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 11, 2015

My Website

Dear Readers,

   In my continuing efforts to improve my writing, I have made the move to my own website!  From now on, you can find my weekly blog there as well as information about me and my published work.  Please take a look, bookmark the site, and keep reading each week.   http://wendykennar.com/

 As always, I appreciate your support!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Publication at MUTHA Magazine

Dear Readers,
   I'm pleased to let you know that one of my personal essays has been published at MUTHA Magazine.    
Here's the link:  http://muthamagazine.com/2015/11/the-a-word-wendy-kennar-on-parenting-with-an-invisible-disability/

   As always, thank you for reading!

Thanksgiving Crafts Post at MomsLA.com

If you're looking for cute, easy ways to make your home Thanksgiving-ready, check out this post on MomsLA.com.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Apollo 13 Still Inspires

   My son and I have been watching the Ron Howard film Apollo 13 quite a lot lately.  Ryan is very interested in spaceflight.  Originally I showed him the same scene I used to show my fourth-grade students -- a scene that showed the 3 “astronauts” as they demonstrated weightlessness in a broadcast for the audience back on Earth.  But my son was curious and wanted to watch more of the movie.

   It’s got a PG rating (the same as Frozen; a movie that his kindergarten teacher showed his class two years ago).  

   I am a big Apollo 13 fan.  Twenty years ago, my dad and I saw the movie in the theater.  I owned the soundtrack on cassette and read the James Lovell book that inspired the movie.  I was the girl who had wanted to be an astronaut, and I reveled in watching the movie.  

   So I’m more than happy to watch the movie with Ryan.  We talk about why the movie is important.  How it shows teamwork, determination, and creative problem solving (remember the guys who figured out how to put a square cartridge into a round hole?)  

   Ryan now wants to meet Tom Hanks. 

      But that’s not all.  He tells me he wants to walk on the moon.  I told him when he’s up there he can actually moonwalk on the moon.  (After all, Alan Shepherd, Commander of the Apollo 14, hit a golf ball on the moon.  Take a look at this website that includes a video of this incredible feat:  www.pga.com/news/golf-buzz/feb-6-1971-alan-shepard-plays-golf-moon)

   If you haven’t watched Apollo 13 in a while, I highly recommend it.  The story is incredible -- because it’s mostly true.  (Like all movies based on a true story, some things have been changed.)  But the essential elements are in place.  There are relationships and connections that move you.  Each time I see it, I cry along with the wives as the Saturn V rocket launches.  My son and I embrace when Apollo 13 successfully splashes down into the South Pacific.  And you gotta respect Gene Kranz with his passionate declaration, “Failure is not an option.”   

   It makes me proud to say that my son and I watch this movie together and then later re-enact lines of dialogue.  And when Ryan gets to the moon, he has promised to blow a kiss down to me on Earth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is It Over Yet?

               I’ve written it before, and I’m writing it again.  I’m not a fan of Halloween.  (In fact, here’s a link to a blog post I wrote a few years ago in case you missed it then.  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2012/11/contrary-costumes.html  And here’s a link to a post I wrote on Divine Caroline a few years ago.  http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/culture-causes/tricky-treats)    

   In our family, we celebrate Halloween in a minimalist type of fashion.  We’ve got some decorations up (mostly things my son has made at school during previous years).  We’ve got treats to pass out to random children who will ring our doorbell Saturday night.  My son’s got his costume ready to go.  (This year, he’ll be dressing as Michael Jackson!)  And we’ll take him trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, only ringing the doorbells of people we actually know.  But other than that, it’s just another day for us.  A day I’m not particularly looking forward to.

   Because there’s this whole other side of Halloween that I don’t understand.  This gruesome side that, frankly, I could do without.  For instance, how do you explain the families who decorate their homes with fake blood and artificial limbs hanging from trees?  The house across the street from us has covered their front window.  So when we look over we see what is supposed to be shadows, red blood, and the words “help.”  In contrast, when they look over at our house, they see a sparkly jack-o-lantern on our front door.

