Tag Archives: #sol18

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. πŸ˜‰ 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!! πŸ™‚ Love ya!!

Food, Colleagues, and a Sing Along #sol18

A few weeks ago I decided to host team dinners at my house as a way to get to know my staff on a more personal level and to give us some much-needed down time to just relax and enjoy one another. Today was my third one, and we had so much fun!

I rushed home just after 3:00 so I could finish up cooking and get everything ready for my colleagues to arrive at 4:30. Getting caught in the rain on the back of the motorbike meant I had to shower when I got home, so I got started in the kitchen a bit later than I wanted. Luckily, I have Rohana, my pembantu (maid) to help! She spent most of the day shopping, washing and cutting veggies, and making a few side dishes for dinner. I couldn’t have done it without her (unless I wanted to order pizza). All I had to do was throw together the appetizer, bake the dessert, and cook the panang curry.

People started arriving just after 4:30, and after getting them all a drink, I finished up the curry and took the blueberry bread out of the oven. Once everyone arrived, I gave them a tour of my place, and then we all grabbed a plate and sat down to eat. The spread included gado gado, tempeh with a sweet soy sauce, Indonesian corn fritters, rice, and curry, with blueberry bread, fresh pineapple, kiwi, and strawberries, and chocolate truffles for dessert. As we ate, we chatted, swapping travel stories and getting to know one another beyond our usual school chatter. As we began teasing one another, I noticed people’s guards coming down.

Throughout dinner, I’d had Amazon Prime Music playing in the background. Not knowing what type of music to put on, I had it tuned to an All 90’s station. As dinner was winding down, everyone made their way to the couch or the floor in the living room. Heri grabbed the iPad and started punching in song titles. Mita asked me to turn up the speaker since “this was a party, after all!” Doing as I was told, the music got louder, and the smiles got wider. Song after song, we belted out the lyrics, whether we really knew them or not! Laughing, we kept passing the iPad around, everyone trying to find that perfect song for the group. My favorite song of the night had to be “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Everyone (except Heri, who had never heard of the song…don’t worry, I gave him a really hard time about it!) sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs! When the Macarena came on, Ms Eny and I jumped up to dance, urging others to do the same. No one else joined us, but we had a great time anyway!

Today was the perfect end to a hectic day. As the year gets more stressful with increased responsibilities and due dates, it’s always nice to take a step back and relax.

The World Through My Eyes #sol18

Next week is Spring Break, and I’m really looking forward to my trips to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia! I’ll even get to add another country to the list…Singers will make #36! Since I have been thinking about my trip, I started reminiscing about my past travels, which prompted this poem. Rather than write about every country I’ve visited, I decided to limit to places I’ve been in the last two years. In no particular order, here’s my poem, a glimpse of the world through my eyes.

The World Through My Eyes

Indonesia is motorbikes, gado gado, macet, and the call to prayer.

Belgium is waffles, street art, and fruit beer.

Albania is colorfully-painted buildings, a perfect mix of old and new, and all the fresh fruit, veggies, and bread you can eat.

Montenegro is rocky beaches with crystal clear water, road trips, and weekend getaways with the girls.

Hong Kong is dim sum, the mid-levels, lots of hills, and like China, but better.

Mexico is beaches, pina coladas, and tourist traps.

Italy is stunning architecture, gelato, and literally the best homemade pasta of your life.

Canada is water taxis, clean and manicured, and friendly.

Senegal is bright colors, traffic, pushiness, and sand everywhere.

USA is home, comfort food, baseball, and familiarity.

Thailand is the land of smiles, tuktuks, mango sticky rice and kao soi, and three-showers-a-day hot.

The Netherlands is the most amazing cheese you will ever taste, bikes for days, and canals.

France is croissants and crepes, The Lourve, and walking two hours to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.

Morocco is an assault on the senses, mint tea, and getting lost in the medina.

Getting Back on Track #sol18

I’ve gained 5 pounds (1.8 kg) since January.

Is this a setback? Yes. Is it the end of the world? Definitely not!

Today at the gym was the first day I’ve really been able to work out for the better part of three months, and while I was rusty, it felt good!

Back in mid-July, when I moved to Jakarta, I set a goal to change my lifestyle. I began working out almost daily, which was a huge change from the working out almost never that I’d been accustomed to for a long while. While I didn’t go on a diet (because I always fail diets), I did start slowly eating much better, cutting out most sugars, drinking mostly water, and eating more fresh fruits and veggies (as a vegetarian, this one was easy). Another change I made was keeping a food and exercise journal. While I didn’t care if I ate “something bad” every once in a while, I found that writing it down somehow made me more accountable to myself, and as a result, I saw positive changes in what I ate.

