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, September 26, 2012

The A to Z List of Things That Make Me Happy

A Architecture, but not in any academic-way.  I’m talking about charming houses that look like they’ve come from a fairy tale or a brick building that looks like it was just flown over from a European city.

B Brownies, books, and blended mochas.  Enjoyed together, they are the ingredients for some delightful Wendy-time.

C Candles.  There’s something soothing and calming about candlelight.  As an added bonus, candles can make my bedroom smell like chocolate, lavender, or fresh berries.

D Decadent chocolate - the kind that provide my daily caloric intake.  I know emotions aren’t supposed to be tied to food, but what is “supposed to be” and what happens aren’t always the same.  A triple chocolate chunk cookie can make me happy.  A mini-chocolate bundt cake can bring a smile to my face.  A heavenly chocolate souffle is bliss.   

E Earrings.  When I was younger, my earrings were housed in ice cube trays.  Now, my collection has grown, so they are kept in an enclosed earring box - complete with mirror.  My earrings change daily to match my outfit.

F Flowers - on our patio, on my dining table, pressed into a book.  Paintings of sunflowers adorn the walls in our kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  Flowers make life prettier.  

G Green open spaces.  Nothing quite compares to a picnic in the park, an hour spent writing or reading, or walking or talking in a lush garden-setting.  

H Home.  Our first home was an apartment located on the tenth floor in a twelve-floor building.  I loved the view, but I wanted a “house” - a place where mail was delivered through the little slot on my front door, a place where going outside did not require waiting for an elevator, a place that had two stories of our own.  Our home is a rental, but it is our home.  Our sanctuary.   

I Ice cream.  Some days (or nights) a bowl of ice cream is the escape I need.  I don’t meditate or practice yoga.  But I do make myself sit down to enjoy a bowl of chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate chips and chocolate syrup.  It’s my own personal time-out.

J June.  For a teacher, June represents the finish line; I’ve earned another notch in my belt.  I made it; I survived a school year, and now will be able to re-acquaint myself with some leisure time. 

K Keepsakes.  Pictures, fortunes from long-ago meals, notes written on napkins.  Receipts from Paris.  Notes and cards.  They touch my soul, bring warmth and light and happiness.

L Lotion, bubble bath, and me.  Nothing quite pampers me like a soak in the bathtub.  And although I thoroughly enjoy taking a bath, I usually opt for the quick shower.  But when I do allow myself a soak - it’s a heavenly hour spent in fragrances that smell fruity or floral and caress my skin.

M Moon.  I know it’s always there, even when I can’t see it.  Sometimes it surprises me, making an appearance during the day.  Other times, it illuminates the front lawn at night.  Either way, the moon is mystical and magical.  The moon is reassuring; it’s there, will always be there, and even when it disappears, it will come back.

N Notes, as in the hand-written variety that express a heartfelt sentiment.  “Thank you.”  “I love you.”  “You’re special.”  Nothing quite compares to receiving a note someone has written to me.  A note that I may keep and hold on to, re-open and re-read when I need encouragement or support or a virtual pat-on-the-back, don’t-give-up.

O Ocean.  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I strongly react to being near the ocean.  I feel more peaceful, more content, more serene.  I’m hopeful that things will work out.  I breathe in and out deeper.

P Patio.  It’s my favorite place at home.  A glider.  A patio table adorned with candles and artificial tulips in a pink vase.  Wind chimes, impatiens, a dolphin mobile.  

Q Quality time with my husband.  We are full-time working parents of a toddler.  Life is busy.  However, my husband and I made the mistake of losing “us” - the “us” that was responsible for the child we created.  Now, we acknowledge the need for quality time, and we take it.  We have dates - whether it be a slow dance in our living room after our son is in bed, watching an episode of “The Cosby Show” while we lie in bed, or going out for dinner.  

R Ryan.  Becoming a mother was a very conscious decision.  Becoming a mother is the highest honor, the most rewarding experience I have ever known.

