Tag Archives: #sol14


“Hey Tegre and Sagan, are you hungry?” I asked.

“Yeah!” they said, as they both smiled and followed me out the door. We got our sandwiches, chips, and cookies, and headed to the table. I grabbed my Sprite and 2 cups.

“Would you guys like to share my Sprite with me?”

With smiles across their faces, “Yes please!” I poured them each a cup of Sprite, handed it to them, and took a big bite out of my sandwich.

Sagan, after taking a big gulp of the sweet, fizzy drink, said, “Ms. Jennifer, we never get to drink alcoholic beverages!”

Choking on my sandwich, I quickly replied, “And you still haven’t!” I begin to think that maybe the boys’ parents, two fellow teachers at my school, don’t allow their children to have soda. Maybe I should have asked them first. Oops!

Continuing, Sagan tells me, “Whenever I’m in America, my dad lets me suck on the ice after he is done with his drink, and sometimes I get a little bit of soda taste! It’s so yummy!”

Uh oh! This confirms my earlier assumption that they were, in fact, not allowed to drink soda. Well, guess I’m gonna take the hit on this one! “Boys, you might want to savor that Sprite. You may not get any again in a long time.”

I confessed to Donna and Scott, who luckily are easygoing and laughed it off. Shaking her head, Donna asked the boys if they liked ‘Auntie Jennifer.’ They certainly did! 🙂

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.

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Lost in Tokyo

So this one time…in Tokyo…I got lost.

Back in October 2012, Melissa and I took a cruise from Shanghai to Tokyo. I had never been on a cruise before, and I wasn’t sure I was the “cruising type,” but it was cheap, and we were desperate to get out of Shangers for a holiday, so we went. For the record, I’m not the “cruising type,” but I’ll save that for another story. Anyhow, about halfway through the week, we arrived at the port in Yokohama, close to Tokyo. Being that we would be at port for 24 hours, and the fact that it was Tokyo, Mel and I were pretty excited for our adventure. Little did I know, I was in for a bigger adventure than I bargained for!

Mel and I decided to spend our time in Tokyo with our newfound friends, Jr. and Gregory, who were really fun! Jr. and I, the “no cares in the world type” were just alike, as were Mel and Gregory, the “I need to know all the details and I’m going to listen to all the directions type.” It was a good thing Jr. and I had them to pay attention for us. 🙂 At the port information booth, Mel and Gregory gathered maps, figured out the best way to get into Tokyo, and figured out some sites for us to see, while Jr. and I lollygagged around, making each other laugh at the most random things.

With Mel and Gregory as tour guides, we set off for Tokyo, an hour or so away from Yokohama. Let me let you in on a little secret. Tokyo does not have nearly as much English as Shanghai, which we quickly figured out when we arrived at the train station to buy our tickets. No English on the ticket machines and no English signs meant we were pretty confused. After asking about five people, we found a nice man who helped us purchase our tickets. Mel and Gregory informed us that we would take one train to a bigger station, switch lines, and then ride that train into Tokyo, where we would head to our first tourist destination, a large outdoor market. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Once we arrived at the much bigger station, we once again had to navigate the Japanese-only ticket machines to purchase tickets for our next leg. Tickets in hand, we headed up to the platform to board our train.

The front of the train displayed, in both English and Japanese, the destination that it was headed. A few trains went by, and then one arrived with our destination listed on front. The only problem was that underneath the name was the word “Express.” Using my schema (I know, I’m such a teacher!) about trains, I alerted my friends that I was pretty sure that was the wrong train. Express trains usually only stopped at a few stops, hence the name “express.” Informing my friends that I was going to double-check, I turned to ask some of the Japanese people on the platform whether or not this was the correct train. Mel, Jr., and Gregory all jumped on the train, urging me to join them, confident in their choice. Again, using my schema of trains, I knew I had a little bit of time until the doors closed, so I was content remaining on the platform to ask my question. In Shanghai, you have anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half before the doors close, and prior to them closing, you hear a series of beeps, warning you that the doors will close soon. My schema, being rooted in China, failed me in Japan. Not only did the doors stay open less time, there was no ‘beep, beep, beep’ indicating it was time to jump on. Uh oh!

