other dress, and drove over together in a limousine.  We did everything the way we wanted to, and thirteen years later, we remain Mr. and Mrs.

X Inexperience in the snow.  I have never been in the snow.  Never known the cold or the wet associated with making snow angels or sledding.  My son’t first snow experience (sometime in the future) will be my own as well.

Y Yearly Day Planner.  Each winter I purchase a new yearly day planner.  It has a prominent place on my desk and helps me maintain my family’s schedule, meals, and appointments.  I adamantly refuse to convert to any sort of electronic calendar device - I’m a paper and pencil kind of gal.

Z Zip code.  I have lived in the same zip code my whole life.  I grew up in one home.   And both my adult homes have allowed me to remain within the same zip code.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

15 Years, 15 Meals

   15 years.  That’s how long my husband and I have been a couple.  14 years.  That’s how long we’ve been living together.  13 years.  That’s how long we’ve been married.

Our relationship began with food, so it seems only fitting to look back at the fifteen most memorable meals/snacks/beverages of our courtship.
  1. Cafe mocha.  Our first date was at Starbucks.  We couldn’t decide on a movie, so we sat and drank and talked.  And we confirmed what we suspected - we really liked each other.
  2. Taco Bell by candlelight.  We both lived at home so privacy wasn’t easily attained.  One Saturday night, we had Paul’s house to ourselves.  Being college students on a budget, we brought Taco Bell back to the house and ate it by candlelight.
  3. Steak and top ramen.  This was Paul’s attempt at cooking dinner for me.  A t-bone steak (for a woman who isn’t a big steak eater) and top ramen.  Later, after he knew he and I were in this for the long haul, he would opt just to make me top ramen.
  4. Tostadas.  This was the first meal I cooked for Paul at my parents’ home.  
  5. Johnny Rockets hamburgers.  When Paul left school to work full-time, a Johnny Rockets was located nearby.  We sometimes splurged on a meal there, sharing fries, and choosing songs from the tabletop juke boxes.
  6. Burger King.  On the first night in our apartment, we brought in Whoppers and ate them on the carpeted floor.  I can still see Paul wearing his white undershirt, dress pants, and a broad smile.
  7. Chocolate chip bagels.  Early in our dating, Sunday’s were Paul’s one guaranteed day off.  Unfortunately, I worked.  But in the morning, we’d try to have a picnic breakfast in the park.  I supplied the chocolate chip bagels.
  8. Eggs benedict.  My absolute favorite way to enjoy eggs.  I did not, however, like the way Paul’s stepmom prepared them - with tomatoes (a food that is on my list of “don’t likes”).  I ate them anyway, a testament to my love for Paul and my polite upbringing.
  9. Cheese fondue.  I thought it would be romantic.  Instead, it was smelly - like a forgotten school lunch that was discovered under a seat on the bus.
  10. KFC.  I was going to school across town, commuting on the bus.  Paul had the day off.  I asked him to make dinner.  I got home and was told he’d walk over and get us KFC (again, not one of my favorites).
  11. Black Dog Coffee.  In the days before we owned a car, Paul and I made it a “date” to go grocery shopping.  We’d walk down to our neighborhood coffee shop, treat ourselves, then walk across the street and do our grocery shopping.
  12. Chicken caesar salads.  That was our picnic meal of choice when we received a few free coupons to see concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.
  13. Hamburger Helper.  When we first moved in together, I would prepare various hamburger helpers - relatively quick, relatively inexpensive, and if I prepared two boxes, we’d have enough for dinner and lunch the next day.
  14. Wontons.  Living together, ordering in Chinese food, staying up late, snacking on said left-over Chinese food, flipping channels and watching informercials for Time music anthologies.
  15. Crepes.  Within walking distance from our apartment, and offering me a glimpse of what I’d have to look forward to in Paris.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Disneyland Day

   A few weeks ago, we took Ryan to the happiest place on Earth.  It was our first family visit to Disneyland.  We had promised Ryan a trip to Mickey and Minnie’s home to celebrate the fact that he was four years old, potty trained, and would soon be starting preschool.  A trip to Disneyland is not something I take lightly.  It’s a big deal.  And I felt that Ryan should be old enough to understand what he was seeing, to hopefully have some memory of it, and recognize that it was a special occasion.

   He had a great time.  Lots of smiles, lots of “What’s that?”, and promptly fell asleep in the car on the way home.

   I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the whole misnomer of Disneyland being the “happiest place on Earth.”  I don’t know who first coined that phrase, but I think they lied. 

