Tag Archives: friends

Year in Photos 2018

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. In some ways, I agree. When you snap a picture, you freeze a moment in time. You capture the essence of the experience so that when you look back at them days, months, years later, the details conjure up the feelings of that moment. As much as I love writing my stories, I also challenge myself to tell a story through the photos I take. The angle and framing of the shot, what you include and what you don’t, and the focal point all contribute to the story. To my story.

I love reflecting on the past year through photos (you can click here to see my year in photos from 201720162015, and 2014). The process of looking back over the photos from the past year takes me on a reflective journey and I smile, remembering the memories once again. 2018 was full of family, friends, food, and travels- all of my favorite things. Without further delay, here’s my year in photos, in chronological order.

Catching Up Is Fun #sol18

Social media has made the world smaller. Because of social media, I am able to keep up with people, no matter where they are. As we scatter around the world, we can continue to make connections with others.

I’m in Singapore for the IB Global Conference this weekend, and because of social media, I was able to connect with a high school friend I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years! She and her family now live in Singapore, so when I knew I was going to be in town, I looked her up and it just so happened that our schedules matched up.

Miranda and her son came down to my hotel, and we had dinner at Din Tai Fung before strolling down by the river to take in the city. It was so great to catch up with her. In high school, we were friends, but didn’t really hang out outside of school. Talking to her, we realized we are much more alike than we even knew. Our experiences in the past few years are very similar, and I found myself nodding along in agreement many times throughout the night. We are now looking forward to continuing our friendship, and hopefully she can come visit me in Jakarta!

My Person #sol18

You know when you’re friends with someone who just gets you? Someone who knows you almost better than you know yourself? Who has seen you at your worst, knows all your flaws, yet still manages to love you? Well, if you have someone like this, you can count yourself lucky! Michelle is that person to me.

Michelle and I met back in the summer of 2010 when we both took a leap of faith and moved to Shanghai to teach at this little school in the zoo. Little did I know then that eight years later, not only would we still be in contact, but we’d be such close friends. At first, we were more acquaintances than actual friends. If you ask Michelle, she’d attribute it to “2010 Jen” as she lovingly refers to how I was back then. However, when I met Michelle, I knew we’d end up being friends, it just took her a little while longer to figure out that she couldn’t live without me. 😉 Fast forward to 2013, the year we both moved into admin positions at our school. There’s something about being thrown in the fire to bond two people together. We experienced so much in those two years that tested us in every way possible, and while we weren’t always happy with one another (I think at one point, we were both yelling with tears in our eyes, stressed to the max at some school crisis, taking it out on each other), we had to rely on one another to get through it. Through that time, we developed an unbreakable bond that has kept us close, despite the oceans and miles that separate us.

As only best friends can have, we have so many ridiculous inside jokes, stories, and nicknames that only we know. We can crack each other up by simply shouting any number of phrases that only we get-“Reeeeennnnnyyyy!” “Jammed up and jelly tight.” “You name the babies, I’ll name the dogs.” “Rascal!” “But we both know that you’re basic.” “Rock the Kes-Baugh!” “Beck-ster!” “At least yours isn’t refurbished!!”…and the list goes on and on!

In the past three years, during which time Michelle repatriated to Texas and I moved to three different countries, we have kept in touch with our regular FaceTime dates, text messages, and travel adventures. We’ve taken two cruises, a couple road trips to NOLA, and, most recently, a trip to Paris together. On top of that, Michelle’s spent the past few Christmases with me and my family. I know she’s going to be one of those people who’s always in my life. We’ll always find a way to see one another, even if it’s on another continent! (She’s coming to visit me in Jakarta in a couple of months!! Eeeeek!)

Today’s Michelle’s birthday, and as I look back over the past year, I couldn’t be more proud of her. This past year has been a roller coaster for her, and she’s had to handle more than anyone should ever have to, especially at our age. After deciding to move abroad again, and getting a killer job, something happened with the school and the job fell through. Set back, but not defeated, she worked hard to find a new job at a reputable school.

During the physical (a necessary step to obtain a work visa), her doctor found that she had a mass. A biopsy confirmed it was Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The C-word. Something no one ever wants or expects to hear, but certainly not a young, active, healthy 30-something. Instead of feeling sorry for herself or giving up, she fought it. Taking on aggressive treatments and making changes in her life, she’s been able to greatly reduce the size of the mass. While it’s not gone, the doctors are hopeful that with monthly treatments, it will continue to shrink. She’s regained a lot of her energy, and has a positive outlook on her future.

