About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a six-year-old son and a wife living in Los Angeles. I was a public school teacher for twelve years until a chronic medical condition made it necessary to leave my teaching career.

I've always been described as "quiet" - really, I'm just biting my tongue. I've got lots to say, and lots of thoughts to share, I just prefer to write them. That's the purpose of this blog. Each week, I post a personal essay offering my observations and thoughts.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, and DivineCaroline.com. Additionally, my personal essays have been included in several anthologies, including: The Barefoot Review, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World, Ka-Pow!, How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times, and Breath and Shadow. I am also a regular contributor at MomsLA.com.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Feel free to comment and share my blog with others!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Remember to Stop and Smell the Roses

   I am a woman who stops and smells the roses.  Literally. 

   There’s a few things I need to explain in regards to that statement.  First off, many roses have no fragrance.  It’s a little known fact, but those oh-so-common, florist-bought red roses will be absent of scent.  However, some garden roses are much more varied in color and scent.  And whenever possible, I do stop and smell them.  The ideal rose scent is a delicious blend of sweet and subtle.

   Recently, as I was walking to the Barnes and Noble Cafe at the Grove I passed by some roses growing outside a nearby restaurant.  I leaned over and smelled a few.  (Very faint fragrance).  Next thing I know, I heard a woman’s voice saying, “Excuse me.”  I turned back expecting someone to ask me where the Apple store was.  Instead, she said, “I just love that you’re smelling the roses.  Literally.”  I thanked her and wished her a nice day.

   I didn’t smell the roses to impress anyone or garner a compliment.  I didn’t smell the roses because I thought someone was watching.  I smelled them for me, because pausing for a few seconds to smell the roses would make me happy.  

   Large portions of  my days are spent doing things for other people and/or feeling badly (physically and/or emotionally).  But I’m learning that I can do certain things to make myself happier.  When I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love there was a passage about happiness that I tagged with a Post-It.  

...people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough.  But that’s not how happiness works.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.”
  So, just a little reminder, in the midst of chaos and pain and sadness, whenever you can, stop and smell the roses.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gems From The Journal Keeper

   This past week I read The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux.  My only regret is that it’s a library copy.  While I read, I tagged several pages with Post-Its.  These were pages that had words that I found to be especially wise or meaningful or poignant (or all three).  The library copy has been returned which means I’ll need to add this book to my wish list so I can own my copy and highlight the passages that resonated so strongly with me.

   Because I am still thinking of Phyllis Theroux’s beautiful writing, I’d like to share some of these eloquent statements with you.  I hope you may find one (or more) that speak to you as well.

Being a writer does not have the global reach of a canonized saint, but, at its best, writing is a deeply spiritual act that can have a profound effect upon the practitioner.  

There are times when you must treat yourself like a child, with tenderness and belief and encouragement.

What keeps you from being fully alive is what you are most afraid to go through.  - Lawrence McCafferty

If you don’t consider your life a pilgrimage, it gets downgraded to a trip or even an aimless journey.  It is we who make that decision.

But it suddenly struck me that true enlightenment consists in being empty, not full, of answers, that people who are full of answers must drag them around all day like an overpacked suitcase, with no room for anything new.

The effort it takes to stretch either the mind or the body is so easy to avoid. 

   Isn’t it wonderful when a book touches you and stays with you long after you’ve read the last page?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Passionate for Paris

   Technically, I live in Los Angeles.  But my dad used to tell me that when asked, I should always say I live in Hollywood.  Hollywood was famous, after all.  People know of Hollywood.  And while most days, I can see the Hollywood sign fairly easily, Hollywood isn’t my community.

   With the emergence of The Grove, a major shopping center, I can tell people I live near The Grove and that immediately narrows down the large umbrella of “Los Angeles.”  And The Grove is my neighborhood.  Across the street, is a small Italian restaurant where I have eaten since I was a young girl.  A few blocks from The Grove is my son’s elementary school.  For me, this neighborhood is home.  

   And for others, my neighborhood is their vacation destination.  For each day, I see tour buses taking visitors to The Grove and The Original Farmers Market.  

   And while it’s an international tourist destination, Los Angeles is not an incredibly beautiful city.  At least, not beautiful the way Paris is.  Granted, I’ve only traveled to Paris once and that was in 2005.  But still, there’s no denying Paris was then (and I believe is now) a city of beauty.  Historic buildings that have stories to tell.  An abundance of parks.  Open grace spaces and gardens.  Bookstores on every block.

   Paris is a city that has fascinated me since elementary school.  And even now, at the age of thirty-eight, I have multiple items in my home that are adorned with a representation of the Eiffel Tower.  A keychain, notepads, a shower curtain.    

   And I wonder.  Is there a woman somewhere on another continent who writes in a journal with a picture of the Hollywood sign on the front cover?  In a country whose currency isn’t dollar bills, is there a woman who sits at a desk with a mini-statue of the Farmers Market’s clock tower?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Heart of Our Home

   It started with a red teapot.  After the teapot, it was a floor mat placed near the sink.  Little by little the red accessories increased, and now, more than ten years later, I have a red-themed kitchen.

