Category Archives: Slice of Life

Heavy Heart

How is this even real? The weight of it seems incomprehensible, yet somehow it’s true. I’ll never again get to hug her neck, belly laugh with her, seek her advice when I need it, go to an Astros game together, or see that smile that lights up a room. You know life is fragile and precious, but until someone you love is suddenly taken away, you don’t grasp the magnitude of it all. When it’s someone else’s aunt, mother, daughter, sister, friend, it’s sad and maybe even tragic, but when she’s your person, it rips your heart open, leaving you gasping for air, unable to believe that she’s really gone. At first, there’s shock and disbelief, a numbness that comes over you. Then the reality of everything settles in on your chest, bringing with it a heaviness you can’t really understand. A dark cloud follows you everywhere, tears falling as rain from your eyes. You try to push the feelings aside and do what you have to do, but your heart’s not really into it and your mind’s somewhere else, a vacant look in your eyes.

I know that as much as I’m hurting, it can’t even compare to the pain that Uncle Mike and Jason are feeling, losing their wife and mom, or how her sisters and brother and parents are feeling. Their whole world has just shattered. I can’t even imagine what that feels like. A month ago, Kathy was healthy and fine, and now she’s gone. This awful virus that has wrecked millions of lives has claimed another one. It’s not fair. She didn’t deserve this. She had so much life left in her, so much left to offer the world.

As I sit here, alone, halfway around the world, all I want to do is be with my family. While I know there’s nothing I can do to bring her back and nothing I can do to make it better, I wish I could cry with them, hug them, spend time with them, and let them know I love them. When someone dies, you are more aware of the importance of family and togetherness. In these current times, it’s much harder to be away from home. I hope they know how much I love them and wish I could be with them.

Last Day of My 30’s…

Today, 18 May 2021, is the last day of my 30’s. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be 40. Sheesh…40…that somehow seems so much older than 39. I hate that turning 40 is bothering me. It’s so cliche. I’m not cliche. Well, not typically anyway. So why is turning 40 such a problem for me? Is it because I’m wondering whether or not I’m “where I’m supposed to be” at age 40? Maybe. Is it because I’ve never been married and am still single. Maybe. Is it because I sometimes wonder what I’m doing as an adult? Maybe.

The whole mid-life crisis thing that supposedly happens when you turn 40, where you suddenly chop off all your hair, buy a new sports car, and quit your job hasn’t happened. Well…I did cut my hair recently, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t crisis-related. I do, however, find myself pondering about making some changes in my life. Changes that would be slightly life-changing, but not quit your job or buy a new car life-changing. More like changes in daily habits that would allow me to be happier and more healthy overall.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a restaurant on the coast in Jeju, overlooking the ocean. Not at all how I envisioned my life at 40- living internationally and traveling the world (you know…when Covid allows)- but I have to say, I’m thankful that my life turned out differently from the one I imagined as a child and young adult. At that time, I never thought I’d teach internationally, let alone in multiple countries. I thought I’d get married by age 22, have a kid by 25, another a couple of years after that, and teach in a school district in Texas until I retired. There’s nothing wrong with that life, but it isn’t mine. My life has led me to interesting places and some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, who are now my people…you know, those people you couldn’t imagine life without.

All of this came from stepping out of my comfort zone, taking a leap of faith, and following my heart. For the next phase in life, my 40’s, I will need to do that again in order to change. If I don’t, I’ll remain stuck in the same old mindset I’m in now, which no longer serves me. I’ll need to get over my fear and just start. My need to be perfect (which never happens anyway) has to fall away. I have to step off into the unknown, knowing that I’ll likely fall flat on my face. But knowing that after I fall, I can get back up. Falling down doesn’t signal the end; it’s just a stumbling block along the way.

Today is the last day of my 30’s. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be 40. And contrary to my fears, it’ll be okay. I’ll be stepping into what I’ve heard is sure to be the best decade of my life. Let’s hope they’re right.

