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, and Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World. I am also a weekly contributor at MomsLA.com.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smell that Salty Air




   “Smelly that salty air.” 

   That’s what my six-year-old son said over and over during our recent stay in Cambria.  Cambria, half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, has been one of my favorite vacation spots for several years now.

   Sharing Cambria with Ryan brings me back in time to when I was pregnant and we enjoyed two trips to Cambria.  The first was in August 2007, newly pregnant (meaning, beyond family, most people didn’t know I was expecting).  My husband and I arrived shortly after midnight.  I had just completed serving jury duty; the case had gone to trial and it took longer than expected for the jury to reach a verdict.  The second time was in February 2008, a month before Ryan was born.  At that time, my large stomach prohibited me from zipping up my non-maternity jacket.  

   Now, April 2014, was the second time our son joined us on a trip to Cambria.  And anyone who has ever traveled with children knows that a vacation with a child is not exactly the same thing as a vacation without a child.  With Ryan, I am listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean while hearing “Curious George” on the television.  Instead of a purse, I am walking around town with a small backpack filled with the essentials:  baby wipes, juice boxes, Kleenex, and Cheerios (the quintessential kid-friendly snack).

   And while reminding Ryan to use the restroom, I am trying to remind myself the reason why I need to visit Cambria.  Yes, need.  Because I don’t think a trip to Cambria is just a want.  Something happens to my soul here.  First off, I slow down.  There’s little housekeeping and cooking required of me.  There are no phone calls or mail or chores to take care of.  In Cambria, I am humbled and inspired by the power and force and beauty of the ocean.  

   In Cambria, I slow down and remind myself to breathe deeply and “smell that salty air.”



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Beautiful Reminder




You are braver you believe Stronger than you seem and Smarter than you think


   Those are the words engraved on a silver bracelet, a gift I received for my birthday.  It’s a reminder I need.

   Like everything else in life, living with a chronic medical condition involves a balancing act between two different situations:  giving in to the pain/surrendering to it/resting and fighting the pain/powering through it/trying to ignore it at all costs.

   Throughout my student years, I was always described as smart.  I could accept that compliment at face value; after all, I had the grades to prove it.  Other comments about more objective qualities, such as beauty and bravery, were more subjective.  I didn’t always trust a compliment that came my way; but a criticism, I most often believed whole-heartedly.

   This disease of mine gives me one more way to doubt myself, one more way to look at myself as inadequate and incapable.  And yet, when I’m logical and objective I can acknowledge my efforts and recognize that I’m doing a pretty damn good job living my life.  Problem is, it’s always easier to find fault with something I did or didn’t do.  Hence, the need for the bracelet and its positive affirmation.  

   There’s a scene in the film Under the Tuscan Sun when Diane Lane’s character, Frances, is reminded that all her dreams have come true -- the wedding at her villa, the family living in her newly renovated home.  Her dreams, however, had taken on a slightly different version, and thus were not immediately noticeable to her.  The same has happened to me.  In all honesty, the last few years of my teaching career, I’d dread the start of the new school year.  I’d joke that I was waiting for someone I know to win the lottery and share the prize money with me so that I wouldn’t have to work and could stay home with my son.  I fantasized that someday a magazine would recognize my writing talents and pay me to write for them.

   My dreams have come true.  I am a stay-at-home mom, actively participating in my son’s daily activities.  A website has recognized my writing talents and does compensate me for the two posts I write each week.  Those hopes and dreams have just taken a different form, come at a different price.  

   Without the pain, without the disease that is a part of who I am and what I do each day, I wouldn’t have achieved my dreams.  It’s a “no pain, no gain” type of situation for me. 

   And through the lows and the tears, I must remember that I remain a strong, brave, smart woman.  The disease hasn’t changed that; in fact, it probably has only made me realize just how strong and brave and smart I am.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Awestruck





   The first time we went to see space shuttle Endeavour was Mother’s Day 2013.  It was exactly what I wanted to do on my special day.  It was awe-inspiring to see, close-up, a piece of machinery that had safely traveled into space twenty-five times.

   The second time we saw the space shuttle was just a few days ago on my son’s sixth birthday.  This time it was his choice to celebrate his birthday exploring the California Science Center. 

   Standing there with my family, all I could do was marvel.  Looking from the space shuttle to my son’s face full of wonder, I just kept recognizing the parallels between the two.

   Both my son and the space shuttle are miraculous creations.  The space shuttle began as a vision and through science and engineering became a reality.  Likewise, my son began as a dream.  Through the miracle of the human body, he is a reality.

   Both my son and the space shuttle are vessels capable of pushing the limits.  For the space shuttle, it was pushing the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere and navigating the streets of Los Angeles as it crawled its way to its current home at the California Science Center.  For my son, it’s his limitless future.  My son is living in a different world than the world I grew up in -- a world that now includes an African-American United States President and a world where computers fit in your pocket.   

