Monthly Archives: April 2017

Numb

People in pain
My people
Why can’t I take it
away?
It can take them
away

My mind reeling
When will it
stop?
Everything is fine
Until it’s not
And then what?
Am I supposed to just
pretend that life is okay
even when it
most certainly is not?

Not able to write
Unable to do much
of anything
Numbness takes over
to block out the pain
But it comes back
in waves
when I least expect it
Sadness, anger, disbelief
Fear, worry, dread

That age-old question
surfaces
Why do bad things
happen to good people?
I wish I knew

Life is a series of
ups and downs
I know that
But the downs
shouldn’t be this bad,
right?

For now, I don’t know
what to do
what to say
how to act
But I can show them I love them
be a listening ear
love them through it
That’s all I can do
I hope it’s enough

 

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Letter Q #AtoZChallenge

Only one thing really stands out for the Letter Q.

Quilts

One thing that made Mamaw Mamaw was that she was a quilter. She had an entire room devoted to sewing, and it was full to the brim with spools of thread and scraps of fabric. When she wasn’t gardening or cooking, she was quilting.

I remember her hand sewing scraps of fabric into intricate and beautiful designs. I would watch as her hands nimbly attached the scraps to one another. She tried to teach me when I was younger, and I sewed a few quilts and pillows for my baby dolls, but I didn’t have the patience for it at the time. I wish I could go back in time and sit with her again while she taught me her craft. I’d listen this time.

Mamaw had everyday quilts that adorned the beds and special occasion quilts that she put on display. She gave quilts as gifts and donated them each year for her church’s Chili Day auction. Everyone fought to outbid one another and get one of her quilts. One of her specialties was a double wedding ring quilt that she’d make her loved ones when they married. My mom has always treasured hers. When Mamaw passed away, she left certain quilts to each of us in her will. They were the ones we’d coveted when she was alive, begging her for them. I can remember her saying, “You’ll have to wait until I die to get that quilt. I know you won’t take care of it and I just can’t see that.” When I assured her I would take care of them, she didn’t believe me. She said she knew I’d put it in the washing machine and dryer and she simply couldn’t handle that.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter P #AtoZChallenge

Letter P memoir encyclopedia entries on deck for today.

Packing

As someone who travels and moves frequently, I’m no stranger to packing, and while I’ve gotten more efficient at packing over the years, I have yet to master the art of packing light. It’s not to say I don’t want to or that I haven’t tried. I have. Many times. The thing is, I always think, But what if I need this and I don’t have it? I better bring it. Sometimes I really did need whatever it was and ended up being really glad I brought it, but other times I end up bringing it right back home untouched.

Parties

I know I’ve already touched on this one in Letter E when I wrote about entertaining, but it’s worth mentioning again. I love throwing parties, and I’m pretty good at it, too. It’s one of my gifts. No, seriously, I took a test when I was in my early twenties about my gifts and my number one gift was hospitality. At first, I was confused. I mean, I don’t work in a hotel or anything and I thought teaching should’ve been my top gift, but after I read the description of it, I realized it actually did fit me.

Whenever I plan parties, I mull over the menu ahead of time, scouring Pinterest for new recipes to go along with my old favorites. Menu planning is key, as I want everything to complement each other. Next up comes the drinks. Who’s coming and what do they like? What kind of party is it and what’s appropriate for the occasion? After food and drinks are settled, I’ll decide on whether or not decorations are needed. For most parties I don’t go all out with decor, but for things like Friendsgiving, Christmas, or baby showers, decorations just add a little something. Last comes the playlist and any party games we might want to play. I always have to consider my audience when planning these aspects.

The day of, I have to make sure I don’t have anything else going on. I get up early and go shopping for all the ingredients I need for cooking, if I haven’t done that already, and then come back to cook. I have to be strategic when prepping and cooking, considering which items need more time and which ones will hold up if I cook them earlier. Then it’s a whirlwind of preparation. In between cooking, I always bustle around, making sure the house is in order. Are the decorations set? Are all the beds made and everything tidy in case people want a tour? Is the music set up? Are the candles lit? I always have candles going because it adds to the ambiance and makes my place smell good, too.

No matter how much prep work goes into my parties, I always stress out and think I won’t make it. As you’ll read about a little later, I’m a procrastinator, so I push things to the wire. I almost always finish in time though. Despite all the stress and work that goes into the event, I love it and couldn’t imagine not being the ‘hostess with the mostest.’

Passport

One of my favorite possessions is my passport. For obvious reasons, I love it because it allows me to travel, one of my main obsessions in this world. But I also love it because I get to look back at all my stamps and visas, remembering trips I’ve taken. I’ll always keep my passports forever for that reason.

My current passport is my second one. I got my first one at age 18, when I took a family trip to England. That passport only had stamps from 4 places…England, Germany, Fiji, and Australia. I got the passport I have now in 2010, just before moving to China. A couple of years ago, I had to have pages added to it, mainly because of all the Chinese visas and stamps that took up a lot of room. Even though my passport doesn’t expire until 2020, I doubt I’ll make it that long before I need a new one. I currently have 11 blank pages, but with visas often taking up a whole page, and with more traveling in my future, I’ll probably need to get a new one in 2018. I’m going to opt for the larger one this time.