   The saving grace is that my son’s elementary school doesn’t celebrate Halloween so there’s no school-wide parade (like there was when I was teaching) and no in-class celebration.  Instead, they’re going on a field trip on Friday (which is a whole other blog post).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Would You Give Up?

   I’m currently taking a writing course through UCLA Extension.  In addition to our weekly class meetings, we have homework assignments.  Basically, there are two things writers must do on a regular basis -- read and write.  So one of our ongoing assignments is to read a book a week.  Preferably a non-fiction book since that’s what we’re writing in class.  

   Last week I read Mary Carlomagno’s Give It Up! - My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less.  I don’t know where I first heard about this book, but it was marked as a “want to read” on my Goodreads list.  And at 196 pages, it was readable in a week.

   The basic premise -- Mary, the author, has decided that there’s just too much stuff in her life.  Too many items, too many stresses, too many complications.  Her solution -- to give up one item each month.  To experiment and see how living without that one item changes her life (positively or negatively).  I like the idea behind the book because it’s realistic.  It’s something anyone can do, at any time in his/her life.  (The author documented the changes she made over the course of a year).

   In terms of my reading enjoyment, I was disappointed.  I just couldn’t connect with a woman who was struggling to give up alcohol (can’t drink it), coffee (I prefer mochas -- blended or hot), eating out (maybe we do it once a week), and cursing (I was a teacher for 12 years and have a second grader at home so I’ve got that one under control).

   Then there were other things the author cut out of her life that simply aren’t an option for me.  One month, even though her office was on the 10th floor, she stopped using elevators (not possible in my case).  And another month, she swore off chocolate (life’s too short and full of too much pain not to regularly enjoy a sweet treat).

   Another month she stopped reading the newspaper.  I must admit, that one did intrigue me.  Reading the paper has become such a chore.  (I wrote about this in another blog post.  Here’s the link in case you missed it:  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-sunday-chore.html)  Would I really feel so out of the loop if I stopped reading the paper and instead devoted that time to reading more books?  I haven’t made up my mind on that one yet.

   After reading the book, I gave it 2 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads.  But it did make me think about changes I could make in my life, and it inspired this blog.

   By the way, here’s the complete list of items Ms. Carlomagno gave up:  alcohol, shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate, multitasking.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Brain, Child Magazine

Dear Readers,
   I'm proud to say that one of my personal essays has been published at Brain, Child Magazine.  Here's the link:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Quoted in the Los Angeles Times

I'm pleased to share that I have been quoted in a Los Angeles Times article about the need for parents and teachers to have ongoing communication. (Disregard the slight error that refers to me as a middle-school teacher).  Here's the link:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Personal Essay at XOJane

Dear Readers,
   I write personal essays.  Some though (like about my college backpack for instance, see last week's post if you missed that) aren't quite as personal as others.  Here's a perfect example.  XOJane has published a piece I wrote originally titled, "Sex, Drugs, and Rheumatology."  Here's the link:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Keeping it Local

                                                              The view we enjoyed during our coffee date

   My husband and I have been living together for seventeen years now.  Happily renting in Los Angeles.  That’s usually the cue for gasps and the inevitable questions of “Why don’t they own their own home?  Or a condo at least?”

   Well, before we moved into our present home, we did look.  And the truth is we couldn’t afford to own anything in our neighborhood.  So we made a decision to continue to rent so that we could live and work in the same community.  For neither one of us likes our cars enough to be trapped in them for hours on a daily basis.

   But last week, I had one of those moments where I thought, “How many other people can do this?”  And we could simply because of where we live.

   Let me share.

   After we took our son to our local public elementary school, my husband and I decided to get a coffee.  A coffee from the little cafe within our gated community.  We sat in a park-like setting, marveling at the blue sky, the tall palm trees, the relaxing sound of the fountain.  We drank our coffees, we talked, and we relaxed.  We even went for a short walk.  All within a few minutes of our front door.

