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, May 28, 2014

Seeds for Writing and for Life


                 Since I stopped teaching a year ago, the number of people I speak to each day has drastically decreased.  It was one of those adjustments I hadn’t anticipated.  Don’t forget, I used to spend most of my day with an audience of thirty-plus students.  And then there were the conversations with my students’ parents and my co-workers. 

   Now, I spend many days in my own company while my husband is at work and my son is at school.  Those hours when my son is in kindergarten are my precious “me-time.”  People will often ask what I do all day, now that I‘m not teaching.  Actually, I believe my days are quite productive, and I’ve never yet had a day when I would say I was bored.  I take care of our house, run errands, and attend my doctor’s appointments.  Basically, I have much more flexibility to get things done at a more relaxed, less frantic pace than I did when I was teaching.  And, I have time to write.  

   Writing used to be something I wanted to do, something I liked to do, just for me.  When I was teaching, I was lucky if I could carve out a solid hour a week to write.  Now, I have hours available to me, and I need the time to write.  I’ve got deadlines -- my personal blog as well as my two weekly posts on MomsLA.com.  Writing has gone from an “I want to write” to an “I have to write.”    And, I must admit I’m ecstatic about that change.

   So, maybe my quieter, less-people-filled days are really benefitting my writing. This quote is attributed to Kathleen Norris:  “I am learning to see loneliness as a seed that, when planted deep enough, can grow into writing that goes back out into the real world.”

   Writing is generally a solitary occupation, which matches my personality well.  I’ve never been one who needs to be surrounded by a large group of people.  I am perfectly content taking myself out -- for a coffee, for a snack, for a walk.  I need those quiet moments to think and to remain open and receptive to new ideas. For it is those ideas that will take hold in my brain and in my heart and lend themselves to my writing.

“The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”
Jonathan Franzen

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Need to Read

            Recently I found myself waiting in a doctor’s office without anything to read.  It was an unsettling feeling; I felt out of sorts and wasn’t sure what to do with the extra time.  Usually I keep a magazine in my bag for such moments.  In this instance, my husband was having his eyes checked, and I had a few minutes to wait before his exam would be completed.

  Other people tend to take out their smart phones.  They tap at the screen, checking I’m-not-sure-what.  My iPhone primarily functions as a phone.  I don’t use it to check emails or go online; those activities can wait until I’m home on my computer.  So, I checked the weather and played a game of Bejeweled.  But then I put the phone back in my purse and sat.

   I silently berated myself for squandering this valuable time.  I am in possession of a never-ending supply of reading material -- a shelf at home with books waiting for me, a list of titles that intrigue me, a few magazines in the basket by my coffee table.  

   Granted, now that I’m not teaching I do have more time to read.  But a lot of my reading still happens at night, and usually trying to read at night means I will fall asleep reading.

   At my recent writing retreat, one of the writers had asked the group when we all find time to read.  (Writers must be readers after all.)  I said I always carry something with me to read.  Just that morning, in fact, as I waited to enter the dining room for our breakfast buffet, I had pulled a magazine out of my bag and read an article.

   On this particular morning in the doctor’s office, though, I had finished the magazine that had been in my bag and had forgotten to replace it with another edition.  So sitting in the doctor’s office, I took to people watching.  (Something else I think all writers should do).  But I felt uneasy, exposed and on display, without another world, the written world, to escape into.

   I’m still not sure what to make of this situation.  Maybe my need to fill all my “extra” moments reading is akin to those who take out their iPhones at each lull in their day.  Maybe I need more opportunities to practice sitting, or waiting, just being mindful of myself and my surroundings.  

   But, just in case, I have put a new magazine in my purse for next time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Driving with an Invisible Companion

   I couldn’t drive in any carpool lanes on my trip to Lake Arrowhead.  But, I wasn’t entirely alone in the car on the drive to and from my writing retreat.  There was a presence that I relied on; the omniscient voice from my phone guiding me as I navigated the approximately 180-mile-roundtrip journey.

   In our family, I’m always the designated driver.  So, I wasn’t intimidated by the two-hour-drive from our home in Los Angeles to the writing retreat in Lake Arrowhead.  I was, though, slightly intimated by the fact that I wasn’t entirely certain where I was going.

   On our other drives, my husband always serves as the navigator.  He reads me the directions off the map and lets me know when I’m going to need to merge left for the upcoming freeway change.  On this trip, I’d be alone.  I couldn’t very well look down at a printed set of directions while I was driving 65 mph on the freeway.  