My view today. Not bad at all.

Another SOL Challenge is in the Books!

As I begin my annual SOL Challenge reflection, I’m struck by the odd feeling I have. For the past ten years, I always feel one of two ways on Day 31. I’m either saddened by the end, longing for more time to develop myself as a writer and connect with others in the SOL community, or I’m glad it’s over, as I limp to the finish line, depleted of words and ideas, unable to eke out another slice. It’s typically the former. But today I am feeling somewhere in the middle, like it’s just another day of slicing. It’s a strange feeling to not have a sense of finality. It probably speaks more to my mental state at the moment than anything. My brain is full-up, the endless end-of-school-year to do’s running through my head.

This year has been unlike any other SOL challenge. I’ve written every day, but I haven’t connected with the community as much as I usually do. With my limited time to slice and read/comment, I tended to gravitate toward my Welcome Wagon newbies and old slicing friends I’ve gained over the years. Unlike years past, where I made a point to read a few new slicers each day to get to know other people and expose myself to a wider range of writing styles, I simply didn’t have the time. Apart from my lazy Saturday mornings, where I explored new-to-me slicers, I was on autopilot, mining my WordPress Reader feed of followed blogs to read and comment on. And even then, I didn’t get to everyone I wanted to every day. This is probably why it feels so weird today. This community of writers is what I love most about the challenge and keeps me coming back year after year. I’m disappointed that I didn’t make more time to get to know other slicers and widen my circle. I want to change that next year.

When I look back on the past month of writing, there were some ups and downs for sure. Luckily there were more “ups” than downs! I noticed that challenging days resulted in slices of poetry. As someone who is much more comfortable with narrative, this was a surprising realization. Since moving to my new home on Jeju island, I haven’t made time to write about life here, but this month, I was able to write a few slices about my new experiences. I hope to add more as time goes by. Seeing as I was time poor this month, I didn’t rely on writing formats, such as “Currently…” or “Today I…”, as often as I would have thought I would (I used them only 4 times). A few times my slices were about something that happened in the past, coming from a spark of a conversation or something that triggered the memory. I also wrote about everyday things, like fire drills and snacks with colleagues, which is in stark contrast to my SOL challenge from 2020 where nothing could be classified as “everyday.” I’ll take a little normal and a little boring after last year.

As I close out my eleventh year of slicing in the SOL challenge, I’d like to say a big thank you to my fellow slicers for coming along on this journey with me. I’d like to thank the TWT co-authors for all of the hard work that they put into this challenge each year. I’m sure there are countless hours put in behind the scenes to make this a reality. Lastly, I’d like to thank the slicers who left comments on my slices. Your words were comforting and supportive and very much appreciated! A special shout out to Terje, Elsie, livinglife, Ms. Chiubooka Writes, Ms. Victor Reads, StandingTall, Fran McCrackin, and karpenglish for your support and love this month!

Until next time, SOL community, happy writing!

Leaving Me Vulnerable

leaving me vulnerable

mean-spirited people

wielding their words like swords

cutting down others with every slash

my mood, once buoyed,

sinks whenever they’re around

accusatory phrases abound,

the blame game their main game

the attacks come out of nowhere

unprofessional and unwarranted remarks

leave me unaware of what I did wrong

(did I do something wrong?)

walking on eggshells,

avoiding at all costs

the saying goes,

don’t take criticism

from someone you wouldn’t take advice from,

yet the constant criticism and

hurtful words hurled at me

leaves me feeling vulnerable

questioning

unsure

even though I wouldn’t go to them for advice

why do I allow someone else

to have that much

power

over me?

am I too

sensitive?

I don’t think so.

Not Again!

WEE-oww-WEE-oww….WEE-oww-WEE-oww…WEE-oww-WEE-oww…

Not again, I thought, as I sprung into action. Grabbing the walkie talkie near the door, I began sweeping my building, calling into the Health and Safety Officer to let him know I was on it. It was 5:30pm, after all, so who knows who’s actually on campus at this time.