   And I don’t think many people can have that experience.  They’re busy commuting.  Spending time in their cars, far away from home.  Seventeen years later, we’re content to be renters.  

   And then it occurred to me that it wasn’t just where we were but what we were doing that was pretty exceptional as well.  My husband (of sixteen years) and I were enjoying each other’s company.  No frills, no distractions.  Just the two of us, sitting and talking, and liking each other.

   And I think that’s pretty remarkable.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Unintentional Time Capsule

   I recently spent some time looking through a time capsule of sorts.  I say “of sorts” because it’s a rather unintentional time capsule.  It’s more like something from the past that’s been sitting in my closet, and I hadn’t really taken the time to go through it until now.

   This time capsule takes the form of my college backpack.

   I don’t remember how long I used this backpack, and I vaguely remember a different one I used before this one.  But this is the one that I used to finish up my classes, earn my B.A. degree, and graduate Summa Cum Laude.  This is the one that has had a spot in my closet since I “retired” it upon graduating in 2001.

   Back then, my backpack had to be a sort of “survival kit.”  For most of my college years, I didn’t use a car for my daily commute, so my backpack had to have everything I might need for the day -- books, coursework, Walkman (remember those?), money, Kleenex, food.  Back then, I was out of the house for most of the day.  I felt so far away from home, even though I was just “over the hill” at California State University Northridge.

   I went through my backpack, checked all the zippered compartments (all empty), and fingered the key rings.  One from Lake Arrowhead, one from Sea World.  I looked at the buttons -- one featuring the Earth, a scuffed up “Just Do It” pin, one for Laguna Beach, another for Santa Barbara, one reminding me to “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.”

   Inside my backpack, I found my notebook.  Still with dividers and extra sheets of paper.  And still with a written copy of  my last semester’s schedule -- a Kinesiology class and two English classes.

      Inside the notebook, I found my “feel good reminders.”  A typed copy of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman.  A small credit-card-sized card with a “Follow Your Dream” poem on it.  Pictures of my husband and I.  A sticker-picture of my sister and I.  A worn-out Webster’s Notebook Dictionary, something I remember using back in elementary school.

   This backpack was a part of who I was then -- a college student trying to do it all (earn good grades, work, figure out marriage, plan for my career).  

   What I found inside my backpack, my notebook, is still a part of who I am now.  A writer, a wife, a woman who needs occasional reassurances and feel-good messages.

   Some things don’t change.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MomsLA post: "When Did the Rules Change?"

Often, I write to try and make sense of the world around me.  So after yet another photo of a scantily-clad female celebrity, I wrote this piece.  Read it at MomsLA.com.

Friday, October 2, 2015

MomsLA Post: Family Oriented Halloween Celebrations

Dear Readers,

   If you're starting to look ahead to Halloween, you might want to check out this post I wrote for MomsLA.com.  You'll find a list of 10 southern California Halloween celebrations.  Some are for a particular day, some are month-long.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Plans to Exchange Stubborness for Self-Care

                                                              Words of Advice from a Refrigerator Magnet

   Lately a bunch of words have gotten mixed-up in my head.  For instance, when I am being “stubborn” and when am I being “stupid”?  When am I in “denial” and when am I “resilient”?

   If you don’t know me all that well, you should know that I’m a pretty stubborn person.  And stubborn can be good.  It means I’m persistent; I don’t give up easily.  I’m determined.  (I mean really, how else would you explain the fact that I used to get my tush on six buses a day and commute to CSUN?)

   But sometimes that stubbornness isn’t a good thing, because I don’t know when to back-off, when to ease-up, when to admit I really can’t do something.

