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 Wednesday, 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, Breath and Shadow, The Grey Wolfe Storybook, and Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
I am a regular contributor at MomsLA.com, and you can also find me at Goodreads.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stilling My Body and Mind




   A few months ago, I ordered a foam roller from Amazon.com.  I had first used a foam roller during the physical therapy aspect of my chronic pain group.  Turns out that when people are in pain, they have a tendency to curl up and assume a fetal-like position.  And while curling up in this way may seem self-soothing or self-protecting, it’s really an unnatural position for a body to be in.  Which means while my body is in pain, I’m making it worse when I’m all curled up.

   The foam roller is not comfortable.  It’s hard and unforgiving.  But the longer I’m using it, the more I’m getting used to it.  I started off trying to lie on it for 3 minutes at a time.  The other night, I had a personal best of 11 minutes.  

   I lie on the foam roller, eyes closed, and facing away from my bedroom clock.  I don’t want to be tempted to steal glances, checking to see how many minutes I’ve accomplished so far.

   While I’m on the foam roller, that’s all I’m doing.  No music.  No reading.  Just breathing.  I’m even trying not to think -- which isn’t easy for me at all.  But when I feel my mind wandering, I try to bring it back to my breathing.  Focusing on what I’m feeling or hearing at the moment.  

   Using a foam roller is supposed to increase blood flow, help you stretch muscles, improve range of motion, and decrease pain.  I don’t know if it’s doing that or not.  But I do know that the foam roller is getting me to do something I’m generally not good at -- being still and doing nothing.  

   And I see that as an unmistakable benefit and a healthy way for me to wind down at the end of a day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MomsLA posts

Dear Readers:

For about a year, MomsLA was publishing one of my essays each week.  Now, the publication schedule is a bit more irregular, but I'm happy to say I'm still a regular contributing writer.  Therefore, when MomsLA does post one of my essays, I will post a link to the article here.

As always, thank you for reading.

This essay was published yesterday:  http://momsla.com/growing-dreams-fear/

This essay was published today:  http://momsla.com/moms-oscar/



The Here and Now





“Perhaps we never appreciate the here and now until it is challenged...”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift from the Sea


   If I’m honest, I would say I wasn’t enjoying the last few years of my teaching career the way I had.  The first year or two were exhausting.  I was teaching with an emergency credential, which means I’d teach during the day and take classes at night to earn my full credential.  I was learning how to teach as I was doing it.  And objectively speaking, I know I was a better teacher at the end of my career than I was at the beginning of my career.

   But teaching had changed.  I was being judged by test scores.  Not by the fact that previously violent students were no longer violent.  Not by the fact that non-readers were now readers.  Not by the fact that kids were taking an interest in their school, cleaning up messes they hadn’t made.  No, my worth as a teacher was being based on how well my students bubbled in a multiple-choice test.

   Yet, I never would have left my teaching career if I didn’t have to.  I would have stuck it out.  Because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.  I asked for this career.  I signed up voluntarily, and there were parts I absolutely loved and whole-heartedly miss.  

   But, not working has provided me with the opportunity to have another way of spending my days.  For instance, most Friday mornings I volunteer in my son’s first grade classroom.  It’s a slightly odd, uncomfortable feeling, being on the other side of the desk.  I do it for my son who asked me to volunteer like some of the other parents.  I do it for his teacher because I know how exhausting this job is.  

   On one recent Friday, I volunteered, and then took myself to a nearby park.  I drank a coffee, read a book, did some writing.  I breathed deeply, marveled at the trees, listened to the nearby fountain.  I walked a few laps.  I felt peaceful.  

   It was then that I realized how I used to spend my Friday mornings with my fifth-grade students.  Testing them on their week’s spelling and vocabulary words.  Testing them on the week’s reading selection.  Testing them on the states and capitals they were learning.  A lot of testing for them, a lot of papers to grade for me. 

   When I was teaching, my energies went to my students, my son, my husband, and myself (in that order).  I didn’t value myself enough to slow down, to do things that made me happy, to stop putting everyone else’s well-being before my own.

   But now, I spend my Fridays at a different pace.  It’s not so clear-cut as to say that one way is better than another.  My new lifestyle also involves a lot of physical pain -- it’s the price I pay for less stressful days, and the only reason I am no longer teaching.

   But at the same time, this new schedule has given me the opportunity to re-invent myself in a way and take care of myself and my family in a way I couldn’t have done before.

“We are now ready for a true appreciation of the value of the here and the now and the individual.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift from the Sea

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gathering Material




“Writers write about things that other people don’t pay much attention to.”
- Natalie Goldberg



   I’ve always been described as quiet.  I’m quiet because I’m observing the people and things around me.  I’m noticing and taking note.  Some may call it people watching.  Perhaps, others would call it staring.  Jane Yolen in her book Take Joy wrote, “ I never turn off my writer’s head.”

   I agree.  I am constantly feeling inspired to write personal essays.  I’m surrounded by writing topics.  Some of these subjects are rather serious -- dealing with a chronic medical condition, parenting a mixed-race child.  

   Other topics are much lighter.  I realize that several of my previous blog posts serve as proof that I do indeed write about things that many others wouldn’t even pay attention to.