Perfectionism

In many things, I’m a perfectionist. I’m not sure what makes me want to do some things perfectly, while being okay with other things not done quite to perfection. My perfectionism has been a driving force in my successes thus far, but it’s also caused me much stress. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to mellow out more and not let things bother me quite as much as they used to. I still like things done just so, but I’m getting better at not letting it bother me if they aren’t.

Pillow Person

Back in the 80’s, pillow people were all the rage, so naturally, I had one. My pillow person had blonde braids coming off the sides of her head in pigtails, and she wore a pink dress and black shoes with white ruffled socks. I remember having her throughout most of my elementary school years. While I didn’t play with her much during my awake hours, she was essential for sleeping through the night. When I think back on my pillow person (I find it strange that I never named her; I just always called her my pillow person), two distinct memories come to mind.

pillow person

Not my actual pillow person, but mine looked exactly like this one.

Since I slept with her every night and occasionally played with her during the day, it’s only natural that she’d get dirty. I can remember the first time my mom telling me that she was filthy and it was time to wash her. I panicked and threw an all-out temper tantrum, truly believing that she would be utterly destroyed in the washing machine. Nothing my mom said could assuage my fears. Nevertheless, mom wrestled her away and into the washing machine she went.

I cried and cried, and refused to leave the washing machine’s side during the entire wash. Once she came out, clean and intact, I calmed down, happy she was still alive. That is, until my mom threw her in the dryer. Fearful of the worst yet again, I stood guard by the dryer, hoping and praying she’d survive. Lucky for me (and my mom), she did.

Another memory that comes to mind occurred during fifth grade. I had spent Saturday night at a sleepover at Ashley’s house, so of course, I took my pillow person to help me sleep. Ashley was really interested in her and, to be honest, I think she was jealous she didn’t have one.

The next morning, my parents picked me up and I went home. It wasn’t until bedtime that I realized she was missing. I freaked out, crying uncontrollably, unable and unwilling to sleep until I had her. Figuring that I’d forgotten her at Ashely’s, my dad called her parents and confirmed that my pillow person was indeed at their house. Despite it being 9pm on a Sunday night, my dad drove over there and got it back for me. Turns out, I hadn’t simply forgotten her. Ashley had hidden her in hopes of keeping her for herself. We remained friends for a while after that, but I’d be lying if I said I ever fully trusted her again.

Pretend

As a kid, I was always using my imagination and playing pretend, or as I called it for the longest time, ‘playing buh-tend.’ I was the kind of kid who played well with others, but I was also content playing by myself. My imagination really took off when I played alone.

There was a huge stack of cinder blocks in the back of Mamaw’s house that I commandeered as my playhouse. I had Granddaddy build a staircase up to the top out of some of the cinder blocks, and I used leftover bricks from when they built their house for my props. I made it my playhouse, pretending the bricks were other things.

I had a kitchen, with a stove and a table, where I’d cook all kinds of food. I’d use grass, sticks, berries, dirt- whatever I could find outside- for the food and utensils. I’d make full meals in that little makeshift kitchen. I had a bedroom for my baby dolls, with a baby bed and changing table. I’d bring out my Cabbage Patch dolls, baby bottles, and blankets and take care of them just like a real mom would.

Sometimes I invited Andrew to play with me. A more accurate description is that Andrew would occasionally give in to me begging him to play in my playhouse. We’d play house up there for hours. If I close my eyes, I can still picture everything about that place and be taken right back to my childhood, a time when things were far easier and there was no stress and time seemed infinite.

Procrastination

As I alluded to earlier, I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. It’s a trait that bothers me, yet it’s one I can’t seem to shake.

It started with school work and chores. I’d push everything to the last minute, testing fate as I struggled to get it all done in time. As I’ve grown into adulthood, it’s permeated other aspects of my life, including work and home. I will get my work done, but without the deadline propelling me to do it, I tend to put it on the back burner. That is, unless I’m super interested in doing the task. If I’m into whatever it is, I’ll devote tons of time and usually finish before the deadline, motivated by my own internal push. I’m also the worst at responding to personal emails. Work emails are different, because I have to do it, but I find it really difficult to respond to personal emails in a timely manner.

As a leader, I’ve actively worked on changing this part of my personality, and I have improved. I still have a long way to go, but I’m working on it.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter O #AtoZChallenge

Letter O has only one entry. Oh, well…it’s got sub-headings, so it’ll do.

Obsessions

Anyone who knows me knows I’m the kinda person who gets obsessed with things. As in fixated, can’t get enough, have to have it all, all the time. It’s a good thing I’m not a smoker and I never tried drugs; I’m afraid of what this personality trait would do if I got obsessed with the wrong thing. The deal with my obsessions is that they usually come on quick and stay a while, until they fade into oblivion, only to be replaced by the next one. Some are just a blip on the radar of life, while some make a lasting impression.

