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 29, 2014

Damaged Goods

   When my students and I discussed race, I told them I never wanted to be described as a “white woman.”  I am a white woman, but those are just mere details.  I wanted them to be more descriptive, to paint a more vivid picture of who I was as their teacher than simply by looking at the color of my skin.  My upper-grade students got it.  They began to see that describing someone by their race was not telling the whole story at all.

   Now, that I am a stay-at-home mom, I don’t want my son to grow up defining me by my “boo-boo leg.”

   Because that’s what he knows.  That is how I have explained my autoimmune disease to my son.  Ryan knows I have a boo-boo that doesn’t heal the way his skinned knee did, a boo-boo that is inside my leg and can’t be seen.

   It is this disability that dictates so much of my life -- it’s why I can’t work and can’t go for long walks with my son.  It’s the reason for regular doctor’s appointments and bottles of medications.

   I don’t know how to accept the fact that I am “disabled” without letting my disability define me.  On good days, my disability is an inconvenience I can manage.  On bad days, it is a permanent dark cloud creating a storm over my head.

   Recently, my son was playing on the playground jungle gym with a kindergarten schoolmate (I’ll call her “M”).  In the way that kids do, each one was taking turns accomplishing some sort of climbing feat and asking the other if they knew how to do that too.  M then turned her attention to me and asked if I could do her trick.  Before I could answer that I was too big for the jungle gym, my son piped up with, “No she can’t.  My mom has a boo-boo on her leg.”

   My son didn’t say anything wrong or untrue.  Yet, his innocent words stung and felt like a branding iron had stamped “Damaged goods” across my forehead.

   A short time later, M asked if she could see my “broken knee.”  In her mind, a boo-boo meant something must be broken; certainly there must be something visible, something clearly wrong.  I told my son’s friend that my knee wasn’t broken, and that my boo-boo was not on the outside of my leg, but in the inside part and couldn’t be seen.  Because, again, how do you explain to a child the randomness of pain generated by an autoimmune disease?

   My son is approaching his sixth birthday.  Who knows what he will remember from these early years of his life?  But, undoubtedly, his memories of me will include my boo-boo leg.  And with those memories, I hope my son will also include images of us on our “dates” to the museum, playing basketball outside, and our weekly visits to the library.  As much as I didn’t want to be the “white woman teacher,” I don’t want to simply be the “mommy with a boo-boo leg.”

   Occasionally, my son will ask more questions.  He’ll ask how I got my boo-boo and he’ll ask when it will go away.  I don’t have answers for either question.  But I tell him that even with my boo-boo leg, I am always trying my best.

   Hanging above my door in my classroom was a banner that read, “Do your best.”  It was all I ever asked of my students.  Not perfect test scores.  Not perfect attendance.  Just your best effort in every endeavor.  

   It’s all I ask of my son.  It’s all I can give him.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

L.A. Affairs

Dear Readers,
  I'm excited to share that the Los Angeles Times has published one of my personal essays in the "L.A. Affairs" column.
   Here's the link:


As always, thank you for reading,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The A to Z List of My Beautiful Body

   My feelings about my body continue to evolve as I get older.  For most of my life, I saw my body as functional and healthy, but never beautiful.  I was average on some days, kind of cute other days, and those were the good days.  

   Then, I became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy boy, and I finally saw my body as the miracle it is.  With the birth of my beautiful son, I finally saw myself as beautiful.

   A few years ago, my body became mysteriously ill, until I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.  And it is this last event, that is making me look at my body, in an entirely new way.  It isn't easy to look at myself in the mirror, acknowledge all the things I cannot do any more (or can't do as well), and still think I'm beautiful.  My tendency is to put myself down.  Yet, I wouldn't do that to a friend.  And, I cannot do that to myself.  For far too long, I took my body for granted.  It's time to start celebrating my body, treating it well, and giving it the respect it deserves.

   My practical nature inspires me to write lists:  daily to-do-lists, grocery lists, errand lists, and “A to Z” lists.  I think my years working in a public library and my years teaching kindergarten have somehow altered the way I look at the world.  I tend to want to organize things alphabetically.  My body is no exception.  Here then is the A to Z List of My Beautiful Body.

A Abdomen.  My stomach has never been model-flat, and five years after the birth of my son, it still retains a rounder, softer, looser look to it.  It is beautiful because of what it did - grow and provide a safe first home for my son.  

B Back.  Smooth skin that was never affected by the teenage acne that plagued my face.  My back is strong enough to carry around a backpack on a family excursion to the Natural History Museum and strong enough for my son to climb up and give me “backwards hugs.”

C Cells.  I can’t see them, but they’re there, inside my body, busy doing their jobs.  They are not stricken by cancer, and for that, I am eternally grateful. 

D Digits.  Rings grace eight of my fingers.  These are the fingers that lightly stroke my son’s hair back from his face, the fingers that arranged all the flowers at my wedding, the fingers that hold a pen carefully and produce neat writing that others have admired.  

E Ears.  I never regarded my ears as too large, or too small, for my face.  I never felt they protruded unattractively from the side of my head.  I have always felt my ears were a fine showcase for the different earrings I wear each day to accessorize my outfits.  