S Squish.  It’s the “wrestling” game my son and I play.  Sometimes, it’s more wrestle, other times it’s more tickle.  But, either way, it’s him and me, close and cuddly, laughing and playing.

T Temperate weather.  I am a native-Los Angeles girl.  Blue skies, bright sun, mild breeze - January, April, or October.  My favorite weather is mild and calm and beckons me outdoors.

U Unpredictable occurrences.  The appearance of a rainbow, the sight of a butterfly.  I consider them gifts from above, little surprises to make me stop and take notice, smile and be happy.

V Value.  I have learned from my mom - shopping with coupons makes sense.  Shopping and finding a great value, coming home with a bargain does give a different high to a shopping experience than merely purchasing an item.

W Writing.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since second-grade, when Mrs. Jones made me a “book” complete with a yellow construction paper cover and included the “good” paper inside.

X X’s and O’s.  Sometimes, all I need is a hug.  A full-on hug where my husband’s arms envelope me.  I’m safe, and the scary things will be kept at bay.  As a mommy, I know there’s a small window of opportunity I have to kiss my son on his toes, his tushie, and his tummy.

Y Yearly celebrations.  The house takes on a different look when the yearly decorations comes out - autumn leaves draped around the banister, pinecones in a vase on the table for winter, birthday banners and balloons for my son’s birthday.  

Z Zany laughter - the kind that makes you hiccup and cry and grab your sides.  Zany laughter from something silly, like watching Sandra Bullock’s character fall in the giant hole in the movie All About Steve.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


While reading Terry McMillan’s Getting to Happy, I came across a passage that resonated with me. On a blind date, one woman asked her male brunch-date the getting-to-know-you-question, “How do you measure happiness?”  His response:

“It’s a feeling of calm that comes from the inside.  When you figure out what’s important.  When you have nothing to prove.  Giving everything you do everything you’ve got and being satisfied, regardless of the outcome.”

I love his reply, and yet it doesn’t at all fit with my job duties.  I’m an elementary school teacher - on paper.  In reality, I’m much more.  I’m mother, nurse, therapist, coach, and cheerleader.  I teach my students as if they were my children; in fact, I constantly refer to them as “my kids.”  I teach each day with 100% of my heart and soul.  Yet, teaching isn’t making me happy.  Because at the end of the day, my value, my skill, my outcome is measured by my students’ test scores.

CST (California Standards Tests) are a big deal.  I tell my students that they’re important, but they are certainly not the most important thing in life.  I tell my students that I’m far less concerned with their test scores than with their character.  Are they honest?  Trustworthy?  Kind?  Loyal?  I told them their friendships will not be determined by their test scores but by their personalities.  

So I try to teach it all.  Character and geometry.  Respect and writing strategies.  Compassion and United States history.  Tolerance and physical science.  

And I celebrate all the little accomplishments.  A child with “impulse-control issues” who can hold it together and participate in a day’s lessons.  A child who easily shuts down and yet attempts all the day’s classwork.  A child who didn’t do an assignment and yet was honest and admitted it to me.

My teaching methods match this character’s definition of happiness.  But at the end of the day, I’m not happy.  Teaching is a profession that doesn’t have a “fixed outcome” at the end of “my shift.”  I often don’t know if I’ve made a difference or gotten through to my students.  And yet I try, each day, over and over again.  At the end of the day, I go home satisfied that I’ve done all I can do.  And yet, the powers that be don’t regard my teaching efforts in that manner.

I will not change who I am, as an individual or a teacher.  But, more and more, I’m wondering if my years in the teaching profession are coming to an end.  I am not happy with the way I am spending the majority of my days and hours.  I would want more for my kids, so why am I settling for less?

