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, May 30, 2012

Riding a Bike

Shortly before I wound up in the hospital with a swollen left calf, I was bike shopping.  I had my eye on a pink beach cruiser; the kind of bike that is the adult version of a child’s bike.  Nothing fancy, just a pretty pink bike that I could ride in my neighborhood.  I used to ride my bike for pleasure, the exercise and toned legs were a bonus.  I didn’t ride exceptionally fast or far, but I rode, regularly.

I stopped riding when I was pregnant, eventually got rid of my bike, and then decided that I wanted to start riding again.  I wasn’t sure when I would, life was full between teaching and parenting, but I wanted to.  I thought having the bike in my possession would “guilt me” into riding it, and I would make the time to ride.

I found the bike I wanted, was comparing prices, and was almost ready to purchase.  Then, my leg betrayed me.  

Since then, my legs have weakened.  I can’t walk as far, or for as long, as I used to.  I now think someone knew I would have leg problems.  Something stopped me from buying that bike.  If that bike was sitting in my home now, I know I would look at it with frustration and anger.  I really should feel relieved that I didn’t waste my money buying a bike I wouldn’t be able to ride.  Instead, I’m saddened.  Does that mean I won’t ride again?  

Maybe.  But maybe isn’t definitely “no.”  So in the meanwhile, I know that if I become well enough, I will most certainly be purchasing a pretty pink beach cruiser for myself.  I will most definitely ride it on a regular basis.  

And if not, then I just won’t ride a bike.  There are worse things after all.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The A to Z List of Memorable Events

       Life is full of memorable events, both big and small.  Here's an A to Z sampling of some of my most memorable events.
A Asking a boy to the prom.  I was the quiet, shy, smart girl in school.  No one asked me to the prom.  There was one boy, though, I was particularly friendly with.  We’d known each other since junior high, and we were competitive when it came to grades.  I called him and asked him if he’d like to go to the prom.  He declined; I don’t remember why.  

B Byline.  My first byline was in the Los Angeles Times.  It was a personal essay declaring my preference to renting as opposed to owning a home in Los Angeles.  It was a complete thrill to see my name in print.  A neighbor from down the hall slipped a note under our front door after she read my article.  I also received a phone call from a stranger who liked my essay, 
located my home number, and complimented my writing.

C Car purchase.  Our first new car was a 2003 Honda Civic (that I still drive).  I can tell you that we went after-work to sign the papers.  I can tell you I was wearing a blue sweater, the color of our new car.  I can tell you that the first place we drove our new car to was my parents’ house.

D First Date.  On our first date, Paul shared a book with me - Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.  The rest of our date was spent at Starbucks, talking and getting to know each other since we couldn’t decide on a movie to see.  We both agree it was the best cafe mocha we ever had.

E Engagement.  Valentine’s Day 1999.  I was picking up Paul for our weekly Saturday night date.  We knew we were going to get engaged, we just hadn’t decided when.  I decided.  I told him we should go into the silver jewelry store nearby and buy rings.  And we did.  We proposed to each other and became engaged that night.  

F First Kiss.  The first time my now-husband and I kissed was at the conclusion of one of our dates.  We sat in my mom’s Honda and Paul asked if he could kiss me good-night.  I laughed.  I wasn’t used to a guy asking.  (The 2 guys I had dated prior weren’t as gentlemanly).  It seemed so old-fashioned, so chivalrous.  

G Graduation.  I graduated from college in 2001.  The first in my family to achieve that milestone.  And it wasn’t at all what I had hoped it would be.  I was incredibly lonely during the ceremony.  I had made no exceptionally close friends during my college years - I was too busy studying and working and commuting on public buses.  I sat there, worried about my pregnant sister and her comfort on the folding chairs.  I was upset at my husband’s choice of shirt.  I remember wearing a long black skirt and black sandals underneath my cap and gown.  I remember going back to my parents’ for bagels and eating a “photo-cake” for dessert.  College was over; I was relieved, but yet at the same time, wanted a “do-over.”

