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, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

      Yesterday, I asked my son about his favorite part of Christmas.  He told me it was getting presents.  (He is five-and-a-half years old, after all).  When I asked him what else he likes, he told me giving presents. 

So, on this Christmas day, I would like to give my readers virtual gifts.  I would give you boxes of joy, packages of contentment, bags of good health, and bundles of love.  I thank you for checking in each week and reading my blog.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Protocol for a Pisces Princess

   When my husband and I were dating, he referred to me as his “Pisces Princess.”  We were delighted to be out on a date and hear Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character in Jerry Maguire also refer to his wife as his "Pisces Princess."  

   Unfortunately, I have lived my life not as a princess but as a worker.  A wife, a teacher, a mother, a writer.  Not a princess.  Now, I’m realizing that I can do my jobs with a princess flair.  Which doesn’t mean I need to be wearing a gown I can’t sit in or a tiara worth more than my car.  It just means I should be treating myself better, more reverentially, more specially.  Here are my seven guidelines for living like a Pisces Princess (or a Capricorn or Cancer Countess, an Aquarius or Aries Angel, a Sagittarius or Scorpio Superstar, a Libra or Leo Lady, a Taurus Treasure, a Gemini Gem,or a Virgo Valentine).

  1. Wear something pretty (that others may notice and admire).  Whether it be earrings, nail polish, or a pendant.  Something you see on yourself that makes you smile.  This does not have to be an item that is extravagantly priced.  No one needs to know the cost but you.  It just needs to be something that makes you stop and think,  “It’s so pretty.  And I’m wearing it.  And that makes me happy.”  
  2. Wear something pretty just for you.  A cute nightie, red underwear, or a purple bra.  They don’t need to be purchased and worn in the hopes of enticing someone else.  They should be purchased and worn for me, just because I am a Pisces Princess.
  3. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you are only allowed to say two types of statements - facts (my hair is brown, my eyes are brown) or compliments (your hair has a cute flip today).  No self-deprecating comments, no “Do-these-pants-make-my-butt-look big?” remarks.
  4. You can choose your own company.  It’s absolutely okay to decline a breakfast/lunch/dinner date (romantic or otherwise) because you need some “you-time.”  A soak in the bathtub.  Thirty minutes to read your novel.  A cup of anything without being interrupted by anyone else.
  5. Splurge on things that make you happy.  Splurges don’t have to be overly-indulgent and cause you to worry about how you’ll make rent this month.  A splurge is simply spending money on something you want, but don’t necessarily need.  A splurge can be a butterfly-patterned shower curtain, a pedicure in the winter when no one will see that your toenails look like little bits of cotton candy, buying the hardcover instead of waiting for the paperback, or a car wash even though there’s a chance of rain in three days.
  6. Do something that scares you, but that you still really want to do.  Often times, it’s just fear of the unknown that stops us from experiencing something new.  We won’t be harmed, we’re not in danger, we’re just out of our comfort zone.  And that’s okay.  So, maybe it’s finally getting your ears pierced or getting a tattoo, eating alone in a restaurant, singing karaoke in front of a large crowd, riding a motorcycle, or traveling solo.
  7. Accept compliments.  I am too quick to dismiss compliments.  I always feel I must clarify, “Oh, that sweater is older than my son” or “I got those earrings on sale.”    Instead, compliments should be graciously accepted with a sincere “thank you.”  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Happy's Anniversary

                                                       Our new car on its first trip to Cambria

   Recently, my husband and I acknowledged the tenth anniversary of one of our cars.  We didn’t celebrate with a dinner out or a slice of cake.  We simply talked about the fact that ten years have passed (already!) since we signed the papers and drove our new car home.

   Ten years, lots of memories.  One trip to the Grand Canyon and multiple trips to Cambria, my favorite vacation spot.  This is the car my husband drove to the hospital and three days later drove home with our infant son accompanying us.  

   Ten years, two car accidents.  One major, one minor, neither my fault; thankfully, no injuries.  

   The purchase of our car was the first time in our relationship that my husband and I paid for, and got, exactly what we wanted.  We knew the make and model we wanted.  We requested our preferred color and our desire for a moonroof.  

