Monday, March 31, 2008


Well...I've been in America for 48 hours, and I still haven't really written a blog post. And, honestly, I haven't felt like writing one. I still have a cold. This morning I also have a headache. My grandmother is still hanging in there. While I am in waiting mode I have just been hanging out. Waiting. And what better way to wait than with family and friends.

I'm sure there will be many things I will look back on from this trip and really savor. One of those things happened the day after I arrived. I got to meet the Witty Writer Gal from my blogger world live and in person! Seriously!

Witty lives in Austin. I was chatting online with her when I got the call from my dad telling me I needed to come to the states. She was concerned as any good friend would be. She said that if I needed anything to just call her. She would pick me up from the airport or help out in any way that she could. I told her that I was pretty sure someone could pick me up from the airport, but I would call her from America when I arrived. Fast forward 24 hours. I am sitting at my sister's thinking that Witty is willing to come see me. I want to meet Witty. Hmmm. I'm not sure what will happen with my grandmother so if I want to meet Witty it needs to happen sooner than later. So I called her, and we made plans for her to come see me the next day.

She arrived just before lunch, and I took her to Pappadeaux's. Actually she drove there and paid for the meal, but I told her how to get there and ordered the food. Does that count as me taking her there? No...well then ok. We went to Pappadeaux's. There. Is that better? Good. Now on with the story...

Witty sat back and let me do the ordering.

We each had half of a shrimp poboy, and...

a fried soft-shell crab. A fried piece of paradise is more like it! It was delicious!

Our waitress, Keysha, loved Witty from the moment she met her. I am telling you...that Witty is a charmer for sure! By the end of the meal Keysha was happily searching the kitchen for something sweet for Witty to take back to the hotel to have for breakfast with our leftover bread. She was also telling her what days she worked so that Witty could request her next time she visited. I wish I had taken a picture of Witty and Keysha!

Later we checked Witty into the hotel where she was spending the night. There we met Shirley. Witty was her charming self, and before we knew it Shirley was telling us a story about 45 gay cowboys and the fact that she never knew cowboys could be gay. My head was on the desk I was laughing so hard. Then when Shirley mentioned the fact that she knew about sheepherders being gay I had to excuse myself to go get some air. I honestly thought I was going to pass out. Poor Witty couldn't look at me because she knew if she did she would have lost it as well. We loved Shirley!

Because I had been in the country for less than a day I was dragging from jet-lag. We sat in her hotel room so that I could rest for a bit. Well, she sat in the chair, and I laid on the couch. With a pillow. And a blanket. But my eyes stayed open the whole time. I promise.

Other highlights from her trip...

A trip to Target where I petted bags of peanut butter m&m's and boxes of cheez-its, and pretty much made eyes at anything that I couldn't get in Turkey.

Dinner with my sister and her family and my youngest brother and his family at a new pizza place. Witty ordered the pizza...pepperoni, red onions, and roma tomatoes. It was yummy...way better than Turkish pizza, but I do wish that I had ordered extra sauce. She even said to order extra sauce if I wanted, but I didn't listen. Note to self...listen to Witty when it comes to pizza. She knows what she is talking about.

You knew I wouldn't forget to take a picture of the pizza...surely you knew that!

Staying up until the wee hours of the morning talking and laughing...and almost crying.

Taking pictures of the two of us with my computer.

Church on Sunday morning. She even went to Sunday school with me. Of course when I invited her to church she didn't realize that Sunday school was part of the package. I didn't even think to mention it to tell you the truth. She got to meet several of my friends and was surprised by what she witnessed and experienced. She has written a great piece about her experience. If you would like to read her words leave me a comment and I will email them to you.

Olive Garden for lunch after church. The salad and bread sticks and...well...what can I say? All the food was great! But sadly I forgot to take pictures of it!

This is getting long. This is getting out of hand. I will just end with this. Witty is everything I thought she would be and more. She is compassionate and loving toward everyone she meets. She was exactly what I needed. I am so excited that she came to see me. That she wanted to meet me. That despite our very real differences she wants to be my friend. She is an amazing person! I love you, Witty!

