One of my personal essays has been selected for publication in an anthology titled "Being a Grown Up: A User's Manual for the Real World." This project is independently funded, and the editors have begun a fundraising campaign. Here's the link to their video explaining the book and how you can help! Thank you!!!
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, June 26, 2013
When you meet someone new, one of the first questions that is asked is, “What do you do?” And, almost automatically, judgments are made. A firefighter is brave, a teacher is patient, a doctor is intelligent.
I was always proud to say I was a teacher. It had been my goal, and I had made it my career. And even if society at large doesn’t seem to hold teachers in the esteem I think they are deserving of, I could say proudly that I was a public school teacher. I believed my work was important, that each day I was doing my part to try and make the world a better place.
Now, my answer is more complicated. I am no longer a teacher. But, do I need to qualify that answer? Do I say, “I used to be a teacher.” Because then that invites a flurry of other questions, such as: “What did you teach?” and “How long did you teach for?” and “Why aren’t you teaching any longer?” Do I want to give an acquaintance a brief medical history, detailing my need to leave my teaching career due to my autoimmune disease? Do they want to know? Do they even need to know?
Do I want to answer, “Writer”? Because since I’ve left room 7, I am writing more and more, submitting my work, and getting notified that some of my essays are being selected for publication in soon-to-be-released anthologies. But, if I answer “writer” then I will be asked, “What do you write?” and “Where has it been published?” and “How much do you make?”. I write personal essays that have appeared in different publications, although not all are as well known as the Los Angeles Times (which by the way did publish one of my essays many years ago).
My last alternative is to answer, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” Something I have never been able to say. Since leaving my students, former co-workers have asked if I’m bored being at home. The answer is an emphatic, “NO WAY!” I have so many things I want to do, and am curious about. I have books to read, DVDs to re-watch, closet shelves to organize, new recipes to try out. I am learning, that just because I used to do more in a day, doesn’t mean it’s good to do things that way. I am learning that it’s okay to take my son to and from school, do some writing, meet a friend for lunch, prepare dinner for my family, do laundry, and make that my day’s activities.
So, let’s role play.
Parent at my son’s school: “So, what do you do?”
Me: “I’m a stay-at-home mom. What do you do?”
And, I’ll leave it at that for the time being. If the parent expresses an interest, asks if I used to work, or how I spend my time when my son’s at school, then I’ll give more information.
Truth be told, being a mom is my highest honor and highest responsibility, my most difficult job with limited amounts of vacation time, and, it is the one that gives me the most joy.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Writers are supposed to do two things: read and write. Which means I have a substantial amount of books. I have my shelves of favorite authors -- books by Jane Green, Claire Cook, and Elizabeth Berg. Those are in my permanent collection. Other books are favorites from years back, books like L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle and Cynthia Blair’s A Summer in Paris. But, my bookcase is now experiencing space issues, and so the time has come for me to sort through my books into “keep” or “donate” categories.
To help me sort through my vast book collection, I’ve begun a new reading system. I alternate the reading of a new book with the re-reading of a book from years past (a book I may not even remember). If either read doesn’t result in an automatic “Yes, I’d read that book again” response, then it is relegated to the donate pile.
As I was dusting off shelves and reading various book jacket flaps to decide on my next selection, two books caught my eye. Each with a story of its own.
The Random House Basic French Dictionary. A paperback tome with a selling price listed as $2.95. I was a young girl who knew she wanted to go to Paris. Truthfully, I wanted to live in Paris, but that has not happened. Yet. And, a young girl who seriously wants to live in a foreign country should have a working knowledge of the country’s language. Hence, the dictionary. All these years later, and this dictionary was still on my bookcase, taking up valuable shelf space. I didn’t even bring the dictionary with me on our trip to Paris back in 2005, and with dictionaries and translation devices readily available in a digital format, there’s no real reason for me to hold onto this book. The print is small, the pages yellowed, and my “This book belongs to Wendy Fraser” sticker (my maiden name) has lost its adhesive. It is now in the donate pile.
The second book taking me down memory lane was Norman Schur’s 1000 Most Important Words. This was a book that my ninth grade honors English teacher, Mr. Hemphill, told our class to buy. Each week he gave our class a list of words to study. And each Friday, we had a vocabulary test that required me to complete a sentence using the correct vocabulary words. Many years later, I would use this same format to test my fourth and fifth graders on their weekly vocabulary tests. It was through this book that I learned words like “abdicate,” “nomenclature,” and “erudite.” This book, too, is yellowed and musty, my personalized label inside is loose, and yet this particular volume isn’t so easy to part with.