   Never before, had we been such discriminating customers.  When we became engaged, finances and store stock dictated what type of ring we purchased.  When we moved into our first apartment, we chose from the units available at the time.  And while I loved our apartment, I detested its sliding shower door.  

   Our car was ours.  We named it “Happy,” although our son knows it simply as the “blue car.”  And it is simply a blue car.  It’s a material object that if, need be, could be replaced.  I know it’s just a “thing.”  But, it is a thing that represents so much more to us.  For two young people, our car was an important sign.  Our car signified improved finances, a shared commitment, and strong discipline.  (We paid off our car earlier than anticipated).

   In regards to wedding anniversaries, a traditional gift for ten years is tin.  Tin represents qualities that a marriage requires:  a marriage needs to be flexible and durable, so that it can change and move and bend without being broken.  

   Certainly, our blue car needs to be durable, and to an extent, it has needed to be flexible; we now use the same car in different ways.  My husband and I don’t have date nights any more.  Over night trips to Laguna Beach don’t happen either.  Instead, we have daily trips to kindergarten and weekly trips to the public library.  

   And we’re looking forward to the next ten years and the new batch of memories we’ll make!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The MOON Magazine

Aloha Readers!

One of my essays has just been published in the December issue of The MOON Magazine.  Here's the link:


Delicious Affection

   I am not a pie person.  Given a choice for a sweet dessert, I will always select the chocolatey, fudgy option.  And I certainly wouldn’t say I’m a “foodie.”  Yet pies and foods are an important part of the way I show affection to my loved ones.  

   I never made a conscious decision about the nicknames or terms of endearment I would use when referring to my son and husband.  However, over time certain names have made it to my daily rotation, and I’ve realized that many of them are food-related.

   My son, Ryan, is my only child and thus receives Mommy’s full attention and affection.  Objectively, he is a good boy -- he does not climb over the booths at a local restaurant, doesn’t run and scream down the hall in a museum, has never attempted to draw on our walls or eat the dirt from our houseplants.  He is a curious child, an avid reader; he is musical and playful.  He is my “angel pie” and my “sweet pea.”

   Ryan is also known in our home by two rather unconventional nicknames.  One is “tushie pop;” a name I don’t know how I invented or why.  I just know that my son’s bottom is soft, and a baby’s bare bottom, when clean and poop-free, is a sweet place to kiss.

      Ryan’s other nickname is “farfalle.”  Technically, farfalle are bow-shaped pasta noodles.  Yet, when talking with my mom about my son’s latest adventures, I often begin the conversation with “Farfalle just ...”

   My husband, on the other hand, is another story.  I rarely call him “Paul.”  Paul is the name anyone can use:  his parents, his boss, his customers.  In our home, my husband is “honey pie” as in “Honey pie, did you reschedule your dentist appointment?”  Early in our relationship, we never had a conversation about nicknames; they just happened to evolve.  

   It’s interesting to stop and consider the ways we show and express love and affection to those closest to us.  Often times, there is no logic or set reasoning to explain a certain nickname or special good-night ritual.  But, as with love, logic doesn’t always factor into the equation.  Love just is.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for the Memories

(My brother - 12 years old, my sister - 3 months old, and me - 3 years old) 

   Technically I know I am a middle child.  I just feel like an only child.  To this day, I tend to behave like the stereotypical middle child.  I try not to be the one who makes waves, who adds to a difficult situation, however small it may be.  For instance, I am usually quick to oblige and agree to the restaurant where my husband wants to eat.  

   As a child, I was the peace-keeper, the diplomat, the one who tried to smooth things over.  When asked about hamburgers, my brother would mention one fast food restaurant, my sister would mention another with equal urgency, and I would bite my tongue and defer to my mom, claiming that I would be happy with either one.  Truth is, I wasn’t always happy with any of them.  

   I never felt as strong or assertive as my two siblings.  My brother was older, and in my eyes, wiser and cooler.  He was in high school while I was in elementary school.  His life was eons away from mine.  He couldn’t understand my desire to do extra homework; he was always trying to get out of his homework.  I couldn’t understand his excitement at summer vacation; I would miss school too much.   