   Our latest addition was a red microwave.  Our previous microwave was purchased more than sixteen years ago.  Once it was no longer working properly, we went shopping for a new one.  And, of course, it was the red one that found its way into our home.

   In a certain sense, a kitchen serves as the heart of a family’s home.  So it seems quite logical to me that our kitchen would be red; the color associated with hearts.  (Coincidentally, red is also our son’s favorite color).  It is the place where you prepare food that will sustain your loved ones.  The place with the essentials -- water, milk, bread.  The place with the celebratory -- birthday meals and cakes.  The place where you fuel up and pack up before leaving the sanctuary of home -- daily breakfasts and lunch boxes.  

   Red is a color that has many emotions attached to it.  Red is the color of love and passion.  Anger and heat.  Happiness and festivity.  And a family’s life goes through all of those emotions.  

   So it is here, surrounded by my red cooking utensils, my red pots, and my red vases that I strive to meet my family’s nourishment needs.  


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Book-a-Week Challenge

   I’m currently enrolled in an eight-week writing course through UCLA Extension.  It’s a course offered by an instructor I really like; the same woman who ran the writing retreat I attended back in May.  (Here’s the link to the blog I wrote about it:  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/05/writing-driving-and-metaphor-for-life.html).  It’s a course I’ve wanted to take for some time, but because it’s offered on Tuesdays from 10 am to 1 pm, teaching had always prohibited my participation.  

   There is something so energizing about being surrounded by other writers.  Generally I write by myself -- either at home or at one of my favorite local haunts.  (And really, I write outside my home just so I’m not distracted by things to do at home.)  Being in a class setting, however, provides an energy and support system that isn’t entirely there when you take an online course (which is what I would periodically do while I was teaching).

   Each week, we’ve got writing assignments to complete and each day, we’re supposed to be writing in a daily journal.  I haven’t kept a daily journal for many years, but dutifully started one after our first class meeting.  And, each week, we’re supposed to read a book (either a collection of essays or a memoir).  

   That last requirement is the most difficult one for me.  I’m not taking this class for a grade or to earn units that can be converted to salary points.  I’m taking this class for personal fulfillment.  And even though I wouldn’t be punished for not completing my homework, I want to be honest and respectful to my instructor, a woman I really like and whose writing insights I value.  So, I’m trudging away, trying to read my one book a week.

Week 1 -- Delia Ephron’s Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc.)
Week 2 -- Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time
Week 3 -- Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

   I enjoy reading.  I’m constantly reading, often more than one book at a time.  And I don’t just limit myself to books.  I’m also reading magazines and the Sunday Times (Here’s the link to the blog I wrote about reading the Sunday L.A. Times:  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-sunday-chore.html).  So there’s a lot of reading to do and a short amount of time in which to get it done.

   Furthermore, there’s two different ways to read.  I can read as a reader and get lost in the story that the author is telling me.  I can lose track of time, block out my surroundings, and escape into the book.  And, I can read as a writer.  I can read while examining the story in hopes of understanding the author’s craft and method.  I can notice the way the author introduces her subject, the way the author concludes the essay.  I am reading in hopes of gaining insight and information I can apply to my own writing.

   As an added bonus, this book-a-week-deadline means I should have no problem meeting my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stressed or Desserts? It's All About Perspective

   A “palindrome” is a number or word that reads the same way frontwards and backwards.  I used to teach my kindergarten students about it when we were counting the days of school and writing our 100 Chart.  We’d circle our palindromes (11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99) with a purple marker, and soon they began to notice that these numbers were forming on a diagonal line across our chart.

   With my upper-grade students it was fun to point out words that were palindromes.  Common examples are “mom,” “dad,” and “wow.”  Longer words like “race car” and “kayak” were clever examples that captured the attention of my ten-year-old students.

   Because I am a writer and constantly thinking about words, I’ve been considering “anadromes” -- words that read differently when read backwards.  “War” is “raw.”  “Lived” is “devil.”  “Evil” is “live.”  “Stressed” is “desserts.”  And I wonder if, for these words, being an anadrome is more than just a coincidence.

   War is raw, after all.  The violence, the savagery, the fight for survival.  It is the epitome of rawness.  In my opinion, to have fully lived, most likely means you have either lived devil-like (in some way) or interacted with someone who has seemed devilish.  Similarly, to witness evil and/or to behave in an evil manner, is to live.  It is a part of life.  And then there is the feeling of being stressed. Most of us tend to crave sweet and decadent desserts during times of great stress.

   I think this coexistence of words is a reminder.  You can’t have, and can’t fully appreciate, good without bad.  Right without wrong.  Happy without sad.  

   It’s easy, though, to get caught up in just one perspective of a situation.  Evil does exist, people do get stressed.  

   The point is to remember that the tides will turn. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Favorite Road Trip

Dear Readers,

What's your favorite road trip?  AAA asked readers of its Westways Magazine that question.  You can read my response (as well as many others) on their website.  Here's the link: