Everybody’s Got Something

I recently finished reading Everybody’s Got Something, a memoir written by Robin Roberts.  I knew very little of Ms. Roberts’s story, largely because I don’t watch morning news shows.  But her book came highly recommended by a friend of mine, and I’m glad I read it.  So in case you haven’t read it yet, I wanted to share some of the take-aways that most resonated with me.

  • Sometimes you have to go back to basics:  When you are down and you don’t know how to pick yourself up, start where you are.  Left foot, right foot, breathe.”
  • “When you’re facing a health crisis, you crave normalcy.  So much in your life isn’t normal anymore.  You feel reluctant to tell anybody, because you don’t want to be treated differently.”
  • This statement is just oh so true for me:  I just wanted to feel better the next day than I’d felt the day before.  It had been so long since I’d felt normal, whatever normal is.”
  • Ms. Roberts gets a whole lot of credit because she used “my diagnosis to raise awareness…  And in the words of her beloved Momma, “Make your mess your message.  Find the meaning behind whatever you’re going through, because everybody’s got something.”

And I’m trying.  I’m trying to raise awareness, to create some meaning in a medical condition which largely isn’t understood or easily treated.  Because I know it’s not just me.  Whether it’s evident or not, everyone’s dealing with something. 

 

Why Our Family Doesn’t Allow Toy Guns

It feels like not a week goes by without a news story about some horrific act of gun violence.  It’s happening all over the world.  And I don’t know if it’s because we have access to news twenty-four hours a day that it feels like it’s happening more and more often, or if, sadly, it really is happening more and more often.

And on that related note, one of my personal essays was recently published at MUTHA Magazine and then re-printed at the Huffington Post. Click here to read “Why Our Family Doesn’t Allow Toy Guns.” 

Hidden Figures

Ryan and I standing by the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center earlier this year

Our family doesn’t often go to the movies.  We tend to rent our DVDs from the local library, and as a result, we are usually way behind in seeing what everyone else has already stopped talking about.

That was the case with Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated film from last year.  We had seen the ads and billboards around town.  We had watched commercials, and we knew we were interested in seeing the movie.  But that didn’t happen until just a few months ago.  And now, Hidden Figures has become a new family favorite.

You can click here to read my personal essay, “Why Hidden Figures Means So Much To Our Family” recently published at MomsLA.com.

Sweetest Day

Saturday was Sweetest Day. If you’re not familiar with the holiday, know that you’re not alone. It’s not a very widely publicized holiday, and you won’t find many greeting cards for Sweetest Day. (The history of Sweetest Day goes back almost 100 years).

In our family, Sweetest Day meant I gave my guys (my husband and son) a card and a small surprise.  But then it was off to regular Saturday chores, like doing laundry and going grocery shopping.

But this Saturday was a little different.  I had an MRI scheduled Saturday afternoon.  The last time I had an MRI was two years ago so the doctors wanted some current images to see what was happening with my left leg. 

This MRI (probably the worst one I’ve ever experienced, but that’s another blog post) really demonstrated how our family does Sweetest Day.  While my husband and I were at Cedars Sinai for more than two-and-a-half hours, our son was having a great time hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa (my parents).  My husband had taken the day off work to be with me.  Well-meaning friends wrote me emails and texts wishing me luck and sending me love and “thinking of you” messages.

When Ryan saw me after the MRI, he was concerned. I had an identification bracelet around my wrist and a bandage around my arm (a “contrast” had been injected into my arm).  Ryan looked at me, gave me a kiss, and said we needed a big, big hug.

He was right.  I did.  My Sweetest Day may not have been filled with chocolate flavored sweets, but it was still sweet in its own way.  It made me see how many people I have to count on during these not-so-sweet moments.

 

Your Love Is King

The title of my post references the first song on this CD

 

Saturday night, 5:55 pm.  I was in the kitchen, finishing up dinner preparations.  My husband, Paul, was still at work.  My son, Ryan, was busy in the living room, working on a sketch.