   Being an astronaut was once my long-held childhood dream.  I was fascinated by space exploration and believed I would travel into space.  Strangely enough, being a mother was never a preoccupation of mine.  Some little girls grow up playing with baby dolls, fantasizing about changing diapers and pushing strollers, but I wasn’t one of them.  I knew I wanted to someday be a mother, but someday was far off and would come after I had lived my life a bit and achieved some other goals.

   Now, both the space shuttle and my son are passions of mine.  While I never did become an astronaut, I retained my interest and zeal for manned space flight and loved sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with my students (and now with my son).  Being a mother to my son is my greatest honor and greatest joy; consequently, parenting is something I feel strongly about.  I read about it, I write about it, and I live it -- I tell my son that I will never run out of hugs, kisses, or “I love you’s.”

   On my son’s sixth birthday, I looked up at the space shuttle and felt my eyes water.  On my son’s sixth birthday, my eyes watered throughout the day.  I became teary eyed thinking about the evening of his birth, looking at baby pictures, and looking at this big boy who is my son.  A space shuttle in California.  A six-year-old son.  They may be facts of life now, but it doesn’t make them any less extraordinary.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

If The Clogs Fit




   I know exactly how long I’ve owned my burgundy clogs.  I know because for several weeks they remained in their shipping box because I couldn’t wear them.  My feet were too swollen to fit into them.  

   But the swollen-ness was just a side note.  I wasn’t able to walk when those clogs arrived at my doorstep so I didn’t really need shoes at the time. 

   It was July 2010; the period of time I was hospitalized with a swollen left calf.  For the month of July, I relied on a walker and wheelchair to get around so when I did wear anything on my feet it was usually house slippers.

   The last time my feet were swollen was after the birth of my son.  No one had prepared me for the swollen ankles and swollen feet I would experience in those first few days after Ryan’s birth.  I remember taking Ryan to the pediatrician for his first check-up and struggling to find shoes that would fit.  At that time, I knew it was temporary; yet it blindsided me.  With all my planning for the early days of motherhood, I knew I might experience difficulty with clothes, but shoes were a surprise.

   With the clogs, I felt broad-sided.  This mystery illness and subsequent hospitalization was a complete shock.  The clogs sat in their box, near my desk downstairs, taunting me. 

   I spent most of my days downstairs that month.  Once I awoke, I dressed, and slid on my tush, one stair at a time, until my husband could help me up.  From there, I took up residence on our couch.  I didn’t go back upstairs until evening, and when I did, that’s where I stayed.  I had no freedom to move about our own home.  I couldn’t play with our son.  I couldn’t fix meals.  I couldn’t do much of anything except cry and wonder and feel guilty that somehow I had brought this misery on myself.

   Leading up until those fateful July days, I felt that I was being pushed to my limits.  The school year had recently ended.  I was a full-time working mother.  My husband and I were going through a very difficult time in our marriage.  And I knew that I was on the verge of boiling over and collapsing.  Except, I didn’t do anything about it.  I didn’t try to right any of the wrongs in my life; I just kept plowing ahead.  Until I finally woke up one morning, unable to walk.  I didn’t stop until my body stopped.

   Those clogs were supposed to be my “fun” clogs.  Their color wasn’t the practical black I already owned.  They were more distinctive and unique -- traits I like to think I possess as well.  I couldn’t wear them, and looking back, I admit that I wasn’t having much fun in my life at that time.  Everything was work -- teaching, mothering, even being married.  Everything felt like work.  Perhaps I wasn’t able to fit into my fun clogs until my body, and my mind, made some changes and I could start seeing fun, making fun, having fun, and wearing fun.

   Life certainly isn’t always fun, but the clogs fit, and I am determined to keep wearing them as long as I can.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Publication News

Dear Readers:

I'd like to let you know about a recently published book titled How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times ... No Experience Necessary.  The book includes a collection of mini-essays all about the importance of journal-writing.  I am pleased to be included in this anthology.  Journal writing is a valuable tool, and the book includes spaces and prompts to help you begin your own journal writing.  The anthology is available at Balboa Press and Amazon.  Here are the links:

http://bookstore.balboapress.com/Products/SKU-000680137/How-Writing-Can-Get-You-through-Tough-Times-No-Experience-Necessary.aspx

http://www.amazon.com/How-Writing-through-Tough-Times/dp/1452591806/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395549057&sr=1-1&keywords=how+writing+can+get+you+through

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Latest From the Mean Octopus in My Life


   Living with a chronic medical condition comes with uncertainties:  I don’t really know if my condition will change -- worsening or improving.  Likewise, living with a chronic medical condition also comes with certainties:  habitual pain and discomfort, multiple prescriptions.

   My medications have helped me, have decreased my discomfort and have slowed any dangerous progressions within my body.  But, medications have side effects.  Short term side effects like dizziness, nausea, or constipation.  Long term side effects like liver problems and temporary hair loss.  

   Generally, I don’t read the list of side effects that accompanies each medication.  Frankly, I don’t want to know the scary specifics.  But every so often, I’ll read a magazine article, and a light bulb goes off, and I think, “Whoa, I’m taking that.”