   Here are four reasons why Disneyland isn’t the happiest place on Earth.
  1. Expensive.  $255 for tickets.  $15 for parking.  We were lucky; we brought food from home and spent minimally (or as minimally as you can at an amusement park) for hot dogs.  Ryan also didn’t want any souvenirs, so our out-of-pocket expenses weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been.
  2. Crowds.  There are people.  Everywhere.  Waiting for rides, in the restrooms, taking pictures where you want to take pictures, getting in and out of the parking structure.  Sometimes it feels like there’s no space to stop and breathe.
  3. Lines.  Children are not always the most patient representatives of our species.  Especially when it comes to something they deem to be fun.  They want it now.  Ryan did a great job waiting, but he didn’t understand why every ride we went on (except the carousel) had other people wanting to go on before us.
  4. Exhausting.  Disneyland is big.  There’s a lot to see, a lot of walking, a lot of not letting your guard down.  We did an abbreviated visit (it’s all my legs could do), but between walking, going on rides, and driving home, our family was exhausted afterwards.

   Disneyland is great at creating illusions.  Illusions of merriment and wonder and happiness.  That’s not the happiness our family knows.  For us, happiness is looking in the rearview mirror, seeing Ryan wearing his red sunglasses, arms tucked behind his head, as he sings along to “Eternal Flame.”  Happiness is sitting on the patio, reading Wacky Wednesday (again).

   Will we return to Disneyland?  Yes.  Sometime in the future.  Most likely to celebrate another of Ryan’s milestones.  Next summer, we’ll pick a different adventure.  And, because we treasure the little things, wherever our adventure takes us will be a happy place on Earth.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The A to Z List of Yearly Events

A Anniversaries.  I don’t just acknowledge my wedding anniversary.  Also marked on my calendar are the anniversaries celebrating the days my husband and father stopped smoking, the anniversaries celebrating the days we bought our cars, and the anniversary commemorating the day we moved into our home.

B Birthdays.  Birthdays are about showing some extra-love.  Happy Birthday banners are hung in the living room.  A cake is presented on a ceramic plate decorated with a picture of a birthday cake.  Presents, cards, and e-cards.  Phone calls throughout the day.  A special meal at a favorite restaurant.  

C Cambria vacation.  Cambria is located along the central coast of California and is described as being halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  For me, Cambria is the place I go for peace.  Every year, my husband and I journey up the coast in search of tranquility, a slower pace, and a chance to re-connect (with ourselves and each other).  

D December holidays.  Growing up, my family celebrated Chanukkah and Christmas (with our own modifications, including no religious contexts).  Now that I’m a parent, I continue in my parents’ footsteps.  Each December we purchase a live Christmas tree.  My son helps decorate the tree just as he helps light our menorah.  For us, the holidays are about decorations, wrapping presents, singing songs, and being together. 

E Easter.  For my husband, it means lots of sweets.  For my son, it means painting hard-boiled eggs and searching our living room Easter morning for hidden plastic eggs.

F First day of school.  The anxieties haven’t disappeared since I became a teacher; they’ve just changed.  And, like my students, I too will miss days consisting of later bedtimes, later wake-up times, and no homework.

G Grandparents Day.  Honestly, this day didn’t really have significance until the year my son was born.  Now, we celebrate Grandparents Day each September with cards and gifts.  And like Mother’s Day, one day isn’t nearly enough to express our gratitude and appreciation for all my parents do as grandparents.

H Halloween.  As a teacher, it’s one of those days you have to get through - with kids coming to school wearing costumes decorated with blood.  Then there’s the next day - it’s like a candy hangover for children.  With my son, Halloween is, so far, a day to wear a costume and let Mommy take a picture.  He’s not big on trick-or-treating, but I’m sure that will change very soon.  

I Income taxes.  It’s not something I look forward to, but it’s there looming, waiting for me every year.

J January 1st.  New Year’s Day.  A day that means a fresh start.  A day to set some goals, a day to change the calendar hanging on my kitchen wall.  A day to start writing the new 

K Kids’ names.  As in, each fall I’m required to learn the names of a new group of children who will be “my kids” for the year.  Some years it’s more of a challenge than others - some names are unusual and difficult to pronounce.  I make it my personal goal, to know each child by name by the second day of school.

L Listening to certain songs.  Some songs are really only heard yearly.  Some examples are “Auld Lang Syne,” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” “Oh Hanukkah,” and “Santa Baby.”

M March.  Yes, everyone experiences the month of March once a year.  In our family, March is a busy month.  My parents celebrate their wedding anniversary.  My husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our first date.  My son and my mother celebrate their birthdays on the same day, and I celebrate my birthday three days after my parents’ anniversary.  

N Nearsightedness.  Or farsightedness.  Each year I visit my optometrist where he asks me to read random letters from the chart across the room.  He dims the lights and looks deep into my eyes, all while trying to determine the general health of my eyes.

O Organization of closets.  Every year, usually summer, I re-organize a closet (two if I’m really ambitious).  I take things off shelves and re-fold, re-sort, re-designate (keep, throw away, donate).  

P Passover.  I’m not religious, and don’t adhere to the “rules” associated with the holiday.  My toaster remains out on my kitchen counter, and I continue to enjoy a bagel for breakfast during this week.  For me, Passover is about the food.  Matzo (or as my son calls it “matzo crackers”) and matzo brie.