F Feet.  Capable of walking to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on our first trip to Paris.  Capable of navigating a stick-shift transmission.  Capable of safely driving a rental car on the twists and turns that comprise the Road to Hana in Maui.

G Gray hair.  For now, it’s just a few errant strands of my other-wise brown hair that have turned a different hue.  I don’t mind them.  They add light, and an element of surprise, into my otherwise dark head of hair.

H Hair.  Brown and never anything else.  No dye jobs, just me and my brown hair.  Soft and natural.  Some days waking up with a slight flip at the ends, some days more wavy, other days quite straight, all days my hair. 

I Individuality.  Look at me and you can see I’m not trying to be like everyone else.  Most women aren’t wearing as many rings on their fingers.  Most women wear high heels on a regular basis; I don’t own any.  I run errands and take my son to school while wearing clogs.  My hair is not dyed, my eyes are not altered by contact lenses, and my complexion isn’t hidden behind make-up.  I am who I am. 

J Jugular.  My neck is adorned with large moles.  They are distinguishing features.  Early on in my teaching career, two became increasingly sensitive and were removed.  A few still remain, though.  Chocolate chips that have been melted into my skin.  

K Kisses and hugs.  My son and my students know that I would never say “no” to a hug and kiss.  Even in today’s school environments, where teachers are supposed to be “hands-off,” I can’t deny a child a hug.  For my elementary school students, there are air kisses across a crowded hallway and kisses on the tops of their heads.  For my son, there are kisses on the bottoms of his feet, the tip of his nose, the middle of his tummy.

L Lips.  With or without my lip gloss, my lips are ready for kissing.  Hello and good-bye kisses when I see my parents.  Passionate kisses for my husband, gentle kisses for my son, kisses on the tops of my students’ heads.  Kisses that let the receivers know I love them.

M Moles.  My body is decorated with moles.  They are on my right forearm, near my collarbone, on my back and stomach, my neck, and on the left side of my mouth.  While my moles may not make me as recognizable as Marilyn Monroe or Cindy Crawford, they are still mine.  And growing up, my mom always referred to them as “beauty marks.”

N Nose.  My nose has always been compared to my dad’s.  I inherited my mom’s brown hair and eyes, but my dad’s nose.  And now, that nose is perfect for my nightly “nosey-nosey” with my son (also known as “Eskimo kisses.”)

O Ocular organs.  I have always liked my brown eyes.  The color of a melting Hershey’s Kiss, my eyes never let me hide anything.  My mouth may be quiet, but my eyes show when I am angry or scared, jubilant or in pain.

P Persona.  Who I am to strangers, isn‘t much different than who I am at home.  I am always the person who signals as I park adjacent to the curb, I am the person who always holds the door open for the person behind me, I am always the person who will pick up an errant newspaper in the park.     

Q Quadriceps.  Not completely firm, not completely without pain, but my quadriceps are functioning.  I’m walking and squatting - sometimes with difficulty, but doing it never the less.  And because I have spent time when those actions weren’t possible, I am grateful my body is well enough now.

R Rear-end.  One of the more difficult parts of my body to love.  Unlike everyone else in my immediate family, my rear-end is not flat.  It is round and fills out a pair of jeans.  Now I regard it as a built in pillow, allowing my son and I to comfortably settle in, sit down, and read book after book.

S Smile.  When I’m smiling from pleasure, and not worried about a camera capturing my expression, I see beauty.  I see a woman who is content and grateful, a woman who is trying to do the best she can to always be the best version of herself.

T Teeth.  With the exception of my wisdom teeth, I am fortunate to be in possession of all my teeth.  I can chew a taco, bite into an apple, chomp on a carrot.  My teeth look real - not as white as my computer paper, not as straight as a knife, but they contribute to a nice smile.   

U Underarm right beauty mark.  It’s slightly raised, quite ticklish, and a little hidden secret in the crook of my right underarm.

V Veins.  Ultrasounds revealed that my veins and arteries are functioning as they should be and not blocked in any way.  Quietly, beautifully, doing their jobs.  

W Wrinkles.  My wrinkles, few though they may be for now, are an outward sign, that I’m here.  I’m having experiences.  I’m living. 

X Extra-sensitive feet.  My feet are extremely ticklish, information my five-year-old son uses to his advantage.  He loves to sneak up to my unprotected feet and give them a hearty tickle.  Likewise, my feet are usually cold, even when the weather outside dictates air conditioning and the rest of my body is warm, I can count on my feet to be cold to the touch.

Y Youthful tendencies.  I may be thirty-seven years old, but I still marvel at a hummingbird or butterfly sighting on my back patio, still look up in awe at the moon, and still try to see what pictures the clouds are making in the sky.

Z Zigzag lines.  The palm of my hand is embellished with a zigzag of lines; my lifelines.  They’re a part of me, like my wrinkles, a testament that I’m still here, and still doing my best.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Husband is Home

           It’s fair to say that my husband has been demoted.  His status is definitely not what it used to be.  He used to be the person I dressed for.  The person I primped for.  The person I made an effort for.

