Hello There…

Hello There…

I am learning to love me again, to embrace the very me-ness I possess inside, and express myself freely.

I keep secrets, a writer’s notebook, and memories of my travels.

I wish I could travel anywhere and everywhere for a year, with no regard for money (Who wants to sponsor me? haha).

I love mango sticky rice, iced chai tea lattes, pomelo, new books, blogging, sleeping in, goat cheese, dragonfruit, sharing stories, laughing, and filling my passport with stamps.

I dance ridiculously when I’m excited about something, usually making my friends laugh in the process.

I sing along with most songs, regardless of where I am and regardless of my mostly off-key voice. I have this innate gift of being able to pick up a song after hearing it a couple of times. I can’t promise you the lyrics are exactly right, but they’re close enough!

I think often about going back to school for another Master’s, possibly in school counseling or early childhood education. I’m in the research phase at the moment.

I really would like to be able to walk right now without the aide of crutches- hoping my ankle heals quickly!

I need less stuff than I thought I needed a year ago.

I should exercise more than I do, which is something I intend on starting once my ankle is healed.

I can teach preschool, despite thinking that it was something I could never do. And I’m actually pretty good at it, too.

I make a difference in the lives of my students, and they do in mine.

I always put others first; I’m working on that.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Miss Renda’s House

We all have those places we hold dear to our hearts, that take us back to a simpler time, when our biggest worry was the scraped knee we got when we fell off our bike or the fact that we had to finish our vegetables before we could have dessert. For me, there are only a few places where, despite the years that have passed, I can be taken me right back to that place at a moment’s notice. One such place is Miss Renda’s house.

When I conjure up Miss Renda, images of a spunky, fun-loving, motherly (but in the cool mom kinda way), sweet, yet stern, woman come to mind. Miss Renda looked after me from around the ages of 3 to 7, sometimes all day, sometimes half-day, and sometimes only during the summers. Along with me were her twins, Melissa and Ty, my brother once he was born, and I’m pretty sure another child. When I think back on that time, some things are fuzzy, but other memories are crystal clear, painting this image of a quintessential American childhood.

Her home was warm and inviting, familiar and lived-in. Her house, on a corner lot, provided a huge yard to play in, and its white stone brick exterior, for some reason, didn’t seem to match the inside of the house. The front door, while the entrance my mom used to drop me off and pick me up, wasn’t the entrance we used. We came in and out using the back door, the one by the car port that led into the playroom. The front door was for more formal entries, not casual ones. Isn’t that how it always is? The back or side door, the more familiar one?

In my mind’s eye, I can transport myself back to that place, and while I know I can’t remember all the details (Where was the bathroom again?), I can remember the ones that count. I can remember the wrap-around front yard, where every summer we’d spend hours running through the sprinkler, fighting for our turn on the slip ‘n’ slide, eating popsicles in the heat of the afternoon. You know the ones. The brightly colored liquid in the plastic pouch where, once frozen, you cut the ends off and pushed up to eat. Why were the tiny frozen pieces in the cut off parts so much better than the actual popsicle? I can remember Melissa trying and trying to teach me how to do a cartwheel out there, and me failing every time. I have, to this day, never been able to do a cartwheel. It was in front of Miss Renda’s house, on that stretch of road leading to the dead end, where Melissa and Ty taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. The pride I felt that day is something every kid should experience.

Her backyard was just as fun! Melissa, Ty, and I would spend countless hours outside, making up games, imagining new worlds, digging in the dirt, playing with leaves and sticks, and collecting locust shells we found stuck to the side of the house. Around the back, there was a swing tied to a big oak tree, and I have this vivid memory of swinging on the swing belting out “Rockin’ Robin.” Later, when we were in elementary school, Melissa, Ty, and I would tease each other with the “Sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” song on that very swing.

Inside, I can remember the massive playroom, full of toys, and if I recall correctly, a room that was converted to a playroom from something else (garage maybe?). I can remember nap time, our nap mats in the foyer near the front door. Like most kids do, I fought nap time, and I remember Miss Renda’s constant pleas for me to “just go to sleep.” But my strongest memories are in the kitchen and one of the back bedrooms.

The kitchen was the soul of the house. Miss Renda’s U-shaped kitchen, clad in typical 70’s/80’s fashion was yellowish-orange or green. A large dining table sat off to the side, where Miss Renda’s family presumably ate their dinner. But we didn’t eat there. In the middle of her kitchen, Miss Renda had a small kid-sized table and chairs set up for us, where we’d eat our snacks and lunches. My favorite meal Miss Renda ever made was Cherry Soup and Grilled Cheese. I can remember years later my mom telling me the story of cherry soup. My mom and 4-year-old me were grocery shopping when I asked her to buy me cherry soup. Of course, she told me cherry soup doesn’t exist. Insistent, I told her it does- Miss Renda makes it for me!– and I wanted it. Again, she tried to convince me I was making it up, as there is no such thing as cherry soup. After throwing a fit in the store, my mom asked Miss Renda what it was she was feeding me. Where was I getting this nonsense? Miss Renda laughed and told her it was tomato soup and grilled cheese, only we wouldn’t eat it if it was called tomato soup (no kid really likes tomatoes, do they?), so she called it cherry soup, and we loved it. From then on, my mom made me cherry soup, too.

Sometime in the 80’s, Nintendo came out with their original gaming system and classic games of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Miss Renda was the only person I knew who had it, which made her the coolest person I knew. I remember it was located in one of the back bedrooms, hooked up to a large, encased-in-wood TV set. We were allowed to play it sparingly, which made it all the more appealing. I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed, taking turns with Melissa and Ty, as we learned to navigate this entirely new technology. Shooting the ducks, we got way too close to the TV, our barrels nearly hitting the glass. Maneuvering little Mario through the mazes of Super Mario Bros. took skill and timing. It was vital to move the controller when you were making him jump. We swapped tricks and helped one another avoid pitfalls by shouting out our advice. I didn’t convince my parents to buy me a Nintendo until much later, when Super Nintendo came out. I still wish I had that first Nintendo system.

As much as my memories are attached to the physical place of Miss Renda’s house, the real memories are my experiences within that place. Miss Renda was such an influential person in my life, and I’ll never forget the care, love, and attention she gave us. I wouldn’t want to change this part of my childhood in any way, and I wish that everyone could have their own Miss Renda.

img_3659

A sketch of Miss Renda’s house I made in my writer’s notebook

Drowning in Slices

Swimming in a sea of slices

circling, swirling, so many to choose from

unable to settle on just one

drowning, quite literally, in slices

 

Do I write about my trip to the movies this weekend

to see Beauty and the Beast?

Acutely aware of how un-handicap accessible

the theater was

precariously hobbling

stairs upon stairs

but oh, so worth it

 

Or what about the twins,

who are finally breaking free of

their shells?

Come play with me!

Constructing a teetering tower,

laughter flowing, as the blocks cascade down

Our private glances,

telling each other stories,

words not needed

 

How about the thrill of a new book?

Settling in to read, yet

unable to keep my eyes open

Zzzzzzzzzzz…

(In case you didn’t know,

Zzzzzz means sleep!

according to J.J.,

my dormant EAL student,

who just today made a connection

between our letter of the week and

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site)

 

Or do I tell you of the (mostly) unsuccessful attempts

to reheat last night’s leftover lasagna

in a small pot on a hot plate

while standing on one foot?

Oh the joys of not having

a microwave, or oven for that matter

 

Or better yet,

I could pine my notebook

teeming with stories not yet written

sifting through the ideas

until I found the perfect one

 

Drowning in slices,

this poem will have to do.