As I swept the building, finding no one around (everyone else was smart to leave earlier!), I noticed many of our middle and senior school girls wandering around outside, none of them the least bit worried about the alarm blaring. Some were even walking into buildings, disregarding the directions of the few staff still at school.

Part of me doesn’t blame them. I mean, our fire alarms go off all the time, for the slightest little thing. Seriously…we’ve had no less than 15 since I joined the school in August. I equate it to the boy who cried wolf…too many false alarms makes people complacent. But this one is a live alarm, or so I’m told over my walkie talkie, so we need to take it seriously.

When I reach the muster point, we realize no one has swept the Wellness Center, the largest building on campus, comprised of the swimming pool and change rooms/showers, ice rink, club room, faculty gym, gymnasium, and two cafeterias. I immediately volunteered, along with the Heads of the middle and senior schools. Luckily we didn’t find any students or teachers, but a few of the cafeteria staff and security guards hadn’t evacuated, choosing to keep working instead (probably figuring it was another false alarm). After coercing them to leave and checking all the nooks and crannies, we gave the all clear and made our way back to the muster point.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that the problem was found (some smoke- no fire luckily- in the upstairs cafeteria had set it off) and the alarm was turned off. Well, there went 30 minutes of my life I won’t get back!

As the Head of Junior School and I walked back to our pods, we decided it was time to call it a day. I’m choosing to look at the positive side…at least I upped my step count and closed my rings with all of the sweeping I did!

What a Difference a Change of Scenery Makes

Weekends are always a time of respite from the workweek just gone and a time to catch up on the one coming. While I always take some time to myself on the weekends, usually Saturdays being my “no-work” days, there’s always that little voice in the back of my head reminding me of all I have to do, all I didn’t get done, and all the people I need to reply to, prepare something for, or support. I can push it down, but it never really goes away.

This weekend Frances and I came to Jeju City, a mere 45-minute drive away from home, to stay in the poshest hotel around, the Grand Hyatt called the Jeju Dream Tower. The hotel, which opened in December of last year, will eventually have 1,600 rooms open, but for now, there are around 500 open to the public. With 14 dining options, a spa, pool, and the most incredible customer service, it lives up to its name of being a dream.

There’s something about sleeping in a different bed that makes all the difference. The act of taking a purposeful break away from everyday life, stopping to pause and relish the luxury afforded to you in a place such as this, is good for the soul. As I sit here in the lobby cafe, sipping my iced chocolate, writing this slice of life as I wait for my massage appointment, I am content. I know that I have work to do later this evening to prepare me for the week ahead, but I’m completely at ease, the staycation having done its job.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve eaten at the Italian restaurant on the 8th floor, with a beautiful view of the bustling city below, where I enjoyed a spicy aglio e olio pasta with delicious ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese straight from Italy; taken two relaxing baths in the largest bathtub ever; caught up on my shows and slice reading/commenting that I didn’t get to this week; dined at the Steakhouse on the 38th floor, literally in the clouds as the fog settled in around us, where I indulged with two Moscow Mules, crusty bread with salty butter, a burrata salad, and some roasted asparagus and smooth, creamy mashed potatoes; had a lazy morning, sleeping until I woke naturally at 9:00am, feeling well rested and refreshed; ordered and enjoyed my first-ever room service breakfast, something I will definitely do again, as eating a delicious meal in my pajamas overlooking the city is so much better than hurriedly elbowing my way through a buffet; had a late checkout and a leisurely break at the cafe, listening to the sounds of the music playing, coffee brewing, and the adorable toddler wandering, laughing, and exploring.

As I leave you to enjoy my final indulgence, an hour-long foot treatment massage, I am quietly at ease, ready to tackle the next two weeks before Spring Break. I hope you were able to rest and recharge this weekend, too.

