Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Incirlikin' Good-Bye

I have been thinking and thinking about a creative and unique way that I can wrap this little blog up.  And I got nothing.  There is no way I can adequately do justice to these 2 incredible years of my life with a single post that ties it all together.  The fact is, I think about Incirlik Air Base everyday.  I miss things about it everyday.  It is still a huge part of my life. 

And really, my time in Turkey lives on.  Through the friendships I made primarily.  And also through the lessons I learned and the perspective I gained.  So even though this blog will no longer be active, my "incirlikin' good" experience will continue to shape me moving forward.

Thank you to all of you that took the time to read these posts.  Thank you especially to those of you who prayed for us and supported us through these 2 years.  It means more than I could ever say. 

God bless you cyber-friends.  Thank you for letting me share with you.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Prayers Needed

You can take the girl out of Turkey, but Turkey is still deep in the heart of the girl.  Recently, we have heard of a rash of sickness and tragedy happening to our friends at Incirlik.  We are saddened and worried for that little base.  We know what a small, tight knit community it is.  Would you pray for the following people?

  • the family of Pat, our Community Center director.  He was diagnosed with cancer in late July and died 3 weeks later.
  • one of Ryan's co-workers, Erin.  She suffered a seizure 3 weeks after delivering her baby boy and was in a coma when she was medivaced to Germany.  Thankfully, she is doing better now.
  • Some neighbors on our street.  Pamela is experiencing very serious complications following surgery.  She has 4 children, one of which is W's age.
Thank you, blog friends.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Here!!!

I cannot tell you the joy I felt when my eyes saw our crates sitting outside our house this morning.  My stuff.  Finally.  Truly, this is a sign that after what seems like an eternity, this crazy transition is nearing it's end.  Only a few more days of unpacking, organizing, and putting away before I can say we are "home".

I remember before we left Turkey, our friend Dan made a comment at dinner that I loved. He said that he couldn't wait for that moment when the last box was unpacked and there was nothing left on the moving checklist.  When all that's left to do is to resume your routines, to hit the "play" button on your life again.  I feel that moment getting closer and closer.  And I think, in that moment, that my smile might make my face crack.  I can't wait.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Greener Grass

Remember, not too long ago, when I was rambling on about how tough Turkey was and how ready I was to be home?  True, Turkey was tough, and true, especially towards the end, we were more than ready to go.  But I miss it.  Maybe more than I thought I would.

This could have something to do with the fact that we are STILL without any of our stuff (it is due to arrive Thursday, fingers crossed) and I still don't feel very settled here.  It could also be in part because of the long hours that Ryan is working and the effort it takes to adjust and plug into a new place.  But mostly, I think it is just the human "grass is always greener" tendency.

 Why do we so easily forget about the difficulties and remember the good things in our memories?  Labor? I can hardly remember that it was painful, but I can remember every line on my newborn's face.   When I think back to Ryan's deployment, I can't remember at all feeling lonely or sad, which I know I was.  But what I do remember vividly is seeing him walk through the airport towards me after a 6 month separation.

And Turkey?  The first things that come to mind now are the best things: afternoon walks with Sarahbee and Peter, game night Fridays at our place, trips to the Optimum, Hatice, big wheels with Isaac and Elijah....and the list could go on and on.

The bad stuff doesn't seem so bad any more.  And I am thankful for that.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Stebbins Go to Washington.....



We are here!!  After a week with family in Alabama, we made our way up the East Coast to our new home.

The last week, if I am being honest, has been really rough.  We are just trying to find our rhythm in this new place.  We don't have our shipment from Turkey yet, so our house is empty and we don't have much in the way of supplies (I need an iron badly!).  Ryan's job will also take some adjustment.  We are used to having him home much more than normal.  He will doing well to get home by 6:30 here.  The pace of life is different, and while it is wonderful, it will take some getting used to.  Each night when my head hits the air mattress (yes, we sleep on air mattresses right now), I am exhausted beyond belief.  It feels almost like the culture shock I felt in the beginning in Turkey, but in reverse.

In all of the chaos, though, there have been great blessings.  Our San Antonio best friends, the Richardsons, live about 2 miles away and have been incredibly helpful.  I don't know what I would do without them, actually.  Laura, a friend from Turkey, has also been such a blessing.  She has kept W while I worked on the house, and just provided some much needed fellowship on these long days in an empty house.  Finally, my friend Ellen was here visiting and we got to spend a fun day together.

After such a tough week, I knew I needed an outing to get me excited again about my new home.  So we planned a little day trip to downtown DC.  The metro system here is incredibly easy, safe, and clean.  We hopped on at our station and rode about 25 minutes.  Our stop was right in the middle of the National Mall.  We spent the afternoon exploring 3 museums and taking in some sights and sounds of our nation's capital.

As I emerged from the Metro tunnel and saw the Washington Monument on my left and the US Capitol on my right, I couldn't help at chuckle at the incredible journey that my life has been the past 2 years.  From life in Texas, to living as far removed from American culture as possible, to returning and being right in the very heart of it.........what a way to come full circle.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mission Accomplished

This will be my last blog entry in Turkey.  We came, we saw, we conquered.  And now it is finally our turn to say goodbye. 

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am not the most motivated person you will meet.  I think I have plenty of ability in many areas, but not much drive to do anything with it.  So I don't have a lot of experience with setting goals and then achieving them.  I usually don't set them to begin with, actually.

Turkey changed that for me.  I was forced to set a goal: make it 2 years in a tough place without falling apart, or quitting, or having a negative attitude.  Another goal?  To make these 2 years of my son's life happy and memorable...even if it would be hard to do at times.

I did it, I did it, I did it.  And I have to say, it feels good to see your goals achieved.  To know that you did what you set out to do, even if it was hard at times.

I will always have a place in my heart for this nation and it's people, who are some of the kindest and most welcoming I have ever met.  My ears will always perk up when I hear Turkey in the news.  This place will now always be a part of my story.  And for that, I am thankful.

Time to go now.  We are coming home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dear America.......

Happy Birthday!!  See you in a few days.

Love,
The Stebbins

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Favorite Photos

I already did a post about my favorite picture taken during our time in Turkey.  But I wanted to add a few more that represent moments and people I will always remember.

This picture represents so, so many happy afternoons in Turkey.  After naptime, we would walk over to Wendi's house (usually with Sarahbee and Peter) and hang out until dinnertime.  W would have a blast each time.  And the conversations that I had with my friends were so precious.  I drove by Wendi's old house the other day and noticed all the skid marks from bikes and big wheels in her driveway.  I got a tear in my eye because each of those marks represent an afternoon and a moment in time, watching my baby grow into a little boy.

Who would have thunk it?  These 2 ladies together in central Turkey??  Not me!!

I have always known that I lucked out in the husband department, but watching Ryan love and shepherd our family over the last 2 years has been awesome.  Our marriage is stronger and we are better individuals as well.  Love this guy and can't wait to see where our next adventure takes us.  There is no better traveling partner than Ryan!

This picture always makes me emotional.  Our friendships here were incredible.  The way we were loved, supported, and taken care of was amazing.  W had more aunts and uncles than he could count.  And to give my son the opportunity to live around people defending our freedom is something that I am proud of.  He may not remember much of it, but I sure will..and I will always have this picture to remind him.

A little blurry, but this is a stunning view of a castle from inside Neuschwanstein Castle (the Disney castle) in Germany.  This picture represents all the amazing things these eyes have seen that I never in a million years thought I would see.  My memory bank is full of postcard images just like this one.  We live in a beautiful, wonderful, amazing world....and I am so glad that I have seen so much of it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life is Life

A very wise friend of mine named Kelley once gave me a very good piece of advice..."life is life, no matter where you live it."

