Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’

My curious son and I, on the observation area of the Santa Barbara Courthouse. June 2018 (I climbed all the stairs!)

“What does the doctor do with all the blood after they check it?”

My son once asked me that question.  It took me by surprise and caught me off guard, because it was something I had never considered.  

It’s not the only good question Ryan has asked me over the years.  There have been so many I wrote a personal essay about them.  And I’m proud to say that “Mommy Has a ‘Boo-Boo Leg’: Talking to My Son About My Autoimmune Disease” is now a non-fiction finalist in the Pen 2 Paper Disability-Focused Creative Writing Contest.

Click here to read my essay, and this year, readers may vote for their “audience favorite.” (You must have a free Submittable account to vote).  

Thank you in advance for reading and spreading the word!

 

I Can’t – And Here’s Why

A photo taken during my teaching days. After a museum field trip, my students enjoyed rolling down this big grassy hill!

On the second day of this school year, my son’s teacher asked if I was available to help chaperone field trips.  It was before school, a minute before the bell was to ring.  There wasn’t time for me to give her a medical explanation so instead, I gave a quick reply, “It depends.”

How was I to tell my son’s fifth-grade teacher that just because she saw me every day (at drop-off and pick-up times) there were medical reasons why I couldn’t help on field trips.

During the second week of school, my son had his first field trip.  A walking field trip.  Again, his teacher asked if I was available to join their class.  This time, I said, “No I’m sorry.  I can’t do it.”

Which was true.  It just wasn’t the whole story.  And most of the time the whole story is much easier for me to write than it is to say.

Click here to read my personal essay (written when my son was a second grader) that explains “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips.”

 

Playing in Pain

The other afternoon, my son and I played hopscotch.

That was after we had played handball.

There are a few details that make those statements more meaningful than they may initially appear.

First off, in our neighborhood, we don’t see many parents outside playing with their kids.  Where we live, kids are left to wander on their own.  Most of the families near us are not only-child families like ours so often times siblings play together, or neighboring kids play together.  But the other day, we were the only ones outside enjoying the sunshine so I was my son’s playmate.

Secondly, neither hopscotch or handball are easy sports for me to play.  Me, the woman with an autoimmune disease, the woman who qualifies for a disabled placard, the woman who experiences pain in her legs (primarily the left leg).

But my son wanted to play.  And I wanted to play with him.  So I did, until I just couldn’t.  Until I was balancing on one foot, bending down to pick up the rock from the hopscotch square, and pain began to shoot up and down my leg a bit.  Then I had to sit the rest of the game out, and cheer on my son while he played alone.

That part hasn’t gotten any easier for me — knowing when to stop and knowing when to say “I can’t do this any more.”  Because I do want to play with my son, and because I realize how special it is that my ten-year-old still wants to play with me. 

Our afternoon playtime session got me thinking about a personal essay I wrote a few years back that was published at muthamagazine.com.  Click here to read, “The ‘A’ Word: Parenting with an Invisible Disability.”

 

Who Is Wendy Kennar?

My ten-year-old son enjoys reading the “Who? What? Where?” Series.  If you’re not familiar with these non-fiction books, they are biographies of famous people (both historical and contemporary figures) as well as books about well-known places and significant events.

On the back cover of each book, is a series of questions related to the book’s subject.  This week, I thought I’d borrow that format to share a few things about me:

Who Is Wendy Kennar?

— A little girl who always liked to wear plastic jewelry around the house and pretend she was a movie star.

— A college student who didn’t have a car for half her college years and relied on six buses a day to commute to and from California State University Northridge.

— A mother with an invisible disability.

** All of the above

It’s all true.  And you can click here to read my personal essay “Parenting With an Invisible Disability” at MomsLA.com.

One Step At a Time

The day a stranger told my husband and me we were walking slowly was the same day I found out I’d earned my “Serengeti badge.”

Now let me explain all that.

For my birthday a few months back, a good friend gifted me her Fitbit Alta when she upgraded to a Fitbit Watch.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this gift, honestly.  On the one hand, I was curious to learn how many steps I take each day.  But I wondered if this new wrist accessory would show I’m not as active as I thought I was, in which case, my levels of pain and fatigue would be even harder to explain.

Turns out, I usually have one day a week (Sundays) when my step count is lowest.  And, I’ve found out that more steps doesn’t always equal more pain.  There are some days when I have walked more than 10,000 steps (our day at the San Diego Zoo comes to mind) when pain was at a high.  But there are other days, when pain is quite intense and I’ve taken about 6,000 steps.

Walking is my main form of exercise and during the school year, I arrive near my son’s school at least twenty minutes before his dismissal, park my car, and walk through the neighborhood at what I consider a leisurely pace, but apparently what others consider slow.

The other day, my husband and I were strolling hand-in-hand when a resident of a home we walked by was out front and commented that we were walking slowly.  (This isn’t the first time someone has told us that.  You can click here to read my blog post “Change” for more on that story).   

We continued walking, but once we turned the corner, my tears dripped below my sunglasses.  If I walked with a cane, I doubt this man would have commented on my speed.  But because I live with an invisible disability, my pain and struggles are not evident to others.

Then later that same day, I received an email telling me I’d earned my “Serengeti badge”  — meaning I’ve walked 500 miles, the same distance as the Serengeti according to Fitbit.  (Though to be honest, I did wear a Fitbit for a while a few years ago, and I think my new badge is the result of the combination of my old and new miles).

In any event, I think 500 miles is pretty impressive.  500 miles of walking.  Even when I’m hurting.  Even when I don’t feel like walking.  Even when I’m walking slowly.

 

The Words I Use to Describe My Autoimmune Disease

My son and I playing handball

 

I gained a reputation after teaching for a number of years.  I was kind.  Organized.  Structured.  Calm.  Patient.  Loving.

And even though I’m no longer teaching, those adjectives still apply. 

But there’s another side of me.  The side that is sometimes so frustrated, so beaten-down that I feel like channeling Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob? and letting out a long tirade of curse words.  And while I don’t let myself go to that extreme, it still isn’t easy to deal with daily pain and stay calm. 

Instead, I write about it.

Click here to be re-directed to The Mighty to read my latest personal essay, “The Words I Use to Describe Life With an Autoimmune Disease.”

A Reminder to Practice Kindness

horoscope (photo by Wendy Kennar)

As I was reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times, I came across my horoscope.  I’ve found that sometimes my horoscope is rather general and could be applied to just about anyone.  Other times, I find my horoscope to be completely irrelevant to my life.  This week, I’d have to say my horoscope was spot on.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20):  Of course you deserve

your own kindness.  If you’re still struggling with that

it’s a good day to simply drop the fight.  Assume that

one of the main things you need right now is

more compassion and then give it to yourself.

Along those lines, I’d also like to share a post I wrote that MomsLA.com published last week.  Here’s the link to “Why I Don’t Volunteer to Chaperone My Son’s Field Trips”:

http://momsla.com/dont-volunteer-chaperone-sons-field-trips/