   Somehow, the connection my older brother and younger sister shared skipped right over me.  They were so alike; even their walk -- the way their feet protruded at a certain angle.  I didn’t fit in.  My brother had a temper than frightened me; I remember him punching walls.  My sister had an anger I didn’t understand-- how could this sweet, little girl bite me or hit me?  

   I have been told that I’m not always adept at handling conflict.  I agree.  I can handle unpleasant situations for only so long, until, like a pot of water that isn’t being watched carefully, I boil over.  And then it’s done.  

   That is how my relationship with my siblings unraveled.  My brother expressed nothing but displeasure at my wedding.  I remember his refusal to pose for a picture, his verbal disapproval of our choice of chapel and cake-and-champagne reception.  My big brother wasn’t there with support and love.  At my wedding, he was more like a work acquaintance -- in attendance because he had been invited and felt obligated to attend.

   My sister and I took wildly different paths after high school.  From where I sit, her road was easier:  a well-paying job, an apartment, a car.  She married, had two children, moved to the suburbs, bought a mini-van, began driving to baseball practices and weekly birthday parties.

   Our decisions were different, but to her, my differences were wrong.  I chose to wait on motherhood, instead concentrating on my teaching career and saving money with my husband to build the “nest” we coveted for when our “egg” arrived.

   There were arguments, there were tears, there was finger-pointing and blame, and then there was nothing.  

   This rift with my siblings scares me.  In moments of weakness, I fear I must have done something to drive away these two people.  And what if I do it again, but this time, to my husband?  I question myself, wondering what is wrong with me.  In moments of strength, I can say that nothing is wrong with me.  I am me.  And there is nothing wrong with my sister and brother.  They are who they are.  

   My son is growing up an only child, and without the close relationship with his cousins I had dearly hoped for.  They are merely faces on the wall in dated pictures.  

   But unlike my son, I do have beautiful memories of my siblings.  I remember my sister and I walking around in our pink cardigan sweaters, the closest replicas we had so that we could pretend to be “Pink Ladies” from the movie Grease.  I remember us playing store, making our own credit card for an establishment we named, “The Odd Box.”  I remember my brother keeping me safe during the night, when I was convinced clowns were coming in from around the edges of my window and were going to get me.  I don’t remember him ever teasing me about those clowns, instead he’d let me wake him up, and climb into bed next to him.  My protector.

   Maybe some sibling relationships only work when you’re all living together, and you’re forced to make it work.  Maybe as three stubborn adults, it’s easier to let things go and to not work as hard to keep it together.  I have no nice, neat explanation for the why’s or the how’s.  

   I only have these words that sum up how I feel:  

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
- W. S. Merwin

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Have a Good Day!

   “Have a great day.”  
   “Thanks, you too.”

   “Have a good one.”
   “You too.”
   They are pleasantries, exchanged with co-workers, acquaintances, strangers you happen to make eye-contact with while waiting in line.  Do they mean anything?  Do they put good vibes out in the universe?  Do they buoy us up, make us happier?

   Of course, it’s much more pleasant to the ear to hear “Have a great day” than “Have a lousy day.”  But, why do we feel compelled to say it, and then reciprocate it?

   Has too much cynicism invaded my soul that I’m even questioning this innocuous greeting?  I don’t think so.  I just think a lot, wonder a lot, question a lot.  I think it’s harmless, a genial habit; I just wonder if that exchange has any long-reaching effects.

   People are becoming increasingly alienated from each other.  We drive around in our own little bubbles.  We walk around with ear buds protruding from our ears, talking to or listening to something that others can’t hear.  Outside of the car, we’re still within our own personal bubble.  There are fewer human connections being made; yet, we’re wishing people a good day.  People we don’t know.

   Do we mean it?  Do we just say it because we think it’s the right thing to do?  Or, is there a larger purpose?

   I can’t change the world.  Change, as in end all senseless killing, make sure all children are safe, well-fed, housed, and loved.  I can make changes, though.  Small changes.