   Last week, I was one of three parent volunteers that walked with my son’s second grade class to the public library on their first field trip of the school year.  About once a month, my son and I walk to this same library from our home.  So I can do the walk.  But the field trip walk was further because we were starting out from school.  And the field trip  walk wouldn’t be a nice leisurely stroll like it is when my son and I go to the library together.  This walk would require me to keep an eye on a bunch of second graders.  My husband had to work, and I felt that it was left to me to step up and volunteer.  I tried to point out to Ryan that not all grown-ups can go with their children on field trips.  But Ryan asked me to, he said he really wanted me to go, and I couldn’t make myself tell him “no.”
     I signed up to volunteer.  There was a big part of me that knew I was setting myself up for more pain, more fatigue, and more discomfort.  But I was doing it in the name of a mother’s love.  Right?  

   Not exactly.  I did it because I still sort of could.  

   Right now, I’m in somewhat of a holding place.  I’m stuck in this cycle of pain while I wait for test results and wait to determine my next course of treatment.  So I wanted to join my son’s class now, in case I really can’t sometime in the future.

   I know my legs are not as strong as they once were.  And who knows how I’ll be walking in the future.  For instance, maybe someday I will need to rely on a cane.  If that’s the case, I certainly wouldn’t be able to join a walking field trip.  So I did it now while I kind of could.

   But that night at dinner, I told my son that I wouldn’t be able to walk with his class any more.  (Of course I was able to say this now.  When the next field trip rolls around, it most likely won’t be so easy for me to be absolutely certain and resolute about my decision).  

   Because this field trip did teach me a lesson.  It showed me that I need to start using words like “restraint” and “self-care” a lot more often.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Fall

   It’s the first day of fall.  Or so the calendar says.  Here in southern California, seasons aren’t as clearly defined as they are elsewhere.  It’s not uncommon for us to still be wearing short-sleeved shirts during “winter” months.

   But today it’s officially fall.  Or, “autumn” if that’s your preference.  I usually refer to this season as fall.  It’s easier to pronounce, and certainly easier to spell.

   Even if we aren’t yet finished with summer weather, I’m glad the summer season is over.  I’m glad it’s fall.  And I’ll tell you why.

     Because it is fall, there is the possibility of cooler weather.  Temperatures that require me to wear my jean jacket when I take my son to school each morning.  Theoretically our days and nights won’t be as hot as they have been.  I can start wearing long sleeves; meaning, I can finally start paying attention to the other half of my closet that hasn’t been touched in months.  My body will be more covered up than it has been so I won’t need to make sure my exposed arms and ankles (no more capris or sock-less feet for me) are safely protected with sunscreen.

   Because it’s fall, darkness sets in earlier.  I can light my candles during dinner (something I do year-round) and see them flicker and cast shadows on the wall.  Once the days become shorter, there’s the very real chance that the neighborhood kids won’t be playing outside for as long, and my family and I won’t have to endure the sounds of skateboards hitting the sidewalk.

   Because it’s fall, I can look ahead to a most enjoyable time of the year -- Thanksgiving.  A holiday that’s all about family and food and feeling grateful for what you have.  

   Because it’s fall, the stores are displaying decorative pieces in earthy tones -- browns, oranges, rusts.  It’s time for me to drape our staircase with our artificial leaf garland, and fill a vase with decorative artificial fall leaves.

   Because it’s fall, I need to appreciate this last relatively quiet bit of time before the holiday madness begins.  For our family, it’s not just December holidays; that’s just the start of it.  For us, it continues in full-force until the end of March.  (Here’s the link I wrote about our family’s “March Madness” in case you missed it.  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2015/04/march-madness.html)

   But today, it’s fall. And I’m glad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Childhood Tradition Continues

                                                           An elementary-school-aged me riding the pony

   There’s a lot that has changed in my neighborhood from when I was a kid till now.  I grew up in this neighborhood, and in fact, only live ten minutes away from my childhood home.  But in certain ways, it feels like it’s such a different place.