That piece of advice has been a comfort over these 2 years, and I was reminded of it again today.  I have been spending a lot of time focusing on being back home.  The shopping, restaurants, freedoms, entertainment.  It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking that by moving to America, my life will automatically be flawless.

I have been emailing my friend Sarahbee a lot.  We talk in the emails like we are sitting at a park together, watching our boys play.  She has been in the States for right around a month, and things aren't perfect. Her son is having issues with this transition just like W is.  They haven't found a house yet.  There are stressors.  Sure, it is nice to be home, but life isn't perfect.

Good to remember.  Life is life, huh?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Turkey Tensions

I have gotten several inquiries regarding the news about the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syria.  First of all, thank you for your concern and prayers for our safety.  They are always appreciated, regardless of the situation.  As of right now, we don't believe we will be affected by this at all, but things of course could change rapidly.  If things should change, I will update this blog appropriately.

Again, thank you for all the inquiries and concern.  We feel blessed to have so many out there that are concerned about us. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

In 18 Days..........

........this Turkish adventure will come to an end.  It got me thinking about all the things that are commonplace here, that in 18 days, I may never experience again. 
  • The ever popular Call to Prayer
  • Stopping on the way home from the gym for a tank convoy
  • Being greeted by a car search and armed guards upon entrance to my neighborhood
  • Meat and milk shortages
  • Literally knowing more than half of the people in your neighborhood well
  • Shooing chickens from store entrances
  • Saying "Merhaba, nasisin?" at least once a day
  • AFN
  • The Rotator
  • Ryan riding his bike nearly everywhere
  • NO cell phones, text messages, etc.
  • NO traffic or stop lights
  • 114 degree heat (hopefully not!!)
  • taking a "quick trip" to Germany
  • Doners, borek, and kebabs
Crazy!!

Would I?

I got asked the following question recently...

"Now that you are almost done with your first overseas assignment, do you want to do it again?"

The answer?  At this moment, no.  Like I said in an earlier post, I am perfectly content at this point to let my passport expire and never leave home again.  But that is now.

One thing that I am pretty much sure of?  I would absolutely not want to be stationed in Turkey again.  No offense, but 2 years is just about all I can handle.  It hasn't been a bad assignment by any means, but I am done.

I can totally see Germany, Italy, or Britain changing my mind though.  After being home for a bit, will I get restless?  Will I be ready for this adventure again?  One thing is for sure, nothing will ever be as shocking or life-changing as this assignment was.  There is a certain comfort in that.  If I can do Turkey, I can do anything!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom, Part 2

Here is the second installment of things I have learned on this journey.  I have never lived in a huge city, but have never lived in a very small town either.  All of my homes have fallen somewhere in between.  Boy, have I learned a lot about surviving in a small town!

Living on a Tiny Base or in a Tiny Town
  • There is always a need or a volunteer opportunity.  There will never be enough people to fill every slot.  Choose one or two areas to really plug into, and don't feel guilty about saying "no" to the rest of it.  Burn-out is very real and very common in places like this.
  • Don't be a gossip.  I guess this is applicable to everyone no matter where you live, but it is especially detrimental in a small town.  You will get caught.  It will come back to you.  And you will lose friends.  End of story.
  • If there isn't a program or club or organization that fulfills your needs, start one.  This is the beauty of small town living....the sky is the limit.  Don't sit back and complain about the lack of activity.  Get out there and do something about it!  My friend Angelica noticed that there wasn't a good activity to plug new moms into base life here, so she started a playgroup that continues to this day, even though she is gone.
  • Walk the Walk.  Especially in tiny towns, people notice you.  They know who you are and what you stand for.  It is even more important here to remember who you are and what you represent.  Someone is always watching.
  • Enjoy the simple things.  In small places, options are scarce.  That isn't always a bad thing.  Not many restaurants?  Potlucks with friends are so much better.  Not much to do on a Saturday afternoon?  Round up some folks and a ball for a kickball game.  There is a beauty in simplicity.  Learn to see it and appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Souvenirs

Say what you will about Turkey, but the place has some awesome shopping opportunities. Right off base in the Alley, there are many merchants who are all to eager to sell. And if you feel adventurous and go further into Old Adana, you can get even better deals. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is a shoppers paradise-literally miles and miles of storefronts offering lamps, rugs, clothing, jewelry, accessories...really anything you can imagine. It was quite overwhelming to a non-shopper like myself.

 We waited a very long time to make any purchases, but once the ball got rolling, it was hard to stop! What are we coming home with? See below......

Rugs
I really don't know anyone who doesn't buy at least one while here.  Most people buy several.  You would be crazy not too, really.  If you attend a carpet party off base at one of the shops, they will feed you dinner and give you an education about the different types of rugs, how they differ by region and even village to village, and the different materials and dyes used.

  Of course, the machine made rugs are cheaper and most like what you would find in the States, only much cheaper.  My mother in law and her friend each got a good sized machine made rug for under $400....a steal!!  By contrast, we went to a carpet store in Cappadocia with my mom where they had a handmade rug available for...wait for it........$62,000!!!!!  So, there is a lot of variety out there.  

  After 2 years here and much research and shopping, we were finally ready to buy.  We ended up with 3 rugs, all handmade.  One runner, one 5x7 and one 6x9.  I am extremely happy.  They are beautiful.  All of them are handmade using silk and wool with natural vegetable dyes.  Because of the dye and materials used, they actually change color depending on the light and the angle from which they are viewed!

Below is an image of a handmade Oushak (our rug type) that has similar colors to one of ours.  I can't wait to display them in our new home!!  To check out more pictures, search "Uzbek Carpets" on facebook.  Esref has pictures of his carpet selection that are a good example of what you might find here.


 Lamps
I just recently discovered these Turkish mosaic lamps.  Several of my friends had them in their homes here, and I always noticed how beautiful and unique they looked.  Apparently, they are a pretty famous Turkish export, that again, we can get very cheaply here.  I ended up with 2 smaller table lamps that i think will look awesome in our house in DC.

  Pashminas
Oh ladies!!  Let me tell you, the pashminas are wonderful!!! A man in the Alley sells them for $10 here.  He also exports the same thing to be sold at Neiman Marcus for over $100!!!  Again, you would be crazy to live here for any amount of time and not purchase at least a couple.  I think my grand total was 4, but I have many friends with whole closets full of them.  Wonderful!!

Furniture
Other than the rugs, this was the thing that I heard about the most before coming here.  The furniture stores in the Alley will make you just about anything for a fraction of what it would cost you Stateside.  I know I sound like a broken record, but you would be crazy not to take advantage.  I don't know anyone who didn't get at least one thing made.  Most folks I know got completely new furniture sets in every room while here. You can simply take them a picture of what you like, and they will make you something identical (or very similar).  I took them pictures from Pottery Barn and got a TV console, bookcases, a bar (for Ryan...don't get me started), a chair recovered, an ottoman/coffee table and a computer desk.  All of this for around $1500.  Crazy cheap.  If you are curious, look up "Aydin's Furniture" on facebook.  He posts pictures frequently of what he's created.

Our leather ottoman that can be converted to a coffee table that is hollow inside for extra storage!

