Monthly Archives: February 2017

Join Me!

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Have you wanted to stretch yourself as a writer? Do you want to cultivate a habit of living life with your eyes wide open? Do you want to foster a routine of writing daily, which will grow your writing muscles? Would you like to be part of a welcoming, supportive writing community? If so, then I have just the thing for you!

It’s nearly time for the Slice of Life blogging challenge to begin! I have been mentally planning for and anticipating this month for a while now, and I’d love for you to join me. This is the tenth annual Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) hosted by Two Writing Teachers, and it’s my seventh year to participate. My first year, I dipped my toes in, blogging a few times a week, but I’ve blogged everyday (or nearly everyday) since then. I’m gearing up for a full 31 days of blogging again this year!

What is the SOLSC all about?

  • Slice of Life stories are pieces of your ordinary life that you tell through a narrative, poem, photos, etc. For more information on a SOL story, click here.
  • On your own blog (an existing blog or you can create a new one- it’s easy!), you write a blog post daily.
  • Link your blog post permalink to the Two Writing Teacher’s daily call to slice as a comment.
  • Read at least 3 other blogger’s posts and comment on them.
  • There are prizes that you can win if you blog everyday for 31 days and comment on at least 3 other posts daily, but the real prize is in the experience.

Here’s what you can expect if you join me in the SOLSC:

  • A renewed passion for writing
  • To have a place and the space to try out new genres and play with different styles of writing
  • Meet new friends (even if it’s just on the interwebs)
  • Make connections with others
  • Cultivate a daily habit of writing (even when you think you won’t have time)
  • An appreciation for ordinary days
  • To find stories in seemingly meaningless interactions and experiences (this is where that “living with your eyes wide open” part comes in)
  • To be fueled by an audience (there’s something special about knowing others are reading your posts)
  • Your stamina and energy for writing to strengthen

Here are a few posts for you to learn more information about the challenge:
Tenth Annual SOLSC Information
First-time Slicers FAQs

This challenge has personally changed me and helped me become a better writer. I came across this post today that I wrote back in 2012, my second year in the challenge, where I reflected on my writing journey. I love this snapshot of where I was as a writer then. I’ve also “met” people who I now call my friends, even though we’ve never met in real life.

March has come to be a month that I cherish, savoring each day, seeking out that spark of inspiration for my daily “slice.” I want to share my passion for this project with you. I hope you join me this year! If you need help creating a blog, I can help! Just ask. And if you do join the challenge, let me know. I’d love to follow you and read your slices. Happy blogging!! 🙂

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Our Obsession with Connection

Something that’s been ruminating in my head for a little while is this obsession with constant connection that we all seem to have. I know I’m guilty of it. I have Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WeChat, What’s App, Line, iMessage, Facetime, Skype, my WordPress blog, and of course, email. I have resisted getting Twitter and Snapchat because I just can’t manage one more thing.

In my opinion, social media is a double-edged sword. One one hand, it connects us to people we love who are far away, which is super important when you live abroad like I do, and it helps us form connections with others who have similar interests who we might otherwise never meet in real life. But on the other hand, being so connected and easily accessible means you can’t shut it off. You are constantly barraged with messages that you want and need to respond to, yet sometimes you can’t keep up. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in messages, wanting to respond, but not having the time, then feeling guilty about not responding quickly enough, so much so that I become paralyzed and don’t respond or take even longer to respond.

And then there’s Facebook. To me, Facebook is a completely different animal. Facebook, in theory, is a great tool. It allows me to share my life with people who are far away, see what’s happening in my friends’ lives, particularly major milestones like marriages, new babies, kids growing up, trips people take, etc., and connect with people professionally, such as the PYP groups I have joined. But in reality, Facebook has become a burden. It takes up way too much of my time. I find myself checking it too often, only to find not much has changed. Ugh…and the political posts…they’re the worst. I think it boils down to the fact that what I get out of it isn’t worth the cost.

The first thing I did was turn off notifications from Facebook. That constant ‘ding’ informing me that someone had ‘liked’ my photo or status, commented on my status or a status I had commented on, or that one of my friends recently posted something, was so distracting and took me away from things I wanted to spend time doing. No longer receiving notifications helped a bit, but the problem still persisted. I still checked Facebook way too often. A couple of weeks ago, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. Removing the temptation to constantly check it has helped me take a step back.