   When I was a kid, the Grove didn’t even exist.  When I was a kid, the Beverly Center was not a shopping mall full of stores selling expensive fashions, but instead housed kid-friendly places like an arcade, a Warner Brothers store, a book store, a music store, and my favorite -- Natural Wonders.  

   But thankfully, some things do continue.  Some traditions live on.  There is one outing my son really does enjoy that doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since I was a kid --  riding the ponies at Griffith Park.  I used to go there with either my mom or dad.  We’d ride the little train, go on the ponies, and if I was with my dad, head over to the driving range at Griffith Park Golf Course.  

   Now, it’s me taking my son to Griffith Park.  We ride the train together.  (One time we were there so early we were the only riders, and my son was given the honor of calling out, “All Aboard!”)  

   And my son rides the ponies.  He’s recently started riding the “medium” ponies -- the ones that alternate between jogging and walking.  A few loops around, and my son is happy and content.  And so am I.  Because we can share this time together.  Because I know what it feels like to suddenly go from the confines of a car to being perched on top of a pony.  Because it’s a relatively easy, relatively inexpensive date.  (Thankfully, parking is still free).  

   And it makes me happy that something I did with my parents, I can now do with my son.

                             Ryan riding days before starting 2nd grade

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Delicious Mess

   Last week we were eating dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  (More about that later).  While my son was devouring his pieces of garlic bread, he understandably created quite a pile of crumbs on top of the dining table.  At the end of the meal, Ryan noticed the mess he had made and apologized for it.  

   I told him it wasn’t a big deal; it wasn’t a regular mess, it was a “delicious mess.”  I told him that the mess showed he had enjoyed his dinner.

   A week later, and I’m still thinking about that one simple exchange.  I spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep many different areas of my life in control, things functioning on a schedule, in an orderly fashion.  But, I am also recognizing that there also has to be some space in there for a “delicious mess.”

   I think my son and I are rather adept at making a “delicious mess.”  We’ll paint our feet to make footprints.  We’ll take out our art supplies and create with glitter, feathers, and googly eyes.  The living room floor is a mess, but again, it’s a delicious mess showing a mother and son happily engaged with a project and with each other.

   A delicious mess is evidence of life, of actions and experiences.  Much of our days are dictated by schedules -- designated times to wake up, go to school, have dinner, go to bed.  But in between, I think I need to make some more time in my schedule for the luxury of creating a delicious mess.  (Which means I also shouldn’t be so hard on myself when my desk begins to look rather messy, filled with random piles of papers and articles.  I have to look at it as a “delicious creative mess.”)

By the way, if you’re looking for large portions of Italian food at good prices, I highly recommend Andre’s at 6332 W. 3rd Street in Los Angeles.  I’ve been going there since I was a little girl.  It’s nothing fancy inside, but the employees are friendly, the food is delicious, and once you finish your meal you’ll already be planning your next visit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Birthday Cake Post at MomsLA.com

If you're looking for some ideas for creative, not-too-difficult birthday cakes, take a look at this post I wrote for MomsLA.com.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Then and Now

   This past week, I found myself saying, “That didn’t even exist when I was seven years old.”  And that statement is rather frightening.

   Let me rewind.  My second-grade son began having regular homework assignments last week.  Along with math homework and daily reading, my son had a list of spelling words and vocabulary words to practice and learn.  When I was in second grade, my mom  helped me study by giving me practice spelling tests each day.  

   Things are different now.  My son has fifteen spelling words which are embedded within five sentences.  He has to practice spelling these dictation sentences, complete with proper capitalization, punctuation, and correct spelling of both spelling words and sight words.  So, just as my mom did, I practice these sentences with my son.  But Ryan doesn’t write them on a piece of paper; he jots them down onto his white board.  But studying doesn’t have to stop there.  For Ryan’s teacher had let all the students know that they could  also access some free online games and activities that were specifically tailored to this week’s words.