   Maybe it’s like putting together a two-thousand piece puzzle.  You dump all the pieces out of the box, and it can be overwhelming.  Where do we start?  Well, the border; start with the pieces with flat sides.  Maybe your puzzle has a red and white hot air balloon.  Move on to the balloon.  You complete the puzzle little by little, piece by piece.  And maybe that’s how human kindness spreads.

   I take my cafe mocha from the harried barista, offer a “thank you,” and wish her a good day.  Maybe she pauses a minute, maybe the beginnings of a smile escape from the corners of her mouth.  Maybe later she’ll notice someone in line that looks despondent, maybe she’ll linger when she hands over the cappuccino, make eye contact, and wish that patron a nice day.

   Maybe that’s how it starts.

   If not, then there was no harm done.  I’ve tried.  And like I always told my students, all you can do is try your best.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Dear Readers:  One of my essays has recently been published in a new anthology. 
Ka-Pow!  is an anthology of superhero stories.  It's available as an e-book on Amazon.  Here's the link for more information:


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Then and Now

My high school picture

   Twenty years ago, I began my senior year of high school.  Twenty years seem to have sped by on fast-forward.  This passage of time has definitely inspired some self-reflection, about who I was then, and who I am now.

   Then, I was relatively quiet, serious, and hard-working.  Now, I am pleased to report nothing has changed.  My values and most of my personality traits seem to have remained in-tact.

   Then, I was “Wendy Fraser,” straight-A student.  I was tired of being known solely for my grades.  Because when you’ve consistently earned grades like those, for years, there’s nowhere to go but down.  I didn’t want to make that fall.  I had expectations to live up to.  Exhausting expectations.  I felt there was more to me than letter grades, but I also felt that most people didn’t look beyond my transcripts to learn about the rest of me.

   Now, I am “Wendy Kennar,” a former teacher who understands that some children will achieve scholastic success in various ways (not all academic).  I am a wife, mother, teacher.  And I hope those closest to me, do not define me in narrow terms but can appreciate me as a whole package.

   Then, my brown hair hung down to my waist.  It was my attempt to hide myself and distract from the acne that plagued my face.  Back then, I was certain that whenever anyone saw me, they saw my pimples.  Not my slightly crooked bottom, middle teeth.  Not the moles on the left side of my neck.  Just my blemishes.

   Now, my acne has cleared up and whatever scars or blemishes remain are not all that defines me.  Now, my brown hair doesn’t hang below my shoulders.  My shorter hair is easier to manage, and I don’t feel the same need to hide.

   Then, I owned colorful pants:  red, green, paisley.  And I had socks to match.  Now, my pants consist of jeans (shades of blue or black), and my socks are generally black (with an occasional gray, brown, or navy thrown into the mix).

   Then, I occasionally wore shirts that conveyed messages.  I didn’t advertise stores, but I did sport a t-shirt depicting the Hubble Space Telescope and a plea for others to help “Save the Earth.”  The shirts in my closet were primarily dark-hued, with lots of turquoise and teal thrown into the mix.  Now, I still occasionally wear shirts that convey messages (advertising the California Science Center and space shuttle Endeavour).  Now, my closet houses shirts in a variety of hues, including pinks and purples that I didn’t wear as frequently in high school.

   Then, I adorned myself with a multitude of jewelry each day.  I wore rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, a watch, and an anklet.  Around my neck, I wore a silver chain with a multitude of crystals and gemstones --  goldstone, amethyst, turquoise.  They were beautiful stones, and I wanted to decorate myself with beautiful objects.  Now, I continue my life-long interest in jewelry.  Bracelets, earrings, an anklet, a watch, and rings on eight of my fingers.  Now, my necklace changes with each day’s outfit.

   Looking in the mirror and looking at my high school picture, there’s no doubt I’m looking at the same face.  I’m delighted to find I’m recognizable.  The girl I was then has helped me become the woman I am now.  I look in the mirror and can smile with pride.  I have much to be thankful for, much to be proud of.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dealing with a Diagnosis

   It was almost a year and a half, between the time I was hospitalized and the time I received a diagnosis.  My doctor, a world-renowned rheumatologist, arranged an early morning appointment so I could still make it to work on time.  I took that as a good sign.  I didn’t think a doctor would deliver terrible news first thing in the morning, knowing full well that in less than an hour, I’d be expected to teach fourth grade.

