Tag Archives: family

Letter F #AtoZChallenge

Letter F memoir encyclopedia entries on deck…

Family

Family is important to me. And I don’t just mean my immediate family, but my extended family and friends who become your family, too. I love our family reunions every year, where all the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandmas, and grandpas come together to catch up on life, share some good food (I have some really amazing cooks in my family), and spend a weekend playing and laughing together. They’re something I look forward to each and every summer.

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Farm

Nowadays I’m a city girl, but growing up, I was a country girl at heart. My grandparents’ farm, where I spent countless days, was one of my favorite places. Their huge garden yielded enough corn, peas, watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, dewberries, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more to last the year. We would help Granddaddy and Mamaw harvest the crops, and although we probably just got in their way, they humored us and let us be their helpers. One of my strongest memories on the farm was sitting on the front porch swing at dusk, swapping stories while we shelled peas and watched the sunset. We would work at it for hours and only make a dent in the pile.

My mamaw would can vegetables and fruit, make pickles and jam, and freeze corn so that they could have food year-round. I can still remember the Ball jelly jars lined up all along the kitchen counters, waiting for the hot, fresh-made jelly to be poured in. My favorite jam that she made was dewberry, but I loved strawberry, too.

One of mine and Andrew’s jobs was to fetch the eggs in the chicken coop out back. We loved to gather the eggs, counting them to see if there were more today than yesterday. The smells in the chicken coop bothered me much more than they bothered him.

Grandaddy had cows, too, and they wandered around the 300-acre property in search of grass and hay to munch. I don’t really remember feeding them with him (maybe that was Andrew’s domain), but I do remember piling into that old beat up blue Ford pick-up to go search the back half for a lost calf or cow who hadn’t come back in a while. We’d bump along the uneven dirt track, stopping only to run out and open and shut the gates. We’d wind past the fishing pond, the trash hole (a huge gaping hole in the earth where Grandaddy would throw out any trash that couldn’t be composted or burned), and the camp house. I knew every twist and turn in that road back then. Now, I’m sad to say, it’s a bit foggy.

Fishing

My dad was a fishing kinda guy and would frequently enter (and even win) bass fishing tournaments across the state. I never went with him on his tournaments, but he would take us out in his bass boat to fish on Lake Somerville or Gibbon’s Creek. Fishing was something we really enjoyed as a family.

I remember all the things we’d have to do to get ready. We’d pack a cooler full of food…turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips and dip, Nutter Butter peanut patties, cold drinks, and fresh fruit. The boat was always washed and sparkly before we went out, something I never understood because it’s just gonna get wet. We’d load up the tackle boxes, get the rods and reels ready with fresh taut line, and make sure the life vests and towels were packed.

Once we were out on the lake, my favorite thing wasn’t the fishing (I usually got bored after an hour of sitting and waiting on a fish to bite my line). The thing I loved the most was when my dad would cruise around the lake in his lightning-fast boat, going so fast the nose would shoot up in the air, the skin on our faces would flap, and we would fear for our lives. When he knew he’d scared us properly, typically when my mom would yell, “Shit!” (and she didn’t curse), he’d slow down and crack up as my mom told her how he shouldn’t drive that fast and my brother and I begged him to do it again.

As we got older, our family fishing trips petered out, but every so often, I can persuade my dad to dust off the boat and take me out again. I always love packing our snacks for the trip, and I never, ever forget the Nutter Butter peanut patties. That would just be sacrilegious.

Foodie

I identify as a foodie. This wasn’t always the case though. Growing up in small town America, I wasn’t exposed to many different types of cuisine. Other than Tex-Mex, Italian, and Chinese, I had only really ever had American food until I moved abroad. At first, I was timid about trying anything that didn’t resemble something I had seen or tasted before, but as time went on and I became more adventurous, I found the fun and excitement in trying new foods. Now some of my favorite foods were things I never thought I’d even try.

