Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

my pen (photo by Wendy Kennar)
My favorite writing pen

This week, I’m inspired by two different things — a quote by Natalie Goldberg, and a writing exercise I completed in my Advanced Non-fiction course I’m taking through UCLA Extension.

Here’s the quote:

“So let’s pick up the pen, and kick some ass.  Write down who you were, who you are, and what you remember.”    Natalie Goldberg

And the exercise was prompted by the phrase “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell.”  Here’s what I came up with:

Don’t ask me how I feel and then keep walking by.

Don’t tell me you’re busy.  We all are.

Don’t ask me what my son took to school in his lunchbox.

Don’t tell me what you packed in your son’s lunch.

Don’t ask me how much money we make.

Don’t tell me how much money you earn.

Don’t ask me why I’m not on Facebook.

Don’t tell me to join.

Don’t ask me if the bananas are organic.

Don’t tell me you can taste the difference.

Don’t ask me if we rent.

Don’t tell me to buy.

Don’t ask me what social media I’m on.

Don’t tell me I need to do it.

Don’t ask me why my cell phone is turned off.

Don’t tell me to turn it on.

Don’t ask me if I watched the show last night.

Don’t tell me I need to get cable.

Don’t ask me not to worry.

Don’t tell me to relax.

I didn’t read the quote the same day I completed the exercise, but they seem to go hand-in-hand pretty well.  And as I get older, I am finding that my writing is my way of “kicking some ass.”

Thoughts From a “Fellow 76er”

Ryan with basketball (photo by Wendy Kennar)

The NBA Playoffs began on Saturday.  In our house, that fact is a big deal because our Clippers are playing.  We are enthusiastic Clippers fans, following their wins, their losses, their challenges.  (In fact, I even wrote a piece about all the lessons my son is learning from watching the Los Angeles Clippers.  You can read it here at 

But the last place team on the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, also has held my attention this basketball season.  While the Clippers have won 53 games and lost 29, the 76ers have won only 10 of their games, and lost 72. 

I first began paying attention to the 76ers because I like their name.  My husband and I were born in 1976 so we’re 76ers too. 

The fact that the 76ers (my son refers to the team as “your 76ers”) have the worst record in the NBA makes me feel somewhat protective of them.  It’s not easy being in last place.  And these players are still the sons of women who want to see them do well. 

Even though their team ranking isn’t exactly enviable, these men are professional basketball players.  They get paid to play a game that countless children play in their own backyards.  Even though their team isn’t doing well, these men have all accomplished something that many boys will only dream of — becoming a player in the National Basketball Association.  I still think that’s quite an accomplishment.

Though my son only knows the Clippers as the top-notch team they are now, I remember when they were much like the 76ers.  At the bottom.  Discounted.  Teased.  And look at them now. 

Someday the tides will turn, and the 76ers will find themselves in a better position, up near the top.  And you’ll hear me saying, “I knew they could do it.”

A Reminder to Practice Kindness

horoscope (photo by Wendy Kennar)

As I was reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times, I came across my horoscope.  I’ve found that sometimes my horoscope is rather general and could be applied to just about anyone.  Other times, I find my horoscope to be completely irrelevant to my life.  This week, I’d have to say my horoscope was spot on.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20):  Of course you deserve

your own kindness.  If you’re still struggling with that

it’s a good day to simply drop the fight.  Assume that

one of the main things you need right now is

more compassion and then give it to yourself.

Along those lines, I’d also like to share a post I wrote that published last week.  Here’s the link to “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips”:

Dear Aya

box of letters (photo by Wendy Kennar)
This box contains all the letters Aya has written me since 1993

My longest-lasting friendship is with a woman who lives in another time zone.  In another country.  On another continent.

Aya and I became pen pals during the fall of my senior year of high school.  Which means that this September will mark the twenty-third anniversary of our friendship.

We began writing letters back and forth.  We wrote about school, our hobbies and interests, our families, boys we dated.  Over the years, the topics of our letters have changed.  We’re each married now, each the mother of a child.  (Aya’s daughter is now 16).

But as much as is possible, we’ve been there for each other.  I remember sitting on the floor of my apartment, speaking into a tape recorder, recording a message of good wishes and congratulations that Aya would play at her wedding.  I remember coming home from Laguna Beach to find a message on our answering machine from Aya’s husband — Aya had the baby!  And I remember Paul emailing Aya with the news of our son’s birth.

When people find out I have a pen pal they’re usually surprised by two things.  The fact that we’ve been writing for as long as we have.  And the fact that we primarily correspond through letters.  There is the occasional email, but for the most part, we send letters and photos back and forth across the ocean.

Luckily, we have met several times.  Aya has traveled much more than I have, and her travels have taken her to Los Angeles on more than one occasion.  She saw me pregnant with Ryan, and she met Ryan a few years later.

And I take it as a sign that we share some important similarities — we were both teachers (Aya continues to teach).  Our birthdays are each on the 7th (of different months).  And our children’s names both start with the letter “R” (Ryan and Reina).

Tomorrow is Aya’s birthday.  And along with the gift that I have mailed out, I offer this blog.  My way of saying, “Thank you for replying to my first letter, and every letter after that.  Thank you for always caring.  Thank you for your friendship.”