Hearing my name being called out in desperation, I turn around just in time to see the doors of the train close with my three friends inside and me outside. Gregory’s fingers unsuccessfully tried to pry the doors back open. Panic spread across their faces as they began to fade away. Calling out to them, I told them that I’d just meet them at our final stop. I wasn’t a detail person, but I at least knew the name of the stop where we were going. Feeling confident, I waited for the next train headed to my destination- one that didn’t say express- and jumped on (For the record, I was right about the express train. It was the wrong one). Knowing where I was going, I settled in for the nearly 45-minute ride into the city. Popping in my earbuds, I jammed out to some music, feeling pretty proud of myself for being so calm despite being separated from my friends without a phone or a map. It’ll all work out, I told myself. These things always do.

Arriving at my destination, I jumped off, eager to greet my friends and begin my Tokyo adventure! Hmmm…they weren’t waiting for me on the platform. Knowing that they left first and were on an Express train, I figured they’d have arrived first and waited for me. Convincing myself that they must have headed to the market, figuring that we would just meet up there, I headed out of the train station. Greeted by rain, with no umbrella in hand, I was frustrated, but still determined to meet up with my friends. Once on street level, I quickly realized how helpful a map would have been, or at least listening to the oral directions the nice Japanese lady gave Mel and Gregory at the port. No signs directing me where to go…no problem! At random, I headed to the right, figuring I’d happen upon the market in no time. After walking about 10 minutes, I ran into an American who informed me that I’d gone the wrong way. Pointed in the right direction, I was so relieved when I located the market.

No friends were waiting at the entrance. I figured they’d gotten tired of waiting and had decided to check it out on their own. Meandering through the stalls, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds, I searched for my long-lost buddies. By now, you may have guessed it, but I did not find my friends. I did, however, run into about half of the people who were on my cruise, who happened to be on one of the excursions. At this point, my patience began to waver, and I felt, for the first time, that I may not find them. Wait! Melissa is a technology teacher, and she brought her tablet with her. Why didn’t I think of this before?!? Surely she has found internet somewhere and posted a message to me on Facebook! With a renewed determination, I set out in search of internet. How hard could it be? (Famous last words, huh?)

That logo with the green smiling lady beckoned to me. You know the one. Starbucks! The sign on the door indicating free wifi was like a beacon of light. I was saved! After buying an overpriced tea, I sat down and attempted to logon with my iPhone. Of course, I could only use the internet with a password that had to be sent via SMS to my phone. The same phone that only had reception and service in China. Such a bust! Rattled, but not giving up, I headed out in search of another coffee shop or restaurant with free wifi. Five or six places later, I learned something about Japan. It’s not a super internet-friendly place. I gave up on my Facebook post idea, and on the thought that I’d ever find my friends in Tokyo.

Figuring that I’m only in Tokyo once, I decided to make the best of it, and see something cool. I stopped at a few convenience stores in search of a map, only to discover that they don’t sell maps. OK, this was getting a little old. Frustrated, hungry, tired, and wet, I just started wandering. Nothing around me even looked like Tokyo. I wasn’t even sure I was really there. I happened upon a McDonald’s, where I stopped to get a Coke and fries. If you know me, you know I don’t even like McDonald’s, but there’s just something comforting about those golden arches when you are away from home and at your wit’s end. With renewed energy (most likely brought on by the chemicals coursing through my veins), I began my search for a bookstore. Surely I’d be able to find a map or a guidebook there.

Locating one, I walked in and was again overwhelmed by the lack of English (I know, I sound pretty whiny, but it was a whiny kind of day!). After numerous failed attempts at communicating with the store clerk, the tears began. Not full on crying, but those tears that come when you’ve tried so hard to hold it together, but you’ve been met with obstacle after obstacle. A nice English bloke happened to see me, and came over to check on me. Recalling my tale to him, he pointed me in the direction of the guidebooks, but being a traveler himself, couldn’t offer much advice. His kind words of encouragement gave me the boost I needed to pull myself together and press on. I picked up a Lonely Plant: Tokyo book, skimmed a few pages, and found a picture of “real” Tokyo. I want to go there, I thought. With not much to go on but a picture and the word Ginsa, the part of town it was in, I set off in search of the big city lights. I contemplated jumping in a taxi, but considering I would have no way of telling the cab driver were to go, I figured the subway was my best bet. Descending the steps into the first station I saw, I was taken aback. I happened to walk right into the Ginsa line. What are the odds of that?!? Buying a ticket to Ginsa (I figured it was a safe bet), I headed out.

