Tag Archives: love

Prayers for Texas

My heart is breaking. For the last two days, as I’ve watched Hurricane Harvey’s wrath and subsequent flooding rock my home state, I have gone from utter disbelief to despair. The south Texas coastal areas and Houston are unrecognizable. Each time I see an image or watch a video or hear a story of the total devastation to an area I love so much, I can’t help but cry. It hits too close to home. Way too close.

These people affected are my people. My friends, my family, my former students and their families. I read about how my friends have lost their homes to the floods that are unrelenting, how they have had to seek higher ground in their attics and break out onto their roofs and be rescued by helicopters and boats, and my heart breaks a little bit more. I see photos and videos of the place I called home for six years under water, and my heart breaks a little bit more. I think about the children who are scared, unsure of what’s going on and why this could possibly happen to them, and my heart breaks a little more. I am overcome with grief as I see people lose everything, only able to take what they can carry, and my heart breaks a little more. I’m not sure how much more it can break, yet I know the pain I’m experiencing is nothing compared to those who are living it first-hand, seeing their lives turned upside down in a matter of hours, praying that the worst is over, only to find out that it’s not.

Being so far away, I feel helpless. I can’t help people. I can’t comfort them, hug them, cook them a meal, provide them a safe place to stay, or cry with them. I want to though. I wish I could take away their pain. I wish I could make the rain stop. I wish I could be there to help them pick up the pieces of their lives and tell them it’s going to be okay. But I can’t do any of those things. The only thing I can do is continue to pray for them, sending them love and light and strength and courage to overcome the most difficult situation most have ever had to face. I can donate money to the relief efforts, supporting those first-responders who are fighting to save as many people as they can. I can make people aware of the devastation facing my home state and the incredible people of Texas, in hopes that they, too, can offer support. I can tell my friends and loved ones that I’m thinking of them, loving them, and sending them all the strength in the world. But is that enough?

Seeing this horrific tragedy unfold brings back memories of my time in Clear Lake (Houston), when Hurricane Ike hit our area. I can vividly remember the fear I experienced when I found out that we were in the path of the storm. Packing up to evacuate to Bryan, where I’d stay with my parents, was surreal. Part of me knew that it was the right thing to do, but part of me didn’t really believe it would actually happen. If you haven’t experienced a natural disaster like this before, you don’t really think it could happen to you. That is, until it does.

Being away for nearly two weeks after Ike made landfall, I returned home to a place I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t believe what had happened, and seeing it first-hand broke my heart. I was one of the lucky ones. I had very little damage done to my home, and it didn’t take long for me to get power back. But my friends and my students weren’t so lucky.

I can remember walking through the neighborhood nearest my school in Seabrook with tears streaming down my face. Homes and cars ruined. Families trying to salvage what little they could. Toys, clothes, and furniture strewn through their yards. And the smell. Weeks of being under water and a total loss of power created a smell of mildew and rotting food that knocked the wind out of me. I’ll never forget that.

At Bay Elementary, we were lucky to have stayed dry, as we were able to provide a safe place for kids during the day to play with their friends, eat a hot meal, and get away from the chaos that engulfed them at home. My fellow teachers and my principal were amazing. We banded together to help out our community, and it felt good to know we were helping.

After the initial shock of the hurricane passed, the aftereffects were felt all year. They weren’t there all the time, but they were there, hiding just below the surface, ready to bubble over at a moment’s notice. Writing workshop was where I saw the biggest effects. Writing opens us up, makes us raw, exposes what’s inside our hearts, and reveals our deepest fears. Reading my young writers’ words as they tried to process their pain and loss was a knife to the heart.

As I sit here tonight, with a heavy heart, my hope is this. I hope that the rain subsides, providing much-needed relief to the people of Texas. I hope that the goodwill and love already being shown by so many people and organizations continues to be poured onto those who have been affected by this tragedy. I hope that people come together to rebuild their lives. I hope that despite this horrific disaster, people are able to find peace. Maybe that’s through helping someone else, maybe it’s through reflecting on the things that really matter, or perhaps, like me and my students, it’s through writing.

Sending the people of Texas, my family, my friends, my former students, and the first responders love. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. We are praying.

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Letter L #AtoZChallenge

Loving this challenge…Letter L memoir encyclopedia entries for your reading pleasure…

Linner

One my best friends in the whole world is Linner. Her full name is Linner, Linner, Chicken Dinner. Kidding…she hates when I call her that. Her real name is Linnea, but due to an unfortunate typo on her school email, where they typed Linner instead of Linnea, she was stuck with the nickname. I bet she wishes she hadn’t complained to me about that. At first, she used to get sooooo mad when I called her Linner. But I’m not a quitter! I kept calling her that until she finally relented and accepted her fate. The Linner, Linner, Chicken Dinner part came about because it rhymes and it’s hilarious…especially because she’s a vegetarian! hahaha

Anyway, I don’t know what I’d do without Linner in my life. She and I have been through a lot together and have supported one another through some of the toughest things in life. She accepts me for me, and I do the same for her. She can frequently be heard saying, “Oh, Jennifer…” in regards to one of my crazy stories or quirks that present themselves. Examples include when I get into yet another accident, when I make her take 27 selfies on the Bund with random strangers, or when I have to go to a specific restaurant for a specific food, even when it’s out of the way.

