Sunday, November 28, 2010

Got Milk? (Yes we do!)

We have one grocery store on base.  It's not teeny, but it's not a Super Walmart either.  And all of our groceries are flown in from the USA or Germany.  It's a very interesting situation.  We have organic wheat bread from Boulder, Colorado and BBQ potato chips from Pennsylvania.  Usually this system works out pretty well, but every once in awhile there is a glitch...a holiday or a delayed shipment...and you realize how much you are at the mercy of the airplanes that deliver your groceries every week.

Last week, when I rounded the corner at the grocery store to pick up some cartons of milk I discovered a sign on taped to the rows of empty shelves.  The sign read: "The milk shipment has been delayed.  It will arrive on Wednesday.  Sorry for the inconvenience."  I quickly counted in my head "Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...that's five days without milk."
(I then picked up some yogurt for an alternate source of calcium, only to find that all the yogurt was expired.)

That evening, my stomach sank a bit when I poured the last drop of milk into Peter's cup.  We're out of milk.  It was such a foreign feeling to be out of something as basic as milk and not being able to hop in the car and pick it up somewhere.  We have such an instant gratification society in America.  If one grocery store is out of something, there are 8 other stores down the road.  10:30 at night?  Not a problem.  Super Walmart is always open. 

It reminded me of the Turkish language and culture class I took on base.  The teacher told us that in many Turkish families, the youngest child always drinks the milk first because they need it the most.  That way, if they don't have enough, at least the little ones will have had some. 

I then realized that this minor inconvenience was good for me.  I think God has a lot He is going to teach me here in Turkey.  One of those lessons is gratitude.

We survived the five days without milk and I eagerly walked to the grocery store first thing Wednesday morning.  This time, I rounded the corner to find shelves full of milk cartons.  I eagerly dove for a carton and couldn't help but smile when I held that simple blessing in my hands.  I noticed several others equally excited to load their carts with milk as well.  I actually had a couple of conversations with people that day about how excited we were about having milk again.

At a very stressful time in my life several years ago, a wise friend gave me a Thankfulness Journal and told me to spend 5 minutes a day before bed writing down all of the little blessings that I received throughout the day.  I learned to count the little things (not having to scrape the ice off my car windows before work, a hot cup of coffee, an email from an Air Force Academy crush named Dan  : ) )  and it helped my whole perspective change. 
As I walked home from the grocery store with my carton of milk on the day before Thanksgiving, I began to count all of the little, sometimes unrecognized blessings since arriving in Turkey:
*showering after a long overseas plane ride*sleeping in a bed after weeks of air mattresses after our furniture was shipped*Stauffer's lasagna with new friends on one of our first nights here*Peter getting over jet lag*every syllable of the first phone conversation with my parents*driving our car (once it arrived) to the store after over a month of walking*eating a cheeseburger at a Turkish McDonald's (it felt so comforting and familiar)*

Dear God, thank You for all of the big and little blessings in our lives!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

It's Friday evening, my boys are asleep, and I'm enjoying every little bit of this quiet calm after the excitement of the past two days.  Though Thanksgiving started off a little rough with my mouse frustration and missing Dan and my family, it ended up being a wonderful, memorable holiday. 

Yesterday afternoon Peter and I shared a fabulous Thanksgiving meal with our friends.  What incredible souls God has placed in my life!  These friends are so full of joy and was easy to feel like we were among family as we feasted on an amazing spread of delicious food.  I am so thankful for them.

When we got home, Peter and I had a bedtime snack while we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  (I've never watched it at night before...kinda fun!)  Peter loved the parade floats and pointed and laughed with excitement.  He was mesmerized with Macy's Santa Claus and studied him very carefully, trying to figure him out. 

Today we had Thanksgiving: Round Two.  This morning felt so much like a holiday with Dan home.  We ate our breakfast together as I started mashing the potatoes for our afternoon feast.  We listened to Christmas music for the first time this year.  And we even danced a little polka with Peter (Peter just started doesn't get any cuter than this.)  This afternoon, we had some of Dan's Airmen over for a Thanksgiving meal.  We were happy to have these young men over since they are living in the dorms away from their families during the holidays. 
And I successfully cooked my very first Thanksgiving dinner!  It was so much fun! 
I made Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, and 3 pies.  The guys that shared our meal with us were so grateful and fun- it was a fantastic evening!  And Peter loved showing off for his "big kid" friends! 

I am so grateful for all of the people that shared this Thanksgiving with me and helped make it so memorable.
We have not caught the mouse yet, but he stayed hidden all day today during our feast.  I am thankful for that too. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Kitchen Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us

I should be peeling potatoes right now. 

It's Thanksgiving Day.  Peter and I will be going to celebrate with some of our friends soon.  Dan has to work today, which has made this first holiday away from home just a little bit harder.  But I made two pumpkin pies last night and am sincerely excited to celebrate with my wonderful friends.  God is good!

Dan and I will celebrate our Thanksgiving meal together tomorrow.  We are having about 10 of his Airmen over to our house for a Thanksgiving meal.  This will be my very first time cooking a Thanksgiving dinner.  Which is why I should be peeling potatoes right now.
Which leads us to my current predicament.