Arriving at Ginsa station, I was greeted with another set of choices. With about twenty exits to choose from, I had no idea where to go, but I figured, I’ve gotten this far, who cares, right? Choosing an exit at random, I ascended the stairs to the street. I couldn’t believe what awaited me as I stepped out of the station. Right before my eyes was the picture I saw in the guidebook. Smiling from ear to ear, I took a moment to savor this. After encountering obstacles at every turn, something had turned out just right. Here’s my view from that night:


With just a few hours left until I needed to head back, I set off on a night out. After window shopping at the most expensive stores, eating some authentic sushi at a Japanese sushi counter, and plenty of zigzagging around the city, I was content and ready to head back.

Again, not having a map proved to be difficult, but through sheer determination and grit, I managed to find my way to a train station and navigate my way back to Yokohama station. Once there, I relied on memories to get me to the correct exit. My photographic memory comes in handy sometimes. 😉 On the street, I had a moment of panic, wondering which way to the boat, but after some searching, I saw the lights of the cruise ship in the harbor, and I followed them back. Arriving at my room, I expected to find Melissa. When I didn’t, I figured they must be out on the town. Shortly after I got out of the shower, there was a knock at my door. Upon opening it, I was greeted by Jr. with a surprised look and a hug, while he shouted, “You’re alive!!!”



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Running Sucks

I’ve recently started running (two weeks ago to be exact.) I hate running. I procrastinate getting started. I don’t really like it when I’m doing it. I can’t run very fast. But, I’ve decided to try it out in an effort to find balance, be more active, and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Last Saturday I ran my first 5K race in Hangzhou, China. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to sign up, but I’m pretty sure it was just because my friends were doing it. Even though it was rainy, race day was more exciting than my normal running days. There was a buzz in the air as the runners gathered at the starting line, eager to get going. I started in the back of the pack, near the “Over 30 minutes” sign. Prior to the race, my average 5K running time (taken from the 3 times I’d ran that far) was about 45 minutes. So, yeah, I’d most definitely take longer than 30 minutes to finish.

5K group shot before

And we’re off! At the announcer’s whistle, we all started running. At first, I was a little slow as I trailed behind about a hundred people, but shortly into the race, it began to thin out and I took off. The excitement and competitiveness of running kicked in and I was running faster and farther (without stopping) than I ever had before! Before I knew it, I had run to the 1K marker. I had never ran that far without stopping to walk, so I was pretty surprised with myself. Unfortunately, I soon got winded and slowed down, walking a minute or so, before willing myself to run again. Thus began my run/walk throughout the race. I wanted to keep running, but I couldn’t. I hear running is all mental. I’m still working on willing myself to keep going, even when my body tells me to stop. It’s a work in progress.

Around the halfway mark, it began raining pretty heavily. My glasses were wet and fogging up with the humidity. Taking them off, I ran the rest of the way semi-blind. During this stretch of the race, I really hated running. I wanted to give up. There weren’t any runners near me. I could see a few ahead, and there were some behind, but the competitiveness that came with being in the pack of runners at the start was fading, and so was my stamina and energy. But, I kept going.

I came to a part of the route that doubled-back on itself, meaning that we were to run across a bridge, turn around , and come back the way we came. Running across the bridge, I was back in the pack. Runners were coming toward me on the opposite side, offering smiles, waves, high-fives, and encouragement. There I was, this slow runner who was trailing behind, and I was getting cheered on by these complete strangers (and 2 of my friends I passed along the way 🙂 ). How did they know I needed that to keep going? Could they tell I was ready to throw in the towel? However they knew, it worked. Those smiles, thumbs-up, and words of encouragement pushed me to run even more. I still ran/walked, but I did it with more determination and grit.