Friday, March 28, 2008

i'm in texas...finally!

made it to houston. i am tired. i have stories. i can't think well enough to tell them at this point. i ate shrimp for dinner. yum!

ok...i can't just leave you with that. i just need to think...hmm...nothing.

i have a cold. i started feeling it on tuesday. can i just say that riding on an airplane when you already aren't feeling great doesn't make you feel better? the dry air made my cold turn into a cold with a cough. fun times.

ok...that is it for today. sorry for such a boring blog post. more to come.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

my plans

i am headed to america bright and early tomorrow morning. i know...it's not november yet. my grandmother is ill and not expected to live much longer. i am going home to be able to be there for her funeral. i am not sure about all of my travel plans as of yet. i fly to houston in the morning. that is as much as i know at this point.

you can be thinking about my husband and four kids during my time away. the kids happen to be out of school next week for spring break which means brian is on duty 24/7 instead of just in the evenings. they are already planning fun spring break outings without me.

and last but not least you won't have to miss me too much. i will be blogging from the states. how could i not? see you then.

Pet Peeve #48

When we moved to Turkey we were surprised to learn that we had to purchase light fixtures for our apartment. They aren't standard issue here. When people move they take their light fixtures with them. The people who rented our apartment for us before we arrived in Turkey had been kind enough to install these lovely fixtures in all of the main rooms of the house so that we could at least have some light.

Our lovely lights on a string were wired into the wall so we could flip a switch to turn them on instead of stumbling around in the dark trying to find that little chain.

After purchasing the more important things we needed to live...like beds...we ventured out to find new light fixtures. Ceiling fans were a relatively new thing and seeing that our house didn't have a/c we decided that they were also a necessary thing. We purchased fans for every room except the bathrooms and hallway. Good move on our part I think.

Now for the pet peeve thing. It drives me crazy when a fan light bulb goes out. It doesn't just flicker and then die. No. It explodes. Literally. The light bulb pops and sends glass flying all over the room. This seems to happen at the most inopportune times as well. Like last night. It was the middle of the night. I got up to go to the bathroom and get a drink. I also decided to grab something from the living room. I turned on the light...pop...crash...glass all over the floor, the computer, the chair...everywhere. Man. I didn't want to clean up glass in the middle of the night. Since it wasn't in the kitchen which would be the first room anyone visited when they woke up (well, after the bathroom, that is) I decided to just go back to bed and deal with it this morning. Fast forward to this morning. Brian walks into the living room. Now normally he would have been barefoot...or at least in socks, but he was about to take the kids to school when he realized he needed something from the file box in the living room. Thankfully he had already put his shoes on. He walked over the crunchy floor and wonder aloud what he was walking on. I had forgotten about the exploding light bulb (mainly because I had taken Nyquil when I went to bed, but that is another post for another time,) and was glad he wasn't barefoot. (Brian cleaned up the mess after he took the kids to school...I know...what a guy!)

Where the light bulb was. Now we have to turn off the power and use needle nose pliers to change this bulb. Because there are two more light bulbs on this fan I don't see that happening anytime soon. Yeah...we're lazy.

The exploding light bulbs. Maybe it has everything to do with the wattage of the light bulbs used. We use 40 watt bulbs because anything less really isn't bright enough. Maybe the fan wiring isn't that great. I have no idea. What I do know is this...the hallway and bathroom light fixtures use regular light bulbs. The lamps use regular light bulbs. And they never explode. Never.

(I know I haven't posted 47 pet peeves before this one. I think I have only posted one, but since I called that post Pet Peeve #47 I decided to use #48 for this one. If it bothers anyone I can try to come up with 46 additional pet peeves, but that will be hard. I am usually easy to please and fairly content. I'm just saying.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things I am Thinking About

Fun Dip. I love this stuff. It is FUN!!

These just aren't the same in Turkey. Would you look at how yummy that looks?

Cafeteria pizza even looks good to me right now.

And, well, what can I say about this one? I am thinking about it...I am! And I think I would drive through state after state in search of a Krispy Kreme with the hot light on.

And not for a hot doughnut...more for the conversation and company of the one driving with me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


i need to write a blog post
but what do i want to say?
i thought about maybe the past
but it's over - let's keep it that way.

i thought about maybe the present
but nothing happened today.
i thought about maybe the future
because come what may...

ok...i will stop with the pathetic poetry and just come out and say it. we have decided that we are going to take an extended trip to the states at the end of november. as of now our plan is to stay 7 months in the houston area. there. it is out there. i expect questions from many people. email me if you aren't sure you can ask your question on this blog. i will be happy to email you back!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nature - my favorite!

Last summer we went on a trip to see some friends and visit some new towns. For pictures of our trip see here. Another thing we did was visit this waterfall outside of one of the towns. I had planned to put some video on a post about the waterfall, but never got around to editing it. Actually the truth is I have no idea how to edit the video, but I had grand intentions for it last summer. Now that a long time has passed I don't feel that the video is necessary to tell the story. I mean sure the sound would be nice, but you can just imagine it.

The kids in the stream.

A close-up so you can actually see the kids!

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this picture. Makes me happy. Makes me want to be there.

The road to the waterfall was long and for foot traffic only.

That's all. Thanks for letting me share these 8 months later.

Easter dinner

Yesterday for lunch we went out with some friends after church. We went to a place we had never been to before. The menu was quite extensive and the plates came packed with food. Here are a few of the things we ordered. Side dishes on all of them were the same. Carrots, lettuce, cabbage, tomato (to mix together to make a salad), pasta with yogurt sauce, french fries, pickles, rice, and cracked wheat salad.

Chicken Parmesan (I think it was mozzarella.)

Gordon Blue (actually what the menu said...)

Chinese chicken (chicken and olives...not sure what is so Chinese about that)

Mexican chicken (olives, mushrooms, and a cream sauce)

There were many other things we could have eaten as well such as...

Spaghetti Funki
Chicken Likya

All actual menu spellings. Yum.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Typical day at church.

This morning at church Brian was playing security guard at the upstairs door which is usually left closed and locked. They opened it this morning to try to get a breeze flowing through the building because it was stifling hot in there. I decided to sit upstairs with him. He decided to take videos.

He stopped this video after 7 seconds, and I continued to tell him about my dream.

A few seconds later he started it again. Remember we were in church...we were whispering. Transcript of the video...

Natalie: Something unintelligible then...um, I can't continue my dream on camera. I don't want people to think I'm dreaming about them.
Brian: No, no that would be wrong.
Natalie: That would be wrong.
Brian: But you do look like a supermodel.
Natalie: Well, I try.
Brian: With the wind blowing through your hair.
Natalie: Yeah, I try. My, um, clothes don't quite go with supermodel.
Brian: The clothes don't make the supermodel. The supermodel makes the clothes.
Natalie: Well then, sign me up!

Ok...so it wasn't exactly typical. Typically we don't sit around and take videos of the wind whipping through my hair. Typically we sit and listen and pray. Typically.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


i heard a word the other day that i really liked. the word...


it has something to do with prehistoric mollusks. i love the word, but have a feeling i will have trouble working it into my conversations. maybe i should make up a new meaning for the word.

this is where you come in. i need help coming up with a good definition. what do you think of when you see and read and say aloud the word nautilida?

(heyjoe - i've already thought of naughty matilda...surely you have something else...)

Friday, March 21, 2008


One of my most favorite things about blogging is all the frengers I've made.
Frengers = stranger/friends.

My whole life I have lived in somewhat of a bubble. I was raised Southern Baptist by awesome parents. I did go to public schools my whole life, but I was somewhat naive when it came to other people. I think I assumed that most people's families were similar to mine. I went to a Christian college where my bubble continued to envelope me. I got married right out of college and settled down to have kids. The bubble was ever present. Life in the bubble was comfortable. Easy. I did teach school for awhile and met a few people who lived life outside that bubble. I didn't understand them, and they scared me. My world-view was small and safe.

In 2002 we moved overseas. I tried to carry my bubble with me. There were many, many people who were different than me, but I did find a rather large group of people who fit quite nicely into my bubble. But then something happened. I got tired of life completely in the bubble. I was meeting people outside of the bubble naturally, and I found myself challenged by our differences. They didn't scare me. I wanted to understand them.

This same philosophy has carried over to my blogging buddies. My blog used to be private. Only people I gave the blog address to could see it. In November I made the big change from private blog to public blog. I stepped out of that bubble. Since then I have had many people I don't know read my blog. Some have even come back for a second or third visit. Some have even become friends. Despite our political, religious, cultural, and sexual orientation differences we have become friends, and that doesn't scare me.

I still have my bubble. I have amazing friends from my life inside the bubble. I know they aren't going anywhere. They will always be here for me, and that means a lot to me.

But one thing I know now is this...I may not always agree with those I meet. My beliefs may be completely different from theirs. I may not always understand where they are coming from. But I can listen to them. I can love them. I can be their friend. And the great thing is I want to. I want to live a life full of compassion and love...for those inside my bubble as well as those outside of it.

The Pazar

I have posted about the pazar before here and here, but I couldn't resist mentioning it again when I found these pictures. I didn't take these pictures...thanks to Kara and whoever else for letting me have them!

The pazar is an open air market. There are many different kinds of pazars in Turkey. Most of the time when the word pazar is mentioned people are referring to the fruit and vegetable pazar. They have them in many different places around town, and the fruits and veggies are the freshest around.

Murat, why is that girl taking our picture? Hasn't she ever seen melons and broccoli before?

My peppers and eggplant make the best stir fry.

Hey, Mustafa, look casual and confident. We know we have the best watermelons this side of the Tigris.

Bananas or pears...anyone...anyone?

Let me just weigh your eggplant for you, and you can be on your way.

Your bags look heavy. I'll be happy to carry them for you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Valley of the Fairy Chimneys - for Becky

A fairy chimney is a conical rock formation typically found in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. It consists of a cap of hard rock resting on a cone-shaped pinnacle of softer rock. In Cappadocia, houses have been carved from these formations, and they make a popular tourist destination.

Cappadocia is one of the places mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1 and one of the places we take just about everyone who comes to visit. There are old cave churches and old underground cities scattered throughout the region. We stay in hotels that have been carved from the rock as well. It really is an amazing place.

Thanks to Brian and Robert for these pictures!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where are we?

I know...if you really cared you would just google Turkey, but I decided to make it easy on you. You don't have to work for this little geography lesson. I know. I'm a giver.

A map of Turkey. We live in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. I have no idea why this map has some places marked in red. Not a clue. As you can see from the map the biblical city of Ephesus is in western Turkey, and the ancient city of Troy is found here as well. Mt. Ararat, where Noah's boat landed, is located in eastern Turkey. There are quite a few ancient cities and ruins all over the country. Most of Turkey is located in the continent of Asia. Find Istanbul on the map and know that half of that city is in Asia and the other half is in Europe. The city is divided by the Bosphorus Strait which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. The small portion of Turkey from Istanbul to Edirne is located in Europe. If you ever have the chance to visit Turkey I would highly recommend it.

Where we live. Not exactly ancient or in ruins thank goodness. We live in this lovely pink, yellow, and gray building. If you are really interested you can count down three gray balconies from the top of the short side of the building and see where I spend many sunny summer days!

So that's it for this post. Just wanted to give you a glimpse of here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

comments welcome

ok...i turned on my comment moderation. please don't let that scare you. just know that i will see what you say before i let the world see it. trust me...it's better this way!

Stele of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

While touring the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul I witnessed several people going up to this column and putting their hand on it. I asked Brian about it since he has been to Hagia Sophia several times. He said that supposedly if when you put your thumb in this depression and then turn your hand completely around it comes out wet you will get a miracle. We never tried it, but there were lines of people waiting to see if they would get a miracle.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A confession - edited to include a picture

On Saturday at 6pm Brian, Adam, and another friend, Greg decided to drive 12 hours to Didim to watch an American football game. The players were all college and career-aged Turks. They arrived in Didim at 4am Sunday and slept in the car for a couple of hours before going to breakfast, having coffee, eating lunch, drinking tea, and chatting with strangers. The game was at 1pm on Sunday. At 4:30pm they headed home. Here is the conversation Brian and I had today in the car concerning his trip.

Brian: I have a confession.
Natalie: Really?
Brian: Yeah. This is hard to say. It's good you are already sitting down.
Natalie: You slept with Adam and Greg didn't you.
Brian: Yeah, but it was just a couple of hours in the van...and it meant nothing to me. It's worse than that.
Natalie: Ok...just tell me.
Brian: Ok...while on my trip...I um...I lost my squatty potty virginity.
Natalie: Wow! That is big. Whew. I'm not sure what to say.
Brian: I know. I told you it was bad.
Natalie: Well...you might as well tell me how it was.
Brian: It wasn't bad. After it was over I put on my clothes and left, and the thought that kept going through my mind was, "is that it?"
Natalie: I'm sorry.
Brian: I know.

