Survived!

I have survived the first week of school.  It went pretty well.  I missed teaching and the kids.  There is something special about the first week of school, when the kids are a little scared and trying to make a good impression.

A lot of my students from last year have come looking for me and have asked how my father is.  They knew he was ill, but are surprised when I tell them he died.  A couple times little girls have actually teared up.

Being back I knew people might ask how it was to be home and how my father is. What I didn’t expect from people is the comment…Wow you had a really long vacation!  They seemed to skipped over the terminal illness and death thing.   I had a particularly awkward encounter with  my neighbor.  First she commented on my long vacation, I said I went home because my father was very ill—he had cancer.  So then she asked what kind.  I said prostate because I don’t know how to say endocrine tumor in Turkish.  She said, oh..that’s not so bad, my father has that, then she asked how my father was now.  Dead.   I think she has been avoiding eye contact.

On my quest to have a more balanced life, I have been going to bed earlier this year.  It makes such a difference to go to sleep at 10 instead of 12.  It makes the morning so much less painful.  On the other hand, it is a habit that makes mornings come early.  It means that by 9 am this morning, I had showered, blown my hair dry, had breakfast, and walked the dog.  I had tried to sleep in, but to no avail.  I have a wedding to go to tonight.  I will have to take a nap to be able to stay conscious past 10!

School is Back!

I was on a posting roll, and now silence it back.  I am working on building new routines.  I have been away from the apartment for about seven months in total since January.  Coming back spurred re-organization and new projects.  I have also needed some time to re-acclimate and settle back in to Turkey.  I am also spending lots of time just enjoying being with my husband. 

Also work. School hasn’t started yet, but we have had a couple of weeks of teacher In-Service days, getting ready for the new semester.  I am excited about the new school year, and without the stress from last year, believe I will be a better teacher, person and friend this year.  I really did not have a lot of patience for anything last year, all my thoughts were at home. 

I am working on developing balance this year.  Balance for work, health and home.  (More on health balance in another post.)  I also have a few trips coming up, and am looking forward to those to.  Technically the New Year is in January, but for teachers, it really starts in September!

Road Trip: The Big One

After our vacation, Bülent and I decided to buy a car in Texas, where the cars have less rust damage from salt and snow.  We would then drive out to New Hampshire in time for Bülent to start his teaching job at the university.  Our plan was to drive from Leave Texas, stop overnight in Memphis, Louisville, northern West Virginia, somewhere in Jersey and end up in New Hampshire.  ScreenHunter_04 Aug. 21 15.32

However, right from the beginning we had some scheduling issues.  Bülent found the car he wanted to buy the night before we leaving for the trip, but it was too late to buy it and take it to get checked out. So early in the morning he went to the dealership, bought the car and took it to the garage.  However, the work it needed, brakes tuned and new tires, took longer than expected.  Instead of getting on the road by 12 and getting to Memphis by 8ish that night, we couldn’t leave until 4.   We were tired, so we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas around 10 p.m.   We figured we would stop in Memphis to and have an early lunch and visit with my friend from college (hence required stop in Memphis), and have an early lunch.

And that is the day Arkansas became dead to me.  If we had time I would have like to look around the city and check out some Civil Rights museums, but we wanted to get on the road right away.  Bad decision.  The trip to Memphis is normally only 2 and a haf hours, but once we got on the road, we stayed on the road. And stayed on the road.  And stayed. on. the. road.

There had been a traffic accident that morning at 4 a.m. and the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway were blocked all day. (I can complain about because no one was hurt.)  After several hours f being parked on the highway, we were detoured onto a two lane country highway.  It took eight hours to drive to Memphis.  By the time we got there, we were ready to tear our hair out.  We were trapped all day, had lost an entire day of travel and messed up our schedule.  We decided rather than try to make up time and drive to Nashville, we would stay with our friends in Memphis.   Honestly the thought of getting back into the car made us nauseous.