   And yes, I’m old enough to say that when I was in second grade, there was no internet.

   Additionally, on the class wish list, Ryan’s teacher asked each child to bring a USB to school so that the teacher could use it throughout the year.

   When I was in second grade, we didn’t use USBs.  In fact, I don’t even remember using a computer in second grade.  I don’t remember typing up reports until the fourth grade, and then I saved my work on a floppy disc.  

   Bob Dylan said it, and I’ll write it here -- “The times they are a-changin’.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2nd Grade Memories

                                                        My 2nd Grade Class Picture (This Time I Didn't Blink)

   Someone had once told me that once your child starts kindergarten, the time really flies.  I think they’re right.  Because, last week, my son started second grade.

   So in the spirit of last year’s blog where I wrote about my first grade memories (http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/08/first-grade-memories.html), I thought I’d share some of my second grade memories.

   My teacher was Mrs. Jones.  Her classroom was located upstairs in the main building.  I had never been upstairs before and suddenly felt very grown-up.  After all, upstairs is where the big kids had their classes!

   I remember that Mrs. Jones made me a book with a yellow construction paper cover, and she filled it with the “good” paper -- the white paper with the blue lines.  She told me to use the book for the stories I would write.  That’s my first memory of me wanting to be a writer.

   On Valentine’s Day, I watched Mrs. Jones randomly drop small cards into each student’s decorated brown paper bag.  She hadn’t filled in the “To” part on the cards.  I remember not liking the way she gave out the cards, that not having my name on it meant it didn’t show as much love.  Consequently, in all my years of teaching, I always wrote out my students’ names on their Valentine cards.  

   And, apparently I blinked on picture day.  Because on a random day, I was called to the auditorium to take a make-up picture.  I had come to school that day in pigtails and hadn’t specially picked out an outfit like I had for the original picture day.  I remember needlessly being worried that my yellow shirt wasn’t special enough. 

   And thirty years later, that’s about all I remember.  I don’t remember details about field trips or class parties or special projects; you know the kinds of things that usually stick out in a chid’s memory.  And it’ll be interesting to see what will stay in Ryan’s memory from his second grade year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Leg Drama

                                                                           Wish I was here

   Within the last week, I’ve put my body through two very different types of situations. First it was an MRI. I never considered myself claustrophobic until I had my first MRI several years ago. This year’s scan was my doctor’s attempt to get a sense of what was going on inside my leg, what exactly was causing all of the additional pain and fatigue I’ve been experiencing. 

   I feigned enthusiasm when I told my son I’d be going to this appointment.  I explained it to him as a special machine that takes a picture of the inside of my leg.  I told him that I lie down very still, and my body is pushed into this sort of tunnel.  The machine gets very loud, and while the machine is taking pictures, I have to remain very still.

   That’s basically what an MRI is.  I didn’t tell my son about the “panic button” that remained close by in case I needed to be pulled out of the tunnel.  I didn’t tell him that my legs were wrapped tightly together.  And I didn’t tell him about the shot I received that inserted some sort of contrast into my system and would provide a different set of images for my doctor to examine.

   I didn’t tell my son that I was afraid of what my doctor would fine.  And I didn’t tell Ryan that I really wasn’t sure what I was hoping for -- would finding something be better or worse than not finding anything at all? 

   The second event was a mild yoga/stretching class.  A friend of mine had attended one session and told me she really enjoyed it, had found it quite relaxing, and so I was intrigued.  I haven’t been stretching at home.  My pain level has been pretty high lately and by the time my son is in bed, I just don’t feel like getting on the floor to stretch as my physical therapist had suggested I do.

   I had never attended a yoga class before.  In my head, I heard “yoga” and envisioned stick-thin people getting themselves in and out of pretzel-like poses.  And that definitely wasn’t me.  This yoga instructor was very welcoming and very accommodating to every one’s different abilities.  The five of us were guided through different stretches and poses.  Some of the times, I was inhaling when she was telling us to exhale.  And there were a few stretches that I couldn’t do completely, but I attempted each one she guided us through. 