   Not any more.

   Those days are gone.  It’s called marriage.  (Approaching fifteen years now.)  And parenthood.  (Approaching six years now.)  And the longer we’re married and parents, the less of an opportunity there is to primp and preen.  

   Some mornings, my husband leaves our home and I’m still “Morning Mommy” -- a term borrowed from one of our son’s story books.  Morning Mommy is me in pajamas, polka-dotted slippers, messy hair.  Morning mommy doesn’t leave the house in this state.  Morning mommy can be seen by no one -- except my son and husband.

   Many nights, my husband returns home to find me as “Night Mommy” -- a term I coined.  Night Mommy is me wearing comfy stretch pants with faded knees, polka-dotted slippers, and a roomy shirt.  

   On these days, my husband has missed the whole middle segment of the day; the part of the day when I look my best, the part of the day when I have primped and preened-- for strangers.  When I was dressed in an outfit presentable to the outside world.  When my hair was brushed and adorned with a clip.  When I accessorized with jewelry that matched my outfit.  He has missed “Daytime Mommy.”

   The pendulum has shifted.  Where once my husband was the man who would only see the “best version” of myself, he is now the man who sees, who knows, the “real version” of myself.  The me with cold feet even when the temperature climbs outside.  The me with a rumbly stomach when we’re trying to go to sleep, and I’m not the least bit hungry.  

   Home is supposed to be our safe place, our sanctuary, the place where we can be ourselves and be comfortable, knowing that we are not being judged or criticized.  

   Now, after almost fifteen years of marriage, I have learned that home is not just a place; home is my husband as well.  And in that respect, I have given my husband the most profound promotion I can think of.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

   For quite some time, I’ve been answering an important question incorrectly.  People know something is wrong; they know I can no longer teach, they know I am often in pain; they just don’t know why.   So they’ll inquire about my legs (where the pain is concentrated), and they’ll want to know what the doctor had to say.  And I give what has become my standard answer:  “It’s an autoimmune disease.”  If they inquire further, want more information, then I tell them what I was told:  “It has over-lapping symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and myositis.”  Questions usually end then because people don’t understand what I’ve said.  I don’t fully understand what I’ve just said, but that’s all I know.

   But I recently spent a month-and-a-half as a member of a chronic pain group.  It was an eye-opening experience for me, in many ways.  For instance, in one of our sessions, we were told that we each needed to develop a “soundbite.”  Much like newscasters will say something catchy that keeps us tuned in and waiting to hear the whole story, we (the members of the pain group) needed to develop a “soundbite” to articulate how we were feeling.

   Telling someone I have an autoimmune disease doesn’t really mean much.  There is a lack of information, a lack of comprehension, and thus a justifiable lack of understanding and empathy. 

   When people would ask me how my legs feel, I would tell them they often feel heavy, like I have weights strapped on them.  But, the neurobiologist pointed out, that many people do exercise with weights on their legs.  What makes my weights different?  Why is it so painful?  So I had to stop and think about an image, something visual that would somehow get across to others what my legs feel like when they are “heavy.”  

   It feels like I have elephants sitting on my legs.  And with those elephants taking up residence on my legs, I still have to get in and out of the car to pick up my son from kindergarten.  I still have to get on the floor and play cars with my son.  I still need to push the shopping cart and buy groceries for my family.

   My legs don’t always feel “heavy.”  Sometimes, the pain is concentrated in my left calf, where it feels tight and hard.  Now, some women covet tight and hard legs.  Not me.  This pain makes every movement, every up-and-down from a chair, a struggle.  It feels like my calf is being squeezed by a giant set of pliers.

   It’s quite an image.  When I have shared those statements with others, there’s a strong reaction.  Usually their face scrunches up, their eyes widen, their hand goes to their mouth.  I’m not saying it for shock value, I’m merely trying to more clearly articulate how I’m feeling.

   And maybe now, since I can explain myself better, people will have a bit more understanding and a bit more patience when it comes to my slow walking.  In any respect, I’m learning to use the tools I need to more effectively navigate living with an autoimmune disease, elephants and all.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World

Great news, Readers!  One of my essays, "The A to Z List of Being a Grown-Up," has recently been published in a new anthology.  The book makes a great gift.  Here's the link if you'd like to purchase a copy:


And here's the link if you'd like to learn more about the anthology:


Happy New Year!

          Recently, I came across a question a magazine posed to its readers:  What are you going to do to make 2014 great?  The question made me realize that although many things in life are out of my control, I can take steps to try and ensure that 2014 is great, or as great as I can make it.

   So, here’s my plan:

   I’m going to try and stop being so hard on myself.  I can’t change being on disability.  I can’t go back to my teaching career.  I can’t change my medical diagnosis.  I can simply take little steps to make each day as pleasurable and pain-free as possible.  I’m going to remember to breathe.  I’m going to focus on all the things I still can do.  I’m going to sit on my patio and read (and not feel guilty about it).  I’m going to hug my son and kiss my husband with passion and gratitude each day.

   And now its your turn, dear readers.  Even if you don’t want to share your plans here, think about things you can do to make this new year a great one!

   Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!