   It was the first time we had been invited into a doctor’s office.  All my other appointments always took place in an exam room.  This time, I sat in a chair, fully dressed, and held Paul’s hand.  We looked around and noticed the pictures of the doctor’s grandchildren.  We whispered comments of admiration for the many framed awards, declarations, certificates, and diplomas hanging on the walls.  We noticed the shelves of books -- books written by my doctor.  

   Finally, we were in the hands of an expert.  Someone who knew what he was doing, and I trusted he would be able to help me.

   Dr. W. told me the official name for my condition:  Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease.  UCTD.  He told me it was a rare condition and explained it as an autoimmune disease with over-lapping symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and myositis.  I didn’t have any of those diseases, but symptoms of each, which made my condition more difficult to diagnosis and to treat.  He jokingly said I could call it “The Kennar.”  It was rare, so I may as well put my own name on it.

   At the time, I joked that I was always “daring to be different,” and apparently, my illness was no exception.  Now I realize that when it comes to medical issues, rare isn’t always a good thing.  People don’t know what I have.  They haven’t heard of it.  It isn’t named after a famous baseball player, it doesn’t have its own awareness month or ribbon, and it doesn’t have its own walk for the cure.  

   A few years after the fact, and I realize how naive I was at the time.  I received a  diagnosis and assumed I’d learn to live with the condition.  I’d make a few adjustments, take some medication, and get better.  I thought, and actually told others, that my condition was something along the lines of asthma (which I’ve lived with since childhood)or diabetes; it would be there and I would have to find ways to manage it.  The possibilities leading up to the diagnosis were so much worse:  cancer, leukemia, multiple sclerosis.  I would handle this.

   Little did I know that living with and managing my disease would result in me leaving my teaching career.  At the time, I really didn’t think my life would change.  But it has, and continues to change.

   I was diagnosed almost two years ago.  And yet, this whole medical condition (notice how I shy away from using the word “disease”) still feels so new.  I still don’t feel like I know how to live with a chronic medical condition.

   It’s not just my body that has to change, it’s my mind.  I have to keep changing the way I think about myself, the way I tend to push myself too hard.  For as much as I have tried to deny it, I am not completely the same person I was before the diagnosis.  Not necessarily “worse,” just not the same.  And, I’m finally realizing, I won’t ever be the same.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Me? Meditate?

   Apparently, I look like someone who meditates.  

   Or so thinks a neuropsychologist I’ve been seeing.  For several weeks now, I’ve been a member of a chronic pain group.  Twice a week, we see a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and the neuropsychologist.  It was the neuropsychologist who had been talking about mindfulness, about the need for us to be aware of our feelings, our thoughts, our behaviors, and the ways in which the three co-exist and influence each other.  One of the recommendations she made was that the patients experiment with meditation -- slowing our minds, focusing on our bodies, breathing deeply.  

   At a recent appointment, I confided that meditation isn’t something that comes easily to me.  My mind wanders.  A lot.  I find it hard just to sit and breathe and relax.  And she was surprised.  Because according to this doctor, based on the clothes and jewelry I wear and the type of purse I use, I look like someone who regularly meditates.  I laughed.  I had never heard that particular assumption before.  (Years ago, a student’s parent once remarked that because of all my silver rings, I must be a real “party girl.”  At the time, I was flabbergasted because “party girl” is certainly not a term that accurately describes me.)

   So much for people keeping an open mind, and not making assumptions or having preconceived ideas about someone based solely on how they look and what they wear.

   As we talked further, it was determined that part of my problem is the need to be in control.  Well, obviously, I’m used to being in control.  I was a public school teacher for twelve years; I had to be in control.  I’m the mother of a five-year-old son, again another job that requires control.  According to this doctor, I need to work on letting go, accepting my current medical condition, and surrendering to it.  

