Category Archives: Slice of Life

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! 🙂

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 😉
  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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What the?!? Oh, Thailand…

You know how you can do something all the time, but not really pay attention? I’ve ridden in my fair share of Thai taxis, especially to and from the hospital this past month, but most of the time I’m riding alone, so I break out my iPad and read my current book, not really paying much attention to my surroundings or the taxi itself. Well, this taxi ride was different.

Linner just came to visit me, and we took a taxi downtown for a staycation in a swanky hotel in the center of Bangkok. On the ride down, we were busy chatting and catching up on life. While I was listening to Linner, something on the window of the taxi caught my eye and I couldn’t help but stare. What I saw was a series of images on the window, only they were backwards since I was seeing them from inside the taxi. My eyes squinted as I tried to make sense of the string of DO NOT DO THIS images. Linner realized my eyes were no longer making eye contact, and she, too, turned to look at these images.

OK, so the no smoking one makes sense. Most taxis don’t allow that. The next one may be confusing for those of you who don’t live in Southeast Asia, but that image of a spiky fruit is actually durian, an ultra-smelly fruit that smells like rotting flesh. So, yeah…no durian completely makes sense. Who would want that in their taxicab? No alcohol…okay. No dogs, fair enough. Wait…what’s the next picture?!? No sex in the taxi?? Really? We go from no smoking, durian, alcohol, and dogs to no sex. Well that escalated quickly! Next, no rifles or long knives (or swords?). I don’t know that we need that sign…probably self-explanatory, but yeah, I agree those are not okay in a taxi. The last one stumped us…no horned animals?? Is that a goat? Who prompted this to have to be made into an image of something not to bring into the taxi? Like, is this an issue? Surely it happened, but how many times? Once? Or is this a recurring issue with the locals? I’m so confused…

After our rousing conversation about the list of what not to do stickers, Linner realized I had a set behind me, which prompted even more inquiries.

I’m all for the protection of women, so I appreciate that you cannot grab a women’s breast or bottom in the taxi, but did we need such graphic images to depict that one? Okay the next one is so confusing. Is it trying to say women can’t fart music? And why is this something strictly prohibited for women? I say if women can’t do it, men shouldn’t be allowed to fart music either. And again…do we really need to see her nipple to get that it’s a woman? And who farts music? I’d like to meet these talented ass people (pun intended)! Alright, so in addition to no rifles…no handguns either. In case you were unsure before, apparently no guns are allowed. No hand grenades either. Wait…what? Who has brought a hand grenade into a taxi before?!? I love the image of the next one. I get it…no stealing, but the image of a burglar with a bag of loot over his shoulder is a bit over the top, don’tcha think? Alright, stop. Just stop it. Really? No women with men on leashes?? Why is this a thing? And is it only women who put men on leashes and bring them into public and go for a ride around the city in a taxi? No men do it to women? I have never once in my life seen anyone put another adult on a leash. Kids, yeah…in IKEA especially…but adults?? Again, why is there a need for this warning? Is this a rampant problem in Thailand? The last one I’m assuming means no bare feet in the taxi, which makes sense. We should keep our shoes on. But…why the heck are the feet positioned that way? That’s totally not the way their feet would be, that is unless two people were in the taxi and one was sitting down with their feet spread out while their friend was standing, with their feet pointed toward the seat.

Oh, Thailand…you amuse and confuse me sometimes…thanks for the laughs!

McThai

Today as I was checking my mail, this flyer from McDonald’s caught my attention. It was an ad for their McDelivery service.


I’m always intrigued by what is offered at McDonald’s around the world. I’m not a fan of the fast food chain, but I’ve been to a few in various countries and it always surprises me that their menu differs from country to country. It’s their way of appealing to the local culture and their tastes. While there’s always the typical fare like Big Macs, cheeseburgers, and fries, they have some other interesting things as well.

The dishes on the Thai McDonald’s menu that strike me as unique are the:

  • McPork or McChicken Porridge, both breakfast dishes
  • Namtok Rice, a chicken stir fry served with rice. For an additional price, you can add a fried egg or a cup of soup.
  • Fried pies in a variety of flavors (Apple isn’t one of them)…there’s Chicken Ham Pie, Taro Ginkgo Pie, Corn Pie, and Pineapple Pie
  • Ovaltine or Milky Tea Floats

Have you ever found something unusual on a McDonald’s menu while traveling?

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My Mom

This isn’t what I was going to write about today, day 31 of 31 in the Slice of Life Challenge. I had planned on writing a reflection on the past month of writing, my take-aways, if you will. But damned if the universe had different plans for me.

To unwind after a long day, I sat down to watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. If you are a fan and haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now, as there are some major spoilers in this post. This week’s episode centered around Maggie and her mom, who has cancer. During the episode, Maggie is fighting her mom’s cancer, taking every risk she can to keep her alive, and the steps she takes only end up making her mom sicker and sicker. Her mom ends up stopping the treatment, and later in the episode, she passes.

Just before her mom dies, Maggie says, “She’s gonna go. I’m not ready. I’m not ready.” With tears in her eyes, Meredith responds with, “You’re never ready. You just…do it. Listen to her. Talk to her about whatever she wants to talk about. Record her voice in your mind. Just keep sitting there.” That quote really hit me. Throughout the episode, we see glimpses of Maggie’s journey- the denial, the fighting to stop it, the crushing realization that she can’t, the spending every ounce of time she can with her mom, and the bond between family, blood-related or otherwise.