Daisies

When I was in high school, my parents finally let me redo my room, and I got to pick any paint color and decorations I wanted. I was stoked! I chose a bright, almost electric blue that made them raise an eyebrow or two, as they questioned me incessantly about whether this was really what I wanted. Of course it was! When the paint was spread across all four walls, and not just on a 2″ x 2″ paint square, I have to admit, I didn’t love it at first. It was way too loud, and I began to seriously doubt my choice. But being the teenager that I was, there was no way I was going to tell my parents I didn’t like it. When they asked, I gushed over the blue, painted a huge fake smile on my face, and told them I loved it. And I did, eventually. Like all things, it grew on me.

After the paint color was decided, I quickly settled on daisies for the decorations because, at the time, I was utterly obsessed with daisies, particularly the white and yellow variety. Nowadays, I would tastefully decorate with a pop of daisies, but my teenage self went full-blown daisy crazy and everything was daisies. I had a daisy comforter and pillows. I had all kinds of framed daisy artwork hanging on the walls. I hand-stenciled daisies around both of my windows. I had large fake daisies (that I bought and brought back from a trip to Germany) in a metal vase sitting on the floor in the corner, in addition to the smaller vases of fake daisies on my nightstand and dresser (Just for the record, I now cringe at the thought of fake flowers). I painted daisies on an IKEA mirror that hung on the wall, as well as on the lampshade of the lamp on my bedside table. It was over the top for sure, but I loved it.

I’m not sure when the daisy obsession faded, but it did, and while I still enjoy having fresh daisies in my house from time to time, they no longer hold the same appeal as they once did.

Books

Ever since I was little, books have held a type of magic for me. They take me to faraway places and allow me to befriend interesting people. My nose was always stuck in a book, and the best extrinsic motivation for me was the promise of a trip to the bookstore to pick out a new book. Books were all around me, and continue to be.

I started to amass a huge collection when I began teaching, knowing that in order for kids to become readers, they needed to be surrounded by all types of books, and not just in the school or public libraries, but in our classroom library as well. When I picked up and moved to China after six years of teaching, my classroom library contained over 1,000 books. I wanted to take them all with me, because knowing them inside and out meant that I could always match a reader to a book, but shipping costs are prohibitive, and I had to part with some. Whittling my collection down to about 500, I gave some away and stored the rest.

I began in China with roughly 500 books, and just added more during my five years there. When it came time to move again, I again sorted and sifted, once again parting with a huge chunk of my collection. It’s always so sad to part with beloved books, isn’t it? I left Albania abruptly, therefore, my book collection is still there. I hope to have friends ship some over to me, but again, I can’t take them all. The life of an international educator means, for me, leaving a trail of books around the world. I guess there are worse things to leave behind, right?

Glasses

As an exclusive glasses wearer for about 15 years, glasses have become part of my look. I don’t really like myself without them, as I feel naked and like something is missing when I don’t have them on. When I lived stateside, my glasses were pretty boring…just your everyday pair. Once I moved to China, however, I discovered the wonder that is the glasses market, where I could get a pair of prescription glasses for about 20 bucks. Let the obsession commence! I went a bit overboard, as I tend to do, and ended up with over 20 pairs of glasses and sunglasses. My favorite thing is matching my glasses to my outfits. I only brought 3 pair to Thailand, and it’s killing me…I need variety! Here are a few of my favorite pairs…

Notebooks

I cannot resist a good notebook. It’s like a compulsion. If I come across a perfect notebook…one where the spine allows it to lie flat when opened…I have to buy it. I also prefer ones with an elastic band on the side to keep it closed. Oh, and it has to be lined, none of that blank page nonsense. Pages with a tinge of color, ones that look a bit aged, are definitely preferred over stark white. I have loads of notebooks, some completed, others partially filled, and some awaiting words. And I always have to have a notebook around just in case words need to be written. If you come across a perfect notebook, my birthday’s next month. 😉

Neon

I went through a phase a couple of years where I was completely obsessed with neon and brightly colored clothing. My wardrobe was a rainbow of color, and opening it made me smile. Wearing bright colors makes me happy, and I think it just makes life a little more fun, you know? I’ve moved on from my neon-filled closet, but I have kept a few of my favorite pieces. I still enjoy a pop of color, but my current style is a little more understated.

Food & Drink Obsessions

One of the things I really get hooked on is food. I get a taste of something I love, and I have to have it all the time. The typical arch is a gradual obsession that quickly builds to a climax, followed by a decline, sometimes tapering off and sometimes stopping completely. A few of my past and current food and drink obsessions include goat cheese (one of the longest-running obsessions), chai tea lattes (preferably iced ones from Starbucks), mango sticky rice, the ricotta and house-made jam appetizer from Mercato in Shanghai, Pizza Express (in general, but the dough balls with garlic butter are pretty dope), pavlova (my fave dessert from Oz), Starbucks (again, generally speaking, but mainly an iced tea and an apple turnover does the trick), iced sweet tea (I’m from the South, you know!), and good queso and chips (I know all the best places to go in my hometown, and which ones are subpar and best avoided).