   I just don’t know how to do that.  I realize now that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy essentially trying to either fight or ignore my medical condition.  I realize that I had foolishly thought I could keep on going, much as I had before my illness.  I had regarded my autoimmune disease as a minor inconvenience and kept barreling through, working and mothering the way I always had.  Leaving my teaching career was a huge step, namely because I couldn’t ignore the fact that I am living with a chronic pain condition that isn’t going away.  Life as I knew it, had to change.  I had to change.  And I was fighting it, every step of the way.

   I don’t always like change.  I don’t like it when Yahoo changes their mail service, or when I have to learn how to use a new cell phone or alarm clock.  I am a planner, and becoming someone who qualifies for a chronic pain group, certainly wasn’t part of any of my plans.

   I had thought the neuropsychologist was going to tell me that my coordinated outfits and matching jewelry were further proof of my need to have order and be in control.  She did tell me not to completely give up on meditation; that maybe buried within me somewhere is a Wendy who meditates.  I don’t know about that.  For now, I’m just Wendy who is trying to figure out who she is and how she’s going to keep it all together. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Official!

Dear Readers:  I am now an official contributor at MomsLA.com!!!  Each week, you'll find me posting an education-related essay.  MomsLA.com offers posts about all different aspects of family life in Los Angeles.  Stop by and check it out!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Writing Desks


                       (This is my upstairs writing desk)

            I’m intrigued by a book I recently discovered.  The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz depicts fifty-five writers at their desks.  Actually, desks may be too broad a term; “work space” might be more accurate.

   It got me thinking about my desks and where I do most of my writing.

   Upstairs, in a corner of my bedroom, is a small, white desk with a pink rolling chair.  The desk is functional.  It’s small enough so that it doesn’t get cluttered with extras.  And I have consciously decorated it with only a few special items (a candle, a miniature Eiffel Tower statue,  a gorgeous heart paperweight - to name a few).  My little desk has a purpose:  it provides me with a work space, a hard table surface for my laptop.  A place where I can escape and try to squeeze in a little bit of writing time.  It’s not the most comfortable work space (akin to those found in coffee shops), but it gets the job done.

   Downstairs, up against a window in our living room, is my main desk, or “mission control” as my husband refers to it.  It is at this large wooden desk, that bills are paid, cards are written, appointments are made.  It is here where papers used to be graded and lessons planned.  This desk is where I keep our family, our home, functioning and running smoothly.  It is here, among reminders to call about my car insurance, that I also write.  

    And on days when the weather is agreeable, I love to write on my back patio.  Fresh air, the occasional hummingbird sighting, and I am in my own peaceful, writing bubble.  However, my writing is not limited to these areas. If it were, I wouldn’t get half as much writing done.  Sometimes, it’s just not helpful for me to write at home.  There are too many distractions:  the phone ringing, the pile of laundry that needs to get done, the dishwasher that needs to be emptied, the phone call about the car insurance that needs to be made.

   On days when I know my mind will be pre-occupied with household tasks, I choose to write elsewhere:  a favorite bookstore cafe, a local, independent coffee house, a bagel place.  While these establishments are certainly not free of distractions (crying children, loud cell-phone conversations), I am there to write.  I therefore can only do one of two things:  read or write.  And when both of those activities fail to keep me occupied, then I know it’s time for me to leave and return home.  

   I do fantasize about what my own “writing room” would look like (notice, I’ve upped the ante and moved beyond a writer’s desk to a whole room).  A small table that would always hold fresh flowers.  Candles.  Overflowing bookcases.  A large desk, just for writing.  For now, it’s a vague fantasy, but I am reminded of a Cosby Show episode from Season 8, “Clair’s Place.”  Finally, after twenty-years of waiting, Clair was given her own refuge, a soundproof room of her own.  I need to bide my time and just keep writing.

   And for now, my writer’s desk is wherever I’m writing.

                                           (This is my desk downstairs:  "mission control")

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How Do You Act Your Age?

         I’ve been thinking a lot about age lately.  I’m thirty-seven years old, and suddenly the big “4-0” is rapidly approaching.  It’s gotten me thinking about Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, from When Harry Met Sally, lamenting that she would someday be 40.  She felt it was a big dead-end just waiting for her.  I certainly don’t feel like it’s a dead-end, but it is definitely closer than further.  Then there’s Stella, the protagonist in Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  I remember reading the novel, seeing the movie, and thinking that 40 was so far away.  Not anymore.