Since my arrival, I’ve weighed myself around the 15th of every month and recorded my weight in my journal. In the past, I’ve been really caught up on weight, so I tried to limit my weigh-ins to once a month. I mostly succeeded at this goal. From July to December, I managed to lose 20 pounds. While I was proud of myself for losing the weight, I was even prouder of the non-scale victories I experienced. I found that I actually enjoyed working out (well, most of the time). I was getting stronger, and could see tiny muscles beginning to show. My clothes fit better, and I even had to take them in and buy smaller sizes. I had more stamina and didn’t lose my breath as often when climbing stairs or doing cardio. And the biggest one– I felt happier and had more energy.

However, I hit a snag in December. After traveling home for Christmas, I was put in a boot for about 2 weeks (pain in my ankle led the doctor to think I had broken my leg) and told I couldn’t work out. After I was out of the boot, I was still traveling, and working out was difficult (I didn’t make it a priority). And let’s not forget the holiday and travel food I was eating…a definite deviation from my norm! When I got back to Jakarta, I started back at the gym, but about 2 weeks after being back, I fell and sprained my ankle and was once again in a boot, only this time I had to wear it 24/7! The doctor told me no working out until I was healed. And even then, I would need to take it slow. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Feeling sorry for myself, in a lot of pain, and unable to do much, I became very sedentary. I also turned to foot for comfort, eating more heavy foods laden with carbs, sugar, and fat. I stopped keeping track of my food in my journal. I began drinking tea and sugary drinks again. While I worked out with my trainer a handful of times in the boot, it just wasn’t the same. I was unable to do any cardio, and everything I did do had to be modified. What was the point?

Back to today. After walking without my boot for the past week and experiencing little pain, I decided to ease back into it by hitting the gym today. I worked out with my trainer for 30 minutes, and boy was it hard! But I didn’t whine and I didn’t give up. I even got to do some cardio for the first time in 8 weeks! The rowing machine is one of my favorite things to do at the gym (I’m not a treadmill fan at all!), but I’ve been hesitant to start again because of my ankle. I set a goal of 10 minutes. I managed to make it to 18 and a half before my ankle started to hurt a bit. Not wanting to push it too far, I stopped.

There was a spring in my step as I left the gym today. The old me is coming back and she’s not gonna let a little setback stop her!

slice-of-life_individual

Not Again… #sol18

“Please hand these out to your students on Monday,” I say, handing over the stack of Student-Led Conference brochures. With that, I exit the room, off to deliver the next stack to the teacher next door.

Stepping into the hallway, my left foot gets caught on something, and I lose my balance. As I try to right myself, my other foot becomes entangled, too. I begin flailing, unable to regain balance.

CRAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHH!!!

I, along with the stool that I’m stuck in, comes crashing to the floor. Brochures fly down the corridor. I land flat on my face, completely stunned and wondering what just happened. I hear footsteps running toward me from the copier down the hall. Someone heard the crash and is coming to my rescue.

Face down, unsure of the damage, I find myself instantly surrounded by people. Somehow I sit up, and that’s when the tears start. The pain, not in my ankle, as I had feared, begins to set in. I’m suddenly bombarded with, “Can I get you a tissue?” “Do you want some water?” “Did you hurt your face?” “What happened?” “Let me help you up.” The well-meaning offers of help are overwhelming.

“Can I just think for a minute? I need some space,” I manage to get out. That’s when I see the culprit. The gray plastic stool, with the step on the bottom, laying on its side in the hallway. The same stool I tripped on. The one I hadn’t seen when I walked out. Why was there a stool right in the doorway? That’s unsafe. I know I’m accident-prone, but that shouldn’t have been there. How did I not run into it on my way in? How did I not see it?

Taking the tissues and the water, the shock begins to wear off, and that’s when I notice the bruises just starting to show on my knees and feel the pain and tingly feeling in my left arm, the one I’d used to instinctively break my fall. Not again…this can’t be happening again. I’m just getting over the last fall, the one that landed me in a boot for the better part of six weeks.

Just then, I notice my boss hurriedly making his way down the corridor. Crouching next to me he asks how I’m doing. “Is it your ankle again?”

