Daily Archives: April 18, 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.

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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.

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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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