I like experimenting with new flavors when I’m cooking, and I relish in introducing my friends to new flavor combinations. With a more sophisticated pallet, I can sometimes decipher various flavors in the food I’m eating. A drawback of a more sophisticated pallet means I’m no longer satisfied with mediocre food. I want every meal to be deliciously pleasing. As a foodie, I’ve become that girl who photographs her food and puts it on Instagram. I know, I know, you’re rolling your eyes, but I’m not ashamed. Beautiful, delicious food should be shared.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

In fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Decell, read aloud what would become one of my favorite books of all time, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the tale of Claudia and Jamie, siblings from Connecticut who, due to the injustices of their world, run away to NYC and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Throughout the story, you find out how the survived (and where they slept, ate, and showered) without getting caught. Along the way, they work to solve a mystery that takes them on an epic adventure.

I remember wishing I was Claudia, on this grand adventure. I didn’t want to run away, but the idea of living in a museum sounded like a lot of fun! I also enjoyed their resourcefulness; without much money, they managed to figure out how to stretch it to the fullest.

I read this book aloud each year to my classes (grades 3 and 4), and shared the magic with them. Some of my students loved it as much as I did, others didn’t, but they could see how special this book is to me. When my mom and I took a trip to NYC in 2014, I took her to the Met, and I was transported back to that fourth grade class and the excitement of that first reading as I took my mom to all of the places Claudia and Jamie visited, slept, ate, and showered in the book. It was perfect.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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!

 

 

Year in Photos 2016

Sometimes pictures are better than words. They can tell more of a story, inviting the reader to infer their meaning, ask questions about their significance to the writer, and wonder what happened before and after the snapshot was taken. I’ve been telling a story of my year in photos for the past couple of years (click here for my year in photos for 2014 and 2015), and it is an exercise I enjoy, looking back through my year’s photos, deciding which ones to include and which ones are better left out. Without further adieu, here is my 2016 year in photos, in chronological order.

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35 Things that Make Me Happy!

As I approach my 35th birthday later this week, I am struck by the fact that I don’t have any real feelings toward it. I’m not worried or sad about getting older, nor am I overly excited about it. I’m excited about my kick ass birthday party this weekend, but I love planning parties, so that’s no surprise! I think I find it odd because 25 really bothered me. Something about no longer being able to say I was in my early 20’s rubbed me the wrong way. No other birthday before or after 25 has bothered me.

For today’s slice, I thought I’d take a page from fellow blogger Michelle’s book and write a list of 35 things that make me happy. Here goes! (in no particular order)

  1. Goat cheese! (I had some with dinner tonight…yum!)
  2. Traveling! OMG I live for my next trip! (Coincidentally my next trip is Amsterdam in 9 days!)
  3. Slow mornings
  4. Organizing and planning
  5. My family (I get to see them in less than 2 months! EEEK!)
  6. Making lists…hehe
  7. Decorating my home
  8. Cooking
  9. A new journal
  10. Lip syncing! I equally love doing it and watching it.
  11. Soft pajamas
  12. English Breakfast Tea, Twinings to be exact
  13. Chai Tea Lattes…especially from Starbucks
  14. Teaching
  15. Sharing a story…in a book or from my life, it doesn’t matter to me
  16. Smiles
  17. Videos…inspirational, funny, informative
  18. My friends
  19. Blogging…so far I haven’t missed a Tuesday since the SOL Challenge ended!
  20. Biking around the city
  21. Making new friends
  22. Coming home to a clean apartment
  23. Spending time on the beach
  24. Glasses!
  25. Living abroad…it has shaped who I am today
  26. Theme parties
  27. Queso!!!
  28. Artwork that speaks to me
  29. Finding a new book
  30. Listening to music
  31. Sharing my joy with others…whatever it is that day!
  32. A good pen…I’m totally like my dad about this one.
  33. Massages
  34. Brunch
  35. Firsts…love trying something new! Here’s to more firsts this year! 🙂
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Michelle, Linner, and me on my birthday last year…man I miss these gals!