   Recently I found out that one of my medications may cause thinning hair.  Now, each night when I empty the drain after my shower, I look at the loose strands of hair and wonder:  Is it excessive, a sign of my thinning hair, or is it “normal”?

   My hair used to be the one part of my body I never criticized.  It was so easy to find fault with everything else.  My nails weren’t properly filed.  My skin was dry.  My eyes were tired.  My nose was too freckled.  My teeth too crooked.  But my hair was soft and shiny and a rich, healthy brown.

   The longer I live with this autoimmune disease, the more I detest it.  It’s become like a malicious octopus, stretching its dirty tentacles out and touching all aspects of my life and robbing me of pieces of myself.  First and foremost, it has taken my teaching career.  For a while it took my rings (another medication caused significant weight gain, to the point where my rings no longer fit, and I had to invest hundreds of dollars to have them all re-sized).  It has taken my wardrobe as well, since my skirts remain in my closet because panty hose feels much too tight on my legs.

   Now, it may be taking my hair.

   For a while, all I could do was focus on the negatives, the things in my life that had been changed, the things in my life I could no longer do.  Now, I am making a conscious effort to try and see things from a different angle, more of a “glass is half-full” perspective.  I can see that there have been benefits, trade-offs if you will, that are a result of my autoimmune disease.  Because I am no longer teaching, I have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.  Because I am no longer teaching, I was available to participate in a chronic pain program and subsequently, I made a new friend.  Because I am no longer teaching, I have more time to write.  I am writing more than I ever have, my writing is  published, and I’m getting paid for it.  It’s just that in my case, all these trade-offs come at a high price -- my health.

   However, I’m having a difficult time seeing this new development as anything other than a negative.  I can’t quite see the trade-off of my thinning hair.  Yet, I feel guilty for even being pre-occupied with my hair.  Let’s face it; there are worse things I could be worried about.  My condition isn’t deteriorating.  My medications are working.  I’m still able to care for my family.  

   But, there’s the little voice in my head that plays devil’s advocate and tells me I have a right to be concerned, to be pissed off even.  I just can’t linger there.  

   So, I try not to wallow in my despondency.  I give myself a virtual little slap, tell myself to snap out of it, and remind myself that I’ll just have to wait it out and see where this newest development takes me.  Then, I can look for the trade-off.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Birthday Musings





   Since my last blog post, I celebrated my thirty-eighth birthday.  I still can’t quite comprehend being “thirty-eight.”  Mathematically speaking, that means my age now rounds up to forty.  

   It truly feels as if I just blinked and got older.  Wasn’t I just celebrating my twenty-first birthday, ordering a pina colada, and dating the man who would become my husband?  Now, suddenly it seems, I’m thirty-eight, the mother of an almost six-year-old son, married for fifteen years, and unable to drink any alcoholic beverages due to my daily medications.

   Anyway, now I’m thirty-eight.  Thirty-seven was a big year for me.  If you follow my blog, you know last year was the year I stopped working.  The year I became a stay-at-home mom.  The year I admitted I have a disability.  

   Someone told me I should consider last year as a year of transition.  And truthfully, that first year of transition was hard.  The beginning part was honestly like a much-needed vacation.  I was exhausted from trying to work, and trying to mother, and trying to live with my medical condition.  But then, the rest of the year was full of ups-and-downs.  Becoming a weekly contributor at MomsLA.com and being published in the Los Angeles Times are all ups.  Having dates with my husband and being available to attend my son’s winter performance at school are all ups.  Feeling like damaged goods, feeling like my body was failing me, and feeling disheartened that I wasn’t able to teach are all downs. 

   But now I’m thirty-eight.  And I’ve decided that this year I’m going to do things for me.  Things that might be a bit scary, things that might be new, but things for me.  

   My husband and I spent part of my birthday in Santa Monica.  It’s the city-version of the ocean I love.  I wasn’t going to let my medical condition stop me from seeing the beach close-up.  So we walked, and we climbed down stairs until we were at the beach.  And I somehow managed to walk back up the steep ramp near the pier.  I didn’t feel good doing it; I didn’t feel good for the rest of the day.  But I did it.  And if I have to be in pain, I would rather it be pain for something that initially brought me pleasure.

   I wanted to be near the ocean.  That was a “thing” for me.  

   This year, I’ve got a couple of events planned, things just for me.  This year I will purchase a bike.  This year I will get the tattoo I’ve been thinking about for so long.  This year I will attend a writer’s retreat; my first ever solo vacation.  

   I’ve said quite often that one of the worst things about my condition is the uncertainty of it all.  Not knowing how I’ll feel from one part of the day to the next.  Not knowing how this disease will progress or change.  And that has always scared me and made me feel so helpless.  Recently though, I read a book and discovered something that gave me a new way of looking at the uncertainty in my life.  

“While one face of uncertainty is the vast, scary unknown, the flip side of uncertainty is the infinite possibility.  When you don’t know what the future holds, anything can happen.”    - Lissa Rankin, M.D. from her book Mind Over Medicine

   And while I still acknowledge the certainty of the uncertainty in my life, I want to regard my thirty-eighth year as a year of “infinite possibility.”