 

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

My Life in Numbers

Several of my fellow slicers have written their own ‘life in numbers’ posts this month, which is a list of facts about them, corresponding to the numbers 1-10. I enjoy these posts, as they give an insight into the author. Here’s mine, but as the rule-breaker I am, mine doesn’t follow the 1-10 format. Instead, it’s a list of number-based facts using any numbers I deem necessary. But I’m not an animal…they are listed in numerical order. 🙂

1- I have 1 brother, Andrew, who’s just shy of four years younger than me. We are quite different, starting from our heights. He’s a full foot taller than me! We have different careers, different tastes in food, I live abroad while he lives where we grew up, he’s married with kids and I’m single, and the list of differences goes on. Despite our differences, I love my bubba and look forward to seeing him whenever I’m back home.

IMG_5785

2- I’m an aunt to 2 adorable kiddos, Randi and Logan, who are some of my favorite people on this earth. They make me smile and laugh whenever I’m with them. I think about them all the time. And they are so full of personality! I love them soooooo much!!

4- I’ve broken 4 bones in my lifetime. Two fingers, one on each hand, and both arms simultaneously. Yes, that really happened. I earned the nickname “Monkey Girl” during my eighth grade thanks to my accident on the monkey bars. As a middle schooler, naturally, I was mortified. As an adult, it’s a funny memory.

5- So far, I’ve lived in 5 countries (soon to be 6). USA for my first 29 years, Australia for 6 months, China for 5 years, Albania for a year and a half, and Thailand for the past 2+ months.

7- I’ve been slicing as part of the Slice of Life community for the past 7 years, and it’s been so instrumental in my development as a writer. I cannot thank all the co-authors enough for this opportunity, and all the slicers over the years who have encouraged me as a writer!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

9- In order to feel fully rested, I need 9 hours of sleep each night. I usually don’t get this much, but I strive for at least 8 hours of good sleep.

11- In my lifetime, I have lived in 11 different houses or apartments. This may not seem like very many, but considering that I lived in the same house until I was 22 years old, I think it’s quite a few places. One of these places was a townhouse I owned from age 26 to 29, my first and only place I’ve ever owned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My first home I owned 🙂

13- I’m currently in my 13th year of education, and in those years I’ve taught Grade 3, Grade 4, and Preschool, been a literacy coach and a part-time PYP Coordinator, and served as an elementary principal at two schools.

19- Not counting babysitting when I was younger, I started working at the age of 16 as a skating Sonic carhop, and over the past nearly twenty years, I have worked at 19 different places. Reading that you probably think I can’t hold a job, since it averages to about one per year, but most of these jobs were part-time and held simultaneously. With the exception of one job at age 17, my stint as a nanny in Sydney, and my summers as a camp director, all of my jobs were held for at least a year, the longest being 5 years.

22- I have 22 cousins, including their spouses and children, who I now consider my cousins. I love seeing many of them at our annual Kesler family reunions. Can’t wait to see them again this summer! 🙂

img_0358

35- So far, I have visited 35 countries, including the ones I’ve lived in. Check out my Where I’ve Wandered page to see where I’ve traveled across the globe. While 35 may seem like a lot, it just seems like a drop in the bucket to me. There’s so much more I want to see!

43- Last year, I read 43 books. I’m hoping to read more this year though! 🙂

9,156- I’m currently living 9,156 miles away from home in Bryan, Texas. No wonder I’m tired traveling to and from!

 

 

Thai Names

Don’t you just hate when everyone has your name? In a sea of Johns or Jennifers, you become defined by your last initial. Well, no more! I have a solution for you! For all of you expectant parents out there, here are some quirky and unique names for you to choose from, courtesy of Thailand!

There’s Einstein and Atom, Mafia and Boss,

Sibling pairs like Versailles and Venice, Violin and Piano,

Classics such as Cheese and Milk, Bike and Book, or

Stand-outs like PlanktonBouquet, Touch, and Titi,

You can be Famous, the Best, a Bonus, or just Wow Wow!

You can be a Party or you can be Mild, cold as Ice or a Saint,

Then there’s First and Third, or simply Nine.

You can be a Proud Captain or you can be a Fluke.

Or you can be the most polite kid around and be Thankyou.

Whatever you choose, know that you hang the Sun over the Earth!

***********************************************************************

Living in Thailand has its idiosyncrasies, as every place does. I embrace its vibrancy and quirkiness. One of the things that I find so different than other places I’ve lived, so uniquely Thai, is the names people have. I’m not talking about their names in Thai, most of which consist of 23 letters and are unpronounceable to me. What I’m referring to are the English names they choose for their children. Some may say they’re unusual, others may say they’re weird. I’m going to go with quirky.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Perks

Every country has its perks, the things that make life just a little sweeter. America has tons of perks…being able to go to one grocery store and find everything you could possibly want (and more!), endless restaurant choices, family who lives in the same country, no language barrier, TARGET!, and the list goes on.

Living in Thailand has afforded me some pretty great perks. The cost of living cheap, especially when compared to the US, and markets, restaurants, and transportation are inexpensive. One of my favorite perks, however, is the low cost of luxuries like massages, facials, blow outs, nails, etc. In the US, I never got a facial, rarely got a massage, only got a blow out when I got a haircut, and splurged on my nails. Here, I can have all of these things without breaking the bank. A massage sets me back about 6 bucks for an hour (I know…I feel like I’m robbing them), a facial is $15, gel nails are $15-20 (a little pricey in my opinion), and a blow out is about 5 bucks.

After school today, Julie and I headed to her favorite facial place, a little hole in the wall that you would never find on your own in a million years, but was recommended to her by a Thai friend. Through a long hallway, we walk past some pretty interesting smells from the various vendors selling their wares until we reach our destination. A modest shop run by one woman, it’s definitely not the spa experience you would get in the States, but we aren’t paying top dollar either, so we embrace it.

With someone already in the midst of her facial, we have to wait. I decide to hobble down a few stalls to a woman who does hair to get a hair wash and blow out. The thing I love about hair washes here is that you get a really nice head massage while she washes your hair. Lately, showering poses its challenges, so not having to wash my own hair is a plus! After my wash, she blow dries it straight, making me realize just how long my hair really is. 🙂


It was finally time for my facial! Laying back, I close my eyes while she does her magic. She follows a regiment of massaging various soaps and mild exfoliators onto my face in circular, upward motions, sponging my face clean between each different cleaner.


My favorite part, mainly because I find it so interesting, is when she uses a flat piece of wood (I think? It might be bone…who knows?) to try and smooth out my wrinkles. She uses it to massage my face, in upward motions of course, to eliminate the creases. Another thing she does is try to help define my cheekbones by using the tool to go around my cheekbones a few times. I don’t actually think this in any way smoothes or eliminates my wrinkles, but the fact that she believes it does makes me love it. Lastly, she massages a really nice cream into my skin, which leaves me with a slight glow.

There are some definite perks to living in Thailand! Kinda loving these two today. 🙂

 

I Wish You More…

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the writer whose format I borrowed for I Wish You More, passed away this week at the age of 51. Gone way too soon. Her light and love shone through in her life, and I admired her so much. As one of my favorite children’s books (and memoir) authors, I shared many of her books with kids and teachers over the years. Her death has hit me hard, and in honor of her, I give you this poem. AKR, this is for you! I wish you more love and happiness than pain.

img_0634

I wish you more stamps than pages.

I wish you more tries than give-ups.

I wish you more what now’s than what if’s.

I wish you more quality than quantity.

I wish you more spicy than mild.

I wish you more books than shelves.

I wish you more oh yeahs! than oh nos!

I wish you more yummy than yucky.

I wish you more happy endings than cliffhangers.

I wish you more calm waters than crashing waves.

I wish you more bright than dull.

I wish you more grey than black and white.

I wish you more friends than followers.

I wish you more adventure than aversion.

I wish you more sunny than stormy.

I wish you more questions than answers.

I wish all of this for you,

because you are everything I could wish for…

and more.