I am someone who likes using the physical dictionary, the one that came with the encyclopedia set my parents bought my sister and I when we were kids. I like seeing that two-volumed tome, knowing that it contains the word: the word that will make the sentence I’m writing pulsate with life. And although my paperback Ballantine Reference book is much smaller, it holds that same promise. These are important words that have the potential to make my prose more poignant, more distinct. And so this book is a keeper and is back on the bookcase.
It’s actually a wonderful “problem” to have: too many books and not enough space. I’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing, and I’ll keep re-organizing my bookcase. As long as I’m reading and sorting my books, I can stave off a trip to Ikea and the purchase of an additional bookcase.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
I have learned, and am learning, about dads from two important men in my life: my own dad and my husband as he fathers our five-year-old son. These two perspectives allow me the opportunity to observe fatherhood. Based on my observations, here is my A to Z List of Dads.
A Affection dispenser, providing hugs, kisses, high fives, and pats on the back
B Bug catcher and releaser
C Coach, teaching the proper way to hold a golf club or hit a t-ball
D Date for video games, movies, and sporting events
E Expert. There are certain things only dad can do (hooking up the computer or installing a light fixture)
F Fixer who repairs broken toys
G GPS - the human variety
H Helper - math homework, flat bike tires
I Introducer, acquainting a child with a favorite musician, old movie, or sports team
J Joker, one who excels at riddles, silly jokes, and funny faces
K Kid Advocate. A dad will always stand up for his child and protect him.
L Lifter, whether it be heavy packages or children
M Mimic. One who can replicate the voices of Elmo, Mickey Mouse, or a favorite celebrity.
N Nap buddies
O Overseer. The one who has the ultimate responsibility and answers to “Daddy-can- I?” and “Daddy-will-you?”
P Performer. One who utilizes various methods to entertain children.
Q Quiet monitor
R Role model demonstrating how to handle minor annoyances (traffic), inconveniences (backed up sink), and disagreements
S Supporter, encouraging his child to try, and try again
T Transportation provider, a lift on dad’s shoulders or a ride on dad’s back
U Umpire, for settling disputes
V Valentine, always loving his children
W Worker, at his paying job and at home
X Xs and Os provider
Y Yard supervisor, checking that the playground is safe and all children are abiding by rules and playing fairly.
Z Zen Master (unofficially). But one who attempts to maintain calm regardless of surrounding circumstances.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The purpose of bath time has evolved during my lifetime. I remember bathing with my younger sister, watching the water run down the drain. I remember pretending our bathtub was a very, very small pool as my dad, sister, and I donned our swimsuits and splashed around.
As I got older, baths were replaced with quicker showers. And when I did take a bath it wasn’t as much for the purpose of maintaining personal hygiene, but as a relaxation technique.
Back in college, there was one year when I had no classes scheduled on Friday’s. And for a blissful few hours, I had the house all to myself. I still lived at home, and privacy wasn’t something that came easily. Friday mornings, it was bubble bath time. I would set up the bathroom, bringing in my boom box, with an appropriate cassette tape suitable for a relaxing bubble bath. I would light a multitude of candles on the sink countertop and along the edge of the bathtub. Finally, I would fill the tub with warm water and a floral-scented bubble bath. Bliss.
When my husband and I first moved in together, it was easier to get privacy. He often worked late nights, and I was able to have time for a private bubble bath. Except, our first apartment had a tub with sliding shower doors. I detested those doors and longed for a shower curtain. It was harder to set up my candles around the tub. Harder to see my candles flicker on the sink countertop. But I adapted.
In our current home, with two and a half bathrooms, it was much easier to retreat into a bubble bath, especially because both tubs are door-free. Again, I lit candles, had music playing, and sank into lavender-scented bubbles.
Becoming a Mommy made my bath time more difficult to coordinate. By the end of the day, I was too exhausted to set up my bath. I just wanted to shower and get it over with so I could finally sleep. Still, I tried to make time to take a bath and succeeded once a month -- if I was lucky.
My medical condition has complicated the situation. My thirty-seven year old body feels so much older when I can’t get myself out of the tub. Sometimes, I’m forced to prop myself on all fours, holding onto the edge of the tub and the bar on the wall, using all my might to get myself into a standing position. Other times, I’m reliant on my husband to hoist me up. My bubble bath feels wonderful while I’m in it, but afterwards pain often settles in.
Sometimes I experience a bath hangover -- legs that feel heavy, a body depleted of energy, and a throbbing in my left calf. But, because not every bath ends that way, when I’m having a good night, pain-wise, I still take my chances and submerge myself into bubbles while I escape into the current novel I’m reading.
I need to remind myself that self-pity won’t accomplish anything. I cannot become despondent about what my body can no longer do. My baths are changing. If it gets to the point where the pain afterwards exceeds the pleasure during, then I will simply have to stop taking my bubble baths.
After all, I can’t bathe in the kitchen sink anymore, either.