H Honeymoon, Hawaii, Hana, Haleakala.  We were determined to see and do as much as possible for the five days we were in Maui.  I drove the road to Hana, round-trip, in one day.  We rose before dawn, and I drove us to the top of Haleakala to watch the sunrise.  We saw rainbows and whales, hula dancers and roasted pigs.  

I Inauguration.  I witnessed President Obama’s inauguration with my fourth grade class.  We said the pledge of allegiance, we watched, and we clapped.  The whole time I had to be teacher, maintaining some order and control.  On the floor with my students, I sat behind one particular student, kept him in a hug to keep him calm, and all the while wishing I could be holding my son.  (My husband was home watching with our son who was ten months old at the time.)

J Jury duty.  I dread receiving that summons in the mail.  Summer 2007, I get the summons, I call in, and I’m required to appear.  Then, I’m placed on a jury.  Newly pregnant, with plans to travel up the coast in five days, and placed on a jury.  My first day there, I ate lunch in the cafeteria downstairs.  Not a good choice.  My upset stomach threatened to explode within the courtroom.  While other jurors were still being selected, I had to ask special permission to use the restroom, citing my early pregnancy.  I don’t think it was “morning sickness” in the afternoon, but either way, both attorneys and judge had to confer to grant me a “potty break.”  

K Kindergarten.  It was my first teaching position.  I taught afternoon kindergarten to a class of 20, 14 boys and 6 girls.  Before the new school year started, I observed my two kindergarten colleagues, taking notes about their routines and their classrooms.  My students began to sound-out and read, we counted and cut, we painted our hands and feet, we traced our shadows, we sang about the months of the year, and learned the national anthem.

L Leaving the flower shop.  It was my first paycheck-paying job.  I worked and did my best to make my boss happy.  I was unprepared for the verbal abuse - being told that I wasn’t pretty enough to have a boyfriend.  One day, enough was enough.  I went home in tears and my parents reminded me I didn’t have to take that, didn’t have to work there.  I was too cowardly to handle it myself.  My dad called, spoke to my boss, and quit on my behalf.

M Moving.   As an adult, I’ve only lived in two homes.  Our current home is the home I’ve always wanted.  Multiple bathrooms, multiple bedrooms, a garden.  Our previous bathroom had a sliding shower door.  I detested that door.  I wanted a bathroom with a shower curtain.  And while still moving our belongings from our apartment to our new home, I immediately hung one of our shower curtains.  The house was a mess, our possessions were scattered, but, by golly, I now had a bathroom with a shower curtain.

N NPR.  NPR discovered one of my essays published in the Christian Science Monitor.  They liked it.  They wanted me to record it so it could be a part of their “All Things Considered” segment.  I drove down to the studio in Culver City, California, and read my essay into an “old-fashioned” silver microphone - the kind I envision Elvis Presley singing into.  My piece made its way to certain NPR stations, and the kind people there, sent me a CD of it.

O Oregon.  We traveled to Gold Beach, Oregon from Los Angeles on a Greyhound.  Approximately twenty-one hours spent on a bus to meet my future mother-in-law and her husband.  I left a major urban area to spend a few days in a town with a market that also had a video store in it, a restaurant that closed by 8 p.m., and a gas station.  Our big excursion was a trip to a Costco in another city.  I remember beautiful coastline, and I remember wheezing, sneezing, and coughing because of the dogs in the house.  

P Paris.  It was my dream vacation.  I remember standing on the second-level of the Eiffel Tower with tears in my eyes.  I remember having to scoot over and let others pass as we climbed the stairs within the Arc de Triomphe (I was certain there was an elevator.)  I remember not being able to purchase chocolates because the merchant didn’t accept our credit card, and we were out of Euros.  I remember walking into a McDonald’s just to see what it looked like in Paris.  I remember green billboards advertising the iPod Shuffle.  I remember eating dinner in an Italian restaurant on our first night in the City of Light.

Q Northridge Earthquake 1994.  For my generation, that was the “big one.”  I was a   senior in high school.  My sister and I were in our doorway, looking for reassurance from our parents who were in their doorway.  I remember thinking, “This is it.  This is the big one they talk about.  I can’t handle this.”  So I didn’t.  I fainted.  I’m terrified of earthquakes.  I don’t like feeling hopeless or powerless.  Tornados and hurricanes have warnings, fires we can try to put out, but with earthquakes all I can do is wait it out and hope.