Lush

Have you ever tried Lush handmade cosmetic products? They’re totally my jam…I love that they are all natural and vegan/vegetarian, and that they are an eco-friendly company. I have been obsessed for a number of years, and many products are my go-to’s now. Faves include the Let the Good Times Roll face wash. It has a mild exfoliant that’s safe for everyday use, plus it smells amazing and even has popped popcorn in it! 🙂 My newest find is the Daddy-O shampoo designed for blondies. It was a little scary to try at first, considering it’s a deep purple color, but it really works to take the brassiness out of my blonde tresses. A bonus is that a 500 mL bottle lasts me about 6 months with almost daily use. When I travel, I always take one of their solid shampoos. It’s great for both hair and body, so it’s a good all-in-one. I’ve tried lots of their products, and I highly recommend them!

Owls

Okay, so I know owls were/are trendy, but my obsession didn’t come about as a result of its trendiness. I became obsessed with owls when my school in China adopted the owls as their official mascot. As a new principal, I had to decorate my office, and what better to decorate it with than owls? It was our new mascot, they’re adorable, and the trend meant they were readily available. It started with just a few accents, but once it started, I just accumulated more and more of them. Many I received as gifts, but I also couldn’t resist an adorable owl pillow or figurine I’d see at the market. At one point, a pre-k student decided to count how many owl things I had in my office. He counted 64. So, yeah…I was officially obsessed.

Traveling

My biggest obsession has to be traveling. Traveling has profoundly changed me and opened my eyes to new perspectives, and I’m a better person for having traveled. I firmly believe that life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.

Traveling’s like a drug…I can’t get enough of it! If I’m not on a trip, I’m planning my next one (or three). We live on such an amazing planet, and I want to see all of it. With only 35 countries and 5 continents under my belt, I’ve just begun. I could write all day about this obsession, but I’ll just leave you with a few quotes that sum up how I feel about traveling:

“Travel has made me more aware of me. I learn more about myself while on the road than anywhere else. It’s given me the ‘I can make it happen’ attitude.” ~Jessica Johnson

“The ‘traveler’s rush’ that hits you upon arrival to a new place is like a drug. And like a drug, the more you expose yourself to it, the more you want it.” ~Clayton B. Cornell

“Traveling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing.” ~Gayle Foreman

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” ~Anthony Bourdain

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter N #AtoZChallenge

Continuing the memoir encyclopedia theme with Letter N…

Napster

Remember Napster? I certainly do. Back in the late 90’s, Napster was my gateway to free music. This was a time before I realized the ramifications of copyright infringement. I’ve since grown up and now pay for music I listen to, but back then, I was blissfully ignorant.

At the time, we had one computer in our house, a slow desktop PC located in my parents’ bedroom that could be used sparingly. I’d sit down and dial up the internet to get started. That familiar deeee-dooooo-deeeee screech that kids nowadays will never know signaled that I was on my way to connecting to the interwebs. Using Napster, I’d search for the songs I wanted, and then download them. A few hours later, I’d be able to listen to the fruits of my labor. Sadly, most of the time the song was either poor quality or not the full length song, which meant I had to do it all over. Again, another frustration this generation will never understand.

Once I had all the songs I wanted, I’d burn a CD of my favorites, much like I used to make mixed tapes. Then, with careful penmanship, I’d label the CD with a title such as “Chill Music” or “Party Jams” and play them in my Mustang as I cruised around town with the windows down. Ahhhh, the good ole days!

Nicknames

Nicknames are a big thing in my life, which is surprising since I didn’t have a nickname as a kid. Well, that’s not true. I guess I sorta had a nickname when I was little. My mom told me that when I was 3 or 4, I used to introduce myself as NuNu Kesler whenever anyone asked me my name. My mom would correct me, slightly embarrassed that I told a stranger that was my name, but I was adamant that my name was NuNu. I have no idea where I got NuNu from Jennifer, but I was a weird kid, so there’s no telling.

Growing up as Jennifer, a common and very popular name, I’d often get called Jenny by people who didn’t know me. They quickly figured out that I despised being called Jenny, and it didn’t happen anymore. As an adult, it’s happened a few times, but I just ignore it and they get the idea that I hate it. I’m just not a Jenny. Often people will call me Jenn. While it isn’t my favorite, it doesn’t bother me. The only thing I ask is that it’s spelled with two n’s. I know…I told you, I’m weird.

Back in seventh grade, I had the pleasure of meeting the quirky, energetic, and fun-loving Lisa Day. Lisa was the queen of nicknames and anyone who knew her had at least one out-of-the-ordinary name. Her nickname for herself was Liter D. Her mom was Mutey and her brother was Feeney. I was named Fer-fer when she cleverly decided to use the second part of my name, but later she shortened it to Ferf. I enjoyed it and gladly answered to my new name.

Beginning sometime in high school, people started calling me Kesler, my last name. I have no idea how it happens, but in many different circumstances and circles of people, someone will start calling me Kesler and it then becomes a thing. I’ve always introduced myself as Jennifer, but somehow it usually morphs into Kesler or some variation of my last name, such as Kes-Kes, JKes, Kes, or just JK. I love my last name, so it’s a nickname I don’t mind.

