Author Archives: aggiekesler

Prayers for Texas

My heart is breaking. For the last two days, as I’ve watched Hurricane Harvey’s wrath and subsequent flooding rock my home state, I have gone from utter disbelief to despair. The south Texas coastal areas and Houston are unrecognizable. Each time I see an image or watch a video or hear a story of the total devastation to an area I love so much, I can’t help but cry. It hits too close to home. Way too close.

These people affected are my people. My friends, my family, my former students and their families. I read about how my friends have lost their homes to the floods that are unrelenting, how they have had to seek higher ground in their attics and break out onto their roofs and be rescued by helicopters and boats, and my heart breaks a little bit more. I see photos and videos of the place I called home for six years under water, and my heart breaks a little bit more. I think about the children who are scared, unsure of what’s going on and why this could possibly happen to them, and my heart breaks a little more. I am overcome with grief as I see people lose everything, only able to take what they can carry, and my heart breaks a little more. I’m not sure how much more it can break, yet I know the pain I’m experiencing is nothing compared to those who are living it first-hand, seeing their lives turned upside down in a matter of hours, praying that the worst is over, only to find out that it’s not.

Being so far away, I feel helpless. I can’t help people. I can’t comfort them, hug them, cook them a meal, provide them a safe place to stay, or cry with them. I want to though. I wish I could take away their pain. I wish I could make the rain stop. I wish I could be there to help them pick up the pieces of their lives and tell them it’s going to be okay. But I can’t do any of those things. The only thing I can do is continue to pray for them, sending them love and light and strength and courage to overcome the most difficult situation most have ever had to face. I can donate money to the relief efforts, supporting those first-responders who are fighting to save as many people as they can. I can make people aware of the devastation facing my home state and the incredible people of Texas, in hopes that they, too, can offer support. I can tell my friends and loved ones that I’m thinking of them, loving them, and sending them all the strength in the world. But is that enough?

Seeing this horrific tragedy unfold brings back memories of my time in Clear Lake (Houston), when Hurricane Ike hit our area. I can vividly remember the fear I experienced when I found out that we were in the path of the storm. Packing up to evacuate to Bryan, where I’d stay with my parents, was surreal. Part of me knew that it was the right thing to do, but part of me didn’t really believe it would actually happen. If you haven’t experienced a natural disaster like this before, you don’t really think it could happen to you. That is, until it does.

Being away for nearly two weeks after Ike made landfall, I returned home to a place I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and seeing it first-hand broke my heart. I was one of the lucky ones. I had very little damage done to my home, and it didn’t take long for me to get power back. But my friends and my students weren’t so lucky.

I can remember walking through the neighborhood nearest my school in Seabrook with tears streaming down my face. Homes and cars ruined. Families trying to salvage what little they could. Toys, clothes, and furniture strewn through their yards. And the smell. Weeks of being under water and a total loss of power created a smell of mildew and rotting food that knocked the wind out of me. I’ll never forget that.

At Bay Elementary, we were lucky to have stayed dry, as we were able to provide a safe place for kids during the day to play with their friends, eat a hot meal, and get away from the chaos that engulfed them at home. My fellow teachers and my principal were amazing. We banded together to help out our community, and it felt good to know we were helping.

After the initial shock of the hurricane passed, the aftereffects were felt all year. They weren’t there all the time, but they were there, hiding just below the surface, ready to bubble over at a moment’s notice. Writing workshop was where I saw the biggest effects. Writing opens us up, makes us raw, exposes what’s inside our hearts, and reveals our deepest fears. Reading my young writers’ words as they tried to process their pain and loss was a knife to the heart.

As I sit here tonight, with a heavy heart, my hope is this. I hope that the rain subsides, providing much-needed relief to the people of Texas. I hope that the goodwill and love already being shown by so many people and organizations continues to be poured onto those who have been affected by this tragedy. I hope that people come together to rebuild their lives. I hope that despite this horrific disaster, people are able to find peace. Maybe that’s through helping someone else, maybe it’s through reflecting on the things that really matter, or perhaps, like me and my students, it’s through writing.