And then … a shooting pain in my left hip, down my thigh, and stopping at my knee. 

Pain that left me hunched over.  Pain that forced me to lean on the furniture as I tried to carry Ryan’s glass of milk to the dining table.

I didn’t want Ryan to see me like this … crying, incapable of standing without leaning on something, feeling as if I was going to crumble down to the floor and be unable to get up.

But Ryan did see me.  He must have heard me slowly shuffling to the table, putting things down one-by-one.  He came over to see me and asked, “Are you okay?”

I was honest with him.  “No.  I’m really hurting, and I don’t know why.  I’m not sure what happened.”

Because I’m always trying to keep things going, to maintain as regular a routine as possible, I did the only thing I knew to do — I carried on with dinner.  There really wasn’t anything we could do.  If I needed help, my parents were just a phone call away.  And Paul would be home from work in about thirty minutes.  So Ryan and I carried on and began dinner.

But then, he surprised me.  Ryan got up from the table and got the iPhone.  He did some swiping and tapping until music began to play.  (We often have music playing during dinner).

“This will help you feel better,” he said as Sade began to sing.

The music didn’t make the pain go away, but Ryan’s sweet gesture did make my heart feel good.  Because when I’m in pain like that, there’s usually no rhyme or reason to it.  I don’t always know when it will strike or how long it will last.  (Saturday night it lasted a few hours).  And there’s really no way to make it better.

So Ryan did what he could.  He acknowledged my pain, my discomfort.  And he did something that he knew would make us both smile.  The mood was lifted, and It wasn’t just the power of music or Sade’s smooth sound.  It was the power of our family’s love.

 

I’m also proud to share some publication news with you! Two of my personal essays have recently been published on The Mighty.

Click here to read “How My Identity Has Been Affected by the Changes in My Hands Due to Illness,” and you can click here to read “10 Life Lessons I Taught My Kindergarten Students That Also Apply to Chronic Illness.”

Moms As Secret Service Agents

Last summer, Ryan and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for the first time.  Ryan was completely engrossed in the exhibits, the Oval Office Replica, the section of the Berlin Wall, the jelly bean portrait of Mr. Reagan, and of course, the opportunity to walk aboard Air Force One.

This summer we visited again (but this time brought my husband along).  And Ryan was just as interested, just as curious, just as engaged.  When we got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about some of what we had seen.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the secret service agents — these often behind-the-scenes men and women who do so much for our country. 

And from that, I was inspired to write a personal essay — “Moms As Secret Service Agents.”  You can click here to read it on MomsLA.com.

Share the Love

I’m currently reading three books.  One of them, Drew Barrymore’s Find It in Everything, isn’t really a book you read as much as it is a book you look at.  Ms. Barrymore is a fan of hearts, and the book is a collection of random heart-shapes she’s found, sometimes where you’d least expect it, like on a leaf or some tuna steaks.

Sunday was a not good day for me health-wise.  I wasn’t feeling well at all, though I tried my best to not have it interfere with our family’s one day off together.  We didn’t visit a museum like we had planned, but we still had a fun day at home — putting up our Halloween decorations, baking cookies, reading together. 

We went outside on Sunday afternoon for some play-time (though I was “benched” for this session), and as we walked over to the area where we play handball, I looked down and spotted a heart on the sidewalk.  I did a double-take, because I couldn’t believe this heart was there, just waiting for me to discover it.  I walk this sidewalk every day, and never before have I seen this heart.  I took it as a beautiful reminder that things will get better, and though I was having a bad pain and health day, it was a good family day.  I had lots of reasons to smile and lots of love in our family.

And on another note…

Speaking of love, the Los Angeles Sparks are playing their final game of the season tonight in Minnesota.  The Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx have each been putting up a fight during this Finals series.  The score is tied 2-2 which means the winner of tonight’s game is the winner of the WNBA Championship.  Our Sparks won last year, and they’re looking to make it a back-to-back victory. 