On top of that, there have been other stresses that have tried to knock her down, but the fighter that she is won’t allow herself to be beat. She’s the strongest person I know, and she’s not going down without a fight! So today, on Michelle’s 36th birthday, I want to wish her the best day ever! This day, this year, is going to be your year. I can feel it. I love you and wouldn’t want to do this thing called life without you!

Happy Birthday friend!! 🙂 Love ya!!

Year in Photos 2017 #sol18

Something I started a few years ago was reflecting on the past year through photos (you can click here to see my year in photos from 2016, 2015, and 2014). While I love telling my stories through words, there’s just something about a photo that can do it even better! Admittedly I take a lot of photos, so it takes me a while to sift through the virtual pile and narrow it down to the best ones. 2017 was a year of huge changes for me, both personally and professionally, and I am profoundly grateful to the people and experiences that marked this past year.

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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!

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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Brought in 35 with a BANG!

So…my birthday was last week, and I celebrated on Saturday night with an epic theme party (oh how I love a good theme party)! My friend Keri and I planned one of the best parties I’ve ever had! The theme was Prom, and the plan was a scavenger hunt bar crawl. The best part was that we actually had a surprise prom set up at the last bar, complete with decorations, a photo booth, snacks, cake, and spiked punch.

It all began with the invitation…including a picture of me at my Junior Prom (19 years ago!!!). Oh man, I had such a baby face back then!

IMG_1904Next up was planning the scavenger hunt…this was definitely the most fun part of the planning process! We categorized the tasks into photos, videos, things to collect, and drinks to drink. The best part was that all photos and videos had to be uploaded to Instagram throughout the night with the hashtag #keslerprompubcrawl so we could follow the other groups and see what they were up to!

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We all met up at one bar, got into teams (we were Team Spice Girls), and began working our way through the scavenger hunt. Along the way, there were checkpoints where we would see our friends/competitors and trash talk one another. Some of my favorite tasks were singing “I’m a Little Teapot” (with motions) in front of a slew of people at a crowded bar, finding a stranger to play Rock, Paper, Scissors (we had to teach him first!), and me convincing a stranger to let me try his food (it was good, by the way).

The Prom party at the end was AMAZING! Not only did it look (almost) like a real prom, but we had hired a DJ to play music that would have been at my prom, so everyone was dancing and singing along to songs like Will Smith’s Getting Jiggy With It, K-Ci & Jojo’s All My Life, and N’Sync’s Bye, Bye, Bye! Everyone had a ball taking selfies and group shots in front of the photo booth display. At the end of the night, we even crowned a Prom King and Queen…and guess who was Prom Queen?!? Yep…you guessed it! It was me! 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the night…it was definitely hard to narrow it down to just a few!

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35 was definitely one to remember…I had a BLAST! 🙂

 

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!

Unexpected Bump in the Road

If you know me or read my blog, you know I love to travel. Let’s be real…I live for it. Traveling is this amazingly fun adventure where you get to explore new places you’ve never been or familiar places with a different perspective. With travel comes adventure, but not always the kind you are looking for.

Case in point: Last Thursday my friend Callie and I departed for our trip to Pisa and Florence for the long weekend. We’ve had this trip planned for months. And by planned, I mean we bought our airplane tickets in December. A couple of weeks ago we booked our accommodation, too. We flew in and out of Pisa, but decided to spend the majority of our time in Florence because it’s much cooler, plus it has so much more to do. Our time in Pisa was pretty much spent on the Leaning Tower and pizza. I mean, what else do you need?

Anyhow, we arrived in Pisa later than expected due to flight delays. We hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel, this cute little B&B a stone’s throw from the tower. After being dropped off, we realized the hotel was closed. As in the door was locked, lights were out, no one was there to check us in closed. Cold, tired, and ready to crawl into our beds, we began to wonder what we should do. Of course, our phones don’t work in Italy, there was no free wifi in the random alley we happened to be in, and it was 11:30 pm, so Pisa was pretty deserted. The sign on the door said “For check in after 11pm or for emergencies, call {this number}.” That’d be cool…if we had a phone.

