Category Archives: Slice of Life

It’s Over Already?!?

I’m in denial. It can’t be March 31st already! The date on my computer must be playing tricks on me. I swear we’ve only been slicing for like two weeks…not a whole month! I’m not ready to stop writing every day. What will I do without my morning routine of seeing who’s commented and who’s posted while I’ve been asleep? It won’t be the same without my writing friends.

As I finish up my thirteenth year of slicing, I’m honestly not ready to stop. I’ve got so many more stories waiting to be told. What will I do tomorrow, when it’s time to slice? Why is it that whenever March rolls around, I wonder how I will ever find the time to slice every day and read and comment on my fellow slicers’ blogs, but despite my worries, I always seem to find the time, even if something else gets pushed out. But now that it’s over, I wonder what I’ll do with all that extra time that I’ll have now that I’m not slicing?

Slicing this year has been easier than most other years. I still started the month with my list of SOL ideas in my writer’s notebook, ready for those days when I had nothing to write about. It’s not my first rodeo, and I know how to stave off those writer’s block days. But you know what? I barely even looked at my list, and the ideas I did use were the ones I almost always write each year because I love them: Year in Photos, TBAs, Today I…, and Currently. That doesn’t mean I didn’t plan though. I did. I thought through the events and experiences I would have in March and mentally planned to write about them the next day. Do you wanna know how many times I actually wrote about what I planned to write about? Exactly two times. All the other days, I sat down to write, and my fingers had a different idea, feverishly typing away, spilling out something else entirely.

As I look back, a few themes emerged in my writing this year, and most were themes that have shown up on my blog many times. Things like travel, living abroad, life in Jeju, work, childhood memories, injuries/sickness, and bad days. I wrote mostly stories this month, but they were interrupted by a few poems and reflections. I stretched myself as a writer, and my favorite slices were Side Effects of Slicing, Before That, and Jennifer and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Along the way, I read and commented on many slices, getting to know other slicers even more and meeting a few new faces joining us on the challenge this year. I appreciated the support and encouragement offered by way of comments. You all made me feel seen and loved. When I was wrote about my scary hospital visit in a foreign country when I was all alone, your comments touched me and brought tears to my eyes as I read them. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone.

As I wrap up this year’s challenge, I’m thankful for this community, for the time and space to write, and for the ones who make it all possible, the co-authors of Two Writing Teachers. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. I’m a slicer, through and through, and I can’t imagine a March in which this isn’t a part of my life. Until next time, my friends, be well and keep writing!

Design Experimentation

Our PYP Exhibition is coming up soon! I love the agency the students have during the exhibition. For those of you not familiar with the PYP, the exhibition is the culminating experience undertaken in their final year of elementary school. Each student gets to inquire into whatever they want to explore. They choose whether to work independently or with others, which subjects to integrate with, which genre of writing best suits their topic, which action to take, and how to share their learning with the learning community. It’s amazing to watch them grow as learners!

I volunteered to make this year’s invitation. Since there was no clear theme for the invitation, as the students have such a wide range of topics (the effects of AI on humanity…the history and evolution of ramen…the use of architectural psychology in city design and development…the role of multicultural authors in influencing societal diversity, just to name a few), I decided to have the students help me make the invitation by drawing an image that connects to their topic.

Since I had them draw by hand on paper, there was some cleaning up to do. Thirty-nine different groups of fifth graders collaboratively drawing on the same paper results in some smudges and frayed edges! Once they were done, I scanned the images and then had to learn how to use Photoshop to clean up the images and enhance the color, as they looked more faded when I scanned them. Here are the cleaned up versions…

Once I had them cleaned up, it was time to make the invitation. Should I use Google Slides? Canva? Something else? I ultimately decided to try Canva, another relatively new-to-me program. Nothing like being a lifelong learner, right? After some experimentation, I made the first part of the invitation.

Hmmm…it’s too white. I need a black background. Back to Canva for another try.

