Tag Archives: family

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! ūüôā

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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.

Hello There… SOL #20

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Hello there…

I am silly yet serious, friendly and finicky, loving and loquacious.
I keep¬†my word, memories, and a writer’s notebook.
I wish I could live in Sydney, Australia or Inle Lake, Myanmar or Edinburgh, Scotland.
I love goat cheese, a good book, lazy days, traveling the world, challenges, and the anticipation of something new.
I dance¬†more when I’m around my friends, but never very well.
I sing loudly and generally off-key.
I think¬†about where to visit next, about what’s best for kids, and about my family often.
I really love my family and friends and the richness they bring to my life.
I need¬†a massage right now. Good thing I’m planning on one later today.
I should work less and relax more.
I can talk about literacy all day long.
I like familiar routines as well as change, trying new restaurants, swapping funny stories, and writing.
I make friends easily.
I always¬†like to sleep in. Mornings are meant to be eased into…¬†

Getting Back to the Old Me- SOL #11

Anyone who knows me or has read some of my posts this month knows I’ve been having a hard time lately. Lots of things beyond my control have been very frustrating and have consumed my life for the past few weeks. I haven’t liked who I’ve been lately. I’ve been extremely sad, irritable, and angry, and my usual social self has retreated from my friends. I was letting the situation control me. I was forgetting the advice my dad has always told me, “You can only control what you do. You can’t control what anyone else does.” And he’s right, but dammit, sometimes I just want to control everything and make it turn out the way I want it to!

Beginning Monday, the fog has started to lift. Each day I find myself happier and more like me. I am smiling more, laughing more, and connecting more. I am looking forward to tomorrow, rather than dreading it. I am finding the joy in life again, both at work and in my social life. My OLW for this year is intentional. To be honest, I haven’t been living intentionally lately; I’ve been living in reaction to the people and situations surrounding me. But that’s all beginning to change. I’m starting to own my intentionality again. I know that there are still going to be bumps along the way, but I’m going to be more intentional with my choices, leading to a happier, healthier me!

IMG_4752_originalThank you to everyone who has supported me during this time! I’ve received loads of love from friends, family, and the TWT community of writers. You guys make my heart happy! ūüôā So as I begin the business of getting back to the old me, I am looking forward to the adventures and fun that lie ahead. I’m excited to be traveling with this lady (and Heather!) in just a few short weeks! Bring on the sun!

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A Year in Photos

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a post from one of my friends, Jee Young, where she reflected on 2014 through photos. It was such a unique way to show the past year, and I just had to give it a try! Now that I’m back in Shanghai with my laptop that has all my pictures, I can. I’ve sifted through the photos I’ve taken over the past year, and have narrowed it down to my favorites. These pictures make me smile, show an interesting perspective, or carry a certain memory. Here’s my year in photos…

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What It’s Really Like

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I’ve been living abroad for nearly three years now. Being an expat is a unique experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But the life of an expat isn’t perfect either. Shocking, I know! Here’s a little bit about what it’s really like to be an expat.

You need to find a balance between your life abroad and your life back in your home country. The hardest part for me is finding time for my relationships. Being a people person means that I am blessed to have many friendships and family relationships both here in China and back in the US. Finding the balance between developing new friendships with the people you meet as an expat while still maintaining your friendships back home isn’t an easy feat. Not only is the time change a barrier (being 13 hours ahead is difficult when it comes to finding common phone times), it’s just plain easier to talk to people face-to-face. The friends you make in your new country are physically there, making it easier to converse with and develop a deeper relationship. Let’s face it, typing lengthy emails, updating your Facebook status, responding to wall posts, Skyping, and making phone calls is harder. It’s not that your relationships back home aren’t worth the effort. They are. But there’s only so much you can do. While they, too, try to make the relationship work, it’s different. Where you have loads of people to worry about keeping up with, they only have you. The guilt associated with not contacting a friend or family member back home is enough to make you feel like an awful friend. Sometimes you feel like you can’t do anything right, and you retreat, putting more and more distance between you and your friends without even realizing it.

When you talk to your friends or family back home, they don’t always know what’s really going on in your life. To be fair, you talk to people back home less frequently than you did when you lived there, and sometimes only sporadically. Therefore, you wind up giving them the highlights, those fun, amazing parts of living abroad– your most recent vacation, that funny story about the time that you were misunderstood when speaking Chinese and ended up in a totally random part of town, the new things you’re learning about the culture, or the exciting project you’re working on at school. You neglect to tell them the parts of your life that are less than perfect– those times when you get caught in the rain with no umbrella, no money, and a phone with a dead battery in a country where you don’t speak the language well, the parts of work that aren’t so fun, the fact that you still don’t have your flight booked for the summer, or the awful sinus infection you had last week– because they don’t want to hear that. You don’t want your only interactions with them that week/month/semester to be complaints, and let’s face it, you’re not “supposed” to have problems. I mean, come on, you’re living the dream, right?!? Everyone is envious of your life where you get to travel to exotic and remote places on a regular basis, immerse yourself in an entirely different culture, and constantly experience new and exciting things. Who wants to hear you complaining about it?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell people back home what’s really going on because they don’t understand. They don’t experience your day-to-day life, so when you tell them a story, you wind up having to tell them the back story, explain who this person is, what this is, what that means, etc. It takes so long to tell them what’s happening, that you end up just giving them the big picture, leaving out the little details. But then, do your friends really know what’s going on in your life if you’re leaving things out?