Running the final kilometer was difficult, but stationed along the way were volunteers, pointing the way, saying “You’re almost there!” and “You can do it!” Again, just what I needed. As I came to the last curve in the route, I could see the finish line in sight. Droves of people who’d finished the race already were standing there, cheering, clapping, and smiling at ME as I ran to the finish line! Seriously! I was the only runner at that time crossing the finish line, and here they were cheering me on, encouraging me to finish what I started. I was overwhelmed with compassion and love. This was what they called a runner’s high. At that moment, I didn’t hate running.

5K group shot after

I wasn’t the fastest runner that day. A lot of people older than me beat me to the finish line. I didn’t get a medal or a trophy. But, I did finish. I set out to do something difficult for me, and I didn’t give up. And you know what? That’s pretty darn special to me. Oh, and my official time was 42:08, so I beat my own record. 🙂

5K marisa and Jenn

Running sucks, but I’m going to keep at it. I just signed up for another race next month.



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Time for TBA’s again! TBA stands for Truths, Beauties, and Appreciations.


  • I have the best friend in the world! She cares about me so much, and she is the best accountability partner ever! What would I do without my Shags?!?
  • I might not say it enough, but I’m so blessed.
  • I can’t dance, but I do it anyway. 😉
  • I need more goat cheese in my life.


  • Despite staying at work until 9PM, I went for a run tonight. And I hate running.
  • XiTong, the cutest 4 year old around…her spunky spirit is contagious! Love her hugs!
  • Shanghai in the springtime. My allergies go crazy, but I love all the newness blossoming around me!
  • My momma. She’s pretty much the best lady around. She works so hard everyday, and I’m so happy for her that she’s on a vacation in England right now. She deserves it! 🙂


  • I appreciate music that keeps me going…my new fave “Sleeping at Last” for work jams and old school 90’s to motivate me to move my booty!
  • My colleagues- they work like crazy to provide the best education to our kiddoes. I’m lucky to have so many great teachers on my team!
  • Technology- it helps me everyday. 🙂
  • That I come home to a clean house 3 times a week…and I don’t have to do it! I told you I’m blessed. 🙂



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No Time to Breathe

I hate the word busy. It seems like everyone, including myself, is always so busy lately. Today was one of those days. Beginning at 8:30AM and continuing until 5:30PM when I left work, I was non-stop all day long. With back-to-back meetings, interviews, and assessments, I literally had 10 minutes to scarf down my lunch, and the only time I answered emails was during a lull in the conversation when I would take a few seconds to quickly scan and respond to an email. Even so, I left the day with 30 unopened emails, waiting until tonight when I could get home and answer a few. My day was frenzied and rushed and left no time for me to slow down, talk to teachers who needed me, chat with students like I normally do, or whittle away at the mountain of work I need to do.

My OLW this year is balance, but lately I’ve been so unbalanced I’m surprised I haven’t fallen over. I’m trying to get to everything…work, play, time for myself…but it’s hard. One thing that I love is writing, but now that March is over, I find myself struggling to slice even once per week. Now that the daily writing month is over, my days seem to fill with other “stuff.” My reading life has suffered lately, too. I was averaging 4-5 novels or professional texts a month, but now I’m down to 2-3. Exercise is another thing that’s a struggle for me. I need to make the time, but things are always creeping in, taking my time away from what I need to do. And then there’s sleep. Earlier this year, I was in bed at a reasonable hour and waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Now, I’m staying up later and later, fighting getting up in the morning, and yawning all day. Something’s gotta give, but what?

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The Little House in the Rice Fields


The view from the terrace. I couldn’t get enough!

