Tag Archives: quotes


“I want people to know your story.”

This quote, among others, resonated with me last night when I watched A Private War, a movie based on the true story of Marie Colvin, a war correspondent who courageously went to the frontlines of war-torn countries to write the stories behind the wars, to know and tell people’s stories in a way that would make others care to listen and take action.

To me, this is the essence of the Slice of Life Challenge. Through our stories, people get to know and care about one another. People want to know your story, and by telling it in an authentic and honest way, they become connected to you and invested in your story.

Through speaking our truth, we reveal ourselves and make genuine connections. Putting the words on the page takes courage, as we might not get it right all the time. Writing our stories is essentially putting ourselves out there for the world to see. Some parts may be pretty, others may not, but that’s real life.

This year I haven’t put myself out there as much as I have in the past. My stories have been more on the superficial, easygoing side. As we glide into the second half of this challenge, I’m going to strive to speak my truth and tell my story in an authentic way, because I want people to know my story.





Traveling is My Life

Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamt of a life where I get to travel the world, seeing far off places and taking in new experiences. I honestly don’t know where this idea came from. I mean, I grew up in a smallish town in Texas and other than road trips (mostly in Texas), my family didn’t travel much. It’s crazy, but I didn’t go on my first plane ride until I was 16…and that was only to Tennessee! But for whatever reason, I felt this constant pull to just go.

After a couple of international trips in college (to England and Germany), I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I picked up and moved to Australia- Sydney to be exact- right after graduating from college. Australia has and will always hold a special place in my heart, and Sydney is such a beautiful, magical place that you can’t help but fall in love with it. I ended up moving back to Texas after my half-a-year adventure living abroad, where I gained a ton of life experience and independence. It was, after all, the first time I lived anywhere but my childhood home.

Teaching in a suburb of Houston was exciting and I had many positive experiences during my time there, yet I always felt like something was missing. It wasn’t a constant feeling, but it came often enough that after 6 years, I finally listened. That pull to just go was back. I answered it by applying to a little school nestled in the Shanghai Zoo, and knowing nothing whatsoever about China, I picked up and moved halfway across the world.

That was in 2010, and here I am in 2019 still living abroad, just in a different country now. While that first year in China was one of the hardest of my life (the culture shock I experienced was no joke), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This life has afforded me so many opportunities to travel to places I wouldn’t have even imagined as a child, allowed me to meet some of the most interesting and influential people who’ve become my tribe, and stretched me beyond my comfort zone in more ways than I can count.

I tell anyone who will listen that traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. By travel, I don’t mean take a cruise or go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I mean really travel. Experience how other people live, talk to locals, get lost, feel the heartbeat of a city, try new foods you’ve never seen before, and travel alone at least once in your life. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 5 continents, live on 4, and experience 39 countries and counting. Take it from me, you owe it to yourself. I’ll say it until the day I die, life isn’t meant to be lived in one place.



This is ‘2010 Jen’ showing off my fancy new bike in front of my little school in the zoo in Shanghai…man, those were some good times. But those bootleg jeans…yeah, no! 😛

Making Changes

It’s no secret that I’ve been down lately. I’ve been under a lot of stress, some of it externally imposed, some self-imposed, and I haven’t been myself. My once joyful outlook on life was replaced by a cloud of negativity, following me around and weighing me down. This weekend I decided enough is enough.


I realized that I was allowing the circumstances around me to control me, thus putting me in a funk. I was playing the victim, letting anger over the injustices I was experiencing take over. What I realized was that I was the one who was ultimately affected. Those other people weren’t bothered in the least and went on about their days, oblivious to my plight, but there I was in turmoil nearly every day. I found myself getting worked up over everything that didn’t turn out right. I was short-tempered, sensitive, and constantly complaining about what was happening to me. To be fair, I was wronged, taken advantage of, and not appreciated, but my reaction to the situations was ultimately what was causing me to feel that way.

I’ve decided that I can’t change how other people act, but I can change how I react to the situations that come my way. Yesterday, a few things happened where I was not respected. Normally, these things would have bothered me a lot, and I would have been so frustrated by them that I would have worked myself up and been angry. But, surprising even myself, I changed my reaction. Instead of getting angry or feeling sorry for myself, I laughed it off and moved on. And you know what? It felt good that I was able to move on quickly without dwelling on it.

Another thing I’m working on is being less of a workaholic. It’s in my nature to work hard and to do things perfectly. I have an extremely strong work ethic, and I take pride in my work and my accomplishments. As the classic overachiever, I don’t know how to say no, even when my plate is overflowing. As you can imagine, this leads to late nights and endless stress. I’ve decided to make a change. I need to find my joy again, and believe it or not, I’m not going to find it at home, alone, stressed out, and working all the time. Instead, I’m going to give it my all everyday at work, even staying a little longer each afternoon to get things done, but then I’m going to go home. I’m not going to carry the burden home with me, working tirelessly all night. It’ll be there for me tomorrow, when I’ll be well-rested and more able to tackle it anyhow. I’m taking back time for me- time to enjoy life, doing the things I want to do with people I enjoy.

So far, I’m two days in and doing well. I can’t promise that I won’t have setbacks, but I can promise that I’m going to keep trying everyday to maintain my positive outlook and find my joy again. 🙂

The Importance of Talk #sol16 11 of 31

Natasha, the Early Years teacher at my school, and I have been reading Engaging Young Writers by Matt Glover in our curriculum planning meetings, as she is new to writing workshop, especially with 3 and 4 year olds. I absolutely love Matt, and have had the privilege of seeing him speak at the Literacy Institute in Hong Kong three times. He is so inspiring, and I always leave learning something I didn’t know, rethinking my stance on teaching writing, and feeling motivated to try out a new technique or strategy with my teachers and/or students. That being said, I knew this would be a great book study for us and would encourage much discussion.

Tuesday’s meeting began with a discussion of our reading that we completed at home. I shared that I was particularly moved by the section entitled “The Importance of Talk,” in which Matt says “Basically anything that a child can talk about is something she can write about. If they can talk about it, they can write it because for young children, talk is an important form of prewriting. The reverse is true as well: if a child can’t talk about a potential writing topic, then it’s likely that she’ll have much more difficulty writing about it. It’s also important to remember that in most cases children’s talk is going to be much more detailed than their writing. In fact for many authors, the challenge of writing is the attempt to narrow down talk and ideas into written text.” We both had a rich discussion about how this could play out in the classroom, and how it made sense, since young children are much more verbal than they are with writing or drawing.

During this discussion, I began reflecting on my own writing for the Slice of Life. I shared with Natasha that I have wanted to write the story of meeting Maurice in Rome, and my wonderful experience, but despite having orally told that story half a dozen times, I worried that my written version wouldn’t come close to capturing the essence of my day. “Oh, yeah, you’ve told me that story! It’s a great one!” Natasha said. I know it is, but again, I felt like writing it would take much more time, and the story might lose its charm. Thinking aloud, I wondered, “But what if I said my story aloud right before writing it? I could record myself telling the story, then write it, and then listen to my recording to see if I missed anything.” Suddenly I had a plan for how I would write my story.

Last night, I tried it out. I recorded myself telling the story of my 18 hours in Rome. My recording lasted 18:36. And I talk fast! Energized, I got to work, putting my thoughts into words. I revised as I wrote, taking out the parts that weren’t essential to the story (the fact that I was ripped off my the taxi driver on the way to my hotel and that my first Italian pizza experience was rubbish). My slice was just over 1,000 words. Over 18 minutes of talking turned into only 1,000 words. I reread my writing, made a few minor revisions, and hit publish. I was proud of my story. I had done it justice and captured its essence. I contemplated listening to my recording, as I had planned, but I didn’t need to. The act of orally telling my story before putting it into writing was the important bit. I didn’t need to find missing parts and add them in. I was happy with it just as it was.

The next time I am having difficulty putting my thoughts into writing, I’m going to try out this strategy. Maybe you can, too.

Be Yourself- SOL #18


“Be yourself. If you water yourself down to please people or to fit in or to not offend anyone, you lose the power, the passion, the freedom, and the joy of being uniquely you. It’s much easier to love yourself when you are being yourself.” ~Dan Coopersmith

I find that being yourself is both easy and difficult to do. In one way, it’s easy to own who you are- your likes, dislikes, interests, quirks, failures, successes, and more- but in another way, it’s difficult to be yourself, to show the world who you are, warts and all, when everybody is watching you and critiquing you. But when you change who you are to please others, are you really fooling anyone? Are you able to make genuine connections if who you’re portraying yourself to be is an altered version of yourself? In the end, those people who you’re trying to impress or not offend won’t be there. The people who really matter will, and they’re the ones who love you for who you really are. So be yourself. Stop pretending. You’re unique- own it.

Words That Are Speaking to Me

Anyone who’s worked in a school knows the flurry of the last few weeks before summer. It’s an endless whirlwind of turn this in, gotta do that, and wait! where did the time go? As someone new to the role of principal, this is amplified even more. As we head into the homestretch of the fastest, yet somehow also the slowest, school year of my career, I find myself caught up in the whirlwind. Doggy-paddling like crazy so I don’t drown, crossing off one thing at a time from my never-ending to do list, I have taken solace in words that are speaking to me.