Shaggers has given me a very unusual nickname, opting to only use the middle of my name. To her, Jeezy, and baby Marlowe I am Ennif (pronounced en-ee-f). I’m not sure when this nickname started, but it’s stuck for a while. I’m pretty sure only Shags could get away with calling me this.

I’ve also had a few other nicknames throughout my life bestowed upon me. At Sonic, I was called Goatalo, a name given to me by my boss Brice for some unknown reason. He even printed a name tag with it, something that was difficult to explain to customers when I delivered their food. At iD Tech camp, where we all go by nicknames, I was Sweet T, on account of the fact that I was from Texas (the T) and I love sweet tea. That was a pretty sweet nickname. Once I became a principal in China and became my friends’ boss, they’d tease me by calling me Bosslady, a name that drove me crazy! I don’t know why I let it bug me, but I used to get so mad at them for calling me that. At some point, it stopped bothering me, and I accepted it. As a parting gift, I got the coolest present from Donna, a pair of knee-high socks with BOSS on one and LADY on the other. They were perfect!

I also love giving people nicknames, and have bestowed many a nickname to my friends. I recently wrote about Linner and how I gave her the nickname. She hated it when I first started calling her Linner, but I wore her down eventually. Haha 😂 My dear friend Michelle is mostly called Michelle, but when I want to irritate or tease her, she’s Shelly. She won’t acknowledge it, but I know she hears me. My mom has an unusual first name, and when combined with her middle name, it’s so distinct and country-sounding. Her name is Telva Lou. Recently, Michelle and I were jamming out to my 90’s playlist when Mambo No. 5 came on. As you know, the singer of this catchy tune is none other than one-hit-wonder Lou Bega. In a stroke of genius, I decided to call my mom Telva Lou Bega (you have to say it really fast to get the full effect). Laughing hysterically at my new nickname for her, I called my mom to tell her, and you know what? She ignored me! It’s like she didn’t hear me. But, no, she heard me alright. I repeatedly called her that at least five times in that conversation, but she didn’t acknowledge it at all. She’s been ignoring my ridiculousness my whole life, so I guess she has plenty of practice. Anyway, it’s my new nickname for her, and I throw it into a text or conversation every once in a while. I’ll wear her down like all the others…just give it time.

My long-time friend named Jennifer was quickly given a nickname, mainly to differentiate us. Having a friend with the same name can get confusing, you know. She’s Beeners, based on her last name (well, her maiden name) Beene. Beeners is such a cool cat. She’s into unicorns and fairies and loves cats. Her positive outlook on life is refreshing and she’s soooo passionate about the things and people she loves. We’ve drifted apart some with the distance between us, but when we do catch up, it’s like nothing’s changed. She’s one of my people, and I love her.

Nicole

I can’t think of my adolescence without thinking of Nicole. Nicole and I were best friends from the fifth grade, when I met her mom at Heritage Park, the sidewalk park in my neighborhood just opposite Nicole’s house. Her mom said, “I bet you and my daughter would get along. You should meet her.” Well, she was absolutely right! Nicole and I were inseparable and spent nearly every day together in some way, either at one another’s houses or chatting on the phone for hours. Dude, we are a combo when it comes to talking…neither one of us can shut up! haha

We had so many sleepovers (mainly at her house) that we became intertwined in each other’s families. Her mom and dad would discipline me just like they would her when I stepped out of line, and vice versa with my parents. To look at us, Nicole and I were opposites. She was slender, with dark hair and blue eyes, while I was more curvy with blonde hair and green eyes. I remember wishing we wore the same size because a) I wanted to be thinner and b) she had the cutest clothes!

Growing up with Nicole through my formative years was the best! We relied on one another when we had friend troubles (girls can be really mean in middle and high school!) or boy troubles (one of us was always talking about a crush we had on someone and discussing the best way to get him to like us back). Being able to trust someone completely and know they have your back is rare, but we had that. This isn’t to say we never fought…we were teenage girls after all, but we never stayed mad at one another very long. She was like the sister I never had, and I loved her…still do, in fact.

After high school, we drifted apart, our lives going in different directions, but we’ve always loved one another. We used to catch up every once in a while when I happened to be in town and ran into her or her sister, but over the past few years, we’ve kept in regular contact and hang out any time I’m back in town and talk on the phone or text when I’m away. It’s interesting how it worked out and life brought us back into one another’s lives. I’m glad it happened. Nicole is my family.

IMG_0194

Nicole and me this past summer…I wish I had a picture of us when we were younger, but they’re all in albums at my parents’ house in Texas.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Letter M #AtoZChallenge

Half-way through with the A to Z Challenge…memoir encyclopedia entries for Letter M on the menu for today.

Mamaw

Mamaw and Gradaddy

My first best friend and the best secret-keeper around,
she loved me more than anyone ever could.
Her contagious laugh and loving smile
caused everyone to turn their heads
whenever she entered a room.
Raised in the country, she knew just how to
sew and quilt, cook from scratch, tend to a garden,
milk a cow, drive a tractor, and build a fort.
I can remember attending the annual Chili Day with her
eating chili and crackers, sweet tea, and chocolate sheet cake,
bidding on the auction items with her by my side,
caught up in the excitement of the auctioneer’s fast-paced voice.
Mamaw was the best cook in the whole wide world–
everyone said so.
She could make a ‘nanner puddin’
better than anything you ever tasted!
Andrew and I, the official taste testers,
eagerly awaited that first bite,
warm from the oven.
It was always just right.
With a listening ear and a heart of gold,
Mamaw made everything ok.