Good Decision.  We ended up having a great time.  We had a great Tennessee BBQ, and then hung out by the lake with the dogs.  The three dogs, that all have first, middle and last names.  Hee Hee.  It is so funny when my friend Katie calls out their full names with when the puppies are being rowdy.  I would post some adorable photos, but there were some technological issues and our camera ate the pictures.  The next day we woke, rested, with the goal of getting to Louisville for a late lunch and then continuing on to make up lost time.   We had to be in NH by a certain date so Bülent could start teaching his classes.    Next Installment: Day 3 of the Road Trip.  The road to awesomeness…I mean Louisville.

Kaida Rocks the NICU

My friend Sarah is my oldest friend and was the amazing Matron of Honor at my wedding.  We met on the first day of first grade, when she let me sit with her on the bus.  We pretty much have be together ever since.  She is even the one who helped Bülent pick out  my engagement ring.

She was expecting her first baby in September. I joked with her that her timing was bad, since I was leaving the U.S. in August, that she should hurry it up.  I didn’t expect her to take me seriously.

She and her husband, Chris, were originally planning to name their baby Olivia, but changed their minds and decided on Kaida (the Japanese word for “dragon.”)  They made an excellent choice, the name is completely apropos.  Kaida is a damned amazing fighter, something she has shown already.  As her mom says, “Don’t poke the Dragon.” 

Kaida was born a full month early and was a very sick baby.  Sarah was rushed to a hospital over an hour away, that specializes in high-risk births and infant care.   They asked all family members to wait to visit Kaida until the family was home together, but Sarah contacted me and invited me to come meet Kaida before I left for Turkey. 

Being invited by my friends to see them while they were excited and joyful, frightened and in awe of this tiny being they had brought into the world, was incredibly special and a privilege I will never forget.  I can see them now, Chris holding  Kaida, her eyes closed, so tiny and fragile, Sarah gazing at the two of them. Sarah and Chris were madly in love, with Kaida, so much so that their love was almost tangible.

Since Kaida’s birth Sarah and Chris have ben doing anything and everything to help their little girl.  For the last three weeks they have either been sleeping in the hospital or a a dorm nearby.   Thankfully, Kaida has been doing just as much for her parents as they have for her.  Each day she has been fighting, growing stronger and healthier.  The sick baby I saw in the hospital is a far cry from the rosy, alert baby with the chubby checks, in the pictures her mother is emailing me.  She is doing so well, in fact, that she has been transferred to the local hospital NICU, since she is no longer high risk!  Woot Woot!  Kaida Sarah and Chris, Congratulations on your very precious new daughter.  She couldn’t have more kind, amazing parents, ones who even gave her an awesome name to fight with!  Welcome to the world Baby Kaida, clearly you have a sense for the dramatic, but we’ll need to have a serious talk about how it is not polite to rush your mother.

P.S.  Auntie Jules already has started buying adorable stuff to send to her little dragon.

Abundance of Figs

Oh, figs!  My favorite summer fruit.  Fresh figs are best enjoyed when they almost look too soft to eat.  Stay away from the firm ones.  Look for the figs that are starting to split at the bottom..just barely.  Sometimes there will be a tiny glistening drop emerging from the star shaped fissure, that means it is perfectly ripe.  The issue with figs is that many ripen at the same time, and if you eat too many you will clean your system right out, whether you want to or not?  So what to do with over-ripe figs?  A little too mushy eating means great for cooking.  Jams, compotes, breads, wherever you can put fruit you can use figs.

This morning I used them in pancakes.  The pancakes themselves had  a mixture of ripe peaches and figs in them.  I roughly chopped the over-ripe figs and threw them in a saucepan with a little water and lemon juice while I was cooking the pancakes.   I used the fig compote as a syrup for the pancakes.  I have to say, for a 20 minute cooking project (only as long as it took to mix and cook the pancakes) the results were delicious.  20120822_130246

In Turkey, fruits and vegetables are rarely available while out of season.  This can be a little disappointing when you are craving a particular dish, but in reality creates a smaller carbon footprint and is better for the environment.  This means that will there is only about a four week window for figs, during that time the figs are fresh and delicious, abundant and cheap.  While I would love figs all year long, they seem just a little bit sweeter since they are so special now.

