Birthday Buddies

Grandma and Ryan (photo by Wendy Kennar)

I have to gush.  Today is my son’s eighth birthday and my mom’s seventy-first birthday!

And this week, my son is the Star of the Week in his second grade class.  Being Star of the Week comes with certain perks (like standing at the front of the line this week).  And, parents get to participate too.  Tomorrow, my son is bringing a sealed envelope to class containing a letter that my husband and I have written.  My son’s teacher will read the letter to him, in front of the whole class.

It was easy to write this letter, and it wasn’t.  How much did we want to share?  How much should we keep private?  In the end, though, we decided our letter should really just give Ryan’s classmates a peek at who he is at home.

And because he influences so much of my writing, I’d like to share the letter with my readers:

Dear Ryan,

This is a special week for you!  You are the Star of the Week, and you just turned 8 years old!  

You’re really a special boy.  All you have to do is take a look around your bedroom.  It says so much about you.

Your room is always so neat and organized.  You take very good care of your things.  You’ve got your golf clubs, your LEGOs, your easel, and your toys.

And your walls are full of pictures and posters of things that you’re interested in and curious about.  You’ve got postcards from LACMA showing art work by Diego Rivera, David Hockney, Monet, and other artists.  You’ve got posters about the solar system and the structure of the Earth. You’ve got an awesome photo of Blake Griffin dunking.  There’s a poster showing many of Michael Jackson’s albums.  You’ve got Mario and Luigi on the wall where we used to have the letters of the alphabet.  And you’ve got your signed pictures and letter from President Obama.

You’ve got a full bookcase, and one of our favorite things to do is read with you before bedtime.  We never know what book you’ll pick — a book written by Buzz Aldrin, a Fly Guy book, a book about sharks, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, or something else.  And after you’re asleep, we peek on you.  You don’t like to sleep with any blankets so it’s easy for us to see how big you’ve gotten!  You only need to grow 12 inches (one more Subway-footlong) to be as tall as Grandma! 

We are so very proud of you!  Being your Mommy and Daddy is our greatest joy and greatest honor.

We love you a hundred, thousand, million, billion, trillion, gazillion every minute of every day!

Love always,

Mommy and Daddy

Bring It On

playing in the ocean (photo by Wendy Kennar)

On our yearly trip to Cambria, I watched my son “facing off” with the ocean.  He stood at its edge, barefoot, with his jeans rolled up.  He was ready and waiting.

“Oh yeah!”

“Bring it on!”

“Come on!”

Last year during our trip, we had spent some extra time at the beach before heading home.  We’d played.  We’d collected rocks.  And then suddenly the ocean surprised us with a wave that knocked us down and saturated our clothes.

For a while, Ryan had said he wouldn’t want to play down by the ocean again.  Ever.

But that was last year.  And this year, he was back at it.  Over and over, he approached the incoming water, ready to feel the shock of cold on his bare feet and legs.

He was excited.  Eager.  Fearless. 

I wanted to capture his “go-get-’em” attitude and bring it home with me.  Keep it, so I’d have it available to dispense to him in the future, when fear may try to hold him back. 

Because I know from experience, that the older you get, the more difficult it can be to approach the world with a “bring it on” attitude. 

A Busy Writing Week

framed Times article (photo by Wendy Kennar)
A framed copy of my personal essay published in the Los Angeles Times on January 25, 2014

I have a confession to make — I don’t have a blog post for this week.  Well, I didn’t have a blog post for this week until I decided to write this short note and let my readers know what’s going on.

First off, I’ve done a lot of writing during this past week.  The only problem is the writing I’ve done isn’t for this blog.  I’ve been writing for my UCLA Extension class.  Namely a personal essay about mindfulness and another essay on breasts.  Yes, you read that right.

I’ve also been busy writing and publishing posts at  The last one I wrote was about where to see spring wildflowers.  Spring break is coming up, and if you’re looking for something to do, check it out:

Since there isn’t a lot of new material to read this week, I invite you to take a look at my published work.  There are links that will take you to the pieces I’ve written over the years.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Big 4-0

birthday balloon (photo by Wendy Kennar)

I celebrated my 40th birthday this week. 

I’m not quite sure how I feel about that fact.  On the one hand, I know it’s good.  The more birthdays you have, the older you get, which means the longer you live.  That’s definitely good.

But there’s something about turning 40 that I just can’t wrap my head around.  Maybe it’s because my husband and I started dating right around our 21st birthdays.  (He had just turned 21; I was about to).  And now we’re 40.  It feels so sudden; like I blinked and somehow time fast-forwarded. 

I think I met this birthday with a strong level of ambivalence because of my health.  In certain respects, I feel much older than 40.  My mom (almost 71 years old) is more physically fit than I am.  And if I’m already dealing with all this medical stuff now, I worry about what may happen as I get older —  you know the time when you kind of expect your body to go through lows, to experience pain, to have things “break down.”  And of course no one knows the answer to that.  Let’s face it, no one really knows how their health will be tomorrow.

But up until about five years ago, medical problems always seemed so far off in the future.  Something that could happen.  Something that might happen.  And for me, it’s happened.  It’s here.  And most likely, I’ll be dealing with this autoimmune condition for the rest of my life.  And that thought is exhausting.

In certain respects, my life at 40 isn’t quite as I thought it would be.  I can say that parts are really hard and parts are really upsetting. 

But, I can also say that there are parts that are pretty damn great. 

Good Karma

photo of Multiple Choice (photo by Wendy Kennar)

It was a very simple exchange. As I was leaving my gated community and waiting for the gate to open on my side, a driver on the opposite side was having difficulty opening the gate with his clicker.

I picked up my clicker, aimed it at his side, and the gate opened.  He waved his hand in thanks.  We each began to drive through the gates.  But he stopped, rolled down his window, and told me, “You’re so nice.  Thanks so much for caring.”

That quick exchange happened a week ago, but I’d like to think of it as a deposit in the good-karma bank.  I did something nice for someone else.  It obviously made an impact because that driver didn’t just wave his hand as a quick thank you, he spoke to me.  He thanked me. 

And I know I left that exchange feeling good.  Feeling proud that something I had done had such a positive impact on someone else.  And it left me hopeful that the other driver would carry with him the memory of me doing something nice to help him.  Because maybe it would influence his later actions.  Maybe he would do something nice for someone else, just because it was a nice thing to do.

And maybe, more people would go about their days thinking there really were kind people out in the world. 

After all, one of Claire Cook’s characters in Multiple Choice said it best:  “Karma is a boomerang.”