Meme

meme

Meme, my grandma on my dad’s side, used to live two houses down from us, in the house my dad grew up. She and Papa would see us all the time, and I remember spending a lot of time in their wood-paneled living room. Sometime when I was in elementary school, Meme moved to Dallas to open up a shop called Socko. Papa still lived in Bryan, where he ran a lab that did blood work, and they would visit one another on weekends.

I remember going to visit Meme in Dallas and staying in her apartment. I loved going to Socko, a huge big box store with loads of random stuff, because she always let me pick out a toy to take home. Meme, like me, loved Dr. Pepper, and her fridge was always stocked with ice-cold cans. I think she had Big Red, too, or maybe that was Papa that loved Big Red? Anyhow, Meme was not your typical grandma in the sense that she didn’t spend all day cooking and tending to the house. She was more metropolitan and worked really hard. I appreciated that about her.

When Meme got older and especially after she got sick, she took up painting. She was really talented, and created some beautiful pieces during that time. Many of her paintings are hanging in my parents’ house, a constant reminder of her. I was 21 when she died, and I remember being so shocked and sad. I still miss her, but I’m glad she is no longer suffering and that she’s with Papa.

Mel B

You may have read Mel B and thought I was talking about the former Spice Girl turned AGT judge, but I’m not. The Mel B I’m referring to is much cooler! Melissa, or Mel B, and I met in Shanghai. She began working at RBIS a year or so after I began, and while we didn’t become friends right away, somehow it happened. Isn’t it weird that I can’t remember exactly when our friendship turned from a mere acquaintance into a bonafide friendship? I guess it just evolved.

Anyway, I love lots of things about her. For one, she and I are similar in many ways. Some might describe us as bossy (I prefer leaders), we are both really good cooks, and we love to travel. Mel B and I have taken some pretty epic trips together.

Our first trip was to Egypt was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. My favorite pictures were the one in front of the pyramids and the one where the camel photo-bombed us.

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My first time in Myanmar was with Mel, and boy, what an adventure that was! First off, we didn’t realize we needed to apply for visas ahead of time and then didn’t think we’d get them in time. As luck would have it, they arrived 24 hours before we left. Due to the visa fiasco, that trip was unplanned, and we flew by the seat of our pants. This was really fun in many ways, and stressful in others. Mel got super sick on the 12-hour bus ride from Inle Lake to Bagan, and despised me for being a “princess” and sleeping on the bus while she was having to stop the bus to throw up several times, while also having a Burmese man sleep on her shoulder (the whole hilarious story is here). Then, I made a pretty big mistake and misremembered the time of our flight back to China, making us miss our bus back to Yangon and have to buy a last-minute plane ticket. She was super excited about that one.

Would you believe, she still traveled with me again! We ended up taking a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand during our last year in China. She’s since moved to Senegal, and I’ve even visited her there. Mel B is one cool chick, a fantastic momma, and a true friend. Love you, Mel!

Michelle

Michelle and I met in Shanghai in 2010, on a hot, sticky day in August, when we both moved there to teach at RBIS. I remember thinking, This girl and I are going to be good friends. There was just something about her that made me know she and I were meant to be friends. It took her a lot longer to figure it out than me, but she finally came around and we became incredibly close. Going through some serious struggles together will do that to people.

We’ve laughed, cried, traveled, ranted, collaborated, created, and supported each other over the past several years, and I can’t imagine not having one another as friends. Michelle’s no-nonsense and will tell it like it is. While I usually love this about her, it has led to some miscommunication and fights between us. I have played my fair share in the arguments, too, as my tendency to be passive-aggressive drives her crazy. But, we love one another and no matter what, we apologize and move forward. I appreciate her straight-forwardness, thoughtfulness, and sense of adventure. She’s one of those people in my tribe that’s always gonna be there. Love you, Shelly! (She hates when I call her that. 😉 )

Middle School

Middle school was a mostly a series of awkward experiences where I doubted myself nearly all the time, struggled with my changing body and emotions, and suffered through a shitload of teasing from classmates. It wasn’t all bad, mainly because I had Nicole, but I can say I definitely don’t look back fondly on those years. I guess it’s a necessary right of passage into teenage years though, right? All I can say is, I’m glad it’s over.

Mom

My mom is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I can always count on her when I need her. She’s a great host, and I know I get my entertaining chops from her. My mom’s a hard worker, and I can’t believe all that she can do! I recently wrote a Slice of Life about her here and how I am going to miss her when she’s gone. I plan on cherishing the time I get to spend with her, and I’m already looking forward to this summer! Love you, mom!