But there’s still this gnawing feeling that I just want to step away. I want to disconnect a bit. Not completely, of course, because I value connection, but this constant connection is not something that brings me joy right now. And to be honest, I feel guilty about that. Like, really guilty. As a people pleaser, wanting to step away makes me feel like a brat. Am I saying that I have people who want to connect with me, and I want less of that? I think that that’s not entirely the case. What I’m craving is real, authentic connections with others…sitting across the table or on the other end of the phone with someone, listening to them telling me about their life, in a conversation, rather than reading messages on a screen.

When I reflect on why I am feeling this way, it boils down to constant connection not being in line with my goals. This past year has been one of the most stressful and saddening times of my life, and having removed myself from that situation in order to focus on becoming ‘me’ again, I have created goals that allow me to do just that- get back to who I really am and the things that bring me joy in my life. Things like reading more (which I am doing a ton of lately), getting back into writing and blogging (yay…I’m doing that, too), healing from the past (working on it), going to bed early (like, super early), diving into my new job (I’m learning everyday), and doing more of the things I love. Engaging all the time with Facebook and other forms of constant communication take time away from pursuing my goals.

So, while I feel selfish and kinda like a jerk, I want to step away from it for a while. I’m not making one of those sweeping ‘I’m never getting on Facebook and I’m deleting my account so you’ll never see me again’ statements, but I am making a conscious decision to do more of what makes me happy and less of what takes my time away from that. I’m not sure what this will exactly look like, but I’ll be less accessible than I normally have been in the past. I’d still love to hear from you, but it may take me longer to respond.

A Different Valentine’s Day

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Today was a different kind of Valentine’s Day for me. I recently began teaching preschool, and so far I’m having a blast! I’m learning new things about this age group all the time, and my days are filled with smiles, laughs, hugs, and fun. Today was my first holiday party in preschool, and while I’ve hosted many Valentine’s parties in elementary school, preschool is a different story!

One thing I’ve learned about (well, not so much learned as solidified my thinking about) preschoolers is that they need routine. Anything out of the ordinary turns their world upside down. So, a day where we get to dress out of uniform, hand out Valentine’s cards and candy, and have a party filled with treats is definitely out of our routine. From the moment my little ones arrived, they were literally bouncing around the room, unable to contain their excitement of the day ahead.

We began the day normally, practicing our writing, but they were having difficulty concentrating. After that, we moved to the carpet for calendar time, where we review our day and basics like colors, numbers, letters, etc. They were having none of it. Imagine ten preschoolers, all doing their own thing…rolling around on the carpet, talking to their friends, interrupting other friends, getting up off the carpet to show me their Valentine’s cards, looking around the room, taking off their shoes, etc. My attempts at normalcy were thwarted by the buzz of Valentine excitement in the air. To get our wiggles out, we sang and danced to our favorite song, Freeze Dance. OK, let’s try this again. Same thing. Chaos. Well, that didn’t work. Now what? I shut off all the lights and led them in some breathing exercises, practicing being mindful. That seemed to calm them down a bit.

Giving up on calendar time, we got in a circle to talk about the meaning of Valentine’s Day. I shared that Valentine’s Day was a day to show people that we like or love them and to be good friends. I said we would go around the circle and share what we like about our friends. Modeling for them, I shared that I liked Captain’s smile, and how it always made me smile to see him so happy. “Who wants to share something they like about their friend?”

Alani raised her hand. I asked her who she wanted to talk about. “Rosie.”

“And what do you like about Rosie?”

A big grin spread across her face. “Cupcakes!”

“Alani, what do you like about Rosie?”

“I like cupcakes.”

“OK, but what do you like about Rosie?”

“I like when she gives me cupcakes.”

Chuckling to myself, I had to give it to her. I’d like it if someone gave me cupcakes, too. Mind you, no one had given Alani cupcakes today. Preschoolers are just funny.

“Who else would like to share something they like about their friends?”

J.J. raised his hand, and said that he wanted to share something about James.

“OK, great. J.J., what do you like about James?”

“Cookies.”

Clearly we are not understanding the concept. At that point, I shared a few more examples of what I liked about different friends in the class. “I like how Lanla is such a good listener. I like how excited and full of life Alani is. I like how Lali always helps her friends. I like how Namping always uses English when he talks to his friends.”

“Let’s try this again. Who wants to share?”