   This room had soft music playing and soft lighting.  It was a room designed to promote a sense of serenity.  Participants didn’t talk much (or at all, now that I think about it).  On the other hand, when I went for my MRI, it was very isolating.  My husband came with me, but while I was strapped down, I couldn’t see him.  And when I did open my eyes, there was nothing really to look at except the ceiling and the large Siemens machine (ironically named “Symphony”) that was manufactured in Germany.  

   In both cases, the end result is a hope of feeling better.  Better meaning less pain and less fatigue, more leg strength and more stamina.  And in both cases, I don’t know if I’ve found the answers.  After one yoga class, I’m not sure yet if I want to try it again.  And after the MRI’s findings, I’m now waiting to see another specialist in September. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

1st Day of School Post at MomsLA

The first day of school is next week, Tuesday, August 18th, for kids returning to school within the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Check out this post at MomsLA, where I've written 9 ways to celebrate the first day of school!


Play Date Protocol

                                                      This is what play sometimes looks like at our house

   The night before my son’s much-anticipated play date, he asked me where the name “play date” came from.  He wanted to know who had made it up. 

   My husband and I looked at each other, rather impressed that Ryan would even think of that question in the first place.

   And while we didn’t have an answer for Ryan, we also had a bit of information that made us sound quite old to our son -- when we were kids, no one even used the term “play date.”  Back when we were kids, everyone just casually said they were “going over to play at a friend’s house.”

   It seemed much more casual then.  And maybe it was.  Nowadays, parents have all these rules -- both spoken and unspoken.  For example, prior to the play date, I asked Ryan’s friend’s mom if there were any dietary restrictions for her son.  (She had said no, and the boys wound up snacking on popcorn and water.)  

   Rides home aren’t as easy now as they used to be.  Booster seats are needed, even for a three-minute car ride for boys who are seven years old.

   But, on the flip side, when parents ask their children, “How was your play date?” they don’t have to settle for a nondescript answer of, “It was fine.”  Because during Ryan’s play date, I was able to take some pictures of the boys (with their consent) and send it to Ryan’s friend’s mom.  It was an easy way for me to let her know her son was fine and having a good time. 

   And even if it’s no longer called “playing at a friend’s house,” the bottom line is that  when it was done, two boys enjoyed each other’s company, played together nicely, and my son had a good time hosting his “play date.” 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Post at MomsLA.com

It's almost that time readers -- back-to-school time!  Take a look at my post at MomsLA.com that has suggestions for helping our kids readjust to a school routine.


The Look of Love

   As a young girl, I was never a “hearts” person.  There was nothing wrong with hearts, I just preferred stars.  (I had wanted to be an astronaut, after all).  

   But, I’m not a young girl any more, and when I stop to think about it, I realize that I have more heart items than star items.

   For instance, on my desk, I have a collection of hearts.  It’s an unintentional collection that has grown over time.  By “unintentional,” I mean I didn’t plan on collecting hearts.  It just sort of happened.  Some of the hearts were gifts.  A few of the hearts, I bought for myself.  One is all that remains from a broken necklace.  Basically, they’re sparkly and pretty, and I enjoy looking at them.

   The hearts sit on my desk; the “mission control of our home,” as my husband refers to it.  My desk is where I plan menus for the week, pay bills, and write.  And I write with my heart.  With honesty, passion, integrity, and love.  

   Although lately I must admit that I haven’t been doing a very good job of loving myself.  My family?  Yes.  Myself?  Not so much.  I push myself too hard and criticize myself too much.  And so last week, I decided to carry one of the hearts in my pocket as a reminder to be more patient, more understanding, and more loving towards myself.  

   It didn’t work.  I did finger the heart throughout the day.  I rubbed the heart while my calf throbbed.  I rubbed the heart while listening to my son read a book.  But really, having that heart with me just made me feel rather anxious, afraid that the heart would somehow slip out of my pocket, and I would lose it.  So I haven’t repeated that particular experiment.

   As I’ve gotten older, and my life has changed, I suppose it makes sense that I’m now gravitating away from stars and more towards hearts.  

   A while back, I was given a copy of Drew Barrymore’s book Find It in Everything.  The book is a collection of photographs of hearts she found in daily life.  In the preface of the book, Barrymore writes about the pure essence of a heart; the fact that a heart has no negative connotations associated with it.  A heart is goodness and love.  Pure and simple.  

   She goes on to  say that a heart is powerful; “the way that one continuous line accomplishes the most extraordinary thing -- it conveys love.”  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

It's that time of year, and if you're wondering where to buy your child clothes and shoes for a new school year, check out this post at MomsLA.com.


I Know It Could Be Worse, But Still ...

   I’ve got an autoimmune disease.  But, life could be worse.  Much worse.  In the year and four months it took to get a diagnosis, I saw a series of doctors:  a neurologist, a rheumatologist, a geneticist, an ophthalmologist, a vascular surgeon.  I endured a multitude of lab tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs, and CT Scans, while doctors tried to determine what was wrong with me.  One doctor went so far to tell me that all my test results showed something was not quite right but she just wasn’t sure what it was; the results weren’t “wrong enough.”  I was told I could be suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer, leukemia.  

   My current doctor (the only one who could finally figure out my medical mystery) scheduled my appointment for one morning before school.  I figured that whatever he had to tell me couldn’t be too awful if he was planning on telling me less than an hour before I had to go teach fourth grade.  So when he told me I suffered from an autoimmune disease, I breathed a sigh of relief.  It wasn’t fatal.  I was going to be around to watch my son grow up. (At the time of my diagnosis, Ryan was 3 1/2 years old). 

   At first, I thought having this disorder would simply be something I’d learn to live with, much like my asthma. How wrong I was.  Less than two years after I was diagnosed, I had to give up teaching.  Two years after I left my classroom, I’m not quite as upset about not teaching.  In a way, I am still teaching.  I’m teaching Ryan.  I’m helping him write a letter to President Obama.  I’m watching caterpillars evolve into butterflies.  And I’m teaching him without having to worry about report cards, cumulative records, and Tuesday professional developments.

   But these last few weeks have been really hard for me.  Relatively simple, ordinary activities have been increasingly difficult for me.  My weekly trip to Ralphs has caused me a great deal of pain.  I had to move a few of my mixing bowls because standing on my tip-toes to reach them from a high shelf was proving to be too difficult for me.  And our yearly family trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific left me fatigued and in pain. 

   I’m increasingly worried about the regular things that I fear may be taken from me, that there is no real substitute for.  I may not be able to teach any more, but I can volunteer in Ryan’s classroom.  I can help him with his homework and grab a book I have from the closet to help reinforce a specific concept.  

   Because even though I still “can” go to the Aquarium, this year it wasn’t as pleasurable for me.  I bit my lip, trying to contain my discomfort, not wanting to put a damper on my family’s spirits as Ryan touched a stingray and a shark for the first time.  But if I can’t go to the Aquarium (like I have every year since the day in 2007when I found out I was pregnant), there’s no way for me to settle for something else.

   I have this internal struggle with myself because I feel as if I don’t have the right to complain about my pain, my discomfort, my frustrations.  Things could be worse.  In fact, things are much worse for many people.  

   Several weeks ago, I wrote about a sentence I had read in Chronic Resilience, one of the books I’m currently reading.  (Here’s the link in case you missed it:  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2015/07/hoping-to-become-more-kick-ass-me.html)

   But the truth is, instead of feeling more “kick ass,” I’m feeling as if I’m getting my ass kicked.  Day after day.