Our computer desk...before knobs were added.
Shotgun
This one was completely Ryan, and was actually done within the first year of our time here.  Turkey is apparently famous for something called Huglu Shotguns.  So Ryan got one.  As did my dad.  They make the gun to your specifications and Ryan was pleased.  It is waiting for us in Alabama.


I'd say we have done pretty well for ourselves!!
 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

I've done a lot of things over the past 2 years that I never imagined I could or would do.  And, I've done them all at least fairly well.  So, I think that qualifies me to dole out a least a little of what I've learned so that it could be of some help or service to others who happen to find themselves in similar circumstances

Living Abroad
  • Don't spend your time wondering why this or that isn't done like it is at home.  You are not home. Try to embrace, or at the very least accept, the differences.
  • Realize that homesickness is inevitable at some point.  It does not mean that you are weak or not cut out for living abroad.  It is just part of the experience.
  • Learn from the culture of the country you live in.  Don't be so set in your American ways that you can't see that some things are just done better elsewhere.  Allow the experience to change you, even if it is just a little.
  • Cultivate international friendships. 
  • When you return home, accept that you will be different. You will view your home differently and the world differently.  It changes you from the inside out.  And accept that others may or may not understand. But regardless, don't spend all your time talking about your experience.  It is annoying to people 99% of the time.
  • If you are hesitant to live abroad and the opportunity presents itself, DO IT.  It is easier than you think.  You are stronger than you think.  If Sarah Thompson from Montgomery Alabama can do it, trust me, you can too.
  • Make the most of your time overseas.  Travel, travel, travel.  See as much as you can.  This wide world is so full of amazing things to see and do and learn.  Get out there!!
  • Try to learn at least a little of the language of your new home.  I wish I had done more of this.  It makes you feel so much more confident when out and about.  After 2 years, I finally feel like I have learned enough conversational phrases to get my point across in most of the more common situations.  I am FAR from even a little fluent, but I can tell that with each phrase I master, I feel less nervous going out.
  • Keep a blog or journal of your experiences and emotions.
  • Be respectful of the culture.  This is especially important in the Middle East.  You are a visitor.  You are also a representative of the United States, whether you realize it or not.  This is the thing that foreigners resent about Americans the most, or at least in my experience it is.  You don't have to agree with something to be respectful.  We would expect the same of visitors to our country.
  • Encourage people to visit you.  When they see you in your new home, it increases their understanding of your new life, and they can relate to you on a much deeper level.
Enough for now.  More to come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

About the Blog.....

Several people have asked me what's to become of this little blog when the Stebbins are no longer "Incirlikin Good".  I have to admit, I enjoy blogging much more than I thought I would.  It has been a great way to capture this piece of our lives. 

But as we get ready to go home, I just don't know if I see the point anymore.  This blog was very much a topical one about living life in Turkey.  It will, obviously, not be about that anymore.  I will have lost my "angle", so to speak.  Would it be worth it?

I am considering continuing, although in a much more abridged and different way.  This blog would cease to be public, and could only be accessed with a password.  It would transform into, let's face it, a way for the grandparents to keep up with W. 

We will see.  Right now, we are still here.  So posting will continue.  I will probably even post a few times when we  stateside to document our "re-entry" into American culture.  After that, who knows?  Stay tuned.......

Accentuating the Positives

In no particular order, here are some of the little blessings that are making our time in transition a little easier. Better to focus on the positives, right?
  •  1. The current renters of our house in DC have been fabulous to us. Jenn has been emailing me the most helpful info on the area and our neighborhood. I already feel plugged in, and we haven't even gotten there yet!
  •  2. My friend Kimberly has opened her home to us so W can play with her 3 boys. Her twins are W's age, and her other son is a year older. The kids have a blast, I enjoy some adult conversation, and the time passes quickly. It has been great, and I am so thankful for her. 
  •  3. So far, the heat has been bearable. There is a cool breeze in the shade with makes being outside tolerable. It is supposed to be 107 over the weekend, but I will cross that bridge when we get to it. 
  •  4 I have been emailing with a friend as she and her family have made the decision to move overseas as well. It isn't Turkey, but it is cool to see how God is already using my experience to help others. I see so much of my pre-Turkey self in my friend, and I can't wait to follow their adventure in Guam!
  •  5. It looks like our car and household goods will arrive at the about the same time we will. If so, that will be a HUGE help!
  • WE ARE NOW UNDER A MONTH LEFT!!!!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Pep Talk to....Myself.

(Begin rant)

Put a fork in me.

I. AM. DONE.

Done with international living.  Done with Turkey.  And certainly done with this tiny hotel room that has become our home until July 10.

I am trying, I really am.  I am trying to stay in the present and enjoy our last few weeks in Small Town America.  I am really trying to stay busy so we don't just sit here in this cave.  But we can only do so much here.  Our options are very limited.  And our friend group is becoming more limited with each airplane departure.  It is just hard.

(End rant)

Thankfully, last night's sermon helped.  The preacher reminded me that in the military we have 2 sets of assignments.  One from the government, and a higher one from God.  God ordained and planned my time here.  And I have to believe that there is a reason I am leaving on July 10.  I am meant to be here and meant to be used by Him until the very moment I walk in that plane.

I have done so well here.  I have exceeded my own expectations.  For 2 years, I have been strong, positive, and downright joyful at times when I might earlier have crumbled.  I have taken a hard assignment and, as my mom says, "bloomed where I was planted."  I can't quit now with the finish line in sight. 

Finish strong, Sarah.  Finish strong.

**In possibly related news, I think I am going to let my passport expire.  Thanks for the idea, Laura Beene!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TLF

What does this acronym mean?  Could be a variety of things.....all probably more pleasant than the actual meaning: Temporary Living Facility.  Basically, it is an extended stay hotel.  And it is our home until we board a plane on July 10.  There is no bathtub, no dishwasher and very limited space.  We are on top of each other, and we are a small family. 

In a way, it is the best thing for me right now.  It is erasing ANY desire that might be left in me to stay here in Turkey.  By the time our departure rolls around, I think I might jump on the plane.  TLF is just another step in my gradual withdrawal from this base and all the activities within it.

Another round of friends leaves this weekend....I think it will be my 4,000th goodbye.  With each plane that departs, it becomes a little easier, and the day of our departure gets a little closer.  Things are definitely winding down here!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Congrats, Major Stebbins!

Ryan pinned on the new rank of Major this week. We had a wonderful time celebrating with close friends and work colleagues.  As one friend put it, I know he will do great things with that Oak Leaf!


For Wendi

Forgive my lack of presence on this blog lately. Life has gotten crazy. Really crazy. Packing, moving, transitioning, adjusting. But I am back with yet another goodbye post for one of my dearest friends here-Wendi. I "met" Wendi over the internet about 3 months or so before we moved here. Someone I barely knew at my Texas MOPS group heard I was moving to Turkey and told me that she had an online friend moving to the same place. From the moment I got in touch with her, this Turkey thing seemed more and more doable. I would have a friend. And she had 2 boys, right around W's age. Maybe, with any luck, they would like each other. Fast forward 2 years: W truly thinks that Wendi's boys are his brothers. We have spent countless hours riding big wheels, playing in parks, watching movies, and just being together. And Wendi has become as close as a sister, sharing the ups, downs, highs, and lows of this place.

 To Wendi: I can't say this about many people in my life, but your friendship was and is a direct answer to prayer. God knew that I needed someone like you, and sent you to me. I will always remember our driveway talks and crazy adventures (Cyprus, Greece, and Istanbul just to name a few). I have loved watching our children grow and change together and it breaks my heart that they will soon be separated. W feels so safe, comfortable, and loved when he is with your family. I know that can't be duplicated by anyone else.

 We have talked before about the fact that we have a friendship where we can just both sit and be quiet, no words need to said. So, I will leave this post at that. There are so many other things I could say right now-but you already know them all, because you know my heart so well. And that is the thing I will remember the most.


My Apology to Darcy Johnson

I wasn't the coolest kid I high school. You want evidence? I was on the literary magazine staff. We weren't cool enough for the yearbook staff, so we collected creative writing pieces from students to publish in an annual we called "Cento". I remember days and days of combing through submissions to choose the pieces we would eventually use. I particularly remember one poem, written by my good friend (to this day) Darcy. She is the daughter of an Air Force pilot. They were stationed in Montgomery from our 8th grade year until we graduated. I don't remember the whole poem, but I can vividly remember that it was about the smell of cardboard boxes, and the feelings that that smell evoked for her. I thought the poem was pretty dumb. A whole poem about a cardboard smell?

 Really?

 Now, as we finish pack out #3 in our Air Force adventure, I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Darcy Johnson. The poem wasn't dumb at all. It was brilliant. And I totally get now how one singular smell of cardboard can make your emotions go crazy. The smell signals the beginning of a long process that has become all too familiar. Goodbyes, packing, living out of suitcases, traveling, unpacking, starting over. I get it Darcy. I get it now.

 Here we go again.......

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In the Moment--Part 2

Here's Ryan's "In the moment list" in no particular order

  • Attending the 2011 British Open
  • Winning the 2011 Base Championship
  • Going to Rome w/my smoking hot bride
  • Spending time in Europe w/family during the Christmas season
  • Establishing G.O.L.F. Gentlemen's Preserve
  • Working in the best squadron on base while caring for families every day
  • Friendships.  Playing game night and watching college football into the hours of the night
  • Watching William grow into a little boy and playing w/his friends


Mother's Day

My friend Wendi emailed me a few weeks ago with what seemed at the time to be a great idea.  The base was offering an overnight spa getaway by train for moms on Mothers Day.  Everything here in Turkey is amazingly cheap, so the whole thing-from room, to food, to transport, to spa treatments, would run me only a little over 100 dollars.  Sounds too good to be true, right?

Right.

The train ride was nice enough (for Turkey), and the hotel wasn't the worst place I have ever stayed-but my standards have lowered quite a bit since living here.  But the "spa"?  It was actually a Turkish bath, or hamam.  I had heard about them, but never had even a little desire to experience them.  But experience I did.  I won't go into too much detail on a public blog, but I will say that I have NEVER been cleaner in my entire life.  I also don't think there is a doctor on earth who "knows" me as well as my spa attendant.

The best part of the weekend was the friends, as it usually is.  Wendi and Linda were such fun and always make things so much more enjoyable.  I loved getting to make one last Turkish traveling memory with them!

Linda and I before the hamam.  Look at us, still so excited and innocent.  Little did we know what awaited us.....

The dining car on the way there.  Love these friends!

Peace out, Turkey.  It's been real.

Friday, May 18, 2012

In The Moment

Ever had a moment that you couldn't believe that you were actually living?  It feels almost like you are floating outside yourself, and have trouble grasping that this is your life.  I have to admit that, before Turkey, these moments were few and far between for me.  But in the last two years, I have experienced it time after time.  So, in no particular order, I present you with my top "Sarah Stebbins from Montgomery, Alabama is actually doing this" moments:

  • Having a Good Friday service in St. Peter's Grotto at Antioch.
  • Watching the sunset over the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
  • Driving through the snowy Austrian Alps with my little family
  • Singing "Happy Birthday to Jesus" at Christmas Mass in one of the largest Muslim cities in the world (Istanbul).
  • Sleeping in a cave hotel in Cappadocia
  • Staring slack-jawed at the wonders of the Vatican
  • Listening to our chaplain read from Corinthians, Phillippians, and Thessolonians while we were standing in the ruins of Corinth, Phillippi, and Thessoloniki.
What a ride it's been...........

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sarahbee

I remember being a nervous wreck the day that W and I traveled solo to Turkey to meet Ryan.  We had made it safely and relatively soundly to Baltimore, and had made our way to the military terminal with the others traveling overseas on the rotator.  It seemed like everyone I talked to who wasn't in uniform deploying to Afghanistan was going to Germany.  I couldn't find anyone moving to Turkey.  Then, I spotted this sweet family and introduced myself.  What do you know??  They were moving to Incirlik.  Thus my friendship with Sarah and Dan and their little one, Peter begun. Once we landed in Turkey, we discovered that there were so many Sarah's on base that we all had to take nicknames.  So I have called her Sarahbee ever since.

To Sarahbee:
 To say that you have been an uplifting spirit in my life here is a huge understatement.  You are truly one of the most serene, joyful, and kind people I have ever met.  You just exude it.  Your smile just lights up a room, and others can feel your joy.  I never leave hanging out with you without feeling like some of you has rubbed off on me (which is a very good thing indeed!)  I will always treasure our walks and park playdates, and all the great conversations that took place in those times.  Thank you for being a listening ear for me when I needed it and the advice when I asked for it.  I will never forget you or your sweet family, and will miss you dearly!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Unexpected Surprise

You know that last post on goodbyes?  How they are so hard because we don't know when or where we will see these people again?  Well, God has a sense of humor.  Just 4 days after I wrote that post, we had a cool reunion with a great friend from Texas right here in Turkey.

Chad and Nicki wanted to start a small group at our church in San Antonio.  We were looking for a small group at the time.  So we met them out for dinner and decided that we would join them in this new group.  Others soon joined.  We shared each others joys, struggles, victories, and defeats.  It was and still is an amazing group of friends.  I remember when W was only about 5 days old, my mom and I had to take him to a checkup at the big hospital where he was born.  Ryan had to work.  Chad met us there, helped us park, and then made sure we were settled in the waiting room before he left.  That's the kind of guy he is.  That's the kind of people they all are.  We miss them.

Anyways, Chad and Nicki moved to California a year before we left.  Then, about 5 months ago, Chad deployed to Afghanistan.  He is on his way home safe and sound (Praise God!) and stopped off in Turkey on the way.  We met him at the terminal and spent a few minutes catching up.  What an unexpected blessing during a time when goodbyes have been so tough. 

Thank God, for the reminder that paths will cross again and that friendships never die.  I needed it this week.

Safe travels home, Chad.  Nicki-he is on his way to you!!!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yeah! Yet Another Post on Goodbyes!!

I realize that this is about my 8,165th post about goodbyes.  This is me, beating a dead horse.  I know this, but I can't help it.  If this blog is supposed to be a true narrative of our time here, then saying goodbye is a big part of that story.

Today, Casey and Angelica left.  They are the first two-and they are on the same flight out of Adana as I write this.  You would think that by now (Air Force move #3) this would be easier for me.  And truly, I have learned not to attach myself to places.  My mom is always surprised at how easily I can pull away from a home, a neighborhood, and a city for the last time.  It's not that I don't feel emotion, but I just don't let myself get attached to the "stuff" of one assignment or another.

The people, on the other hand, are what kills me.  Beating a dead horse again-I cannot put into words how intensely you bond with people at remote assignments like Incirlik.  They are family-that is no exaggeration. You see them every day, day in and day out, for 2 straight years. It almost feels like what I would think a divorce would feel like.  It hurts.

I know this is a small world and an even smaller Air Force.  My Texas best bud, Lisa, will live a few blocks from me in Virginia.  I know I will see these people again.  But it won't be the same.....and that is what makes it even tougher.  I am not only saying goodbye to friends, but to a part of my life that is ending.

Yuck. Don't like this one bit!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Turkey Family

Our good friend (and W's pediatrician) Linda has been experimenting with photography lately.  She was so kind to take a few shots of our family.  We went out to some railroad tracks near the base-appropriate if you know our son's love of trains.  What a great souvenir of our time here.  Thank Linda!!






Saturday, April 28, 2012

These Two....

Continuing on with posts dedicated to the friends we have made here, let me introduce you to Casey and Logan.

I met these two in my first weeks here.  I actually got in touch with Casey first via a mutual friend.  It has been amazing how God orchestrated my relationships here even before my arrival-but I digress.  Ryan and I quickly began to spend our weekends with these two (and their husbands) as well as others in their friend group.  Game nights, football parties, and cookouts were common experiences.  It isn't often that you find women that you like and get along with, and your husbands are equally compatible.  That has been the great blessing of these friendships.  I know that not only have I made lifelong friends, but Ryan has too.

Casey- Ummm, I am nervous about this one, since I know you will be reading it and will demand perfection :).  Thank you for always being honest and authentic.  I can always count on you for that.  We all need friends who will shoot straight with us-even in Turkey.   Your humor and sarcasm has also made Turkey a little more fun for me.  On a more serious note, thank you for allowing me to walk with you through a tough time you had here. You may not realize it, but being your friend during that challenge helped me to grow too.  Watching you and Jordan handle adversity with grace and faith was a wonderful example for me.  I can't wait to hold your little one and tell him how much I prayed for him, and what a miracle he is to his Mama (and to me too).

Logan- I think out of all my friends here, I probably most closely identify with you.  Both SEC sorority girls who love college football-and the similarities don't end there.  When things got tough here, I would always think to myself.."Logan is doing this, and doing it well.  So can I."  Thank you for being a positive, happy force in my life.  Even when your man was gone for 6 months, I didn't hear one complaint leave your lips.  You are also just such fun.  When I am with you, I relax more, smile more, and enjoy life more. Isn't that the very definition of friendship??

Luckily, both of these girls (and soon to be Mamas!) will live within driving distance of us, so the farewells should be a little less painful.  So ladies, it's not "goodbye", it's "see you soon!"..........

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happiness is.....



......a purple and green cupcake.  And bare feet in the grass.

Have a great day!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Tough Stuff

A lot of things about living here are tough-or at least tougher-than living in the States.  But I don't think anything is more difficult for this tiny community than when we lose one of our own.  It has happened far too many times in my two years here.  And in the last month, it has happened twice.  Two freak accidents claimed the lives of 2 young airmen-both from the same squadron.

For you non-military folks, a squadron is sort of like a department in a corporation.  There is the Contracting Squadron, the Security Forces Squadron (law enforcement), the Engineering Squadron, and so on and so forth.  Except on bases, squadrons aren't just where you work, they become your family-especially if you are here without your own. There are squadron picnics, family days, and the list goes on and on.

So, the Security Forces Squadron has had 2 deaths in 2 months.  These kids (and by kids, I mean KIDS-some aren't even 20 yet) have had to process losing 2 brothers.  And they are having to do it thousands of miles from home.  It's just tough stuff.

And it isn't just tough for the guys who knew the fallen.  It's tough for all of us.  This is a small community.  We are all each other has over here.  We each feel it in one way or another.  One friend's husband was a first responder to this latest accident, another's husband works in this Squadron as a supervisor and was at the hospital with the deceased.  And my husband?  His squadron is responsible for Mortuary Affairs.  He left our house at 2am this morning to transfer this soldier to a proper case for his last flight back home.  Ryan and his co-workers made sure that the flag was neat and secured on top.  And then they drove over to the Flight Line around 3am.  Ryan told me that the entire squadron was waiting-and standing at attention-along with our Wing Commander, Command Chief, and others.  The honor guard took this soldier on board the cargo plane, and then the base leadership gave the casket a dignified farewell.

Tough stuff.

Please pray for this little base.  Pray for these kids as they go out everyday, even here, and do dangerous things.  Pray for all the broken hearts-both here and back home. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Peak Into Our Future

Unless something strange were to happen (which it always could-trust me, I am living in Turkey), you are looking at our new home-at least for the next 2 years.  We are excited and so thankful to God for His provision.  It is only 2 miles from Ryan's metro stop, which means his commute will be short.  There is a neighborhood pool and 2 parks for toddlers.  It is close to all the big sites of the area, but is still on a quiet, tree-lined street.  W's school is only about 5 minutes or so away.  It seems perfect for us. 

Come and visit!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

83 Days......

...and counting.  We have that many days left to spend before we board a plane and say farewell to Incirlik Air Base and this crazy, surreal, almost out-of-body experience we have lived the last 2 years.  I have had many questions about what goes on during a military move and how it is different from a civilian one-so here are some FAQ's-

Who pays for everything? The Air Force does.  There is a Travel Management Office (TMO for short) here that coordinates all the details of a move.  Pack out dates, car shipment, airfare, etc.  All taken care of by good ole' Uncle Sam.  We do have a weight limit (determined by rank) that we must adhere to and there are restrictions on air travel, but other than that-it is a really sweet deal.

How long does your "stuff" take to get to you? When we moved here, it was right around 3 months.  It comes in crates by boat.  The car was about the same length of time.  You do have something called unaccompanied baggage.  It is a separate, smaller shipment that is supposed to get to your destination quicker.  Most people pack essential things (towels, plates, TV, microwave) in this shipment. However, there is no guarantee it will arrive early.  Ours arrived the same day as our larger shipment when we got here.  At overseas bases, loaner furniture is provided until your shipment comes.  In the States, no such luck.  Air mattress, here we come!!

Do you do any of your own packing? No. I try to clean out and organize, but the packers must pack everything themselves for liability reasons.  And so far, we have had good luck.  Not a lot of damaged items in our moves, knock on wood!

Any other burning questions out there?

The next few months will be c-r-a-z-y, that's for sure!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Rewind

This is probably my favorite picture that we have taken since we moved to the Middle East.  And we have taken A LOT of pictures.  When I look at this image, I think it perfectly encapsulates our experience in Turkey.  The huge mosque in the background is a giant reminder that we are NOT home.  This place is strange and foreign and presents us with many challenges.  But the three little boys running towards the mosque aren't paying any attention to their surroundings.  They are being toddler boys who are running in a park.  Life goes on.  Birthdays, holidays, friendships, work.  All of it keeps happening, whether you live in Adana or Alabama.  It's what you make of it.  And these boys choose not to let their surroundings change or define them-whether they know it or not.  And I hope that's what I've done in my time here.  Hopefully, I am leaving this place a little better, a little wiser, and with a little more perspective.....

.....but I am still just Sarah too.  A southern girl who loves college football and her friends and her family.  And I'm a girl who can't wait to get home.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Goodbyes........

......are starting.

 Ugh, this is going to be hard.

 I have put off thinking about it for awhile now, but with every moving truck I see parked in front of my friend's houses, the reality of all of our departures is beginning to sink in.  Today, I went to a brunch at Angelica's house.  She packs out Tuesday and will be on an airplane May 1.  It was fun as always, but the undercurrent of sadness was almost tangible at times.  There were gifts distributed, photos shared, and memories that we all laughed at.  Simply put, these friends hold a place in my heart that no one else can touch.  We have shared such an intense, stressful, and life changing experience together.  I cannot expect or hope to replicate this in DC, or anywhere else we might live.  It is unique to this place, with these people.

I hope to blog about my friends individually over the next few weeks as a way of remembering them. My eventual plan is to get this blog made into a book as a reminder of our Turkish adventure.  It wouldn't be complete without a record of the friendships.  So without further ado......

To Angelica: You were one of the first friends I met here.  I remember being drawn to your warm personality and adorable children and exotic Spanish accent.  As we got to know each other, I discovered you to be one of the most tender, kindhearted, and loyal friends that I have ever had.  You have such wisdom in so many areas.  I particularly admire how you mother your children and how your family grows together. I also so admire how you desire to walk ever closer with the Lord.  Thank you for being an example for me to follow. You are funny, spicy, and super sweet all at the same time.  And your hospitality!!  I have amazing memories of tapas parties, brunches, and dinners with your sweet family.  Thank you for your friendship over these last 2 years.  I love you, friend.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Bloggers

From Amy (Nana):
 Turkey did not disappoint!  As I was preparing for my trip, I was told not to have high expectations for the area around Adana.  However, I found the area to exceed my expectations.  I saw very modern cars, roadways were good, and the highrise apartments looked very modern.  We did see poorer areas that reminded me of my mission trips to Mexico.  The people were SO friendly and seemed to go out of their way to be welcoming.

 The base also exceeded my expectations.  It is exactly like a small American town. Ryan and Sarah feel very safe.  I loved the cul-de-sac street where they live, and the many parks that are within a minute's walk of them.  We stayed in the base hotel, which was wonderful and very comfortable.  W even had 2 sleepovers there with us!  We had a great time shopping and I will be bringing home lots of souvenirs.  Tomorrow, we end our adventure in Adana and continue on to other parts of Turkey.  We look forward to seeing the family again around Thanksgiving!

From Karen:
  I don't know exactly what I expected Turkey to be, but what I found was a study of contrasts. A very modern mall with an ice skating rink in the center, across the street from Kurdish slums. Modern American cars share the highway with cows, sheep, and horse drawn carts.
  The American base is much nicer than I expected, with nice neighborhoods and well kept yards. The children have many play areas and many friends to play with. What I found really impressive,  was the comradery amongst the spouses and the family's, and I think that's what Sarah and Ryan will miss. The thing that I am so jealous about is the roses! They have beautiful foliage with absolutely no signs of rust, mildew, or black spot! I can hardly believe how beautiful they are.
  I will be going home with wonderful memories of this trip, and I want to give my thanks to Ryan and Sarah for being such wonderful hosts. Especially Sarah who went out of her comfort zone to show us around the Adana area, the alley, and put up with all of our shopping. I am going home with a lot more than what I came with, even a Turkish carpet. For Ryan who drove us to Tarsus, a place he had never ventured before.
  I thank God for our time with Ryan, Sarah, and W, and am looking forward to our next adventure to Istanbul and Ephesus.

......after reading this, Amy says "ditto, ditto, ditto!"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Pictures.....

I could do the normal, expected, traditional thing and post the normal, expected, and traditional Easter pictures we took today.  They were cute and looked great.  If you want to take a peek, click here to view my facebook Easter album.  Instead, I want to leave you with these 3 images of our day:

Perfection.

Doesn't this face just scream "Easter joy"?

There are eggs almost everywhere-- but probably not in there, buddy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun with Nana and Karen

Ryan's mom Amy (Nana) and her friend Karen arrived yesterday.  We are thrilled to have them.  Just like when my mom came, I could not be more appreciative of them spending the time and money it takes to come all the way here to see us.  W is lapping up all the attention and is loving every minute.  They have only been here a day, but we have already played with W's friends at a park, had sprinkler time, and taken an extended shopping excursion to the Alley (those girls can SHOP!)

We are looking forward to the rest of the week and showing them around our part of Turkey before they finish their trip in Istanbul.  Look for a "guest post" from them towards the end of their stay!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Busy, Busy!

We are getting ready for a fun and busy few days.  What's going on?
  • Nana is on her way.  Ryan's mom and her friend are traveling here after spending a few days in Paris.  We can't wait to have them and show them around our part of Turkey!
  • Easter, Easter, Easter!  Egg dyeing, egg hunts, parties, and a church picnic will all take place in the next few days.
  • We are getting several pieces of furniture made in the Alley (the area right outside the base.)  
  • When Ryan receives his final orders-which could be any time-we will schedule our household goods and car to be shipped back to the States and start to make our return plans.
I am praying for a safe and blessed Easter for all.  My specific prayer (via Beth Moore) is that someone who badly needs "spiritual CPR" will have their heart awakened anew by the miracle of Christ's resurrection.  Would you join me in that prayer?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday to a Toddler

While trying to tell W the story of Palm Sunday, I explained that the children waved palm branches and sung songs and shouted "Hosanna!" as Jesus passed by.  He thought about that for a second, and then said, "No Mama, I think they waved the leaves and sang the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song. Jesus likes that song better."

Maybe so, son.  Maybe so. :)

Trip Recap

We are back from Germany.  What a great week!

Tuesday:We took the rotator up to Ramstein with the other award nominees from our base.  Due to a funding issue, not all spouses went, but there were a few.  We checked into the big hotel at Ramstein that connects to the awesome BX.  I can't describe how it feels to walk in there for the first time after being in Turkey for awhile.  It was refreshing to be in a normal, American store.  It felt like home.  After my initial walk-thru, we met our good friends Luke and Jessie for dinner at Chili's.  Ryan and Luke have been stationed together twice.  We are both heading to the Pentagon this summer.  It was great to catch up with them...and to get some Chili's!!

Wednesday:I went with Ryan in the morning to the first set of briefings.  It was interesting...but I decided to skip out after a little bit.  The best part of the morning was hearing our host for the week speak.  Gen. Welsh is the 4 star general in charge of all Air Force operations in Europe.  To say that he is an impressive man is a giant understatement.  His speeches are some of the best that I have heard from anyone.  After he gave opening remarks, there was a group photo op outside.  Along with another spouse, I hung back to watch.  We suddenly heard a voice behind us asking why we weren't in the picture.  We turned around to see Gen. Welsh.  The other woman said "we aren't nominees sir, we are just spouses", to which the general responded "there isn't any such thing as 'just' a spouse."  According to the rumor mill, Gen. Welsh is in line to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff and be a member of the Joint Chiefs.  I couldn't think of anybody better.

That evening, we attended an icebreaker at the Officer's Club.  We were joined by all the other European nominees as well as all the Wing Commanders from Europe's Air Force bases.  They were having a separate conference and we combined many events.  It was good to meet other people living life overseas and get different perspectives from different locations.  It was a great group of people and I enjoyed getting to know  them all.

Thursday: While Ryan toured the Rhine with the other nominees, I was invited by another spouse to take a tour with her aunt Sandy, who lives in Germany.  Sandy is actually a USO guide, so I felt like I was getting my own private tour!  We went to Kaiserslautern for sightseeing and shopping (I LOVE H&M!!) and then to another smaller village to tour.  It was such a fun day! 

Friday: Ryan had a day worth of briefings and functions, so I laid low in the hotel, went to the BX, got a haircut, and read The Hunger Games.  Then we both got ready for the evening banquet at the Officers Club.  First was a medallion ceremony, where the nominees are all presented with their official medallions by the general and command chief.  Then, we headed  into the ballroom for the banquet.  We had great food, entertainment, and fellowship.  I truly didn't realize how big of a deal this was.  I am so proud of Ryan.  Even though no one from Turkey won in their category, we all had a great time and will take back priceless memories.