   For example:


   When I was younger, I was shy.  Now, I’m gathering material.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Our Not-for-Coffee Coffee Table




              Our coffee table is now referred to as “the brown table.”  We bought our coffee table more than ten years ago at Ikea.  In our first apartment, it sat in front of our futon.  We put our feet up on it while we watched movies together.  We sat on the floor and ate dinner at the coffee table while watching the Lakers in the Playoffs. 

   We moved into our town home, and the coffee table still welcomed our feet as we read through the Sunday Los Angeles Times.  I displayed “coffee table books,” turning to a new page each morning so we could marvel at photographs of Paris.

   Before Ryan was born, we bought an expandable “bumper” for our coffee table.  This soft, squishy covering wrapped around the edges of the table and would protect our son from the four pointy corners of the table.

   As Ryan has grown, our coffee table’s purpose has also evolved.  It’s usually holding some of our son’s books, but instead of soft, fabric-covered, baby-friendly books, our coffee table now has beginning chapter books and nonfiction books about the solar system on it.

   For a while, my son’s small red chair was perfectly sized to place right along side the coffee table to create a make-shift desk for him.  He would color and practice writing.  He would cut and create.  Now his legs have grown, and he has his own homework desk to work at.

   The coffee table is the over-flow station for projects in-progress.  A frame that hasn’t been completely painted yet.  A book that we haven’t finished reading yet.  A collection of word searches that hasn’t been finished yet.  

   And then there are the toys that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.  For a while, we had a large Winnie the Pooh snow globe on the coffee table until the music stopped playing.  Now there’s my son’s toy cash register complete with scanner, microphone, and small toy food items available for me to purchase. 

   I can think of no other piece of furniture that has been a part of our family for so long, changing to meet our family’s changing needs.  For in its newest role, our coffee table has become our son’s illicit stage as he spontaneously channels his inner Michael Jackson and attempts a mini-moonwalk.

  Any visitor to our home can see that our coffee table isn’t new; our rich cherry brown table has some noticeable nicks and scratches on it.  I think of those marks as hard-earned battle scars, evidence of its wear and tear and durability.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pining for Plastic (Bags, That Is)



   I’ve got a minor grievance -- I miss free, store-issued plastic bags.  

   Remember when you bought something at a store, and your purchase was placed inside a plastic bag?  (You can read about the technical side of this issue at this website:  http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/aboutthebag/)  Those were the days.

   Now, I understand that we need to be environmentally-aware, and using our own canvas bags is better for our planet.  Even before the ban on “single use plastic bags,” I used to bring my own bags to the market anyway.  But, I liked knowing that if I went into CVS my purchase would be placed inside a plastic bag.  Now, I need to either remember my canvas bags, stuff my purchases into my purse, or pay for a paper bag.

   But it’s not like this ban has erased all plastic bag usage.  People are still purchasing plastic trash bags.  They are the quintessential “single use plastic bag.”  They’re still in our landfills.  And that’s what I’m having a problem with.  I don’t want to buy an item knowing that its purpose is to wind up in the trash.  It seems so wasteful to me.  I used to rely on those freebie plastic bags for my trash bags at home.

   My stash of bags is getting low, and now I’m having to get creative for my trash bags.  I’ve found that those produce bags you use when you buy apples and oranges are the perfect size for my bathroom trash cans.  Whole Foods Market offers large bags for purchased flowers.  I am able to then use those bags as trash bags.  The plastic bag from my 12-pack of Charmin Toilet Paper also works as a trash bag as does the outer plastic packaging from my 3-pack of paper towels.

   That’s it.  I haven’t figured out a solution to the problem or an alternative to offer.  Sometimes, it’s just good to get things off your chest so you can concentrate on more important things.  Is that why this bag ban was passed in the first place?  Maybe now, the powers-that-be can focus on some bigger issues.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Massage, Pajamas, Chores (In That Order)



   Back in my community college days, there were a couple of semesters when I had no classes on Fridays.  Back then, my younger sister was still in high school, my dad was at his full-time job, and my mom was at her part-time job until noon.  Which meant I had the house to myself until about 12:15 pm.  

   Privacy didn’t come easily in my childhood home.  We all shared one bathroom.  My sister and I shared one bedroom and one closet.  

   Naturally, I took full advantage of those Fridays.  I treated myself to an unhurried bubble bath.  I brought candles into the bathroom, set up my boom box with one of my bubble-bath-friendly cassette tapes (usually something instrumental), brought my book, and soaked until my skin resembled a raisin.  I didn’t have to worry if I was soaking for too long; there was no one else at home who might be growing impatient with me hogging our bathroom.

   Not teaching means I do have the luxury of having the house to myself while my son is at school and my husband is at work.  But, I don’t indulge in morning bubble baths any more.  Instead, once a month I treat myself to a massage.  They say massage has an abundance of medical benefits including better posture, improved circulation, and lower blood pressure.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  I do know that my massages leave me feeling relaxed and recharged.  

   I come home after my massage, shower, and spend the rest of the morning in my pajamas.  However, I’m not completely a lady of leisure during this time.  I still have the tasks on my daily to-do list to accomplish.  

   But there’s something so different about emptying the dishwasher, writing bills, and cooking noodles when you’re dressed in your pajamas.