Yes folks, it's true. We have lived here for 6 years, and Brian had never done more than pee in a squatty...which doesn't really count since how hard is it to pee in a hole in the ground. Don't judge him. Just be here for him. He needs us right now.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Crazy Sumer

I love Sumer. Love her. She is a teeny-tiny sweet, crazy, fun-spirited friend. She lived in Ankara for a few years, but has lived in Istanbul for the past two. She was in town today and was visiting our church. She noticed we weren't there so she left mid-service to come see us. How fun is that?!? I wanted to take some pictures with her but realized that Brian took the camera with him when he went out of town yesterday. Then I remembered that my computer takes pictures with it's built-in camera. Here we are...


hot blooded...i mean high blood pressure

i am supposed to take my blood pressure 10 times in the next several days. i went in for a check-up and it was borderline high so my doctor gave me a machine to use at home this week. i keep forgetting to use it during my quiet moments. i need to use it when i am still and quiet, and there haven't been many of those moments since friday when i received the machine. even now...it is sunday morning, and i have been running around like a madwoman trying to get stuff done. i thought about that machine and how i should have used it when i first got up. i just took my blood pressure, and i refuse to write that number down. my doctor said to use it when i am happy and calm. that doesn't describe my mood. blogging makes me happy and calm so i am trying to get to a place where i can use the machine and feel good about what it says. i need a calm quiet spirit. i need to meditate. think nice peaceful thoughts. ahhhh....stillness...

124/89 that's better. still not a great diastolic number, but better.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

cj's words

you see the world outside your window, and you want to be the bird, the sky, the tree, the grass. not just read about it, and understand it, but really be it. when i see you as the sky, the bird, the tree, and the grass i know why you are there, and i think you get there and get caught up in the experience of experiencing before you know how you got there.

i asked for clarification and was told this...

if we think about the pictures you take, you are there as a witness and you see whatever you see through the lens, but part of you becomes what you are looking at for just a second. and then the other part of you pulls you back, and you know you missed something, but don't know what.

i told her that i didn't always want to miss things. and she said...

you don't when it comes to other people, only when it comes to you.

probably the most beautiful thing and the saddest thing someone has ever said about me. ever.


Trust. It has been an issue with me today. Nobody did anything wrong. I just have trouble sometimes trusting people to be who they say they are. I worry that people will test my loyalties, manipulate my feelings, and lie to me. I hate feeling that way.

Part of me wonders why I am like that, and part of me knows why. I haven't always been like this. Not at all. I think that living in the culture I do has contributed to it somewhat. In Turkey it seems that people don't trust each other until they prove themselves to be trustworthy. In America we seem to think the opposite. We seem to trust until someone has failed us. I think that by watching the people here take care in how much they say, and seeing the hateful, hurtful, spiteful words spoken behind peoples' backs I, too, have learned to be careful in what I say. I've learned to be careful who I trust. And of course not all Turks are like that. And lots of Americans are. I am not trying to stereotype here. Just noticing a difference in the way we handle trust.

Another thing that I think has contributed to my issues of trust is the feeling of being let down by someone I cared about. I don't think I realized how much this affected me until I felt myself be wary of others. I am over it now, but the lingering effects of it still hit me when I am dealing with friends. Especially new ones. Ones that haven't had a chance to prove themselves. And the thing is I shouldn't need them to prove themselves. I shouldn't test them that way. Letting them in may be a slow thing. It takes time to build friendship. But questioning their authenticity shouldn't be the norm. I'm working on this. I want real, authentic friendships.

Thanks to those of you willing to walk through this journey with me. Thanks for teaching me how to trust. Thanks for being my friends.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More Istanbul pics...

...for Witty, who never seems to tire of them.

I think the sign explains this one well. It was interesting to me that you could see how much they had to dig to get down to the base of the arch. It showed how much earth had built up over time.

School kids on a field trip.

The people walking in the midst of the pigeons were selling birdseed. I thought that was interesting...buying birdseed to feed the pigeons. What really surprised me was that the pigeons weren't attacking the bags of open birdseed but waited until people scattered it. And for those of you paying attention...yes, that is a simit seller on the right. I didn't buy one...this time!

The guy front and center is Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. If you really want to know more about him I will just let you google him.

A basket shop. Notice that there are decorative scarecrows for sale and that it is March. Doesn't matter here. I probably could have found Christmas decorations as well if I had looked.

Old wall meets new wall.

Beef on a spit...or Doner as we call it here. It can be eaten on bread or wrapped in a tortilla with onions, pickles, and french fries (yes...wrapped in the tortilla). They also serve it over rice, but that isn't walk-the-streets eatable.