R Ryan’s birth.  There has not been a more momentous event in my life than the birth of my son.  I can describe the striped Dr.Seuss-like socks I wore to keep my feet warm.  I can tell you that my son’s birth was relatively quiet.  I didn’t hear him cry right away and feared there was something wrong.  I can tell you that someone turned on the plasma tv during my pushing and a college basketball game played on mute while my body ached with a pain I had never known before I experienced an elation I had never known.

S School-age memories.  I always liked school, because I was good at it.  It was the social part of school I wasn’t always so good at.  So while I received my A’s with both pride and embarrassment, I have other memories of elementary school.  I remember throwing away my cream-cheese sandwiches for lunch; I didn’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings by telling her I didn’t like them anymore.  I remember my horror at being forced to wear a leotard for the winter holiday performance so that I could essentially look like a Smurf - blue leotard and blue tights dancing to the Nutcracker suite.  And I remember my absolute mortification at getting bird poop on my sky blue sweat pants during lunch.

T Traveling by bus.  Up until college, I was spoiled by a mom who took me to and from school.  During college, I commuted on public buses - up to six buses a day.  I remember eating onboard as I traveled from class to work.  I remember speaking with another “Wendy” who would leave CSUN to go to work in a travel agency.  I remember the first time I sat at the bus stop, waiting to come home.  I remember crying behind my black sunglasses, wondering how I was going to do this every day.  

U Ultrasound.  We didn’t know this one particular 
appointment would tell us we would soon be parents to a baby boy.  I had a suspicion I was carrying a girl.  We saw our baby, his hand up as if in a wave.  He moved, his legs moved, and the doctor joked, “You don’t have to be a doctor to know what that is.”  

V Las Vegas.  I’m thirty-six years old and have ventured to Las Vegas once, with no real desire to return.  I’m not a gambling person - I stuck to the nickel and dime machines.  A trip to Las Vegas eased my curiosity.  I saw beautiful fountains and buffets with an insane amount of food.  For me, Vegas was an opportunity to see the world.  I took the poor person’s mini-trip around the world because at that point, I had never ventured to Paris or Italy, New York or Egypt.

W Walkman.  That was the gift I received for my 10th birthday.  I was a big kid - I was in the double-digits!  And I could now listen to my music, privately.

X X-ray.  I was in the emergency room because of my swollen left calf.  For some reason, doctors ordered a chest x-ray.  We questioned the technician, we questioned the doctor, and was told the x-ray was fine.  My initial question of “Why are you x-raying my chest when the problem is in my leg?” was never answered. 

Y Yellow-and-black.  It was my “taxi” outfit.  Even as a young girl, I took pride in coordinating my outfits and accessories.  Yellow and black striped sweater.  Black bracelet, yellow and black necklace, yellow and black hair clips.  

Z Zoo field trip.  I may have been an elementary school student at the time, but certain events remain ingrained in my memory.  Living in an urban area, I don’t have a lot of interactions with wild animals.  So seeing an elephant pee and poop was definitely something my entire class remembered long after the yellow school bus returned us to our school.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remember Who I Am

      I am the same person I was.  I am a person who is terrified of earthquakes.  I am a person who cannot whistle.  I am a person with feet as cold as ice cubes, even in the summer.  I am a person who is right-handed, does not wear mascara or high heels, and does not like to chew gum.  I am a person who likes romantic comedies and happy endings.  I am a person who believes in wishing on stars and rainbows being good omens.

   I am not the same person I was.  I am a person with a scar on my left leg.  I am a person who hopes she’ll be able to fly on an airplane and take her son to the Eiffel Tower.  I am a person who can no longer walk my son to the museum.  I am a person who must watch the clock to determine which medication to take next.  I am a person who no longer wears skirts because of the multitude of veins crisscrossing my legs.  I am a person who needs help caring for my son, who cannot always join in games because of my “boo-boos.”

