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, March 26, 2014

If The Clogs Fit

   I know exactly how long I’ve owned my burgundy clogs.  I know because for several weeks they remained in their shipping box because I couldn’t wear them.  My feet were too swollen to fit into them.  

   But the swollen-ness was just a side note.  I wasn’t able to walk when those clogs arrived at my doorstep so I didn’t really need shoes at the time. 

   It was July 2010; the period of time I was hospitalized with a swollen left calf.  For the month of July, I relied on a walker and wheelchair to get around so when I did wear anything on my feet it was usually house slippers.

   The last time my feet were swollen was after the birth of my son.  No one had prepared me for the swollen ankles and swollen feet I would experience in those first few days after Ryan’s birth.  I remember taking Ryan to the pediatrician for his first check-up and struggling to find shoes that would fit.  At that time, I knew it was temporary; yet it blindsided me.  With all my planning for the early days of motherhood, I knew I might experience difficulty with clothes, but shoes were a surprise.

   With the clogs, I felt broad-sided.  This mystery illness and subsequent hospitalization was a complete shock.  The clogs sat in their box, near my desk downstairs, taunting me. 

   I spent most of my days downstairs that month.  Once I awoke, I dressed, and slid on my tush, one stair at a time, until my husband could help me up.  From there, I took up residence on our couch.  I didn’t go back upstairs until evening, and when I did, that’s where I stayed.  I had no freedom to move about our own home.  I couldn’t play with our son.  I couldn’t fix meals.  I couldn’t do much of anything except cry and wonder and feel guilty that somehow I had brought this misery on myself.

   Leading up until those fateful July days, I felt that I was being pushed to my limits.  The school year had recently ended.  I was a full-time working mother.  My husband and I were going through a very difficult time in our marriage.  And I knew that I was on the verge of boiling over and collapsing.  Except, I didn’t do anything about it.  I didn’t try to right any of the wrongs in my life; I just kept plowing ahead.  Until I finally woke up one morning, unable to walk.  I didn’t stop until my body stopped.

   Those clogs were supposed to be my “fun” clogs.  Their color wasn’t the practical black I already owned.  They were more distinctive and unique -- traits I like to think I possess as well.  I couldn’t wear them, and looking back, I admit that I wasn’t having much fun in my life at that time.  Everything was work -- teaching, mothering, even being married.  Everything felt like work.  Perhaps I wasn’t able to fit into my fun clogs until my body, and my mind, made some changes and I could start seeing fun, making fun, having fun, and wearing fun.

   Life certainly isn’t always fun, but the clogs fit, and I am determined to keep wearing them as long as I can.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Publication News

Dear Readers:

I'd like to let you know about a recently published book titled How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times ... No Experience Necessary.  The book includes a collection of mini-essays all about the importance of journal-writing.  I am pleased to be included in this anthology.  Journal writing is a valuable tool, and the book includes spaces and prompts to help you begin your own journal writing.  The anthology is available at Balboa Press and Amazon.  Here are the links:



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Latest From the Mean Octopus in My Life

   Living with a chronic medical condition comes with uncertainties:  I don’t really know if my condition will change -- worsening or improving.  Likewise, living with a chronic medical condition also comes with certainties:  habitual pain and discomfort, multiple prescriptions.

   My medications have helped me, have decreased my discomfort and have slowed any dangerous progressions within my body.  But, medications have side effects.  Short term side effects like dizziness, nausea, or constipation.  Long term side effects like liver problems and temporary hair loss.  

   Generally, I don’t read the list of side effects that accompanies each medication.  Frankly, I don’t want to know the scary specifics.  But every so often, I’ll read a magazine article, and a light bulb goes off, and I think, “Whoa, I’m taking that.”

   Recently I found out that one of my medications may cause thinning hair.  Now, each night when I empty the drain after my shower, I look at the loose strands of hair and wonder:  Is it excessive, a sign of my thinning hair, or is it “normal”?

   My hair used to be the one part of my body I never criticized.  It was so easy to find fault with everything else.  My nails weren’t properly filed.  My skin was dry.  My eyes were tired.  My nose was too freckled.  My teeth too crooked.  But my hair was soft and shiny and a rich, healthy brown.

   The longer I live with this autoimmune disease, the more I detest it.  It’s become like a malicious octopus, stretching its dirty tentacles out and touching all aspects of my life and robbing me of pieces of myself.  First and foremost, it has taken my teaching career.  For a while it took my rings (another medication caused significant weight gain, to the point where my rings no longer fit, and I had to invest hundreds of dollars to have them all re-sized).  It has taken my wardrobe as well, since my skirts remain in my closet because panty hose feels much too tight on my legs.

   Now, it may be taking my hair.

   For a while, all I could do was focus on the negatives, the things in my life that had been changed, the things in my life I could no longer do.  Now, I am making a conscious effort to try and see things from a different angle, more of a “glass is half-full” perspective.  I can see that there have been benefits, trade-offs if you will, that are a result of my autoimmune disease.  Because I am no longer teaching, I have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.  Because I am no longer teaching, I was available to participate in a chronic pain program and subsequently, I made a new friend.  Because I am no longer teaching, I have more time to write.  I am writing more than I ever have, my writing is  published, and I’m getting paid for it.  It’s just that in my case, all these trade-offs come at a high price -- my health.

   However, I’m having a difficult time seeing this new development as anything other than a negative.  I can’t quite see the trade-off of my thinning hair.  Yet, I feel guilty for even being pre-occupied with my hair.  Let’s face it; there are worse things I could be worried about.  My condition isn’t deteriorating.  My medications are working.  I’m still able to care for my family.  

   But, there’s the little voice in my head that plays devil’s advocate and tells me I have a right to be concerned, to be pissed off even.  I just can’t linger there.  