But it seems like the Los Angeles Sparks don’t get a lot of the love and respect they deserve.  So to show them we’re thinking of them, I ask you to please click here to read my post “6 Reasons Why Families Should Attend L.A. Sparks Games” published at MomsLA.com, and then if you’re on social media, please share the post.  Get the word out.  Let’s share the love and root for these talented athletes! 

The Here and Now

Friday, September 22nd was the first day of fall.  After school that day, my son and I spent some time putting out our fall decorations — a leaf-shaped candle-holder on our dining table, artificial leaves in a glass vase, and a leaf garland wrapped around our staircase.

October 1st is on Sunday.  On that day, I’ll climb up on the step-ladder and get out our Halloween decorations.  We’ll have fun getting the house ready for Halloween by hanging up drawings and paintings Ryan has made at school, setting out pumpkin containers, and hanging a glittery pumpkin on our door.

That’s how we decorate — seasonally.  While we may watch White Christmas year-round (it’s one of Ryan’s favorite movies), we don’t decorate the house with Christmas decorations until it’s December.

I wish stores did that.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find it quite unsettling to be shopping for Ryan’s Halloween costume while seeing artificial Christmas trees on display right next to the bags of trick-or-treat candy. 

What happened to savoring the moment?  To appreciating the now instead of fast-forwarding to the next thing?  (And let’s be honest, Christmas isn’t even next after Halloween).

My brain may skip ahead to the next thing on my to-do list, to the car insurance due in November, to the smog check that is due in December, but at least in terms of holiday decor I’ve learned to stay in the present.

 

Amazingly Awesome

The library corner in my fourth grade classroom, September 2010

 

“Amazingly awesome!”

Those were the words my nine-year-old son used to describe his teacher after the first day of fourth-grade.

I was an elementary school teacher for twelve years, and six of those years were spent teaching fourth grade.  So it’s a bit of a strange, full-circle-type-of-experience for me as I watch my son navigate this school year.  The first week of school, Ryan came home telling me about lines of longitude and lines of latitude; he used his globe to further demonstrate.  (It’s a concept from the first lesson of his social studies book.  The same book I had used when teaching).

And then a week ago, my husband, son, and I were out for a family bike ride in our neighborhood.  A young man on a skateboard crossed paths with us.  We all politely made space for each other.  But the young man looked at me, and I looked at him.  He spoke first, “You look so familiar.”

“So do you,” I replied. 

It took just a minute or so, until he said, “Mrs. Kennar?” 

This young man, a junior in high school, had in fact been one of my fourth grade students seven years ago!  We’ve seen each other twice now.  He’s told me about high school, the Advanced Placement Class he’s taking, his continued interest in sketching, and his belief that if he’s going to do something, he should try to do it the best he can.

“Actually, I got that from you,” he told me.

It was one of the highest compliments I could have been paid.  My own version of “amazingly awesome.”

Self-Promotion

Writing at home

Last week, I did something that made me uncomfortable.  I updated this website.  And it made me uncomfortable because I’m not the technologically-savvy one in the family.  That role is filled by my husband.  But my blog is mine, and I did it!  (Though to be completely honest — the sunflowers you see at the top, behind my name, were photographed by my husband).

But now comes the part when I have to tell people about my website and blog.  Do a little self-promotion.  And that’s something that makes me rather uncomfortable. 

My website is my way of sharing my ideas and my work with others.  You’ve probably figured out by now that I like sunflowers (they’re my favorite flower), and I am passionate about my family, my teaching years, and books and writing.

But I share all this with you from the privacy of my home.  Or while I’m out at Black Dog Coffee.  Or wherever I happen to be with my handy dandy laptop.

I’m not on display like an actress walking the red carpet.  No one wants to know what I’m wearing (sandals from Target) and no one asks about my jewelry (no gold). 

The focus stays on my work, which is where it should be.