Selfie with the hotel…proof that we were there!

Being the resourceful people that we are, we noticed a young woman looking out of her open window about 3 stories up in the building across the alley. “Hello!” we called, “Can you help us?”

“Yeah, what do you need?” She speaks English! I thought.

“We booked this hotel for the night, but they are closed. We need to call them, but don’t have a phone. Could you call the number for us?”

After relaying the number to her, she tried twice, but no one answered. So much for emergencies.

At that point, she told us she thought she knew the building code. We tried the code she gave us several times to no avail. At that point, I was cold and frustrated and didn’t want to wait around or sleep outside, so I made the executive decision to find a new hotel. Not knowing our way around Pisa, we waited on a cab to pass by and take us to a nearby place. Luckily, it didn’t take too long. The first place we were taken was a bit bleh and not the cleanest place ever. Moving on, we decided to take the taxi driver’s recommendation of The Tower Plaza, the best hotel in town. It was definitely nice– and expensive! Oh well, at midnight, after working all day and traveling all night, I was willing to fork over the 100 Euros for a warm shower and a clean, comfy bed.

Once in the hotel room, Callie signed onto wifi and checked her email. Whaddya know, the hotel had sent her an email to explain that late check in, which is any time after 11:00 pm, means that you have to have a code to get in the door (which was included in the email). The email was sent at 10:54 pm. 10:54 pm. Six minutes before check in ended. At 10:54 pm, we were getting off the airplane, getting our bags, and making our way to the taxi rank. How in the heck is that an appropriate length of time for us to get that information? Sheesh! Oh well, we had already checked in, paid for the night, and were in our pjs. We decided to rest and deal with it the next day.

The next day was glorious. The sun was shining, yet the air was cool. We had a nice walk to the Leaning Tower, took way too many selfies and touristy poses with silly faces, and had the most delicious salad, pizza, and gelato for lunch. 

Come on…how delicious does that look?!?

After that, we walked over to the first hotel to explain the situation and ask for a refund. After much cajoling on our parts, Juliano, the front desk clerk, caved. Callie’s card would be refunded. Even though it took a while to convince him, it was a victory for us!

This was just the first of many bumps we would encounter during our 4-day weekend in Italy. Stay tuned for the other little adventures!

Talkin’ Shop #sol16 30 of 31

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Tonight’s plan was to head to The Montrose for some Mexican food (I was totally craving it!), do a bit of work, blog, and come home early-ish. The atmosphere at The Montrose is laid back and very conducive to writing, which I was hoping would get the creative juices flowing. After scarfing down my quesadilla, I got to work on some paperwork for school. I was taking a break from work, trying to think about what I wanted to write, when a colleague and friend of mine walked in the door.

He walked over, and I invited him to join me. He and I started talking about blogging, and I shared my experiences with the SOL challenge over the years. This led to discussions about teaching, specifically reading and writing. He happens to teach middle school language and literature, so it was right up his alley. Being a primary-only experienced educator, I was unfamiliar with what reading and writing looks like in middle school. My only assumption was that it typically looked quite different from primary. Shortly into our conversation, however, he mentioned that he taught using reading and writing workshops. Say what?!? My ears perked up, and my literacy hat came on!

From there, he and I discussed the learning happening in his classroom, the energy for writing palpable. What followed was a back and forth exchange of ideas, comparing writing workshop in primary to how it’s done in secondary. His students just finished a memoir unit (swoon!), and have just begun a persuasive writing unit. I jumped in, telling him I have some teaching resources (that just so happen to be for grades 3-8) that I can lend him. “Bring it on!” he said. That discussion led to his last unit of the school year, which is poetry. We have a shared philosophy for teaching poetry, in that we both believe it’s not effective to teach form poetry, but rather provide students with ample mentor texts to learn from and tools to use in their own writing. At this point, I shared a few mentor poems as well as my own poetry from my blog, and we realized that we’d both had the privilege of attending PD from Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger. Small world!

Anyway, our conversation continued for hours, meandering from swapping teaching ideas to ways in which we document our travels to other school stuff to travel plans in the future. Despite getting home 3 hours after I had planned, and just now getting to blogging, I am so grateful that he walked in the door. It’s been a long time since I’ve geeked out about literacy, and I was so energized by it! Spontaneous shop talks are always welcome. 🙂