Then there’s the fact that most of your friends back home don’t “get” you anymore. You’re the one who has moved away, leaving behind the known to chase the unknown. The one who is different. The one who has changed. And try as you might, you can’t explain it. You, yourself, don’t really understand all the changes you’ve undergone as a result of living abroad. How is someone else supposed to understand? Inevitably, some of your relationships change. Sometimes you don’t even know why, but you don’t relate to your friends like you once did. It doesn’t mean that anyone did anything wrong; it’s just that you’re not in the same place that you once were, and that is ok. It’s tough when that happens, and oftentimes you want to hold onto the past, clinging to the memories you once had. When do you let go?

Moving to China was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve learned more about myself and become more independent, flexible, and open-minded. I’ve been given career opportunities that I could only dream about in the States. Living abroad is the greatest experience I’ve ever had in my life, but not everything is perfect all the time. That’s life.

She Remembers- SOL #31

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She Remembers

She remembers caring for him,
pretending he was her baby.
She remembers him following her around
like a shadow, a copy cat.
She remembers him pestering,
annoying,
bothering,
tattling,
fighting.
She remembers being enemies,
destined to never be friends.
She remembers joining forces,
combining efforts,
making peace–
if just for a moment.
She remembers laughing,
hugging,
playing,
talking.
She remembers waking up and
realizing he’d grown up,
matured,
become a man.
She remembers his wedding,
crying tears of joy and pride.
She remembers him becoming
a daddy.
She remembers being proud
of her little brother.
Loving him despite the differences,
Loving him because of them.

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Where I’m From…-SOL #29

For months, I’ve been working on my version of “Where I’m From”. I hadn’t been able to get it quite right, and I’m not sure I have even now, but I’m finally willing to share it. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Where I’m From

I’m from the country,
shellin’ peas on the front porch swing,
listening to Mamaw and Grandaddy spin stories,
the smell of warm banana puddin’ wafting out of the kitchen.
I’m from pecan trees big enough to climb,
whose branches held the promise of adventure.

I’m from stayin’ out ’til dark,
and bedtime stories with one Poky Little Puppy.
I’m from cousins who are best friends
and grandmas who are secret keepers.
From yes ma’ams and no sirs,
from spankings and “Go to your room!”

I’m from playhouses and slumber parties,
passing notes and whispering secrets.
From Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow,
Punky Brewster and Bill Nye.
I’m from Trapper Keepers and spelling bees,
from school cafeterias that smelled like PB & J.

I’m from pick-up trucks caked with mud,
Aggie bonfires and cross-town rivalries.
From Carebears and My Little Ponies,
from first kisses and broken hearts.
I am from those moments–
growing up in a small town–
destined to see the world.

I Miss Them- SOL #25

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Today would have been my grandparent’s sixty-third wedding anniversary; March 25, 1950 was the day my Mamaw and Grandaddy said “I do.” They were both incredible people who loved one another until the very end. Mamaw passed away on August 2, 2009, and Grandaddy just over a year later, on August 7, 2010. I miss them dearly, and think of them often. In honor of my grandparents and their love for one another, I’d like to share a tribute to them both.

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Mamaw

img086Mamaw and me on January 30, 1985, the day my little brother was born.

My first best friend and the best secret-keeper around,
she loved me more than anyone ever could.
Her contagious laugh and loving smile
caused everyone to turn their heads
whenever she entered a room.
Raised in the country, she knew just how to
sew and quilt, cook from scratch, tend to a garden,
milk a cow, drive a tractor, and build a fort.
I can remember attending the annual Chili Day with her
eating chili and crackers, sweet tea, and chocolate sheet cake,
bidding on the auction items with her by my side,
caught up¬†in¬†the excitement of the auctioneer’s fast-paced voice.
Mamaw was the best cook in the whole world–
everyone said so.
She could make a ‘nanner puddin’
better than anything you ever tasted!
Andrew and I, the official taste testers,
eagerly awaited that first bite,
warm from the oven.
It was always just right.
With a listening ear and a heart of gold,
Mamaw made everything ok.

Grandaddy

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This picture embodies our relationship– always teasing one another!

Grandaddy could build anything with his hands,
from a barn to a playhouse,
a fence to a chicken coop,
you name it, he could build it.
Frugal, even to the very end,
he wouldn’t wear a new pair of pants
until his old ones were worn out.
From school-bus bananas
and peas and cornbread
to Nilla Wafers and Tootsie Rolls.
Riding around in his old Dodge pickup,
his hand on my knee,
finding that tickle spot that drove me crazy!
He could make a friend wherever he went,
and he always had a story to tell,
even if you didn’t have time to listen to it.
Loyal as the day is long,
you could count on him no matter what.

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Grandaddy and me just after Mamaw passed away. He was such a loving man.