“No, I don’t feel any pain in it, and I’m able to move it around,” I say, demonstrating. Replaying the accident, I explain that my arm is hurting, but I don’t think I’ve broken any bones.

That’s when the corners of his mouth begin to turn up, stifling a smile. “You know, you are really the most accident-prone person I know.”

“I know,” I say, a small smile forming on my face.

After refusing the wheelchair the security guard brought me, and taking the nurse’s hand, I walked to her office where she iced my arm and applied some anti-inflammatory cream. I was given some pain killers, too. Her assessment was that I had not broken any bones, and had probably not sprained it either.

Just to be safe though, I decided to go to the doctor to have it checked. The tingling feeling made me uneasy, and I would feel better knowing if anything was wrong. My lovely friend Miriam insisted on going with me, and I was grateful not to have to do it alone.

Luckily, the doctor determined it was nothing serious. No broken bones and no sprain. It just might be sore for a few days. Oh, and my knees would definitely be bruised. I’m sore today, but I’m thankful it wasn’t anything serious.

slice-of-life_individual

Writing Problems #sol18

I’ve been stuck for over an hour. Unable to figure out what to write, racking my brain for the right slice of life to share. The problem is, there’s only one thing on my mind, and I can’t write about it. Well, not here at least. In my position, there are things that happen that are confidential, and blogging about it is pretty much the exact opposite of confidentiality, so herein lies my dilemma.

Despite trying to process how to handle the situation, I will myself to come up with something else to slice about. I mentally review my day, pausing to take note of anything remotely interesting or slice-worthy to write about, but I keep coming up empty. So what do I do? Well, I look for inspiration. I turn to my writer’s notebook, scanning my Slice of Life ideas that fill up two pages. Nothing. Opening Pinterest, an app that’s been collecting dust for a while, I peruse my boards in search of an idea. My “Writing” board calls to me, and in it, I find teaching ideas for writing, along with writerly quotes I’ve collected over the years. As I read through the quotes, I come across one that stops me in my tracks.

“All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.”
~Erica Jong

Boom. That’s it. My writing problem is a psychological problem. Here I am bursting with so much to say, so much I need to work out surrounding a particular issue, but I’m afraid of what people will say. What if the person I’m dealing with with reads my slice? What if other people not related to the issue read my slice and wonder why I wrote about something so private? And this is why I can’t write today, at least not about what is really going on. So instead, I write about my writing problems, and that will have to be enough for now.

It All Comes Together in the End #sol18

There’s something magical about a student performance, isn’t there? Despite the stress of rehearsals, the What the heck do they think they’re doing?!? thoughts that fill your head, the constant reminders to sing louder, turn around, No you can’t jump around on the stage, you’re supposed to be singing right now! moments, they somehow fix all (okay…most) of the problems when they get on that stage in front of their parents. It’s like *magic*.

I have to admit, I was kind of dreading our Spring Primary Concert this afternoon after witnessing rehearsals this week. As a leader who tries not to micro-manage, the responsibility for the concert lay on our music teacher. With only one lesson per week per class, I have to admit I was skeptical as to how he was going to pull it off. Then during rehearsals yesterday, when the students forgot their lines, played around on the stage, didn’t know how to line up to enter or exit the stage, my thoughts were, Oh no, what are the parents going to say? They aren’t going to like this. And, they’re going to blame me.

I jumped in to support, as did a number of our go-getter teachers, and it got a little bit better. This morning’s rehearsal was even better than yesterday, but there were still some major hiccups I worried was about. At that point though, it was what it was and there wasn’t much else that could be done. As they say, the show must go on!

As parents filed into the gym, I nervously waited for the show to begin. One by one, the year groups came up to sing, and they were great! There was some wild hand motions that hit the microphone hanging over the students’ heads (to be fair, they weren’t there during rehearsal and he was really tall), a bit of singing off-key (What Primary performance doesn’t have this?), and the most adorable little Year 2 student standing on his tippy-toes, his hands cupped around his mouth, leaning as close to the microphone as possible to project his already loud voice across the gym (his extremely off-key singing only added to the cuteness). But you know what, those were the moments when it was real. This is what kids do, right? It wasn’t a disaster as I had feared. It went well, parents were happy, and kids were proud of themselves. And that’s all that matters.