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How cute is my mom!?! Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, my birthday cake says “#1 Pin Up” on it…haha 🙂

Moving

Being that I’m now an expat, I’m no stranger to moving, which is in stark contrast to my childhood, where I lived in the same house from birth until I graduated from college. Since finishing college and moving out of the house for the first time, I have moved a total of 11 times. Most of the time I’ve lived in apartments (Check out Letter A for more details on all of the apartments I’ve lived in), however I’ve also lived with Uncle Mike and Aunt Kathy for a semester, in a house in Sydney with a family I nannied for, and in my own home for a few years in Houston.

I both love and hate moving. I love the excitement of setting up a new space and making it my own, but I loathe packing and actually moving all my stuff. Every time I move, I end up purging and getting rid of extra stuff, but somehow, I end up accumulating more and have to do it all over again when I pick up and move again. Sometimes it’s just easier to get new stuff rather than schlep everything across the world. For my next move in a couple of months, I’m planning on shipping a small container and bringing a few suitcases. Hopefully this will be a good idea and help me not have to re-buy everything. Only time will tell.

Music

I love listening to music. It helps calm and center me when I need it and gives me energy and makes me happy. I love finding new songs I love and sharing them with others. My musical tastes range from indy chill-out music to popular pop and hip hop to classical to a bit of country. I’m also a huge fan of 90’s music, which is either hit or miss at my parties. Lip syncing is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in a silly mood, but karaoke isn’t my jam. I used to be in choir when I was younger, and I had a great singing voice. I’m not sure what happened though because I’m not a good singer anymore. Maybe puberty changed my voice…who knows. Regardless of the fact that I’m no longer able to carry a tune, I still sing along with the radio every time I’m home and driving around. For a selection of some of my favorite songs, click here.

Myanmar

Have you been to Myanmar? No? Do you know where Myanmar is? Formerly called Burma, Myanmar is located in Asia and borders Thailand, China, India, Bangladesh, and Laos. It’s one of those places that isn’t on many people’s radars, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem, although that’s changing rapidly as more and more people hear about this incredible country. I have been twice and am already dreaming about going back. I highly recommend adding it to your list and going sooner rather than later.

I’ve posted a few times about Myanmar (here and here and here), so I won’t go into a ton of depth in this post, but there is just something magical about that place. The people, natural beauty, history, food, and charm make it an ideal place to explore. I’ve only visited four cities in the country, so I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. In my opinion, Inle Lake and Bagan are the best places to visit. Mandalay is nice, too, but if I were you I wouldn’t bother with Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Yangon, to me, was just a big, dirty Asian city and it doesn’t hold the same charm as the other places I’ve visited.

Inle Lake is one of my top two places in the entire world, the other being Sydney. I can’t really explain why I love it so much, but when I’m there, my heart is happy. Inle Lake is a beautiful lake surrounded by five small towns with a total of about 70,000 inhabitants. There’s a daily market that rotates between each of the five towns, most of which can only be reached by long boat. I’m happiest when riding a bike down the dirt roads through and around the main town or out on the lake in a long boat at sunset. Watching the fishermen balance on the edge of the boat while they row with the other leg is something you really have to see in person. And the sunsets on the lake are some of the best in the world, but don’t take my word for it.

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They’re beautiful, aren’t they? I told ya! Are you looking into ticket prices yet?!?

Bagan, my other favorite place in Myanmar, is an ancient city with over 2,000 temples. Seriously…temples as far as the eye can see. In the couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve only seen a small number of them. Wandering around the temples, climbing up to the top to watch a sunrise, and watching (or riding) the hot air balloons is truly awe-inspiring. I can’t wait to go back!

There’s one last thing I must tell you. As a foodie, you know I’m not gonna steer you wrong with food. You must try the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad when you go. I was hesitant at first, but once I tried a bite, I had to have at least one per day! It’s a salad of fermented tea leaves, cabbage, tomatoes, dried beans, peanuts, sesame seeds, chilis, garlic, lime, and a yummy dressing. Sounds weird, I know…but trust me on this one! (It’s the one on the white plate below.)

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Letter L #AtoZChallenge

Loving this challenge…Letter L memoir encyclopedia entries for your reading pleasure…

Linner

One my best friends in the whole world is Linner. Her full name is Linner, Linner, Chicken Dinner. Kidding…she hates when I call her that. Her real name is Linnea, but due to an unfortunate typo on her school email, where they typed Linner instead of Linnea, she was stuck with the nickname. I bet she wishes she hadn’t complained to me about that. At first, she used to get sooooo mad when I called her Linner. But I’m not a quitter! I kept calling her that until she finally relented and accepted her fate. The Linner, Linner, Chicken Dinner part came about because it rhymes and it’s hilarious…especially because she’s a vegetarian! hahaha

Anyway, I don’t know what I’d do without Linner in my life. She and I have been through a lot together and have supported one another through some of the toughest things in life. She accepts me for me, and I do the same for her. She can frequently be heard saying, “Oh, Jennifer…” in regards to one of my crazy stories or quirks that present themselves. Examples include when I get into yet another accident, when I make her take 27 selfies on the Bund with random strangers, or when I have to go to a specific restaurant for a specific food, even when it’s out of the way.