The border makes it pop, but there’s too much black on the sides. But I didn’t know how to edit it in the presentation template I was using. I downloaded it, uploaded it, cropped it, and tried again, this time working on the invitations, adding the information the guests would need. I would need to make two versions- one for the students and teachers attending at school and another for the parents, who will attend the evening performance and presentations.

Attempt number one was okay…but I could do better. Maybe play around with the font sizes? The logo seems too big. Let’s try again.

That looks better. Now let’s make the school invitation. First try was okay…

But let’s make some adjustments. It doesn’t have enough visual interest. Should I play around with a mix of fonts? How does this look?

I think I like it. I definitely like how I changed the times…the different lengths of the lines make it more eye-catching. But I wonder if the cursive font for the date is too much…What do you think?

What I thought would be a small project ended up taking MUCH longer than I anticipated, but I learned a few things along the way and had a bit of fun, too!

Jennifer and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I went to sleep and woke up in the middle of the night, stressed and worried, and couldn’t get back to sleep for a very long time. And then I had awful heartburn and it took six Tums to make it go away. And when I woke up this morning, I remembered the scary nightmare I’d had, and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I was a few minutes late to the staff meeting and had to walk in in front of everyone and I was embarrassed and mad at myself for being late. Then I realized I had forgotten my tea and had to sit there without anything to drink and no caffeine to wake me up and I was exhausted.

I think I’d rather be back in Australia.

I wanted to have a normal day, but everyone was complaining and giving me their worries. Then I started to feel anxious, and the tears pricked the back of my eyes, threatening to show their ugly face, but I pushed them down.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I started to get cramps, and I hate cramps. My cramps made me more emotional, and I hate being emotional, at least at school. And I just wanted to go home, get back under the covers, and try again tomorrow. I think they let you do that in Australia.

I realized that everything is piling up at once. Our evaluation visit is in a week and a half. Our PYP Exhibition is in two weeks. Our move to the new campus is in two and a half weeks. Why is it all happening at the same time?

I had too many things I had to do to get ready for the things that are coming and I had to cancel the things I wanted to do today. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

All day long, the stress settled in, making itself at home in my heart and in my head. It tried to escape through my eyes. A few times I couldn’t catch it. I hate when that happens.

My stomach in knots, my lunch sat uneaten and lonely, while I worked and worked to get it all done. Would I finish by this afternoon’s meeting? What would happen at the meeting? It didn’t look good.

When they walked in, I was looking down, but they knew. It was written all over my face. My friend said maybe I wanted to take a minute. I went outside and breathed in and out, in and out, until they stopped falling. I told you it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

After the meeting, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but still wasn’t the best, I ended up crying to my colleague, everything coming out in little spurts. I’m having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told her.

It was too late to go to my favorite place for dinner, so I had to heat up something frozen that I didn’t want.

It was too cold in my house, and I hate it when it’s too cold.

I wanted to relax and watch a show but I had more work to do.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.

Image Credit

So Many Slices, So Little Time

So much happened today, and as I sit here, trying to decide what to write about, I can’t land on just one thing. There were just too many slices, and not enough time to write them all.

I could write about…

helping a Grade 5 Exhibition group who is inquiring into how violins impact people’s lives plan a lesson for a Kindergarten class that they will teach later this week.

all of the amazing action our Grade 5 students are taking as a result of their Exhibition inquiry. One student who has been researching the effects of plastic pollution in the ocean has become a certified scuba diver and has gone on over 20 dives off the coast of Jeju to collect rubbish in the ocean. She’s 12!

how my boss and I played hooky for 30 minutes this afternoon during our meeting.

our upcoming Student-Led Conferences. I spent all afternoon planning and updating documents so that I’m ready to present at next week’s faculty meeting. Student-Led Conferences are my favorite day of the whole school year!

how I didn’t realize how late it was until my stomach started growling and I looked at the clock to find it was 7:00pm. Time to go home!

how I can get into the zone of working and tune everything out if I’m not distracted by the constant interruptions I usually have at school.

our upcoming school accreditation visit. They’ll be here in less than 2 weeks! Eeek! Are we ready!?

the bittersweet feelings I’ve had today about the Slice of Life Challenge coming to end in a few days.

how I had a slice planned in my head this morning, but it didn’t feel like it was ready to be written when I sat down tonight to write.

how this is my 450th post on my blog!

Before That

I’ve seen a couple of “Before That…” posts, and they inspired me to try writing one of my own. Check out Mazerly Musing’s slice and Book Dragon’s slice…they are both great!

Here’s me, Amina, and Frances (the Junior School Leadership Team) at BHA at the start of the year.

It’s August 2022, and I’m starting my nineteenth year in education. Where has the time gone? I’m in my third year at Branksome Hall Asia, an international school in Jeju, South Korea, where I’m a Deputy Head of Junior School and PYP Coordinator. I love my job, especially working with teachers to plan learning experiences and assessments and working with students in the classroom.

Before that, it was July 2020 and I was arriving in Korea at the height of the pandemic, excited to get through the mandatory quarantine and start my new job at BHA!

Before that, I was finishing my toughest year ever in education. I was in my third year at ACG School Jakarta, a small international school in South Jakarta, and it was the 2019-2020 school year. I began the year as Head of Primary (only), but picked up the PYP Coordinator role in October, when our school had a large reduction in staff (16 people let go after the first term). A month later, I added Year 6 Teacher to my resume, after one of our teachers suddenly quit. A few more months later, I was in quarantine, teaching online while trying to balance three jobs and an online PYP Exhibition. It was a challenging year.

Before that, I excitedly took up the post of Head of Primary and PYP Coordinator in Jakarta, where I was drawn to the community-like feel of the place.

Before that, I was wrapping up a 6-month stint as a preschool teacher in Bangkok- a stop-gap between two posts that proved to be just what I needed. I’d never taught preschool before, and it was full of adventure!

Before that, I made the toughest professional decision of my life, to leave my school mid-year and break a contract. I was working in Albania as the Head of Primary and after 18 months of strife, verbal abuse from my boss, and unethical decisions at the school, I had to walk away. It nearly broke me.

Before that, I helped start a new school as the founding Head of Primary and PYP Coordinator of Albanian College Tirana. I had the best staff I’ve ever worked with by my side, and while it was really tough, it was also really rewarding.

Before that, I tearfully said goodbye to my staff and students who had become my family at Hong Qiao International School (formerly Rainbow Bridge International School) in Shanghai, where I had been Early Childhood and Elementary Principal for the past two years.

Before that, I took an incredibly scary step into a leadership role for the first time, woefully unprepared for what lie ahead.

Before that, I spent two years at Rainbow Bridge as the Elementary Literacy Coach, a job I pitched and they created for me to do. I had no formal training, but I did have a passion for teaching reading and writing, and I shared that passion with others. It blossomed into something truly amazing.

Before that, I moved halfway across the world to China to teach Grade 3 at this small school inside of the Shanghai Zoo. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how I would change as an educator and a person, but I wanted to see what it was like.

Before that, I taught Grade 4 in Texas for six years. I loved my students and colleagues, but I craved something more.

Here’s me in 2010 in front of my school’s gates with my new bike. Rainbow Bridge International School in Shanghai, China

A Peek Inside my New Korean Home

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing into people’s homes. Whenever I visit someone’s house, I have to control myself so that I don’t start looking around (unless I’m invited to). Houses around the world are sometimes so different than back home, and I enjoy watching TV shows and YouTube clips where you get to tour different places.

A few years back, I started posting slices about the different homes I lived in, as a way for me to remember the various places I’ve lived. Last year I posted this slice about my Korean home, but this summer I moved to a new place, so I thought I’d give you a peek inside. For those of you who don’t know me, I live on Jeju island in South Korea. It’s a beautiful island south of the Korean mainland, where we have lots of beaches, mountains and oreums (hills), walking trails, and greenery.

I’m fortunate to live in a townhome instead of an apartment, which means I have more space, multiple levels, and a little bit of nature. My home has three stories- the first floor has the kitchen, living room, dining room, and a bathroom; the second floor has two bedrooms and another bathroom; and the third floor is an open space that I use for a reading nook, a place to exercise, and extra storage.

The outside of the house isn’t much to look at, but I love the inside! It has lots of natural light and more than enough space for me. Something that is very common in Korean, but isn’t in the states, is that no one has keys for their homes. We simply have a keypad on the door. It’s so much more convenient, but it does make it harder to remember to take my keys whenever I’m traveling to a different country!

What I love most about my house is the kitchen. In my previous place, the kitchen was small and narrow. I had very little counter space and it was separated from the rest of the house, making it hard to talk to guests when I entertained. My new kitchen is spacious and opens up to the living and dining rooms. I have plenty of counter space and tons of storage. I especially like the separate pantry, where I am able to store everything I need. Most Korean homes do not come with a dishwasher, but I bought a small one, which I keep in the pantry. I’m so much happier now that I have it, as doing dishes is my least favorite activity! Another common appliance often absent in Korean homes is an oven, as most local dishes are made on the stovetop. I keep my large countertop oven in the pantry, as well, since I don’t use it very often.

The microwave, toaster, and air fryer are hidden away, but the drawers pull out for easy access.
Recycling is a big thing here in Jeju (which is good), hence the recycling bins and saved paper bags.

The view from the living and dining rooms is lovely! In my old place, I looked straight out onto a neighbor’s house, which meant I had little privacy and kept my curtains closed at night, but here, my view is a farmer’s field, just beyond the low Jeju-style stone fence in my small backyard. There are no houses within view, which affords me lots of privacy.

Earlier today it was cloudy…it’s usually a lot brighter!

My living room is smaller than my old one, but I’ve managed to make it work for me. I spend lots of time lounging on the couch reading, working, watching TV, or simply watching the birds outside my window. I have a love affair with plants, which I’ve lined up along the large window. The light fixture originally in the living room was really ugly, so I had this new one installed…and I love it!

The downstairs bathroom is functional, but nothing fancy. I love all the storage in this house! I have a Harry Potter room under the stairs, where I store extra supplies (like toilet paper) and items I don’t use very often (like my dehumidifiers). As is custom in all Korean homes, I have a floor to ceiling shoe closet in the entryway, as we do not wear shoes indoors.

My bedroom is nice and big, with a large window that lets in so much light! When the weather’s nice, I can open it to let in some fresh air. I have a large walk-in closet, with wardrobes along one side. I’ve added a full length mirror and a ‘getting ready’ station, where I do my hair and makeup in the mornings. Since I have no counter space in the bathroom, this was an easy solution. My favorite part of my closet is my glasses drawer! I doubt it was actually made for glasses, but it works perfectly!

Believe it or not, I really pared down my glasses collection when I moved to Jeju! 🙂

The upstairs bathroom is small, but I’ve made it work. I like that it has a bathtub, even though it’s small. I’m 5’3″ and my knees are up whenever I take a bath, but when it’s cold outside, it’s nice to be able to relax and warm up. The only built-in storage provided was the medicine cabinets, so I purchased a few wooden shelves from Ikea, which work well.

Here’s the upstairs bathroom

While the guest room is quite small, just enough room for a twin bed, it has extra storage in the wardrobes along the back wall, where I store my linens, winter coats, and extra toiletries. The enclosed balcony has the washer/dryer combo and some space to hang dry my clothes.

When I first moved in, I was perplexed about what to do with this weird hallway space, which seemed like a waste to me. Too bad the architect didn’t use it to make a larger bathroom or guest room. I decided to fashion an office out of it, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

My office area

The last space in my home is the third floor “attic” space. It’s not the same as our attics back home though. It’s heated and cooled and completely finished. It has lots of windows on both sides, as well as a skylight. The attic has an area to exercise, a place to read and store extra books, as well as large built-in storage, where I store larger items, like my suitcases and Christmas decorations. The ceiling is sloped, but I can stand up in most of it. I have hit my head once or twice when putting things away in the built-in storage, so I have to be careful.