   I’m not really sure how thirty-seven is supposed to feel, but it’s not what I expected.    Disability and retirement are not usual topics of conversation for a couple in their thirties with a young son.  Yet, they are frequent topics of conversation in our home.  There are times I feel much older, weighted down by restrictions and medical issues that are at the forefront of my life.

   Other times, I feel hopeful.  I am only thirty-seven years old.  I had a successful teaching career.  I’m beginning a successful, I hope, writing career.  There’s so much time ahead of me, so many possibilities.

      We are advised to “act our age.”  But how do you act your age, when your insides don’t always match your outsides?

   At times, I’m young like my son.  Stretched across the floor playing a game of tickle and chase.  Sitting in the grass, observing a ladybug on a blade of grass.  Outside, looking up, marveling at the moon that greets us on the way to school.

   Other times, I’m old, senior citizen old.  Retired from my teaching position.  A calendar of doctor’s appointments.  A multitude of pills.  Physical limitations restricting my activities.  Needing help getting up from the floor.

   And I’m too young for that.  I feel too young to be retired due to a chronic medical condition.  I feel too young to be tied down to doctors’ appointments and prescription bottles.  Too young to own a walker, too young to be declared physically unable to serve on jury duty (Okay, that one I don’t mind.  At all.)

   Maybe I had to get this disease to leave teaching and give me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mommy, concentrating on my writing.  I never, voluntarily, would have left teaching, regardless of how frustrated or disappointed I may have become with the educational system.  I was there for the kids, and I believed I could help and make a positive difference in their lives.

   When I think about it, some of my major life events occurred at ages I didn’t expect them to.  At the age of twenty-two, I moved out of my parents’ home and in with the man who is now my husband.  I was married a few weeks shy of my twenty-third birthday.  Sometimes, plans happen on a different timetable than the one we originally imagined for ourselves.  I think my disability and retirement are like that.

   At any rate, I’m thirty-seven years old, and much like when I was seventeen, I’m figuring things out as I go.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


(Ryan and I in the hospital, awaiting word that we could go home)

             When my newborn son was placed on my chest, I gushed, “He’s perfect.”  

  I spent my entire teaching career encouraging my students to just try their best.  Their effort was just as important (if not more) than the outcome.  I always reminded them that there was no such thing as “perfect” -- we were people after all, not robots.  They knew I wasn’t perfect:  I mis-spelled words occasionally (“occasionally” being one of the words I mis-spelled), I spilled paint on my shoes, I couldn’t whistle.  But I tried my best, and I always wanted my students to try their best.

  But, when my infant son was placed on my chest, I saw perfection.  Thankfully, he was born healthy and happy -- content and not screaming, with wide open brown eyes, eager to look around and take in his surroundings.  He was a miracle; a new human being, that a short time before hadn’t even existed.  

  He was the epitome of the potential of the human race:  purity and goodness, faith and innocence, honesty and honor.

  Five years later, and I am back to the belief that there is no such thing as “perfection.”  It doesn’t exist long-term.  Motherhood has taught me that there are moments of perfection, if not whole days than hours, that could pass off as perfect.  No arguments, no conflicts, no struggles -- a happy family enjoying one another’s company.  And to better appreciate these fleeting moments of perfection, there are the “anything-but-perfect” moments.  Moments when a broken slice of American cheese will send a child into hysterics.

  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the not-perfect moments, and forget that until the last five minutes, it was a great day, filled with a laughing, happy, safe family.  I now aspire for moments of perfection to help me get through all the other moments.  My son may not always behave “perfectly,” but when he’s sleeping, when our home is cozy and settled and safe, all is right and perfect in my world.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

iPhone, My Phone

   I finally did it.  I finally gave up my flip phone and purchased an iPhone.  My husband has wanted me to upgrade my cell phone for quite some time.  Actually, the big push for an iPhone came after I spent forty-five minutes stuck in the elevator at the elementary school where I used to teach.  You see, while I was in the elevator, my cell phone had no signal, and I had never texted before.  I had no idea how to capitalize, how to space out words, and the text I sent to the friend that finally called 9-1-1, looked something like:  “stuckinelevator.”  Thankfully, he knew what I meant, and he got me help.  My husband said that if nothing else, texting would have been easier on an iPhone.