Linner and I met when I moved to China. We moved at the same time, and became fast friends. She and I have traveled together a fair bit, having been to KL and KK, Malaysia, Seoul, South Korea, and Bangkok and Ao Nang, Thailand. We’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time together when I lived in Shangers. Now that I’m moving back to Asia for a while, I’m sure more Linner time will happen…it better!

I love Linner and firmly believe she is one the best people on this earth. 🙂

Lip Syncing

I absolutely love lip syncing! Maybe it’s because I hate watching people cringe during karaoke when my singing voice is subpar. Maybe it’s because I can act completely silly and over the top. Maybe it’s that I secretly wanted to be a performer. Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of it! If my favorite song comes on while I’m shopping with a friend, I’ll bust out a full-on performance right then and there, inevitably making them laugh while they look around to see who’s watching. Why other people get embarrassed when I’m the one lip syncing, I’ll never know.

When Jimmy Fallon came out with his lip sync battles, I couldn’t contain my excitement! I’ve watched them all at least once, but I’ve viewed most of them a number of times. My favorites are Joseph Gordon Levitt, John Krasinski, Stephen Merchant, Emma Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, and Melissa McCarthy. Of course, Jimmy kills it every time, too.

My love affair with lip sync seeped into my work at RBIS/HQIS in China. I got in the habit of showing short videos as an introduction to our staff meetings, and while most were educational or inspirational, I would occasionally throw in a funny one. One day I put on Jimmy’s lip sync battle with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Stephen Merchant. It brought down the house! The teachers had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard. From there, an idea was born. I issued a lip sync challenge for the staff Christmas party, where individuals or groups of people could volunteer to perform live or show a video of a pre-recorded lip sync. That staff party was the most fun we had had in a long while! People you wouldn’t imagine having the guts to get up there did. The songs ranged from uber popular pop ballads to obscure songs you’d rarely heard of before.

My song of choice was the then-current viral hit, What the Fox Say? I had to do it. Everyone knew I was obsessed with that song, plus it annoyed everyone, so it was a perfect song choice. Modesty aside, I killed it. Like, for real…it was a pretty epic performance. What made it so awesome was when two of the shyest teachers at the school ran up to the stage right after the song began and became my impromptu back-up dancers. The coolest thing is that neither one knew the other was going to do it (I didn’t either for that matter), and they hadn’t even practiced before, but accounts from the audience said that they were completely in sync with one another and their movements enhanced the song. Like I said, it was epic. I wish I had a video to show you…scratch that, I don’t know that I could handle watching it.

We continued the lip sync thing for a while at school, with teams of people making funny videos to show at staff meetings and live lip sync performances becoming a staple at staff parties. When we went through a particularly tough time at school with our campus moving to a new location, the leadership team made a hilarious video to lift our staff’s spirits. We enjoyed hamming it up, and the staff loved it as well.

Logan Cole

Logan Cole, my nephew, is a never-ending ball of energy! Where he gets the energy to run and play and wrestle without stopping, I’ll never know. I guess all kids are like that though…hard to keep up with. Logan, or Bubby as he’s called, is stunningly adorable. He makes the cutest faces and is extremely photogenic. He makes me laugh incessantly with his crazy antics (see picture below for an example). How could you not laugh at that?

As much of an energetic goofball he is, he also has a sweet, gentle side. He and his sister, Randi, have such a loving relationship. He adores and looks up to her. They can frequently be caught giving each other hugs and encouraging one another. This isn’t to say they never fight…they’re kids…but it’s a rare occasion when they do.

I hate being so far away from him. I miss out on the little things that happen every day. Seeing him only twice a year means he’s growing up way too quickly. But, I try to make the most of my time I do have with him. When he turned three, I started taking him out on dates, just like I do with his sister. Last time, he chose to go to Chucky Cheese (Tucky Teese as he says…soooo cute!), play with the train set at Barnes & Noble, and eat lunch. I wonder what he’ll want to do this summer. I love you Logan Cole! ❤

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Love

Love is sharing your last bite of pie, when you really wanted to eat it yourself. Love is truly listening to one another without distractions. Love is laughing at the stories he tells over and over even when they are no longer funny. Love is bringing dinner to a sick friend. Love is telling her she’s beautiful when she doesn’t see it herself. Love is a home-cooked meal. Love is giving that perfect gift that will make their face light up. Love is a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Love is being patient when he’s cranky. Love is butterflies in your stomach, a mix of excitement and nerves. Love is showing up when you say you will. Love is a goodnight text. Love is contentment in the silence. Love is a baby’s snuggles. Love is an ache in your chest. Love is sunshine on your face. Love is the feeling you get when you can’t imagine your life without this person in it. Love is color and light. Love is seeing goodness in someone else. Love is forgiving. Love is free.

Luxuries

I enjoy luxuries in life, as I’m sure most people do. Some of my favorite luxuries to indulge in include massages, mani/pedis, rich, chocolatey desserts, a maid who cleans my house, traveling to the far corners of the earth, English breakfast tea and a book on a lazy Saturday morning, facials, a day all to myself, and a gourmet meal. I’m very fortunate to lead a life where I can enjoy these luxuries and more on a regular basis.

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