As you know, I’ve recently returned from a trip to Nepal. I was only there for five days, so I just stayed in and around Kathmandu, the nation’s capital. Kathmandu was alright. It was a busy city with lots going on and much to see, but I live in a big city with a lot happening, so I wanted to experience something a little different. I wanted to see what real Nepal was like. And I did just that…


My taxi took me outside of town, past the noise, past the shops, past the chaos. We ended up driving down an old dirt road that wound around houses, up and down hills, past an orphanage. When the road was too bumpy for the car to continue, I got out and met Gopal, the man who ran the guest house. I jumped on the back of his motorbike and rode the rest of the way. Soon enough, the cutest little house, nestled in the rice fields, came into view. This would be my home for the next few days. I was smiling from ear to ear.


After dropping off my stuff in my room, I explored the house. Gopal, giving me a tour, explained that I was the only guest this week, and that I’d have the whole place to myself. Is this possible? I thought. I’m one lucky girl! The house had a total of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting room, kitchen, dining room, terrace, and a room that housed the chickens, rabbits, and dog at night. Upon encountering the chickens and their distinct smell, I was instantly taken back to my Mamaw’s farm. This place was perfect, and just what I needed this week- a place to rest, relax, and recharge. Bliss. Perfect bliss.

My room :)

My room 🙂

Sitting room, where I'd blog and read each night

Sitting room, where I blogged and read each night

Gopal was the kindest, gentlest, most giving person I’ve met in a long time. He and I sat and talked about Nepali life a lot during my stay. I learned that electricity in Nepal is shut off 12 hours per day. The guest house had a backup generator that worked most of the time, but most Nepali people couldn’t afford a generator and just had to deal with the regular power cuts. The times were random each day, but I found they were at pretty inopportune times. For instance, there was no electricity from 6am-1pm and from 5-10pm one day. Those seem to be the times you would need electricity. For him and the people of Nepal, it’s just a way of life. I also learned that the average Nepali family income is 8,000-15,000 Nepali Rupees per month (80-150 USD). That’s it. To say they live in poverty would be an understatement. I learned that in order to give your children the opportunity to succeed in Nepal, they must attend a private school. People who graduate from local schools are unable to get jobs since they have a reputation for being so bad. Sending a child to a private school costs 25 USD per child per month. Gopal sends his three children to private school. Because of this, he and his family all share one room in a shared house with 6 other families.

Gopal and his family :)

Gopal and his family 🙂

Speaking of his children, I had the pleasure of meeting this little guy on my first day. Madan, the most adorable four-year-old around, was instantly taken with me, curious about who I was, following me around, both of us communicating in broken English and hand signals. I introduced him to my iPad, which he’d never seen. After demonstrating a game, he would try it on his own right away. He did very well! He’s so bright.


The next day, I awoke to the pitter patter of little feet. Opening the door to my room, I find Madan proudly showing off his 3-day old pet rabbit. How cute is that?


While I spent a lot of time enjoying the peace and quiet of the house, reading on the terrace, blogging in the sitting room, playing with the kids, and talking with Gopal, I also spent some time each day exploring the areas in and around the guest house. I went for a walk with Dehli, the dog, one evening at sunset. I came upon a small group of high school kids playing volleyball without a net. Saying hi, they smiled and introduced themselves. After talking with me for a few minutes, they invited me to play with them, to which I happily joined and had a lot of fun! Gopal took me on a couple of day trips to surrounding villages, where we’d get off the bike and wander around, stopping in to look at the goods for sale and talk with the locals, who were very much drawn to me, the blonde haired girl who looked very different from them. I met some 11 year-old girls who later walked by the house to share some peas they’d picked for me. Even though I was only there three nights, I felt like a part of the community. Wandering around the villages, I found kids playing soccer, table tennis, and tag. My heart was so happy as I caught a glimpse of a life so different than mine.







My favorite day was my last day there. Gopal and I toured the entire perimeter of Kathmandu Valley on his motorbike, winding through narrow pathways, high into the hills, and down into the valley. We stopped frequently to take in the beauty of the valley, have a Coke with the locals, watch ladies harvest wheat and mustard, talk to some kids, buy a souvenir, and cross a huge bridge connecting two hills/mountains. I managed to get a sunburn despite my 50 SPF sunscreen, but it was totally worth it. The breathtaking beauty of Nepal is truly indescribable. You just have to see it for yourself. And when you do, stay at The Little House in the Rice Fields. Tell Gopal I sent you!







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