Behind me, there’s tons of built-in storage cupboards, but I couldn’t get it all in the same pic.
My reading nook 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of my home! The next time you’re in Jeju, stop by and we’ll have a cup of tea and catch up on life! 🙂

Year in Photos 2022

One of my favorite yearly traditions is to tell the story of my year through photos. You can check out my previous Year in Photos here- 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.

This year’s post was much harder to put together than it normally is. Usually I have a difficult time deciding which photos “make the cut,” as I sift through hundreds and thousands of photos. However, when I made the decision to get off of social media in 2022, an unintended consequence is that I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I normally do. Perhaps, subconsciously, I took fewer photos because I wasn’t regularly sharing them and didn’t have an audience. Upon reflection, being intentional about taking more photos is one of my goals this year. Next year, I hope I have the problem of too many photos to choose from again!

Please enjoy my year in photos, in chronological order, beginning with getting thrown in Covid jail on January 1st!:

Bone Tired

All I want to do

all day

is stay

in this bed

cozy under the covers

forgetting my responsibilities

letting my body

and soul

just rest

nowhere to go

nothing to do

until I’m ready to emerge

but I can’t

not today

I made a commitment

and as much as I wish

I hadn’t said I’d go

I did

so I’ll peel myself out of

this comfortable cocoon

and face the day

My Food Memories- Childhood Edition

I recently finished listening to the memoir From Scratch by Tembi Locke (it’s also a Netflix series). I watched the series and bawled my eyes out, so I just had to read the book. Memoirs are one of my favorite genres, especially when read by the author, and this one was great! While I listened, she told so many memories tied to food. I mean, it is a memoir about her and her chef husband’s relationship, after all. It got me thinking about my memories connected to food. When I began recalling my food memories, there was a distinct difference in the memories I had before moving abroad and since then. I’d need two editions to really tell my food story. Naturally, let’s begin with childhood.

Banana Pudding

Growing up, my favorite dessert was Mamaw’s homemade banana pudding. It was love in a bite. Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counters, Mamaw would hoist me up on the black leather barstool that swiveled with even the slightest movement. I’d sit on my knees while Mamaw taught me how to make her homemade vanilla pudding. My job was “official taste tester.” Once she had made the pudding just right, she’d spoon a little bit into my mouth, and anxiously await my verdict. “Well, how is it? Does it taste right?” she’d ask. “Hmmm…I think I need another taste to be sure, but I think it’s right,” I’d say grinning. Even though she was onto my tricks, she’d give me another taste. “Yep, just right!” I’d say.

What made it so special was that she always let me help her make it. I got to slice the bananas- not too thin and not too thick. Next came layering the Nilla wafers, then bananas, then pudding (which Mamaw always poured because it was too hot). Then more Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding, until it reached the top. The finishing touch was the meringue, which she’d whip up in her mixer, stiff white peaks indicating it was ready. She always did that part, but she let me help. Then it went into the oven for what seemed like an eternity.

My brother and Grandaddy, after smelling the pudding cooling on the stove, would gather in the kitchen and we’d all share in the first tastes of the warm, gooey banana pudding…it was pure bliss!

Spaghetti Night

I have very few memories of home cooked dinners from my childhood, as we ate out for most meals, but one I remember well was spaghetti night. This one was the best! I can remember the spaghetti sauce, usually out of a jar, made more homemade by adding sautéed onions and garlic and browned ground beef. We always had Kraft Parmesan cheese (the one in the green plastic container) to pile sprinkle on top, a salad of iceberg lettuce with carrots and ranch, and garlic bread on the side. And iced tea. Always iced tea.

