Monday, October 15, 2018

# Guest Posts

Grace by Daniel Kenner #roomforgrace @alwysroom4grace

By Daniel Kenner 

I called my mom, Maureen Kenner, the day her obituary was published to see if she agreed with the tone, the accolades, the progression. She didn’t answer; which only seemed obvious after it went to voicemail. She died four weeks after my dad, Buddy Kenner, died. 
Mom chose “Grace” as her confirmation name and lived by that code. She spent her lifetime as a teacher working with the handicapped, elderly, and disenfranchised. She lived like the inspirational banners that adorned the bright walls of her Room 4 classroom and saw possibilities in every field trip, every circle in the sand, every Scattergories game, holiday song, night out for pizza and ice cream sundaes, every grandchild, niece, nephew, student, and family member.
But what is “grace?”
Is “grace” strength?
My father had frontotemporal lobe dementia and my mom, diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer only five months later, was his caregiver. She remained steadfast even when his disease prevented him from giving her the care she sought from a husband and partner.
Is “grace” poise? Their dreams of their retirement were never clouded with health issues. The life they worked toward was not there; it had changed past the point of recognizing. The reality of what they retired to was obvious.
Is “grace” the ability to trust, respect or remain optimistic? “Will I be ready in his time of need?” Mom worried about that all the time. “What will happen to him when something happens to me? What’s going to happen to me when something happens to him?” She worried that neither of them would be strong enough to keep their vows. She had such a strong sense of accomplishment for all they had achieved together, but it was clear that their happiest days were behind them.
It is said in the Book Of Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh, Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Maybe “grace” is found in delicate actions - when we are genuinely there for others, putting our neighbors before ourselves, sharing in their joys and trials. I know Mom found her joy and happiness in the joy and happiness of others. She’d say, “When you put others’ needs before your own, it is truly in giving that we receive.”
I believe Mom found her “grace” through her courageous ability to ask for and to receive help. For four years, our community rallied behind our family, nourishing us with daily visits, leis of orchids, origami cranes, handmade cards, gift boxes, songs, and signs on our lawn. As the seasons changed, our community remained inspired to do good for my family. They let their spirit grow and let it make a difference, unafraid to open themselves up to heartbreak and disappointment. When there was an abundance of pain, and the generosity of others powered my family through to live another day, that’s when I learned about “grace.”

About the Author

Daniel Kenner is the author of the newly published, Room For Grace. Daniel wrote Room For Grace after conducting an oral history with his mother, Maureen Kenner, on her thirtieth wedding anniversary. Through anecdotes and hard-earned lessons, Maureen tackles challenge after challenge and reframes daily struggles with a positive outlook allowing her to transcend and conquer mortal fears with dignity and room for grace. More information can be found at Room For Grace is partnering with different organizations and 10% of each book purchased will be donated. New organizations will be selected every 1,000 books sold! The first program Daniel has chosen to donate to is Eye to Eye. Eye to Eye began in Maureen Kenner’s Room 4. The program chiseled through structure and uncovered a remarkably beautiful approach into a child’s life. Once a week the members of Eye to Eye talked openly about learning disabilities. Maureen always remembered when a mentor revealed he had spent most of third grade in the bathroom. He had figured out when it would be his turn to read and, embarrassed by his dyslexia, went to the bathroom to hide out. Another positive aspect Maureen loved about Eye to Eye was the classroom-based mentoring. They college students would come and work with her “Lego” kids, the kids who saw the world in a mechanically different way, who thought outside of the box, who could build things with their hands. Maureen’s students were mentored and followed through middle school, high school and onto college. Eye to Eye's mission is to improve the life of every person with a learning disability. They fulfill their mission by supporting and growing a network of youth mentoring programs run by and for those with learning differences, and by organizing advocates to support the full inclusion of people with learning disabilities and ADHD in all aspects of society. Mentors talk openly and bravely about their experiences. Mentees realize they are not alone, sometimes for the very first time. They see someone who was once just like they are today. More importantly, they see someone they hope to be tomorrow. 

Daniel Kenner rocked out to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” while other infants sang “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” A proud member of Actor’s Equity, SAG-AFTRA, and National Players Tour 60, Daniel was a Presidential Arts Scholar at George Washington University and Scholarship recipient at The British American Drama Academy. Directed the Washington D.C. premier of Sarah Kane’s Crave. Author of the manuscript, Roux. Winner of the Rhode Island Playwriting Festival for his World War II letters home drama, Fields of Sacrifice. Adapted Les Misérables for high school stages.
Maureen Kenner’s heart was in the classroom. For thirty-five years she was a Special Education teacher in the Providence Public Schools. Born and raised in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Maureen graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in education and later earned a Master’s Degree from Providence College. Maureen was a vital influence at the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point, working tirelessly as a mentor for the betterment of all children and their families. Honored with many accolades throughout her career, Maureen was awarded Providence Teacher of the Year in 2003. Living with cancer, as a model patient, Maureen exemplified integrity, courage, grace, and hope. For thirty-one years, through sickness and health, Maureen was the beloved soul mate to the late Jacob “Buddy” Kenner, her intense love recognized in 2016 as a Rhode Island Caregiver of the Year.



About the Book:

Author: Daniel Kenner & Maureen Kenner
Publisher: Silver Boot Imprints
Pages: 200
Genre: Memoir & Biography


Stage 4 cancer for her and a debilitating disease for her husband: life crashed down in an instant. Maureen Kenner found resilience, however, in the lessons she learned from her Special Ed students in Providence, RI. Her students lived with their hearts opened despite struggles of the highest magnitude. Through these students, Maureen gains courage, humor, and the strength of spirit to face her devastating realities, head on. Maureen’s oral history was captured by her son Daniel who tenderly wrought this book out of their recorded conversations. Through anecdotes and hard-earned lessons, Maureen tackles challenge after challenge and reframes daily struggles with a positive outlook allowing her to transcend and conquer mortal fears with dignity and room for grace.


"Maureen Kenner was one of those people who brightened every room she entered. Thanks to Room for Grace, that light is not extinguished. Although her story shares great sadness, Room for Grace is a book of hope and a celebration of life that sheds Maureen’s light on us all."

—Ann Hood, Author of The Obituary Writer and The Red Thread

“In these pages, you will find a story like no other. Maureen’s story is one of courage and love, a story that will move you to your core.”

—David Flink, Chief Empowerment Officer, Eye to Eye

“The piercing light of Maureen’s compassion, love and intelligence, will leave every reader wanting to reach out in the spirit of service and live life to the fullest.”

—Annie Lanzillotto, Author of Hard Candy: Caregiving, Mourning, and Stagelight

“Buddy Kenner was a big-hearted teacher, universally beloved by all, a warrior for the arts and their importance in the curriculum. Amazing and unique guy. Read this book.”

Tom Chandler, Rhode Island Poet Laureate Emeritus



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