Year in Photos 2020

One of my annual traditions is reflecting on the past year through photos. Here are my past year in photos reflections- 20142015201620172018, and 2019. While I love telling stories through words, pictures are a great way to tell my story, too.

2020 was a year like no other, as we all know. While most of my previous year in photos include pictures from all the places I traveled that year, 2020 was the year of quarantine, therefore I have fewer places than usual represented in this year’s reflection. I started out the year in Texas, flying back to Jakarta via Dubai on January 2nd. I was able to travel to Borobudur and Lembang in Indonesia before we were quarantined on March 2nd. I went back to Texas in May, where I spent the summer, and then moved to Jeju, South Korea in July. After quarantining in Seoul, I spent the rest of 2020 in Jeju, apart from a couple of quick trips to Seoul. Here are the highlights of my 2020, in chronological order. Which ones are your favorite?

Conversations Spark Memories

This afternoon, after we’d finished our meeting, my colleagues and I sat around regaling stories from our past. Stories of partying way too much, getting arrested, failed marriages, and times we got into trouble as kids and teenagers gave us a bit more insight into one another, shocked us, and made us laugh. One of the stories I told was when I was 18, crashed my new truck, and lied about it.

It was the summer of ’99 and I had recently turned 18 and graduated from high school. My gift from my parents was a beautiful 1996 Chevrolet Z-71 Extended Cab pick-up truck in electric blue. It suited me perfectly. When you’re a teenager with a driver’s license and a vehicle, you have freedom like you’ve never known before.

On this particular Friday night, my best friend Nicole was spending the night, as she often did. My parents were out with friends but were due home soon. “Nicole, hurry up, we have to get there before they close,” I said on my way out the door. It was close to 11:00pm, and Blockbuster was going to close soon. If we wanted to get a movie for tonight, we’d have to be quick. Jumping into the truck, the latest hiphop song blaring on the radio, I threw it into reverse and pushed down on the gas pedal. I know I would have used my rearview mirror, but I clearly miscalculated. Our driveway was long, with telephone poles on either side, making it imperative that you back out carefully and straight. As you can imagine, in my haste, I hit one of the poles. Hard. Nicole and I both experienced a bit of whiplash, alerting us to the major accident I just had.

“Oh my gosh! What just happened?!” Nicole shouted. We immediately hopped out and ran around to the back of the truck, and my hopes of it being a minor issue quickly dissolved. I’d managed to hit the pole smack in the middle of my tailgate, as evidenced by a concave U shape in what was once a perfectly straight piece of metal. My bumper, which was previously at a 90 degree angle to the tailgate, was now bent down, forming a 180 degree angle.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…” I cried, with my hands on my head, as I stared in disbelief at my truck. “My parents are going to kill me!”

Nicole, who was hearing me cuss for the first time since 8th grade (when I made a New Year’s resolution not to curse and miraculously kept it for all of high school), smiled and excitedly said, “You cussed!!” while jumping up and down and clapping.

“That’s not the point! Look at this! I can’t let my parents see this. They’re going to be home any minute now. Get in the truck.”

“Where are we going?” she asked, wondering what had gotten into me and where we could possibly be going.

“I don’t know!” I barked, as I precariously backed out of the driveway and drove away from home. My mind was reeling, wondering how I was going to handle this situation that was sure to put me in the grave. My nerves were wrecked and I needed to calm down. Almost on auto-pilot, I drove to the nearest McDonald’s, where I ordered us both hot fudge sundaes. As we sat in the parking lot, letting the sweetness of the ice cream calm our nerves, I hatched a plan.

“I’ll just tell them that someone must have hit my car while I was at work,” I told Nicole.

Looking at me like I must be crazy, she asked, “Do you think they’ll go for it?” knowing full well they wouldn’t. While I knew they wouldn’t, I had no other options. The option of telling the truth was not an option in my mind, as I couldn’t even begin to fathom the wrath that would come down on me if I told my parents that I’d crashed my new truck that they’d just given me less than a month ago.