Pics to come!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ahhh, Germany Again.

Ryan and I are heading to Germany this week for a few days.  This visit will be different though.  This is a "business trip".  Ryan is our base's nominee for the CGO (company grade officer) of the Year.  We are going to a banquet where they will announce the winner for all European bases.  From there, the winner competes at the Air Force level.  Our days will be scheduled for us for the most part.  We will have meet and greets, dinners, and meetings to attend.  We also will make a return trip to the Rhine River for a day cruise. 

In our free time, I am looking forward to a few things:
  • The Ramstein BX.  Oh my goodness.  This thing is huge.  The selection is almost overwhelming to someone used to Turkey.  It is wonderful.  Oh, and there is a Subway in the food court!!!!!!!
  • Speaking of restaurants: Macaroni Grille and Chili's are also there.  It is almost too much for my heart to handle!!
  • Feeling like we are "home".  I know it is Germany, but to someone used to living in the Middle East, it is practically America.  "Germerica", as Ryan calls it.
  • Time away with Ryan.  We have had a tough, busy few weeks.  We need this badly. 
Have a great week, blog friends!

Saturday Shower

Along with Wendi and Logan, I helped give our good friend Casey her long-awaited baby shower yesterday.  It was a beautiful, sunny, friend-filled day.  Casey has had a long journey to get to this point, so the celebration was even more special.  Making priceless memories with wonderful people.......that's what I call a great day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Three Year Old Funnies

Me: W, I am going to the coffee shop to see some of my friends.
W: OK Mommy.  Member, be sure not to hit.
Me: I'll keep that in mind, buddy.

As a praise song we were singing along with was ending....
W: Mommy?
Me: Yes, buddy?
W: That was some good stuff.

Upon going to get him from a nap, I was wearing sweats and a t-shirt.
W: I sorry.
Me: Sorry for what?
W: You throwed up.
Me: I didn't throw up buddy.
W: Look at those clothes.  They are uh-gusting! (disgusting)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Planning Mode

I knew this would happen.  In the few days since we have received our assignment to DC, I have been in full-on planning mode.  Houses, schools, shopping, commutes-nothing is being left uncovered.  I am contacting several people who live there for advice.  This move is occupying my time and my thoughts. 

You know what I want to occupy my thoughts and time?  My amazing friends, some of whom are only weeks away from moving.  I need to soak up every moment with them.  W's sweet little buddies.  I need to be planning more playdates than ever.  The 3-4 great parks that are less than a minute from my house.  We need to be taking fullest advantage.

Mark my words: I will miss Turkey.  I will move and get to a fantastic new place and probably feel isolated and alone for awhile.  I will have "reverse culture shock".

So this week, I plan to step back, take a deep breath, and just enjoy the time I have.  I plan to live in the moment here- whether they are good moments, or, um- Turkey ones.  I plan to leave with no regrets.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the Move!

Two years ago, I received one of the most shocking phone calls of my life.  Ryan told me we would be moving to Turkey, and my whole world sort of imploded for a few days.  As assignment time drew near again, both Ryan and I have been praying for faith and peace about wherever the Air Force wants to move us........but we were not so secretly hoping to come back home.  The last few weeks have been stressful, with friends and coworkers receiving their assignments, and nothing for us.  But last night, Ryan's blackberry buzzed with great news......we are moving home!!!!



We don't have exact details, but will be leaving Turkey sometime this summer (late June/early July) and will be relocating in the Washington DC area.  Ryan's job could put him at the Pentagon, or at nearby Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. We just aren't sure yet.  But we are sure that we will be on US soil.  And we couldn't be happier about it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leaving His Mark

**Warning: Bragging about the hubs ahead.  Skip if this irritates you (as it sometimes does me!)

So, it goes without saying that I am a pretty blessed chick.  And somewhere at the top of my blessings list is the name Ryan Stebbins.  I am not going to be sappy or cheesy, but those of you who know him in real life can attest to the fact that he is just a really great guy.   And last night, it was my privilege to watch him get recognized for excellence in his Air Force career.  We got all dressed up and went to the Annual Awards banquet (or "fancy dance" as W calls it).  As a nominee, we were introduced and walked on a red carpet underneath swords.  The ballroom was beautifully decorated and the live jazz group played softly during dinner.  And then, right at the end, my husband's name was called as the winner of Incirlik's CGO (Company Grade Officer) of the Year.  This means that of all the lieutenants and captains on this base, he was chosen as the best.  We will get to travel to Germany now and compete at the USAFE level (all bases in Europe will send their award winners.)  Adding to this, he was recently named the top officer for his career field (Personnel) out of all the bases in Europe! 

You know what the coolest thing was?  Ryan's two good friends were also nominated for the award last night.  And we were all routing for each other.  Not the fake kind of routing where you say one thing with your mouth and feel another inside, but really pulling for each other earnestly.  I know Ryan could honestly say he would be just as happy if Luke or Brandon's name would have been called instead of his.  What a cool community we get to live in.  What a great supportive support system we have.

Congrats Ryan.  You deserve every good thing that comes your way!
The official pic!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

You'd Think........

After 1.5 years in the Middle East, you would think that I would be used to the nuances of this culture.  True, most of the time I am not surprised by what I see.  It isn't new or noteworthy to me anymore.  But sometimes, I am still uncomfortable.

Case in point: our family outing to the mall today.  I barely noticed the shepherd grazing his cattle in the median of the interstate.  The insane driving almost seems normal now.  The horse drawn buggies hardly get a second glance.  Everything that would be strange to American eyes was uneventful and quite normal to me.

But I CAN NOT get used to the obsession with my blue-eyed boy.  Strangers scooping him up, handing me their cell, and asking me to take their picture with him.  I know they mean well.  They are gentle and kind and so complimentary.  It's not even that I am fearful for W's safety, because I truly am not.  I just don't think my Western self will ever completely get used to this.  I have come to expect it, and even prepare for it-but it always takes me aback when it actually happens.  I shutter to think how many Turkish cell phones have a picture of W on them.  One lady even made it her screensaver a couple months back.

The other thing I will never get used to?  The Turkish notion that lines are meant to be cut.  My mother experienced this first hand on her trip here.  In America, we have proper respect for a line.  We know we wait our turn-and most of the time, things go smoothly.  Over here, not so much.  I may think I am standing in line, but to a Turk I am just standing around.  They proceed to walk right in front of me.  It happens ALL THE TIME.  Today, it happened at McDonalds and the arcade.  I have experienced it in airports (customs is the worst), restaurants, shopping malls, and tourist sites.  Pushing, jostling, crowding. No order, just chaos.  At least that's how I see it.  They seem totally at ease with it.  It's how this culture does things.  They don't think they are being rude or pushy at all.

And then, there's this.....
Look closely....the car is full of chickens.  We see this kind of thing ALL THE TIME.

It makes me wonder how long you would have to live here before it truly becomes normal.  How long before my "Western-ness" would evaporate.  I guess I will never know.  But I can say this-2 years barely scratches the surface!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Enough

I am sure I have written more than a few posts about life in Turkey with the general theme of not having enough.  Enough selection at the commissary, enough square feet in my house, enough activities, enough hours in the day.  On my way home from the gym this evening, I put in a Chris Tomlin CD that I haven't listened to in awhile.  The song I chose?  "Your Grace is Enough".

YOUR GRACE is enough.