Q Quake drill.  Living in California means all public schools conduct a yearly earthquake drill.  I stress the importance of my students’ dropping, covering their necks, and turning away from any windows.  I remind them that our school is over eighty years old and has survived several large earthquakes.  I remind them, again, that I will always do everything I can to keep them safe.  (I conveniently omit the part about my own fear of earthquakes). 

R Receipt review.  Every year, I sort through my file of receipts to determine which ones I still need to keep and which ones can be shredded.

S Sea lions, sharks, and sea horses.  Or, our yearly pilgrimage to the aquarium.  It began the summer I learned I was pregnant.  Actually, it was the day I took the home pregnancy test.  I joined my sister and nephews on a trip to the aquarium.  Since then, every summer, my husband and I venture with our son to the aquarium.  Each year it’s a slightly different experience depending on my son’s age and which exhibits interest him the most.

T Thanksgiving.  In our family, it’s a Thanksgiving “luner” - a meal combining lunch and dinner.  My mom consistently prepares a tender turkey, meat falls off the bones as my dad carves.  And then there’s the left-overs.  For me, that means cold turkey dipped in ketchup.

U Unchain classroom closets.  Each June, I pack up my classroom, empty my desk, and take down posters.  I stuff my closets full, then chain them up.  You never know what will happen during the summer, and when I first started teaching, a veteran teacher advised me to always chain my closets.  Each fall, before the official start of the school year, I return to my classroom, unchain the closets, and start setting up my classroom for a new school year.

V Valentine’s Day.  It’s one of those holidays that has taken different meanings throughout the years.  When I worked in a flower shop, I detested Valentine’s Day.  It was one of our busiest days,with most people wanting red roses (so boring).  Then we got engaged on Valentine’s Day.  A year later we were married on Valentine’s Day, and now I’m a fan of the day.   

W Winter Holiday Cards.  It’s the time of the year when I feel like a bit of a hypocrite.  I send out cards wishing “Seasons Greetings” to people I don’t have a whole lot of contact with during the rest of the year (mainly my in-laws).  I send the cards out of a feeling of obligation (my husband wants us to).

X Exams.  Each May, my students complete standardized state tests, primarily in 
Language Arts and Math.  All year long, I teach them everything they are supposed to know to succeed on these tests.  I tell my students that when I was a student I didn’t like taking these tests.  As a teacher, I don’t like administering them.  I don’t think exams adequately measure how I taught or my students learned.

Y Yearly checkup.  I’m sure I’m more excited by this appointment than my son.  As mommy, though, I’m always happy to hear my son’s numbers (weight and height) and of course, to receive affirmation that my son is healthy and strong.

Z Chinese Zodiac.  Each year I introduce my students to the Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year.  We learn about the animals of the Chinese zodiac and while I read the descriptions for each animal we try to determine if they match.  Do they think I am a stereotypical dragon - driven, unafraid of challenges, and passionate?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Falling Down Laughing

It’s an old cliche that laughter is the best medicine.  I don’t know about that.  Honestly, it depends.  After I’ve had a lot of blood work, I’d much rather some chocolate than a deep-belly-laugh session.  There are times when I feel weighted down - with worry, with pain, with frustration.  During those times, a hot fudge sundae isn’t going to help, but a hearty laugh might.

However, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit what makes me laugh.  Sure, I have the usuals - a tickle on the bottom of my foot, watching my son dance, a clever joke.  But what really gets me going is something that seems out of character, even to me.

I admit that I am a kindergarten teacher at heart, always on the lookout for those untied shoelaces.  And while I don’t offer to tie strangers’ laces, I do remind them to be careful because their laces are untied.  I constantly remind my fourth-grade students to face forward while walking, to be careful when lifting their chairs off their desks, to walk slowly when the hallways are slippery on a rainy day.

But, I have a dark side.  I find absolute delight in watching videos showing people falling, especially if I know the fall was planned and no one was hurt.  There are two movies starring Sandra Bullock that I can think of in this context.

Miss Congeniality starred Sandra Bullock as an undercover FBI agent competing in the Miss USA Pageant.  During one presentation, Sandra Bullock’s character loses her footing, falls down, and then pops back up with her hair sticking up on a Statue of Liberty-like crown.  

All About Steve had one super-memorable moment for me.  It was depicted in the movie’s trailer (which I watched several times).  Sandra Bullock walks purposely and quickly, not noticing her proximity to a large hole.  She subsequently falls into this huge hole.  The trailer showed video footage of her fall, being replayed by another character in the movie.  (I’m not the only one who found it worthy of watching more than once).

I don’t just laugh.  I laugh until tears form in the corners of my eyes.  I laugh until I’m wheezing and need to use my inhaler.  I laugh until my own laughter sounds ridiculously high-pitched and I start laughing all over again.

There’s an Irish proverb that states, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”  I haven’t achieved the long sleep yet, but at least I know how to get the good laugh.