   So, I try not to wallow in my despondency.  I give myself a virtual little slap, tell myself to snap out of it, and remind myself that I’ll just have to wait it out and see where this newest development takes me.  Then, I can look for the trade-off.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Birthday Musings

   Since my last blog post, I celebrated my thirty-eighth birthday.  I still can’t quite comprehend being “thirty-eight.”  Mathematically speaking, that means my age now rounds up to forty.  

   It truly feels as if I just blinked and got older.  Wasn’t I just celebrating my twenty-first birthday, ordering a pina colada, and dating the man who would become my husband?  Now, suddenly it seems, I’m thirty-eight, the mother of an almost six-year-old son, married for fifteen years, and unable to drink any alcoholic beverages due to my daily medications.

   Anyway, now I’m thirty-eight.  Thirty-seven was a big year for me.  If you follow my blog, you know last year was the year I stopped working.  The year I became a stay-at-home mom.  The year I admitted I have a disability.  

   Someone told me I should consider last year as a year of transition.  And truthfully, that first year of transition was hard.  The beginning part was honestly like a much-needed vacation.  I was exhausted from trying to work, and trying to mother, and trying to live with my medical condition.  But then, the rest of the year was full of ups-and-downs.  Becoming a weekly contributor at MomsLA.com and being published in the Los Angeles Times are all ups.  Having dates with my husband and being available to attend my son’s winter performance at school are all ups.  Feeling like damaged goods, feeling like my body was failing me, and feeling disheartened that I wasn’t able to teach are all downs. 

   But now I’m thirty-eight.  And I’ve decided that this year I’m going to do things for me.  Things that might be a bit scary, things that might be new, but things for me.  

   My husband and I spent part of my birthday in Santa Monica.  It’s the city-version of the ocean I love.  I wasn’t going to let my medical condition stop me from seeing the beach close-up.  So we walked, and we climbed down stairs until we were at the beach.  And I somehow managed to walk back up the steep ramp near the pier.  I didn’t feel good doing it; I didn’t feel good for the rest of the day.  But I did it.  And if I have to be in pain, I would rather it be pain for something that initially brought me pleasure.

   I wanted to be near the ocean.  That was a “thing” for me.  

   This year, I’ve got a couple of events planned, things just for me.  This year I will purchase a bike.  This year I will get the tattoo I’ve been thinking about for so long.  This year I will attend a writer’s retreat; my first ever solo vacation.  

   I’ve said quite often that one of the worst things about my condition is the uncertainty of it all.  Not knowing how I’ll feel from one part of the day to the next.  Not knowing how this disease will progress or change.  And that has always scared me and made me feel so helpless.  Recently though, I read a book and discovered something that gave me a new way of looking at the uncertainty in my life.  

“While one face of uncertainty is the vast, scary unknown, the flip side of uncertainty is the infinite possibility.  When you don’t know what the future holds, anything can happen.”    - Lissa Rankin, M.D. from her book Mind Over Medicine

   And while I still acknowledge the certainty of the uncertainty in my life, I want to regard my thirty-eighth year as a year of “infinite possibility.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Oscars, Kennar-Style

                                                       (Our pretend Oscar)

               Sunday night, my son and I watched some of the Oscars.  If you’re a regular reader, you might remember that we had also watched most of the Super Bowl together.  (Here’s the link in case you missed it:  http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/02/super-bowl-sunday.html)

   Of course, we watched more out of curiosity.  I wasn’t invested in any particular film -- truth be told, my husband and I haven’t been to the movies in over a year, and consequently haven’t seen any of the nominated films.  But I have my favorite actresses (Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep), and I’m always intrigued by the fashions.  

   Ryan asked questions about everything.  He asked why there were so many commercials.  He asked who would win.  He asked why it was taking so long for the show to start.  And he asked what Ellen was doing.

   My son knows who Ellen is.  He’s seen her billboards around town, he’s seen snippets of her show, and he knows Daddy earned a shirt one of the times we were audience members and Paul got up there and shook his booty!  And although my son didn’t understand all her jokes or references in her opening remarks, I didn’t have to worry that Ellen would use any words that weren’t child-friendly.

   The day before we had driven north on Highland Avenue, had seen the large billboard of Ellen DeGeneres, had seen Hollywood Boulevard closed in preparation of the festivities that lie ahead.  Yet, somehow Ryan was confused.  He asked where the Oscars were happening.  He didn’t quite comprehend that the ceremony was being held minutes from our house.  In a way, it did seem like a different world.  Never do we usually see women dressed in such fancy gowns.  And in our house, on-and-off rain means long-sleeves.  We saw some women with no sleeves at all.

   We saw actors with their moms (Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto).  We saw sparkly dresses and fancy jewelry.  The Oscars can be a night of excess.  But Ryan and I focused on the celebratory nature.  I told him that the Oscars are special awards people who work in movies can earn.  We talked about how it takes so many people to make a movie. 

   The Oscars have made quite an impression with Ryan.  We now play Oscars.  He writes out the names of some of our family members, he speaks in his toy microphone listing all the “maybe winners,” he opens up a folded piece of paper, and reads the winner’s name to much applause and cheering from Mommy!  And, the winner is presented with a “pretend Oscar.” 

   When it came time for the few acceptance speeches we did watch (we stopped watching the telecast less than an hour after it started), I pointed out to Ryan that the winners always thank a lot of people.  A lot of people helped the one winner achieve his dreams.  Movies require teamwork and cooperation and hard work.  

   Really anything difficult, anything worthy of hard work and great effort requires teamwork and cooperation and perseverance.  These are important life lessons I want my son to learn.  And, being the inherent teacher I am, I am always on the look-out for teachable moments.  In our house, that includes the Super Bowl and the Oscars.