Sometimes I feel like I will never learn this lesson.  I never have to think very hard to find something I am lacking-whether material or emotional or spiritual.  It is an epidemic really.  Do I have enough money?  Am I getting enough exercise?  Do I do enough for my son?  Am I a good enough wife?  Good enough friend? Do I cook enough healthy meals for my family?  I could go on and on and on.

YOUR GRACE is enough.

End of story.  No conditions.  No other options.

Thank you God and thank you Chris Tomlin for that reminder today.  I needed it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Medallions, Birthdays, and Smoking Jackets

What do they all have in common?  Check out what's been going on here the last few weeks!

Ryan and his friend Luke showing off the medallions they received for being named finalists for the bases CGO (company grade officer) of the Year!  We will attend an awards banquet where the winner will be announced in a couple of weeks.  So proud of Ryan!

My awesome friend Brianna made me this incredible birthday cake!!  What a treat!

My surprise birthday dinner at the Club here on base.  We had a blast.

Ryan and his boys modeling their Valentine's gift.....old school style smoking jackets complete with their initials!

Such a fun night!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sick

Feel better, little buddy :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bucket List Revisited

Way back in November of 2010, I completed a "to-do" list of things I wanted to see and do while living in Turkey.  I thought it would be fun to check my progress now that we are entering the "home stretch" of our time here:

1. Visit Istanbul-Done.
2. Tour the Seven Churches(focus on Ephesus)-Still planning to go. 
3. Go to Cappadocia and stay in a cave hotel.-Done.
4. See a Whirling Dervish performance-Not happening.  Found out it is really strange and not worth it.
5. Ride a camel-W and Ryan have.  Does that count?
6. Visit Europe-I hit this one out of the park.  Germany twice, France, Austria, Italy, and Greece!
7. See Tarsus (no excuse for not checking this one off, it's only a 30 min. drive)-Done.
8. Go to Israel(this one will be a stretch)-Not likely.  Bummer.
9. Speak at least conversational Turkish- Evit. Cok guzel!!
10. Go to Antioch-Done.

Now for Ryan's "Turkducken List"

10) Read 10 books...read 8...close enough
9) Shoot under par for the course...did for nine holes + won the base championship...done
8) Run 1/2 marathon...nope, maybe before we PCS
7) Buy a shotgun (hey...Turkey makes the best guns in the world...when in Rome)...Check
6) Smoke a Texas style Brisket. I've already mastered Pork BBQ...when in Rome!...Texas Pride would be proud
5) Travel to Istanbul...check
4) See the Seven Churches and Ephesus...nope, maybe if time allows
3) Travel to Europe and see 3-4 countries...check, check, check, check
2) Get my handicap to 5 or lower....6.2, couple of months left
1) Surprise my wife with a mind blowing, thoughtful gift that will go down in the lores of husbandry for all to remember. AKA...I want a PS3 for Christmas so I need to start planning now....PS3--check, B-day on the way :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ahhhh, Turkey. Gotta Love It.

Check out this older entry from my friend Wendi's blog-"Life In The....".  It gives you a little glimpse into our world here.  We have learned that in most instances, it is an act of futility to ask the question "why?" here.  Instead, we just shake our head and mutter under our breath..."it's just Turkey.".

On we go......

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things I Am Thankful For Today

1.  Preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays-both for W and his mama!

2.  A fun Valentine's gift I am planning for Ryan

3.  Not one, but TWO new babies on the way!  Two different friends shared their news with me

4.  My new Zumba shoes-hopefully they will make class a little less painful-at least on my toes!

5.  Ryan's Grandma celebrating her 90th birthday with her kids at her side.  Special.
Happy Birthday to a special lady!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Desert Place

Blessed be your name,
when I'm found in the desert place,
though I walk through the wilderness,
Blessed be your name.

The above lyrics are from a verse of one of my favorite praise songs, "Blessed Be Your Name", by Matt Redman.  The main gist of the song- if you haven't heard it-is that we are to bless the Lord's name, regardless of the circumstances present in our lives.

I started thinking about this song, and specifically this verse, after a talk with my friend Sarah yesterday while our kids played on the playground.  She, like me, has had her ups and downs while in Turkey.  We were each discussing our journeys when she said something that struck me.  She referred to this time as her families "time is the desert".  As this idea rolled around in my brain, I realized that this is EXACTLY how I would describe the way I feel about my time here. 

Max Lucado once said "God orders our lives as He does nature....in seasons".  We all have "desert seasons" in our lives.  Some are more harsh or profound than others.  But regardless of the specific circumstance, they are times when much of our comfort and security are removed and we are forced to look at where we place our trust.  My time in Turkey has been just that. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying that the last year and a half of my life has been miserable.  Far from it. I don't want anyone to misunderstand that.  But it has at many times been uncomfortable.  It has felt at times almost as if I was living someone else's  life, floating above everything until the day we leave and things return to normal again.  Much like wandering in the desert. 

My prayer is that I will be better for my time in the desert.  I pray that I honor the Lord and am found faithful in this journey.  And I know this isn't my last time in the desert, but I am thankful that He will not leave me in the wilderness forever.

Blessed be his name.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unplugged

Another not-so-great thing about this base?  Scheduled power and water outages.  They normally occur for 5-6 hours on a weekend day, and usually, they are pretty well spaced out.  But not this week.  This week we will have TWO power outage days.  All non-essential activities are cancelled-so that means no school for W.

As my friends and I were panicking and scrambling to figure out what to do with these kids for 6 hours (parks were not an option as it has been raining continuously for 5 days), I thought about the fact that for a long, long time-there was no such thing as electricity.  And people had children and they didn't lose their minds raising them.  We are just so used to constant stimulation from TV, movies, and even music that even a few moments of quiet seems like torture.  So I am trying not to complain and look at it as a positive time for my son.

But I can't cook.  Can't do laundry.  Can't open the fridge to feed my boy.  And this will happen twice this week.  I guess I should expect this though.  After all, you get what you pay for-and we pay no utilities here in Turkey. 

So life goes on this week.  Just a little quieter and darker for the time being.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I get lots of questions about living life in the Middle East-everything from food, to language, to culture.  One question stands out though-"what is the one thing about Turkey that was the hardest to get used to or strangest to you?" I honestly had many things to choose from.  However, in thinking about the question, one thing stands out above the rest: the Muslim Call to Prayer.

I wrote a post on the Muslim faith some months ago, but didn't include much about the Call to Prayer.  Muslims take prayer very seriously-it is one of the main tenants of their faith.  We hear the Call to Prayer 5 times a day.  The times are determined by the sunrise and sunset.  At most mosques, they are recorded calls, although at some of the bigger, more important mosques they might be live.  When Muslims hear the call, they are supposed to stop what they are doing, get on their face towards Mecca, and pray.  In Turkey, a more progressive country as far as Islam is concerned, we don't see people stopping that often.  We do, however, clearly hear the Call to Prayer several times a day.  I don't hear it every time, but it is loud enough to be heard if we are inside and things are relatively quiet.

If you are interested in hearing what I hear several times a day, click here.  W often asks what the noise is, and I tell him it is a reminder for us to sing to Jesus.  So a 3 year old in Turkey often sings "Jesus Loves Me" along with the Call to Prayer.  I can only imagine that our Savior is smiling down from heaven :).

I have often thought about how we as American Christians would be changed if we committed more to prayer.  What if we heard our favorite praise song or hymn blasted from loud speakers 5 times a day?  Would it help us to be closer to the Lord as our day rolls on?

Food for thought.