Generally, words that are speaking to me take the form of quotes that I find in my reading (or Pinterest) and jot down in my writer’s notebook, but the words that are speaking to me today came in the form of song lyrics. Whenever I’m working late, I have soft background music playing. Lately, I am obsessed with the band Sleeping at Last. All of their songs are great, but a few stick out today, for they reassure me that what I’m doing matters, even when I can’t see it.

“Make my messes matter. Make this chaos count.” ~from “Jupiter”

Like I said, I’m in a whirlwind, chaos, a mess. I love this because it’s a reminder to me to make those messes matter, make the chaos count. It’s so easy to give up in the midst of a messy situation. Fold when the chaos ensues. But today, I’m going to make my messes matter. I’m going make this chaos count. And I’ll be better for it.

“You’re enough. I promise you’re enough. I promise you’re enough. I promise you. You are enough. These little words, somehow they’re changing us.” ~from “You Are Enough”

What a powerful message! I am enough. You are enough. No matter what, I am enough. As a principal (and chronic perfectionist), I often feel that I don’t measure up. That I’m not enough. This is a little reminder that yes, I am enough.

I’m thankful that during this time of uncertainty, busyness, chaos, and mess, I was reminded to focus on what’s important, to make everything matter, and most importantly, to remember that I’m enough.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hJoin the Slice of Life writing community at Two Writing Teachers! You’ll be glad you did!

Choose to be happy- SOL #11

SOLS button 2013

As I was perusing Pinterest tonight, I came across this quote which sums up what I’ve been thinking lately in regard to both my personal and professional life.


There are things in life that piss us off. There are people in life who annoy us, are mean, and frustrate us to no end. There are things in life that we cannot control. We could choose to let those things fester inside of us, make us angry, and rob us of our joy. Or we can choose to be happy. The people and circumstances that annoy us aren’t just going to magically disappear. We have to come to realize that no one can make us feel a certain way. Sure, people can influence how we feel, but ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves, our feelings, and our actions.

For a while, I played the role of the victim. I was so unhappy because people did this or that to me, something didn’t work out for me, or everything went wrong because I live in China where things aren’t always easy. Blah, blah, blah. I had an excuse for everything. I chose to let the things and people around me dictate how I felt. Essentially, I chose to be unhappy. Well, not anymore. I’ve since made the conscious decision to be happy. It isn’t always easy, and there are certainly days when I can get hoppin’ mad, but I’m in control of my emotions now. Where I used to wallow in self-pity, blaming everyone else, complaining to anyone who would listen, now I take a step back, ask myself if this scenario is worth feeling like crap (It never is, is it?), and then simply decide to be happy.

And just like Voltaire’s quote says, “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.” Being happier has led to a healthier me. Instead of sitting on the couch being lazy because I wasn’t motivated to do anything, I am now busy, which has led to a more active and social lifestyle. My emotional health has improved tenfold since I’ve adopted this new philosophy. I’m happier and able to share more with others, and I’ve become a better friend, teacher, daughter, literacy coach, and listener.

I don’t dare go back to the old me. The new me sees the world in a different way. The new me smiles and laughs a lot more. The new me is more productive and takes pride in what she does. The new me doesn’t dwell on the negative. The new me sees the promise of a new day. The new me sends love out. The new me is happier. Because I’ve chosen to be.

Exercise- SOL #4

SOLS button 2013

As I was mining my writer’s notebook for ideas to write about tonight, I came across a really great quote that I feel sums up what the Slice of Life challenge forces all of us to do.

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” ~Jane Yolen

How true is this, not only in our lives, but in the lives of the writers in our classrooms? I know when I haven’t written in my writer’s notebook in a while, I’m rusty. It takes a while to knock off the cobwebs, clear away the junk, and get started. Sometimes it’s all I have just to write a few sentences or a list. Other times I can write and write for pages upon pages until my hand hurts.

What happens in your class when writer’s workshop has been inconsistent? When writers haven’t had ample opportunities to stretch those writing muscles? They seize up, get weaker, and sometimes need a push to get going again. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make writer’s workshop a consistent and predictable part of your day where students are not only encouraged to write daily, but are expected to do so. You’ll be amazed how much better your writers will be when they are simply given time to write.

How are your writing muscles developing? Mine are slowly but surely getting stronger, and thanks to the encouragement from the SOL community, they’re bound to be stronger come April 1st!