   I bought the iPhone and spent the first day ignoring it.  I didn’t have a case yet, and was absolutely terrified I would drop it.  It seemed safer not to carry it with me at all.  Now, with a solid case on it, my husband tells me it’s quite secure, and since I have it, I should be carrying my fancy-shmancy new iPhone with me.

   I wanted the phone because my flip phone, reminiscent of the gadget Captain Kirk used to command, “Beam me up, Scotty,” wasn’t working well anymore.  The signal was often weak.  And, when out on adventures with my son, I always had to carry our digital camera with me.  An iPhone would make it easier for me to capture those “Kodak moments.”

   Except now that I have it, I’m intimidated and overwhelmed by my iPhone.  I don’t want to check emails with it, don’t want to look anything up on the internet.  I primarily want it to be a phone that also takes great pictures.  Maybe, as time goes on, I’ll grow braver -- experiment with setting the alarm when the laundry is in the dryer and use the calculator to determine my breakfast server’s tip.  

   Little steps, that for me aren’t so little.  I bought the iPhone.  I have it with me.  

   Now I just have to use it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spread the Word, Spread Hope

Dear Readers:  Heather Von St. James reached out to me, and now I'm reaching out to you.  Yesterday, September 26th, was Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.  It is a rare, lethal type of cancer that most people have never heard of.  Heather was diagnosed and given fifteen months to live.  7 years later she is spreading the word and spreading hope.  Here's the link to the webpage with Heather's story.  Please share it with others:


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


   In our family, a boo-boo on a leg has several meanings.  Right now, it’s what my son is dealing with.  He recently came home from kindergarten having experienced a “first”:  his first stumble and fall and subsequent trip to the office for a band-aid.  

   Both his knees were skinned, and one was bandaged.  Ryan told me the fall happened during recess while he was playing a game with a classmate.  

   No parent wants their child to be hurt, to experience pain.  But, I was happy to hear  that the fall and boo-boos were the result of a game.  I asked Ryan if it was a fun game, if he had been enjoying himself, and I got an emphatic “Yes!”  This was great news because for the first few weeks of kindergarten, I was told that Ryan wasn’t playing and socializing much with his classmates.  

   We talked about how our bodies know how to heal themselves.  Ryan remembered another fall and scrape on his knee when he was four years old, and acknowledged that it had “gone away” and gotten better.  I assured him these bruises would do the same thing.

   But then Ryan told me that the next time we visit the Los Angeles Zoo, he would need a wheelchair since his legs have boo-boos.  It was one of those moments when I bit my lip and tried not to cry.  We had ventured to the zoo this summer, and I had warned Ryan that I might need to use a wheelchair.  Ryan doesn’t know I have an autoimmune disease that causes me pain and makes my legs weak.  He knows my legs have boo-boos.

   (I never did rent the wheelchair.  I was much too stubborn and wanted to experience the zoo alongside my son and husband.  I’m not sure if I’ll be that stubborn next time; the pain afterwards was dreadful.)

   I had to explain to Ryan that he wouldn’t need a wheelchair.  His boo-boos are on the outside of his legs.  He is strong and healthy, and his boo-boos will heal.  I reminded Ryan that my boo-boos are on the inside of my legs.  They’re harder to heal which is why I take so many medicines and see so many doctors.  He seemed reassured.  

   Autoimmune diseases aren’t easy.  They’re full of variables.  They’re chronic.  They’re life-changing.  And it’s not just my life it’s changing; it’s my family’s life too.

   My heart was heavy knowing that my five-year old son will have no memories of me before my disease.  He will only know me as Mommy with boo-boo legs.  My eyes well up, and I have to chastise myself.  We are lucky.  We are a family.  Boo-boo legs and all.