Sending the people of Texas, my family, my friends, my former students, and the first responders love. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. We are praying.

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36 Things That Make Me Happy

Today is my birthday, and I am spending it in Thailand. Last year’s was in Albania, the year before that in China, and next year it’ll be in Indonesia (where I’ll spend the next few birthdays, I hope!). Tonight’s celebration will be low key, something I haven’t done in a while. I usually throw big birthday parties, typically with a theme that involves me and my guests dressing up in ridiculous outfits. Last year’s bash was a prom-themed pub crawl ending in a 90’s prom. It was pretty epic! But tonight, I’m going to dinner at one of my favorite local joints with a few close friends I’ve made in Thailand. It’s going to be perfect! This weekend, to celebrate my birthday and Lauren’s (on Sunday), we’ll stay in a posh hotel in downtown Bangkok for a staycation. The plan is to shop at Chatuchak Market on Saturday, grab drinks Saturday night, and get dressed up for a badass brunch on Sunday. Again…perfection! ๐Ÿ™‚

I had so much fun making my list of 35 things last year that I thought I’d do it again! So, in honor of my 36th birthday, here’s my list of 36 things that make me happy (in no particular order).

  1. Quality time with friends and family
  2. Giving the *perfect* gift…the one that the recipient totally loves, but never knew they wanted
  3. Planning…currently I’m planning my month in the states this summer and my impending move to Indonesia
  4. Decorating my place…I’m so stoked about my new house in Indonesia that I keep scouring Pinterest for ideas, shopping online, dreaming about my new place, and wishing time would go faster so I can be there already! It’s gonna be amazing!
  5. Teaching…being back in the classroom during this season of my life has allowed me to reconnect with this passion
  6. Laughing
  7. Popcorn and M&M’s
  8. Sweet tea…I can’t wait to get some Chick-fil-A sweet tea this summer!
  9. Researching and trying out new restaurants…I’m such a foodie!
  10. Donuts, especially from Shipley’s in Texas
  11. Holding babies
  12. Mango sticky rice…Thailand has spoiled me!
  13. Reading! I have been able to reconnect with that part of me during this season, and I am so glad…I’ve really missed it.
  14. Cooking…not being able to (no kitchen here, sadly) has really shown me how much I love it and how much I miss it
  15. Smoothie bowls…tried it for the first time in Bali and man, I’m hooked!
  16. My writer’s notebook…I’m loving the one Michelle gave me for Christmas
  17. Apple products…I’m a Macbook Air, iPhone, and iPad user (I know, it’s a cult. I’m okay with that.)
  18. My family…I get to see them in 22 days!!! Ahhhhh!
  19. Music
  20. Starbucks tumblers and mugs…I own way too many, but they’re just so darn cute!
  21. Snocones…from JJ’s or Bahama Buck’s only
  22. Traveling! Filling up my passport is my biggest hobby. I love planning trips…the anticipation of an upcoming trip is what gets me through the tough parts of life. Other than my trip home and my move, my next big trip is Paris in October! Sooooo excited to get reacquainted with this lovely city that captured my heart (and stomach) last time around.
  23. Greek yogurt with blueberries and granola
  24. Fresh fruit, especially mango, pineapple, dragonfruit, berries (all kinds), and green grapes
  25. Finding the perfect travel accessories and bags that make traveling that much easier and fun
  26. Making lists ๐Ÿ˜‰
  27. Sharing stories
  28. A good smelling candle
  29. Bath & Body Works hand soaps
  30. Going to the movies…so many good ones coming out this summer!!
  31. Biking…can’t wait to get back into it!
  32. Surprises
  33. Coming home to a clean house that I didn’t have to clean
  34. All my Thai faves…Pad Thai, Panaeng and yellow curries, Kao soi, Tom Yum, Som Tum (not too spicy!)
  35. Throwing parties
  36. Photographing things that inspire me, foods that taste (and look) delicious, people I love, places I love, and things that make me smile or laugh
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Last year’s 35th Birthday Bash…I miss these faces soooo much right now!

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 recipesย 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‚ 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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