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.

  

Helping Hands

Each spring, my students always created a rainbow of handprints.  They’d paint their hands the color of the rainbow, and each child would wind up with six painted handprints — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. 

Just those six handprints weren’t very impressive.  But, when we put those handprints all together, we created a pretty spectacular rainbow!

When we combine efforts, we can do some pretty amazing things.  Texas needs our help.  And if we all do what we can, chip in what we can, we can help make a big difference. 

If you’re not sure what to do or how to help, click here to read my post “12 Ways to Help Hurricane Harvey Victims” that was published on MomsLA.com.

Gratitude

I recently finished reading Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries.  A friend had suggested it to me after a coworker had recommended it to her.  I read the summary on the back, was intrigued but still hesitant.  So I checked out a copy from the public library.

Soon, though, I found my library copy full of Post-Its.  I then went ahead and bought my own copy — a copy in which I could highlight passages and stick as many Post-Its as I wanted.

I like to think of myself as a person who regularly appreciates all the blessings in my life, large and small, and everything in between.  But still, I found this book helpful, and it made me really stop and think about things from a different perspective.

Here are a few passages I’d like to share with you:

Because it’s not dependent on specific events, gratitude is long lasting and impervious to change or adversity.”

Find a reason at least once a day to say thank you.  Focus on the positives instead of the problems.  Tell your spouse why you appreciate him.”

Instead of worrying about the past or fretting about the future, we could all do ourselves a favor by taking stock of the present.”

I’d never thought of thanking myself and being grateful to … me.”

Instead of beating myself up about what my body couldn’t do, I felt proud of what it could.

When you can’t do everything, you remind yourself to be grateful for what you can do.”

Gratitude helps you find meaning – and some version of contentment – in the chaos.”

“… gratitude didn’t depend on the right events or even the right decisions, but how I processed them.  Gratitude gave you back control.”

I was also incredibly intrigued when I read about gratitude and its connection to health.

Inflammation was a stress response of the immune system…”

“…immune system may respond to emotions.  Worry, anger, or fear send those same white blood cells out … Feeling gratitude could actually counter that effect – and keep our immune systems from spiraling out of control.”

  

And now readers, I’d love to hear one thing for which you’re grateful.  If you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

A Weighty Issue

My son and I having fun in Cambria — where my weight wasn’t on my mind

 

Here’s a question I’ll throw out to my readers —  How should I respond when someone tells me: 

“You’ve lost a lot of weight.”

One friend has advised me to simply say, “thank you,” and then let it go.  But there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel comfortable doing that.  Saying “thank you” implies I’m accepting a compliment.  A compliment I wasn’t looking for, a compliment I’m not even sure I want.

I didn’t lose this weight because I started some exercise regimen or went on some new diet.  I wasn’t trying to lose weight.  I lost weight because I was sick.  Because I literally wasn’t eating or drinking (to the point where I needed an IV of fluids because I was so dehydrated).  And I’ve kept the weight off because my eating just isn’t the same as it used to be.  My appetite has changed.  I don’t eat as much as I used to, and I don’t eat the same things that I used to.  (For some strange reason, bananas are no longer appealing. And I’ve had no desire to eat a bowl of ice cream which is really very un-Wendy-like).

So when a good friend tells me I look thin, I know she says it out of love.  She’s worried about me.  She wants to make sure I’m eating and taking care of myself.

But when an acquaintance, another parent at my son’s school, recently told me I lost so much weight, I didn’t know how to react.  So I ignored it.  But she leaned in, waiting for a reply; maybe she thought I had some sort of magic answer about how to achieve weight loss. 

My instinct, and what I did, was tell this parent I had been sick and that was why I lost weight.  But that didn’t feel quite right to me.  And I don’t want to say “thank you.” 

Then, this comment (granted, it’s meant to be complimentary) just brings up more questions for me. 

I wonder — what did I look like before?  Did I need to lose weight?  Do I  look “better” now? 

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t casually comment on one another’s weight.  Unless I know a person is really working hard to lose weight, I never say a word.  If I know weight loss is a goal, and I can see a difference, I’ll offer encouragement and support and praise.  But otherwise, I remain quiet.  Because there are too many variables as to why someone may gain or lose weight. 

Really, the numbers on the scale don’t matter to me.  What matters is that I eat.  That I want to eat.  And that what I eat stays in. 

 

Tales of a Couple of Fourth Graders

My fourth-grade school picture

My son is a fourth-grader this year.  He went back to school yesterday.  We had an incredible summer, full of adventures, and laughter, and silliness, and learning.  Because I don’t believe those things are mutually exclusive.

I’m feeling a range of emotions about Ryan being a fourth-grader.  For one, he’s a fourth-grader!  As in, look how fast this is happening!  And secondly, he’s a fourth-grader, and six of my twelve years as a teacher were spent teaching fourth grade.

I didn’t like my fourth grade teacher.  She scared me.  She made me think that making mistakes was bad.  She would hold up my papers and show the class the errors I had made.  She used to have me wait in line at lunch time, to buy her a lunch at the student rate.  (Even though I always brought a lunch from home).  She gave me her home phone number and often asked me to call her and remind her of things to bring to class.  And I never said no.

When I became a fourth grade teacher, I was nervous about the change in curriculum, the larger class size.  But mostly I was scared of doing it wrong.  And that’s what Mrs. E. did teach me — what not to do as a teacher.

But now it’s Ryan’s turn.  And after a summer spent exploring a presidential library and walking onboard Air Force One, after a summer of reading, and bike riding, after a summer of questions and wonderings, I wish for him a school year of adventures, and laughter, and silliness, and learning.

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More publication news! My personal essay, “My Son Is Already Becoming My Caretaker – And It’s Both Heartbreaking and Inspiring,” has recently been published at Mother.ly.  You can click here to read it.

The All-American Transcontinental Total Solar Eclipse

We’ve got some big days coming up this month.  Los Angeles Unified School District starts the new school year on August 15th!

And the week after that, on August 21st, our whole country will be looking to the sky to witness the All-American Transcontinental Total Solar Eclipse.  Here in Los Angeles, we won’t be able to view the total eclipse, but we’re still fortunate to catch a partial eclipse.  Click here to read my post “Everything You Need to Know About the Total Solar Eclipse” at MomsLA.com.