It was absolutely gut-wrenching. I cried no less than 5 times while watching this episode. I cried because it was an extremely sad story, of course, but it was more than that. I cried because that will be me someday. Someday, my mom will pass. I hope and pray it’s many, many years from now, but the reality is that the pain Maggie experienced will be my pain. Right now, my mom is healthy, active, and leads a full life. She’s not sick, and I hope it doesn’t happen. But in some way, age will catch up to her, like it will to us all, and I will be faced with a devastating loss.

It makes me think about how finite our time is on this earth, and the fact that we need to treasure every moment we have, especially with the people we love. Living abroad means I don’t see my family very often- only twice a year to be exact. I want to make sure that I make those moments count. I want to be more intentional about the time I spend with my mom. I want to listen to her stories, and commit them to memory. I want to learn her recipes, the ones she knows by heart. I want to do things she enjoys, rather than sneaking off to do my own thing. I want to tell her I love her each and every day, because I do, and she needs to know that. I want to tell her thank you for everything she’s done for me, and for being my biggest fan. I want to tell her I know that she loves me so much it hurts, because I can see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. I want her to know how proud I am of her, too, for all the sacrifices and hard work she’s put in to being the best daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, entrepreneur, and friend she can be. I want to travel with her, and show her my favorite parts of the world, so she can see the world through my eyes, and I can see hers light up with the excitement of new experiences, tastes, sights, and smells.

My mom is one of the best people I know on earth, and without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. She showed me how to be fierce and independent, something I wonder now if she wishes she’d done a little less of, considering I choose to live alone halfway across the world. She supports me in everything I do, and she loves me unconditionally. It kills me to think about a time without her in my life. Who will I call when I need advice? Or when I’m scared and alone? Or when I just want to celebrate? For now, I’m fortunate I don’t have to think about these things. I’ll just cherish the time we do have. That will have to be enough.

I love you, mom.

 

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What the SOL Challenge Means to Me

The Slice of Life Challenge is a very important part of who I am. Seven years ago, I took a risk and put myself (and my thoughts) out there for the world to see when I joined the SOL Challenge, and I’ve been excited ever since.

I had been following TwoWritingTeachers for about a year, and I loved reading all their posts about the art of teaching writing. I soaked in all the knowledge that they had to give. I shared posts with my friends and colleagues, tried out new ideas in my classroom, and spent hours poring through archived posts, jotting down ideas for later use. One March, I saw the SOL Challenge posts and wondered, What’s this all about? I read some of the slicers’ posts, and sometimes even commented, but thought, There’s no way I could do that! Who has time to write every day? And what would I even write about? Fast forward to the next February. I had convinced myself I would give it a try. I created a blog and once March came, I began sharing my stories. I didn’t post every day that first year, but I put myself out there, and I was proud of that.

I’ve now been posting for seven years, and I’m a huge fan! I tell everyone I know that they just have to try it out with me. Just dip your toes in. Start a blog, write some slices, see where it takes you. Most people look at me like I’m crazy. But a handful have taken me up on the offer, and I’ve sliced alongside friends and colleagues. We’ve learned more about one another, supported one another, and grown closer in the process. Some continue slicing the next year and some don’t, but all of them are glad they tried it.

What I love most about the challenge is that it pushes me as a writer. I cultivate a habit of writing each and every day, whether I have something profound to say or not, whether I feel like it or not. The quote is true. The only way to become a writer is to carve out time daily to write. I look forward to this challenge before it begins, and I mourn it when it’s over. I need that daily deadline to consistently put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I’ve also grown immensely as a writer through the years. Looking back on my old posts, I can see how my craft has evolved. I am more fluent, more engaging, and try out a variety of techniques now. I can always improve, as we all can, but I am proud of the progress I have made thus far. Over the years, I have also become more open and vulnerable in my writing, something I had always wanted to do. Prior to the challenge, I’d put up a mental block and I wasn’t fully open in my writing. Through the support of other slicers and their examples of laying it all out there, I have begun opening up and showing more of who I am.

I have also grown to love this writing community. This community embraces everyone, pulling us into the fold, and supporting us with their heartfelt comments. I know it’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again. Comments fuel writers. Knowing we have an audience who’s reading our words is important, but knowing we touched someone else enough to leave a comment is magical. Comments leave me with an understanding that what I say matters. Through the course of my time on the challenge, I have cultivated friendships with other slicers. Even though we’ve never been in the same room (or the same country in some cases), by reading one another’s thoughts, we share a bond. We learn to care about one another. It’s an unconventional friendship, I admit, but I cherish the relationships I have made with Elsie Stacey, Sandy, Karpenglish, Amanda, Leah, and Anne, among others.

One of the coolest things about this challenge is that I have a time capsule of one month of my life for the past seven years. Not many people can say that! Looking back at my slices is a window into my life. And for some reason, March tends to be an eventful month! I’ve had multiple injuries, many adventures, and lots of normal day-to-day stuff, too. I enjoy looking back and reminiscing on the person I was then, wondering whether I would have done the same thing as the me I am now.

As a traveler and an expat, I try to write blog posts about my life abroad, but I fall short and typically only post a few times a year, but the SOL challenge gives me ample opportunity to write not only about my travels (I’ve been on Spring Break every March except this year- my holiday is next week.), but about my life as an expat in another country. I have lots of random posts about China, Albania, and now Thailand. This challenge gives me the opportunity to treasure these moments, no matter how small. When I’m 70 years old, sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows with my niece and nephew and their kids, I’ll tell them about my adventures. And when my old, tired brain doesn’t remember all the details, I’ll have my slices to look back on to remind me.

This challenge is a gift, and I am forever grateful to TwoWritingTeachers for hosting it, and to the SOL writing community for continuing to support me year after year.

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