Steeling my nerves, I slowly drove home in silence, the beating of my heart almost audible in the cab of the truck. I parked on the street and took a few deep breaths before walking into the house. Nicole, who was supposed my wingman in this lie, didn’t say a word as we came in and saw my parents watching TV in the living room. “Mom, dad, someone hit my truck,” I quickly said, the words running together.

“What?!?” my mom shouted. “What happened? Where were you? Are you okay?” dad added. They were both already getting up and walking out the door.

“I’m not sure…It must have happened while I was at work…maybe someone hit my truck while it was in the parking lot…I didn’t notice since it was in the back…didn’t see it until later tonight…” I stammered, trying my best to keep up with them as they barreled down the sidewalk toward the truck, Nicole following along behind us.

My mom started wailing, in shock, yelling about how bad it was and what on earth could have happened, while my dad took one look at the damage and calmly said, “Jennifer, you hit a pole.”

“What?!?” feigning dismay and shock. “I would know if I had hit a pole, dad. I didn’t hit a pole. I don’t know what happened.”

“You hit a pole,” he repeated, turning back toward the house. “I’ll be inside when you’re ready to tell me the truth,” he said flatly, leaving me, my mom, and Nicole out by the street.

Bless my mom. She wanted desperately to believe me. “Jennifer, are you sure you didn’t hit a pole? Now that he’s said that, it looks like you did.” I concocted some far-fetched story about how a big truck with a pole sticking off of it must have hit my truck in the parking lot of the Cinemark movie theater where I worked part time. While I know she didn’t really believe me, she was on my side, thinking that I wouldn’t lie to her.

With my parents, I held strong to the lie for the next week, embellishing the story more and more. However, inside, I was eaten up with guilt. The more I held to my story, the more my parents believed it. I had even convinced my dad, who had been hell bent on the pole theory.

It wasn’t until one afternoon, a little over a week after it had happened, that the truth eventually came out. My dad and I were inspecting the tailgate again, assessing the damage for the umpteenth time, when he noticed some wood chips stuck into the plastic part of the bumper. “Look at this, Jennifer. There’s wood stuck in the bumper. You hit a telephone pole.”

Unable to keep up the facade, the floodgates opened. Crying uncontrollably, I told him the truth. He hugged me, and I knew it was going to be okay. He told me that I needed to apologize to my mom for lying. She believed me and I needed to fess up. I drove to her office, but I couldn’t face her. When I finally told her the truth, she started crying, upset that I’d lied to her for so long. We both had a long talk and a good cry.

After that, I kept waiting for the punishment that was sure to follow, but it never came. When I asked them about it a week or so later, they said the guilt I had was punishment enough.

Spring has Sprung in Jeju

Spring is…
sun shining
buds blossoming
breezes blowing
dogs walking
everyone smiling
plants sprouting
outside sitting
skin warming
energy rising

I’m absolutely loving the spring weather here in Jeju! The warmer weather, sunny skies, and gorgeous cherry blossoms make me smile. Today was a perfect spring day, and I couldn’t help walking around, snapping photos. I’m looking forward to riding my bike and taking long walks in the coming weeks. With Spring Break in two weeks, I’m excited to explore more of this beautiful island!

Snack Attack!

As soon as recess began, the room was a flurry of teachers, chatting, filling up their plates, and enjoying the spread. Today’s Snack Attack was a hit! As we snacked, we caught up with our fellow colleagues, enjoying the opportunity to chat with people we don’t get to see often. The rule during Snack Attack is “no shop talk,” so once a week, we all get together for a half hour and get to know one another a little bit more. Since it started 6 weeks ago, we have seen an improvement in staff morale.

Before
During
After- not much left!!

Frances, the Head of the Junior School, and I hosted Snack Attack today. Next week it’ll be the foreign language teachers. All teams host on a rotation, about once every 8 weeks. We also rotate the day of the week, so that if someone has recess duty, they don’t always miss out. I hope we continue Snack Attack next year, too!