It’s 3:00am, and I’m Awake #sol18

Well, the title says it all really. It’s 3:00am, and I’m awake. This isn’t a normal part of my routine, nor do I enjoy the quiet and darkness that 3:00am provides, particularly when I have to wake up in less than 3 hours to get ready for school. Despite the “just below morphine“-grade meds my doctor prescribed today that I took at 5:00pm and again at 9:00pm (Are you even supposed to take them that often?), here I am, unable to sleep due to the immense pain in my neck and shoulder. Since Sunday morning when I woke up, my pain’s been sitting at a constant 6-7 out of 10. I can’t get comfortable, I’m increasingly more irritable, and I just want it to go away.

Back pain, I know. Ankle pain, I know. Shoulder pain, not so much. While pain sucks no matter where it is, somehow this newfound, unchartered territory is proving more difficult to handle. Me, someone with a strong aversion to needles, bordering on a phobia, has started researching acupuncture. Am I seriously open to voluntarily allowing someone to stick multiple needles in me if it would relieve the pain? I might be going crazy.

I asked the doctor about getting a massage to ease the discomfort, but he said that if the masseuse didn’t know what she was doing, she could end up actually making it worse, and I could end up in even more pain than before. The rational part of me understood and followed the dr’s orders to take the meds and rest it, but now I’m wondering if I should just risk it. My friend Michelle swears by cupping, the ancient Chinese technique of using suction to draw the blood to the surface of the skin, thus relieving tension in the muscles. After seeing her back covered in circular bruises that seem to take weeks to go away and look extremely painful, despite her claim that it isn’t painful at all, I’ve never had the guts to try it. But, maybe I should.

Here’s hoping the meds and rest start to work soon, lest I have to take such radical methods to relieve pain. FYI, the cupping photo I included was for your benefit. I Googled it and some of the pictures were downright scary. Some of my search results yielded Cupping gone wrong. There are some things you just can’t unsee.

If you have any tips for me, please share them. I’d love some advice!

Photo credits: webmd.com and health fitness revolution.com

TBAs #sol18

So today, I’m frustrated. I’ve let something someone said get to me. I’ve been stewing over their rude, unprofessional emails for over an hour. I want to let it go, but it’s one of those ‘straw that broke the camel’s back‘ kind of things. The constant negative complaints have piled up, and I’ve had enough. The fact that I’m in a lot of pain in my neck and shoulder because I pulled a muscle this weekend during the classroom makeover is only making me more irritable. But, rather than give this person any more power over me and my emotions, I’m going to write my TBAs.

TBA stands for Truths, Beauties, and Appreciations. It’s a reflective exercise I do when I’m in a funk and need to get some perspective. I learned it from a very wise friend, and it’s served me well in the past. Dwelling on the positives, rather than the negatives, does wonders in releasing the negative energy that’s currently built up. So without further adieu, here are my TBAs today.

Truths

  • I have amazing, supportive friends who love me.
  • I rarely drink soda, but today after work was a Dr. Pepper kinda day. And I don’t feel one bit guilty.
  • I finally booked my Spring Break flights and hotel yesterday, and am so looking forward to some down time in two weeks!
  • I’ve been really good about cutting back on watching TV the last couple weeks, but I vegged out yesterday due my shoulder screaming at me. It was good to get caught up on Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, and Scandal.
  • I work hard, but always feel like it isn’t enough. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately. It’s made me think about my productivity, whether I could use my time and energy more wisely, and whether I am being a little too hard on myself.

Beauties

  • The plants all over my living room
  • Spencer’s infectious laugh
  • The smiles on the students’ faces today at dismissal
  • The vibrant greenery that surrounds me just outside my window
  • The red dragon fruit juice I drank today- nature is simply beautiful!

Appreciations

  • The huge bear hug and thank you I got from a Year 1 student this morning. She ran up to me, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “Thank you, Ms. Kesler for our new room! I love it!”
  • I appreciate Rohana so much. She keeps my house clean, makes sure I have healthy food in my fridge, and is the sweetest lady ever!
  • Today, I met the man who will potentially be my new boss next year, and he seems really great! I think he’ll be super supportive, and I’ll learn a lot from him. Hope he takes the job!
  • I took a luxurious bath last night in my huge bathtub for the first time since I’ve moved in, and it was so relaxing! I might take another one tonight. πŸ˜‰
  • The Slice of Life Challenge- it’s truly a gift each year, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. Thank you TWT for hosting this challenge that has become so much of who I am.

I feel much better now, and I will be able to sleep without that gunk clogging up my mind. A good night’s sleep will do me some good and I’m sure I’ll wake up feeling even better tomorrow!

What do you know to be true, find beautiful, and appreciate?