A Year in Photos- 2015 #sol16 20 of 31

Last year, I wrote a post sharing my favorite photos from 2014. This was a really great way to reflect on my year, and to relive some of my favorite moments. So here goes 2015’s year in photos (in chronological order). I hope you enjoy! 🙂

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All photos copyright of Jennifer Kesler. Please do not use without permission.

Year 6, Day 1 #sol16 1 of 31

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I began participating in the Slice of Life Challenge back in 2011. Here it is 6 years later, and we’re at the beginning of yet another challenge. I look forward to the challenge each year, and this year is no different. Well, that’s not entirely true. I am looking forward to participating in the challenge, that’s for sure, but this year is different. While I definitely blog more heavily in March, I tend to blog throughout the year, writing slices of life, stories about living abroad and my travels across this globe, and musings about education. This year, for reasons I have yet to figure out, my writing life has been stagnant. I love writing, but the words haven’t come as easily as they have in the past. My energy for writing has waned.

But…I intend to use this challenge to reignite my passion for writing, to work out that muscle that has been dormant for so long. I am unprepared for the challenge in the traditional sense. Typically I have a list of topic ideas already scratched out in my writer’s notebook by day one. I hem and haw over which one to explore first. Nope, not this year. This year I’m winging it. I’m going to tackle each day as it comes. Maybe that’s just what I need–to add some spontaneity back into my writing!

For those of you who don’t know me, here’s a little bit of who I am.

I’m not afraid to speak in front of a large crowd of adults (or kids for that matter). It goes with the territory.

Traveling is my life. If I’m not on a trip, I’m planning the next one. I’ll have been to 12 countries (8 new) this school year by the time July rolls around.

I have a love affair with goat cheese. Like, for real. I can’t get enough of it.

I’m currently living on continent number four. Hopefully I can try my hand at Africa and South America someday.

My family is very important to me, despite living so far away. I love spending time with them when I go home for Christmases and summers.

I love hosting parties, cooking for others, and spending time laughing with and getting to know friends.

I invest in people, but I have a hard time balancing my time and energy between those who are near me and those far away. I have a tendency to devote more time to those who are near, but this doesn’t mean I love the ones far away any less. I love that my friends understand this about me.

I spend an inordinate amount of money on books, journals and writing utensils, and good food.

My five-year “veggie-versary” just happened last month. It’s hard to believe that the last time I ate a hamburger was over 5 years ago. Don’t miss it at all though!

My favorite thing to do when I visit a new place is to wander the streets, getting a feel for the local lifestyle, taking in the sounds and sights, and sampling the foods. Sure, I’ll hit up the touristy things, but what I remember most about my travels were the unplanned experiences that happened when I just walked around.

What I Believe- SOL #24

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI recently read Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and I was struck by the chapter entitled “What I Believe,” so I used it as a mentor text for today’s slice.

What I Believe

I believe in laughter, the kind where you laugh with your whole body, and your belly aches when you’re done.
I believe in good food and good conversation with good friends.
I believe in going and doing all that you can, before it’s too late.
I believe in the country and the city.
I believe in family, the people who will be there for you no matter what happens.
I believe in fighting for what you believe in.
I believe in love, messy, not-sure-if-it-will-work-out-but-you-go-for-it-anyway love.
I believe in a higher power, a God that is there for us and loves us, even though we don’t always deserve it.
I believe in working hard and giving it all you’ve got.
I believe in desserts, indulgent, comforting, make your mouth water desserts.
I believe that a smile or hug can make someone’s day.
I believe in words; they have the power to move mountains or tear down the most powerful fortress.
I believe that sometimes all you need is a good cry.
I believe that books are meant to be shared.
I believe in giving.
I believe that everyone is a writer, just waiting to be discovered.
I believe that reflection and change, while hard, is a necessary part of living.