Which brings me to another definition of happiness.  After the first character defines happiness, his date replies:  

“When you’re willing to surrender to goodness and you.  Give yourself permission to feel it.  Not holding yourself hostage for making mistakes.  Doing what you love.  Doing for others.  Learning to cherish the beauty of right now.  When you can make yourself smile and laugh without depending on anybody else.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sporks and Spoons

My husband and I are bicentennial babies, and because we share that auspicious birth year, we grew up in the 1980’s.  We’ve got the same frames of reference, including certain performers (Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson), certain pop culture references (the original Smurfs, leg warmers), and certain TV shows (The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show).

We also both vaguely remember another show, Silver Spoons.  While we can’t recall all the details, it’s the title song that remains fixed in our memory.
“Here we are, face to face
A couple of Silver Spoons. 
Hopin’ to find, we’re two of a kind 
Making a go, making it grow. 

In many ways, the song fits.  We are trying to make our life together “a go,” trying to be the best parents we can be so our son grows and thrives.

But, we’re certainly not silver spoons.  Neither one of us comes from a wealthy family.  Our courtship days involved “bargain dates” - a frozen yogurt and a walk in the park, Taco Bell dinners, Top Ramen “meals.”  

We decided we’re “sporks.”  You know, the plastic utensils distributed at fast-food restaurants, the ones that are a spoon and fork combination.  For us, we’ve always been most concerned with being together - where we were and what we were doing were extra details to be worked out.  As “sporks,” we know how to improvise - to have a movie date that involves watching a favorite DVD in short intervals over several nights or eating fast food by candlelight.

Sporks have been around for over one hundred years.  Sporks are manufactured in all different materials, including plastic and stainless steel.  A spork is capable of doing more than one job - it can serve as a fork or a spoon.  As working parents, we’re very familiar with fulfilling more than one duty at a time.

We’re doing the best we can, together.  Some days, easier and smoother than others.  But we’re getting through them.  

Of course we will.  We’re sporks after all.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Celebrating Grandparents!!!

Thank you, lovely readers!  The essay I wrote for Consumer Cellular's Essay Contest has been selected as "Best Submission by a Parent."  Here's the link:  http://www.consumercellular.com/Grandparents

And a huge thank you and hugs to my mom!!! Thank you for always keeping an eye out for me and encouraging me to enter this contest in the first place.  Ryan and I are so lucky!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mind Your Tees

      It’s back-to-school time which means, as a teacher, I’m forced to look at my students’ t-shirts.  Call me old-fashioned, but certain shirts should not be manufactured.  But they are.  And worse still is that someone buys them for my students, my students wear them to school, and I have to look at them.  

I’m talking about shirts that are just “bad attitude shirts.”  I’m sure you’ve seen them, but in case you haven’t, here’s a small sample:
“Homework kills trees”
“Homework - just say no”
“See no homework, Hear no homework, Do no homework”
“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me”
“Here comes trouble”

Certainly, any t-shirt that is overtly offensive is not allowed at school.  However, I think that a school’s dress code should take the matter one step further.  I don’t think teachers should have to look at their students wearing shirts that belittle our profession and our efforts.

We (my co-workers, principal, and I) did discuss these t-shirts at a recent faculty meeting, in hopes of coming to a school-wide consensus.  Some teachers felt very strongly that asking students not to wear these t-shirts was an infringement of the students’ first amendment right to free speech.   I was even more unsettled that many of the teachers who felt this way were parents who claimed to have purchased these types of shirts for their own school-age children.  If we want to discuss first amendment rights, a portion of mine are left at the front-door as I enter school each day.  I am not supposed to discuss my preference for different politicians, for example.  Why should my students be exempt?  I don’t see it as a free-speech issue, I see it as a respect and decency issue.  Some teachers seemed not to care one way or the other.  These are teachers that come to school wearing shirts that act as advertisements - for colleges, for old movies (The Goonies), for clothing lines (Pink).  

And while homework may not be my students’ favorite thing about school; after-school meetings are certainly not my favorite part of school either.  And I would never wear a shirt that claims, “I don’t do meetings.”