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.


  1. You are by far not"damaged goods".You are a wonderful,caring,loving person who got a horrible disease that you certainly don't deserve.Ryan will always know you as a "wonderful mommy who loves him and cares for him no matter what."He certainly couldn't ask for a better mommy.I love you and I am very proud of you.

  2. Your best, his best, their best is ALL they can do or expect... As far as your son's memories, right now its simplistic, u and I know, everything comes w/maturity... We all change our perspectives... Right now your leg defines you to your son and that's ok.. nothing wrong w/that... My 3 constantly amazed me in their description of me.. as well as their Dad when he was alive... My middle one considered me 'her rock' and that was because of what I had to handle after their father was killed... Life is ever changing just like our views... that's the beauty in it.

  3. Honey,
    You are an amazing woman and amazing mother to Ryan. I know you always give 110% everyday.
    I Love You!

  4. Damage Goods certainly doesn't apply to you. You are one very special person. Ryan knows how much you love him, and he is lucky to have you for his mommy. Your mother & I are proud of you.
    love, dad

  5. The words Damaged goods are not words that are used to describe you. You are an amazing person with so many wonderful qualities. I think about you all the time and wish my students could meet "My Nancy".. I love you so much and miss working with you. But I am so proud of the choices you've made. Keep your head up and keep doing your best.