Thanksgiving Dinner

As long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. My plate would be piled high with turkey, Mamaw’s cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, green stuff, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, broccoli with melted cheese on top, and green bean casserole. Weeks before the day, I’d call up Mamaw to ask if she was getting ready. “Do you have the stuff to make the cranberry sauce?” “Yes, I do.” “Are you sure? We can’t have Thanksgiving without it!” “Yes, Jennifer, I’m sure.” Everyone still teases me about the time when I was 16 and I walked into the kitchen to find Mamaw opening a can of jellied Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. “What are you doing?!?” “Making the cranberry sauce.” “No, you’re not! You’re opening a can!” I was shocked that she would even dare do this. “What do you mean? I always do this.” Stunned and in disbelief, I said, “How is this possible? You always make everything from scratch. Cranberry sauce is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I don’t believe you!” “Jennifer, how do you think the ridges get there?” she said, referring to the grooves left from the shape of the can. “I thought you used a special mold. My whole life has been a lie!”

What food memories do you have?

Not Today, Buddy!

I grabbed my suitcase off the conveyor belt and headed to the taxi rank. Luckily, the line was short. It was after 10:30, and wanted to get to bed as soon as possible. I’d be back here at 6:30 tomorrow morning.

“Number ten,” the attendant said, pointing to the spot I needed to wait. I shuffled over, noticing the sign indicating that I’d be charged a $5.80 airport surcharge. No biggie, my hotel’s close.

The taxi pulled up, but he didn’t get out to help me with my bags. Hmmm, that’s weird. Everyone in Adelaide always helped. Maybe it’s different in Sydney. A little perturbed, I loaded my bags and got in. The driver was on the phone and didn’t look my way. I waited until he hung up. “Citadines Hotel please. It’s an airport hotel. I can show you the address if you need it.”

“Why didn’t you take an Uber?” he barked.

“Um…I don’t know. I thought I’d just grab a taxi.”

“It’s going to be very expensive for a short ride in a taxi,” he informed me.

“I saw there’s a surcharge. No problem. I just want to get to the hotel.”

“Why are you here, not in an Uber? It’ll cost you a lot,” he repeated, as he was driving towards my hotel.

“How much do you think it will be?” I asked, starting to get irritated with his attitude.

“37 or 38 dollars,” he claimed.

“What?!? How is that possible?? My hotel is like 5 minutes away!” I exclaimed, my shock and frustration beginning to show.

“I told you. You should have taken an Uber.”

“But you told me after I was in your taxi and you had already driven off,” I argued.

Noticing that I didn’t see the meter ticking away, I asked, “Where’s your taxi meter?”

“No meter. It’s 37 dollars,” he stated, with authority.

At this point, I began looking around the cab, looking for the stickers with the taxi company phone number and taxi driver’s number, so I could call and complain. No such signage existed. “What’s your taxi company phone number? You have to use the meter. It’s the law,” I countered.

He started mumbling under his breath in another language, clearly frustrated with me and my arguments. He refused to give me the number and still wouldn’t turn the meter on, if there even was one.

“I’m not paying that much,” I declared.

“Give me your taxi company number. I’ll call them and sort this out. Then I will pay you. But I’m not paying you 37 dollars for a 5 minute ride!”

Around about this time, he pulled into my hotel, still mumbling under his breath. Once he came to a stop, the yelling started. “You need to pay me!”

“I’m not paying you that much. You’re trying to rip me off!”

“Get out!”

Unsure about what would happen next, I exited and unloaded my bags. I was a little nervous about how much to pay, but when he got out of the cab, shouting in a language I couldn’t understand and slamming the trunk down as hard as he could, I realized he was pissed at me for calling him out and thought I was going to stiff him (which was never my intention). He then slammed my door before I could shut it, jumped back into the driver side, and peeled out of the parking lot.

Reeling from what just happened, I asked the front desk staff what a taxi ride from the airport should cost, since I almost just got ripped off, and the ladies informed me that taxi drivers have “gone wild” in Sydney and charge whatever they want now. One woman told me that some people were charged $100 for the 5 minute ride to the hotel. (What?!?!) She recommended I only use Uber from now on. Noted.

I hate getting taken advantage of or ripped off! It’s not so much the money either. It’s the fact that some people see a foreigner and think they can pull one over on them and that’s not fair. Well, not today, buddy! Not today!