Linner and I met when I moved to China. We moved at the same time, and became fast friends. She and I have traveled together a fair bit, having been to KL and KK, Malaysia, Seoul, South Korea, and Bangkok and Ao Nang, Thailand. We’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time together when I lived in Shangers. Now that I’m moving back to Asia for a while, I’m sure more Linner time will happen…it better!

I love Linner and firmly believe she is one the best people on this earth. 🙂

Lip Syncing

I absolutely love lip syncing! Maybe it’s because I hate watching people cringe during karaoke when my singing voice is subpar. Maybe it’s because I can act completely silly and over the top. Maybe it’s that I secretly wanted to be a performer. Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of it! If my favorite song comes on while I’m shopping with a friend, I’ll bust out a full-on performance right then and there, inevitably making them laugh while they look around to see who’s watching. Why other people get embarrassed when I’m the one lip syncing, I’ll never know.

When Jimmy Fallon came out with his lip sync battles, I couldn’t contain my excitement! I’ve watched them all at least once, but I’ve viewed most of them a number of times. My favorites are Joseph Gordon Levitt, John Krasinski, Stephen Merchant, Emma Stone, Ellen DeGeneres, and Melissa McCarthy. Of course, Jimmy kills it every time, too.

My love affair with lip sync seeped into my work at RBIS/HQIS in China. I got in the habit of showing short videos as an introduction to our staff meetings, and while most were educational or inspirational, I would occasionally throw in a funny one. One day I put on Jimmy’s lip sync battle with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Stephen Merchant. It brought down the house! The teachers had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard. From there, an idea was born. I issued a lip sync challenge for the staff Christmas party, where individuals or groups of people could volunteer to perform live or show a video of a pre-recorded lip sync. That staff party was the most fun we had had in a long while! People you wouldn’t imagine having the guts to get up there did. The songs ranged from uber popular pop ballads to obscure songs you’d rarely heard of before.

My song of choice was the then-current viral hit, What the Fox Say? I had to do it. Everyone knew I was obsessed with that song, plus it annoyed everyone, so it was a perfect song choice. Modesty aside, I killed it. Like, for real…it was a pretty epic performance. What made it so awesome was when two of the shyest teachers at the school ran up to the stage right after the song began and became my impromptu back-up dancers. The coolest thing is that neither one knew the other was going to do it (I didn’t either for that matter), and they hadn’t even practiced before, but accounts from the audience said that they were completely in sync with one another and their movements enhanced the song. Like I said, it was epic. I wish I had a video to show you…scratch that, I don’t know that I could handle watching it.

We continued the lip sync thing for a while at school, with teams of people making funny videos to show at staff meetings and live lip sync performances becoming a staple at staff parties. When we went through a particularly tough time at school with our campus moving to a new location, the leadership team made a hilarious video to lift our staff’s spirits. We enjoyed hamming it up, and the staff loved it as well.

Logan Cole

Logan Cole, my nephew, is a never-ending ball of energy! Where he gets the energy to run and play and wrestle without stopping, I’ll never know. I guess all kids are like that though…hard to keep up with. Logan, or Bubby as he’s called, is stunningly adorable. He makes the cutest faces and is extremely photogenic. He makes me laugh incessantly with his crazy antics (see picture below for an example). How could you not laugh at that?

As much of an energetic goofball he is, he also has a sweet, gentle side. He and his sister, Randi, have such a loving relationship. He adores and looks up to her. They can frequently be caught giving each other hugs and encouraging one another. This isn’t to say they never fight…they’re kids…but it’s a rare occasion when they do.

I hate being so far away from him. I miss out on the little things that happen every day. Seeing him only twice a year means he’s growing up way too quickly. But, I try to make the most of my time I do have with him. When he turned three, I started taking him out on dates, just like I do with his sister. Last time, he chose to go to Chucky Cheese (Tucky Teese as he says…soooo cute!), play with the train set at Barnes & Noble, and eat lunch. I wonder what he’ll want to do this summer. I love you Logan Cole! ❤

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Love

Love is sharing your last bite of pie, when you really wanted to eat it yourself. Love is truly listening to one another without distractions. Love is laughing at the stories he tells over and over even when they are no longer funny. Love is bringing dinner to a sick friend. Love is telling her she’s beautiful when she doesn’t see it herself. Love is a home-cooked meal. Love is giving that perfect gift that will make their face light up. Love is a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Love is being patient when he’s cranky. Love is butterflies in your stomach, a mix of excitement and nerves. Love is showing up when you say you will. Love is a goodnight text. Love is contentment in the silence. Love is a baby’s snuggles. Love is an ache in your chest. Love is sunshine on your face. Love is the feeling you get when you can’t imagine your life without this person in it. Love is color and light. Love is seeing goodness in someone else. Love is forgiving. Love is free.

Luxuries

I enjoy luxuries in life, as I’m sure most people do. Some of my favorite luxuries to indulge in include massages, mani/pedis, rich, chocolatey desserts, a maid who cleans my house, traveling to the far corners of the earth, English breakfast tea and a book on a lazy Saturday morning, facials, a day all to myself, and a gourmet meal. I’m very fortunate to lead a life where I can enjoy these luxuries and more on a regular basis.

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