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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Blogher 12

Holy Moly!  BlogHer!  I am still working though my experiences there.  I went to almost all the sessions.  A couple were productive and interesting.  However, the main even was…not lunch with Martha Stuart, or even lunch with Katie Couric (although that was awesome!)   It was meeting and connecting with other bloggers.  I don’t mean the random networking and thrusting of cards at each other, but the truly meaningful connection I made with some of the individuals there.  Sometimes it was just a short conversation that stayed with you, other times it was a discussion that was so intriguing you changed your plans just to continue it.

I met some great friends, finally understood the nuances of Twitter, and learned quite a bit at BlogHer12.  I also had a wicked good time!  There was a party every night.  Saturday night at  the Sparklecorn party I had a blast!   I danced so long and hard that my friends thought I was drinking, while I was sober and just dancing it out.  That was a blast.  Plus, any party where Ace of Cakes brings a Punk/Space Unicorn clearly rocks!

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Hopefully there will be more BlogHer posts coming, however I am a little distracted with a couple of events.  1) One of my Besties gave birth to a darling little girl—and I get to meet her tomorrow.  2) Packing for my trip back to Turkey.  There is a lot of bag weighing and triaging of clothes at my house.  GRRR…Damn the one bag, 23 kg limits!

Two Years!

Today is my second wedding anniversary.  And the first one Bülent and I have celebrated together!  While last year it felt like a surprise that I had been married for a whole year, this year it doesn’t.  Not in a bad way but in a good way.  This year we have dealt with a lot of things, cancer, chemo, death and despair, and Bülent has been there through everything.  He supported me in every way he could, even when when I took a leave of absence from my job to spend time with my dad  and flew 5000 miles away—for 6 months.

I am very lucky to have a partner as wonderful as he is.  I still feel like  I did last year, ecstatic to have a BFF and a lover wrapped up into one.  But even luckier this year, because I know when things get tough, things are still good.

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Oh I Love Me A Generator!

When I was 10 my mom and dad picked my brother and me up from school one day in January.  They told us we were going to the city to buy a generator.  Since we had been out of power for a week, we cheered!  We have gone a long way from that glorious day and  that pull start generator that provided enough electricty for a couple of rooms.  We have a dedicated one that turns on automatically when we lose power.  And it is awesome.  Tonight my mom said there might be a storm, and asked us to roll the kayaks over so they would not be filled with water.  We were on our way when the wind rushed in like a train.

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The rain fell hard and fast and the wind was a gustin’, just the way we like.   We love the fierceness and the sound of the storm, but we love the generator too!

Reflections on Turkey

Now that I have been in the U.S. for six months and will be going back to Turkey soon I have been thinking about my experiences when I first went there.  I knew after a fair amount of time here I will have to reassimilate and reacculturate a bit.   I think one of the most obvious, but least problematic issues is the communal culture.  In Turkey, what is one person’s is the family’s, and what is the family’s is the communities. This communal life structure takes time to adjust to.

Because everything is more communal, people will also make comments that would be considered rude in the US.  Goodhearted remarks on clothes, weight, body shape, etc. are considered completely appropriate.  For example, “That doesn’t look good on you.” “Are you gaining weight? You look bigger.”  “Is that a pimple or a bug bite?” Or my personal favorite, after you have been ill, “How is your diarrhea?”

I was introduced to this communal culture when I became Turkey’s “Bride.”  When I moved there I was engaged (I went from girlfriend to fiancé on the trip over.)  That made me a “gelin” or bride.  Usually the woman entering the family is called a gelin, and is called the gelin until she is no longer the youngest or more recently married woman in the family.  It is an affectionate term.  My husband introduced me as his gelin.  His mother and father also called me their gelin.   They would introduce me as “Our gelin.”  Then close friends of the family would introduce me to others, “Oh, our new gelin is American…”  My husband was complemented and told that he had brought such a nice. gelin for Turkey.  I agreed to marry one man and found myself the bride of a nation.

So while I have been here I have been a sister, a daughter and a wife, in Turkey, I will be all of those things as well as everyone’s “bride” when I go back.

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