   I am now a person increasingly frustrated by the “minor” changes.  I am a person with swollen fingers (a side effect of my medication) and can no longer wear the eight rings that used to adorn my fingers.  I am a person who cannot go on a “Coffee Bean walk” - drinking a blended mocha, walking in the neighborhood with my son and husband, and enjoying our neighbors’ gardens.  

   I am no longer a person who believes everything will be okay.  I know no one is omnipotent, and that disease does not wait for old age.  I am no longer certain I will receive additional stamps in my passport.  I am a person who can no longer walk for exercise.

   Every day I must remind myself to remember who I am.  For regardless of my physical appearance, I am still me.  I am a person with neat handwriting.  I am a person who always signals when parking at the curb.  I am a person who loves with all my soul.  I am a person who will always buy more books than I have time to read.  I am a person who will always have stories to write.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


   I’ve recently begun reading Barbara Abercrombie’s Writing Out the Storm - Reading and Writing Your Way Through Serious Illness or Injury.  I’ve taken a few of her classes through the UCLA Extension Writing Program.  She’s everything a good teacher should be - honest, funny, encouraging, and supportive.

   I turned to this book because I need help navigating this “autoimmune disease” of mine.  I don’t know how to function sometimes.  I don’t know how to keep going through my day as teacher and mommy, wife and daughter, never certain when the pain will hit and I’ll be reduced to tears (sometimes while I’m driving, sometimes during dinner, sometimes while I’m doing puzzles with my son, sometimes before I go to sleep.)

   This book was inspired by Barbara’s journey with breast cancer.  On the day of her biopsy, she decides to pray.  Not to pray for a “cancer-free verdict” but to pray for “courage.”  Her rationale was if she had cancer, she had it.  It was a little too late to pray for it not to be there.  

   I’ve prayed.  Prayed that nothing life-threatening would reveal itself on a blood test.  Prayed that no malignant lump or tumor would show itself on a scan. Prayed that nothing would prematurely rob me of time with my son.  Thank the heavens, those prayers have been answered.  But I’m not cured.  And as my doctor told me during my last appointment, I’m not responding to medication the way he had hoped.  

   Maybe I’ve been praying for the wrong thing.  Courage is what I need now.  I obviously can’t make this disease go away.  I can’t change the past year-and-a-half, and I certainly can’t predict the next year and-a-half.  Whatever this is, and however it plays out in my body, all I can do is try to handle it.  With more courage.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sing a Song

   My son has been exposed to words since I first learned I was pregnant.  Since that time, I’ve been talking to my son.  Well - talking to him, reading to him, singing to him.  

   Before my son was born, I compiled a special playlist, songs that I thought conveyed the sentiments I was feeling as I prepared for the birth of my first child.  Ryan’s playlist included:  

Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Can’t Help Falling in Love
What a Wonderful World
Angel Baby
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
I’ll Be There
Beautiful Boy
Dream a Little Dream of Me
I’ll Stand By You

   Some of those songs mean more to me than to Ryan (I’ll Stand By You).  Other songs are our special songs (Angel Baby).  Some are fun sing-aloud songs (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

   When Ryan was an infant, there were plenty of nights he and I slow-danced to these songs until he was soothed and ready to go back to sleep.  The songs on Ryan’s playlist will forever hold a special place in my heart (and I hope Ryan’s too).

   But now that my son is four, he’s got his own “playlist.”  There are certain songs that get Ryan singing and dancing (whether we’re driving in the car, cooking in the kitchen, or eating at Johnny Rockets).

   Here are some of Ryan’s (current) favorite songs:

Lollipop  (He’s liked that song since he was an infant)
Dock of the Bay (Grandpa introduced him to that classic)
No One  (neither Ryan nor I know all the words but we still try and sing along)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight ( a song Ryan discovered while eating French fries at Johnny Rockets.  He calls it “The Lion King Song”).
Forever in Blue Jeans (Mommy’s favorite Neil Diamond song)
Michael Jackson classics such as Billie Jean and Rock With You

   For the time being, Ryan and I have similar musical tastes.  I don’t know if it will last or for how long.  But in the meanwhile, I’ll enjoy our mommy-son sing-a-longs.