   Thanks to my iPhone, a little computer voice served as my navigator.  When she spoke, I turned off my CD, so that I could give her my full attention.  I thanked her when she reminded me that I’d need to merge to the right.  When she told me a turn was coming up in a quarter-mile, I told her I’d keep an eye out for it.  

   And as I navigated the steep climb up the mountain, I spoke to this little voice.  “When will this be over?”  I asked.  I channeled my six-year-old son and asked, “When we will be there?”  I knew she wouldn’t answer me, but it didn’t stop me from asking.  

   This voice on my phone, more a mini-computer than a phone, is beyond my comprehension.  Somehow this voice knew where I was at all times and could re-calculate my route if I dared to stray from her directions.  All that technology, all that power, in a device that fits in my pocket is just more than I can understand.  I do not take for granted the strides that have been made in computer technology nor do I think I will ever become blase about things like the internet or navigational systems.  

   This voice guided me, while giving me a boost of confidence and the illusion of companionship.  And while this voice certainly doesn’t replace the welcome companionship of my family on long car drives, this voice did help me realize that I am ready for more solo trips -- with me driving and the little voice on my phone navigating.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writing, Driving, and a Metaphor for Life

   I am thirty-eight years old and just recently took my first solo trip.  I’ve traveled before, but always with someone.  This was a trip just for me, all about me.  I left my son and husband at home so that I could attend a writing retreat in Lake Arrowhead.  

   It wasn’t easy for me to make the decision to attend this retreat.  I was intrigued by the idea; I wanted to experience a weekend where the only thing I had to do was write.  But I was afraid.  Afraid of what it would be like for my family without me and afraid of what it would be like for me without my family.

   Once I arrived, I realized that the drive up the mountain was really a metaphor for life.  There were parts of the drive that were quite beautiful.  Parts where I marveled that human beings could create a highway on this mountain.  But there were other parts that were frightening.  A steep climb, a series of twists and turns, yellow signs with zig-zaggy arrows.  Curves and bends without an end in sight.  Where was I going?

   Thanks to my husband’s help, I had a map on my phone, and a little voice that alerted me when I needed to turn left or right.  

   But things happen.  A lane is closed.  A street has a detour, and I needed to adjust my route.

   That’s the part I’m still trying to get better at.  I don’t always like it when things don’t go as planned.  And, for the last few years, my life hasn’t gone as planned.  An autoimmune disease wasn’t part of any plan.  As a result, it has become a huge part of who I am and what I do and do not do.

   Even with this trip, I almost let my disease stop me from going.  What if my legs hurt during the drive?  What if I had a flare-up while I was away from the comforts of my home?  What if ...?  And the answer was, then I’ll deal with it.  Same way I deal with it when I have pain at the California Science Center or during dinner.

   On day three, it was time to come home.  And while I knew driving downhill would be easier than driving uphill, the trip down the mountain was frightening in its own way.  The car picked up speed, seemed to have its own momentum, and I was (literally) carried along for the ride.  But, ultimately, it was up to me to make sure the speed didn’t get out of control.

   For one stretch of the drive, I wound up behind a large tour bus.  The driver navigated each twist and turn slowly and cautiously, and I, and the drivers behind me, were forced to do the same.  It was a reminder to me that in life it’s okay to slow down, to go even a little more slowly than necessary.  And in truth, those slow turns did help me relax a bit.

   Driving home, I still relied on the little voice on my phone to help me navigate.  But the longer I drove and the closer I got to home, the more familiar I felt with my surroundings.  As in life, I had to first go through those new patches until I could reach the familiar.

   I turned thirty-eight this year, and I said it was going to be a year where I pushed myself to do things -- things that are scary, things that I tend to classify as “maybe” or “someday.”  This trip, this writing retreat, was one of those things.

   For so long, I was on automatic pilot, and I didn’t have time to think about things like who I am, or if I’m happy, or what else I hope to accomplish.  I was a teacher.  A mother.  A wife.  I knew what I had to do, I knew what I had to accomplish.  And I knew that those jobs would make me very happy at certain times, and very unhappy at other times.  But that was all part of the plan.

   Now, without the full-time, away-from-home job, things have shifted.  Plans have changed.  Now, I am not a teacher, but I am a writer.  And I am a writer who plans to go on more retreats.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Wonder of Boys

This month's issue of The MOON Magazine explores the wonder of boys, and I am proud to say that one of my essays is featured in the edition.  Take a look at the various ways authors have written about the "wonder of boys."  Here's the link: