About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a seven-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.

A few fun facts about me: I've wanted to be a writer since second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me a "book" with a yellow construction paper cover. I have never learned to whistle, have always preferred sunflowers to roses, and have spent my life living within the same zip code.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, DivineCaroline.com, RoleReboot.org, XOJane, and Brain, Child Magazine. 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, January 26, 2011

Sticks and Stones and Words that Harm

It’s no name-calling week.  
And I’m confused.  Why is it just a week?  In my classroom, in my family, it’s an every-day, every-week rule.
When I was growing up, certain words were not allowed in our home.  And in my classroom, certain words are not allowed.  (“H-a-t-e” is a bad word and is not said in Room 7).  We do not laugh at someone who makes a mistake; someone who truly tried to answer a question, offer a comment, or read a paragraph aloud, and somehow did so incorrectly.  We do not call someone a name based on how they look, what they wear, or how they perform in the classroom.
Throughout my life, I’ve been teased for being smart.  For having a first name that is associated with Peter Pan and a certain hamburger fast-food chain.  For having a name that sounds like a weather description.  I’ve been teased for being asthmatic, suffering from acne, for being a slow runner, and someone who has neat handwriting.
All those things are true about me.  I do run slowly.  I do write neatly.  I do have asthma.  I did have terrible acne.  Being teased and being called mean names doesn’t make it any easier to live with those situations.  And I know that children and adults (because, yes adults do tease as well) name-call for different reasons.  They are jealous.  They are trying to be funny (and it never is).  They are insecure themselves and want to deflect the attention away from themselves and onto another.
But why is it just a week?  Why do we focus on the cruelties and the meanness and the unnecessary actions of name-calling for just a week?   
Where did this idea come from that we can make fun of others, ridicule others for things that are, most often, out of their control?  Why do we tolerate it?   
I think there needs to be a drastic change in our every-day behaviors and actions.  In my mind, every week should be no name-calling week!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Please Yourself

   I consider myself a fairly intelligent person.  I study hard, read a lot, am curious about the world, and retain a lot of information.  But when it comes to myself, I’m not always so bright.  I’m rather stubborn, somewhat naive, and fairly self-reliant.  And while all those qualities can be good to some extent, together those qualities make my life harder than it needs to be.
   I found another horoscope in the Sunday Los Angeles Times that may as well have been circled in red, with a great big  “Wendy, Read This!!!” written on top of it.
“Please yourself.  Life will get much simpler, and you’ll have a blast catering to your own needs.”
   Undoubtedly, I need to please myself.  More often.  I pride myself on being the best mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, I can be.  Admittedly, I’m not always the best “Wendy” I could be.  I’ve got so many other roles to play, so many obligations and responsibilities, that taking time for myself finds its way to the bottom of my daily to-do-list and it doesn’t get done.  Or, I short-change myself, put off the bubble bath or the reading time for another day, promising myself I’ll do it, and then I don’t.
   Would I have fun catering to my own needs?  Maybe.  Maybe I would enjoy taking myself out to buy myself flowers each week.  Years ago, I would periodically purchase flowers.  Finances were limited, and I couldn’t justify spending money on something that would not last beyond a week.  I promised myself that when our financial situation improved, I would buy myself flowers every week.  And I don’t.  
   Would life really be simpler if I took better care of myself?  Would everything else that seems to overwhelm me be put into a different perspective?  Would I be able to deal with all the details and difficulties of daily life in a more efficient, more calm, more enjoyable manner?  
   Have I been doing it wrong all this time?  When I was pregnant, I read about a common mistake many mothers make.  They forget to take care of themselves, and in doing so, they aren’t able to care for those around them. 
   I believe in signs and the idea that things happen for a reason, if I don’t know what the reason is at the time.  Maybe someone is trying to send me a message.  I’ve got the horoscopes in front of me and a leg that is still not fully healed.  I’ve got to start taking care of myself.  Pleasing myself.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Chunk that Matters

What’s the difference between a “slice” and a “chunk”?  Depends on what that particular adjective is in reference to.  Either way, the words refer to a portion, a part of something.  The dictionary refers to a “slice” as a smaller cut taken from a larger portion.  I cut the chunk of cheddar cheese into slices.  A chunk is a considerable amount.  I want a chunk of chocolate cake, but I will only eat a slice.  
The surgeon originally told me my muscle biopsy would require the removal of a “slice” of my muscle.  An out-patient procedure which would leave me sore and uncomfortable but with the ability to walk.
My surgeon lied.  
Okay, maybe “lied” is too strong a word.  Maybe my surgeon wasn’t being intentionally malicious or evil, but he did withhold certain information.  Because now, after the fact, I’m told a “chunk” of muscle was removed from my left calf.  I’m told that some patients feel discomfort for extended periods of time, and for some, the healing process takes weeks.
None of this information was shared with me at our pre-op appointment.  If it had, would I have gone through with it?  
That’s a good question without an answer.
Because right now my body, specifically my legs, are out of my control.  This mysterious ailment began in July when swelling in my left calf led to an inability to walk, which led to a  four-day hospitalization, which then led to months of doctors appointments, various x-rays and scans, and blood work.  And still nobody knows what is wrong with my legs.  
My legs do work; thank goodness.  I can walk, tiptoe, dance, stomp, climb - all things I couldn’t do a few months ago.  But I do these things with daily pain.  Sometimes I do these things while biting my lip or my sleeve, with a grimace on my face. 
During the past seven months, I have had appointments with my primary care physician, a vascular surgeon, and a rheumatologist.  Different doctors, and none with a prognosis to offer.  The general consensus - something is wrong with my legs.  Inflammation shows up in every test.  
But what is wrong and how do I fix it?  That’s what I want to know.  So I’m waiting.  
And in the meanwhile, I’m trying to walk again.  To climb stairs again.  To stand after sitting.  
All because of this missing chunk of muscle.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Horoscope for the New Year

   I’m not a devoted horoscope believer.  I read them only when I’m reading a newspaper or magazine and there happens to be a horoscope published inside.  I read out of curiosity - what is in store for my fellow Pisceans?  I read with a fair share of dubiousness and don’t give a lot of credibility to these horoscopes.  But, once in a while I read something that catches my attention.  A horoscope predicts something favorable in my near future, a wonderful surprise that awaits me.  Sometimes, I read between the lines, reading what I need to read at that particular time, something to give me a bit of optimism during a difficult time.

   Recently, I read my horoscope.  Then re-read it.  Then ripped it out of the newspaper and taped it inside my journal.  From the Los Angeles Times, a December horoscope for Pisces:

   What would your life look like if you made peace, relaxation and health more of a priority?  Everyone will benefit if you put them much higher on your list.

   This particular horoscope scares me and unnerves me in ways I can’t completely articulate.  Because if I did that, if I made peace, relaxation, and health more of a priority in this new year, my life as I know it would be radically different.  And there’s a part of me that truly wants that.  And there’s a part of me that’s terrified by that.

   What would my life look like if I made peace, relaxation, and health more a priority?  For starters, I wouldn’t be a teacher any more.  There is nothing about teaching that is peaceful and relaxing.  And unlike other jobs where the longer you perform them, the easier they get - it’s not the same with teaching.  I’m teaching with ten years’ experience, and I feel like my job is getting harder each year.  My students are being raised differently than I was raised, differently than I am raising my son.  Budget cuts worsen each year.  The job is changing each year.  And every year I continue, I like my job less and less.

   If I was to put health at the top of my list, I would certainly stop setting my alarm for 5:00 each morning.  I would go to sleep by 11:00 and hope my son would wake sometime after 6, thus allowing me to sleep until sometime after 6.  I would have time for walks in the neighborhood with my son.  And I, hopefully, wouldn’t have pain in my legs that prohibits me from enjoying walks with my son.

   If relaxation became a priority in my life, once a week I would take myself to a coffee/writing date.  An hour, at least, carved out for me.  My laptop, my journal, a cafe mocha.  A time for me to escape and create worlds with words.  A time for me to be creative and passionate.  The number of unread books on my shelf would decrease as I would increase the amount of time I spent taking bubble baths and reading.

   Then I blink and leave my fantasy world.  For I am an adult, a Pisces with responsibilities and bills to pay.  Perhaps I can’t change my life in these radical ways, and perhaps I shouldn’t.  But, I definitely need to start taking baby steps in making “peace, relaxation, and health” a priority in my life.  So, I’ll continue being a teacher; I’ll just be a teacher who loves soaking in a lavender-scented bubble bath.  I’ll be a teacher who once a week sets the alarm for 5:15 instead of 5:00.  I’ll be a teacher who doesn’t schedule any conferences once a week so that I may escape to the book store, drink a cafe mocha, and do some writing before I go home and grade papers.