Saint raised his hand. He, too, wanted to share what he liked about James.

“OK, Saint, what do you like about James?”

“Pee pee.”

Laughter erupts in the classroom. Everyone thinks this is the funniest thing they have ever heard.

“Now Saint, is that nice to say about our friend? We use kind words in our class.”

The giggling doesn’t stop. Looking up at the clock, I am relieved to see that it’s time for P.E. “OK everybody, let’s line up.”

After recess, we had our party, complete with making jam sandwiches cut into hearts, decorating cookies, and making Valentine’s cards for our moms and dads. We passed out our Valentine’s cards and had a blast opening them up after nap time. A day filled with fun and laughter is always good, but I sure hope we can get back to normal tomorrow. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! ❤

Lost in the Medina

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Morocco is one of those one-in-a-lifetime places that most people dream about visiting, but rarely do. I was fortunate enough to live out this dream a few months ago.

Much like my typical approach to traveling, I didn’t research a ton about Morocco, deciding instead to experience it in the moment. What I did research was the food. As a self-proclaimed foodie, it’s one of my must-do’s before visiting a new place.

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Our first stop in Morocco was Fes, where the best thing to do is get lost in the maze of twists and turns called the medina. Wandering through the medina is an assault on the senses. Colorful fabrics, pottery, and paintings fight for your attention, while smells linger long after you’ve passed by, tempting you to come and have a taste. Historical treasures hide among stalls upon stalls of wares, inviting you to explore.

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As I weaved my way down the narrow alleyways between throngs of people, I found myself thinking that it couldn’t get any better, only to find out that, yes, it can. An internal battle ensued between wanting to soak it all in, experiencing it in real time and taking a photo of every beautiful and interesting thing that I encountered.

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My favorite experiences in Fes involved interacting with the locals. Meeting new people from a different culture is always interesting and fun. On one such occasion, we wandered into an art gallery tucked down a tiny alley off the main thoroughfare. Inside, we met the most colorful character imaginable. The artist, an older man in his sixties, was so full of life and personality! Despite the language barrier, he made us laugh til our sides hurt. He repeatedly said, in the deepest voice he could muster, “I’m da BOSS!” while beating his chest and doing some karate moves. During our negotiations, the faces he made were priceless, too.

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Another day we found an embroidery shop that featured hand-embroidered cloth, such as pillow cases, table cloths, napkins, etc. We even got to watch the ladies working. Seeing the delicate work that went into each piece proved that it was truly a work of art. A great find was a shop that specialized in local, organic argan oils and clay masks. The ladies educated us on the benefits of argan oil for your skin and showed us how the oil is extracted from the nut.

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Tucked away in the medina is Cafe Clock, one of our favorite places to eat, whose ambiance is second to none. It’s worth climbing the 4 flights of stairs to the top to enjoy dinner on the terrace, high above the medina below. Their menu features local Moroccan favorites as well as Western dishes. It’s vegetarian friendly, and the food and service are both top-notch. A real treat is the iced lemon tea, which is more like a tea slushy. My favorite meal was the aubergine and goat cheese quiche with salad and potato wedges. They also do a killer cooking class, which I highly recommend checking out!

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A trip to Morocco would be remiss unless you

try the mint tea. Consisting of green tea, loads of fresh mint leaves, and sugar (and sugar and sugar), it’s a distinctly sweet, fresh taste that isn’t easily forgotten. Mint tea is typically served hot and in a clear glass, and can literally be found everywhere. Most shops will even offer it for free if you have been shopping there a while.

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My food research yielded a gem that I thought would be impossible to find, but as luck would have it, I stumbled upon it, and I’m glad I did! I read about this man who sells 2 Dirham (20 cents) cookies called macarons, which are large, lightly browned cookies with a slightly crunchy outside and a chewy inside. They were described as the best peanut buttery-tasting cookie ever, and that description is dead on! I was waiting outside of a shop for my friends, when this guy walked by with a tray of cookies on his head. He was shouting “Two Dirham!” as he went by, and it wasn’t until he had passed me up that it dawned on me. Cookies for 2 Dirham! That must be the guy! I caught up with him and bought 3 cookies, one for each of us. After one bite, I was in heaven. I went back to buy a dozen more for us to munch on throughout our time in Morocco. What I’d give for another one of those…

I could seriously devote an entire blog post to all the delicious food I had in Morocco…next time!