Two nights ago, we discovered a very unwelcome guest in our home.  As we were finishing up dinner, a sneaky gray mouse scurried across the kitchen floor and slipped under the dishwasher.  Since then, it has left evidence of it's intentions to get cozy and settled with us all over the kitchen.  I am absolutely disgusted by the idea of this guest staying as long as it has already and am doing everything I can to get it out.
So far, the mouse has eluded the traps.  But after spending the morning watching youtube videos on how to catch a mouse, I am armed and dangerous.   Watch out, little pest.  You will not be sharing our feast with us tomorrow!
(Please say a prayer for that!)

It's time to head to our Thanksgiving Feast! 
PS- I have been obsessively and constantly disinfecting our kitchen.  Don't be afraid to try my pumpkin pie! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Town USA...uh...Turkey

I love living on base here.  It feels like 1950's Small Town USA. 

Everything is within walking distance, so Peter and I can walk to the post office and say hello to neighbors along the way.  When we go to the grocery store, we can count on bumping into lots of familiar faces.  And it feels safe, even when Dan works long, late days.
The community is so small and everyone is so connected with each other.  It's so easy in a bigger city to just forget about your neighbors.  But here, everyone looks out for one another, like family.  When we first arrived here and barely had anything but a couple of suitcases, friendly neighbors who had only known us for hours were giving us their pots and pans, toys for Peter, shower curtains and towels.  I even witnessed someone unplug one of their phones out of their wall and hand it to us to borrow.

And the generosity keeps on coming.  When Peter needs new clothes, a generous soul delivers a whole Rubbermaid tote of hand-me-downs from her boys.  When a family on base is suffering, people line up to offer prayers and deliver warm meals.  I feel so blessed to be able to live in this kind of community.  I pray that this beautiful example of Christ-like love and generosity can stretch my heart to learn to give so freely without hesitation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Halloween: Turkey Style

October in Nebraska is usually pretty chilly.  I remember bundling up with a coat stylishly draped over my Halloween costume before setting out for Trick-or-Treating.  Sometimes Trick-or-Treating was cancelled or moved to an indoor Mall when an early snow or ice storm hit.  This hot cocoa and mittens weather was always a good indicator that the holidays would soon be approaching.  

This year, we celebrated Halloween weekend "Turkey Style".  The day before Halloween we joined Father Efren and some fun friends on a trip to the beach.  It was a fabulous day!  Father is friends with a Turkish family that owned a tiny restaurant on a private part of the beach.  This wonderful family generously welcomed us and let us enjoy the Mediterranean while they prepared lunch for us. 

The beach was great!  It was a perfect, sunny day and we were the only ones there to enjoy the Sea.  Dan was eager to let Peter experience the waves splashing up on the shore.  Peter was hestiant for a minute or two, but soon discovered how much fun it was to let the waves splash up on his little legs.  He was so excited!  Even the big waves didn't phase him.  He was a perfectly content, soaked little boy.  He also loved feeling the sand on his toes when he walked.  He kept digging those little toes deeper into the soft sand.

After a morning of playing in the Sea, we worked up an appetite.  We walked up to the restaurant for some tea while we waited for lunch.  When our hosts heard we were coming, they cast out a fishing net the night before our arrival so we could feast on freshly caught fish from the Sea.   They let us peer into the cooler full of ice and Sea Bass and pick out the fish we would like to have cooked for us. 
Our lunch was perfect: freshly grilled Sea Bass and shrimp, salads, bread, Coca Cola in old fashined glass bottles and tea!  The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned...the best I've ever had!  Yum!

After our feast, Father bought some fresh crabs from the Sea.  They were huge and bright blue and still alive!  We could hear them scratching around in the cooler during our drive home.  Father generously offered to share the crabs with us.  We carefully picked out four of them using salad tongs as they tried to pinch us.

Since we're Nebraskans through and through, we had no idea how to cook a live crab.  I've only even eaten crab once before in my entire life.  Dan jumped into action and googled "how to boil a live crab" while I put our salty, sandy little beach boy into the tub.  Fifteen minutes later, we had a clean little boy and four beautiful boiled crabs.  Hooray, Dan! 

The next day, we celebrated our first Halloween in Turkey.  I LOVE Halloween on base.  It feels so safe and friendly; like what it might have been like in the 1950's.  Here on this small base, you know and trust many of your neighbors, which makes the entire atmosphere very family friendly.  There were lots and lots of children out Trick-or-Treating with their parents.  The Security Forces guys volunteer for "Pumpkin Patrol" which means that there are dozens and dozens of Security Forces police officers walking the streets ensuring that everything is going smoothly. 

The Base Chapel hosted an All Saints Day Party in which adults dressed up like Saints and Bible Heros to educate little Trick-or-Treaters about their lives.  Peter attended this party as his patron, Saint Peter.  He even carried his very own set of Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. 
After the chapel party, we came home to hand out candy and put Peter into his other costume.  Grandma Beth mailed Peter a super fun surprise costume...and Peter celebrated his second Halloween in style as a Disco Baby (yes, afro wig and all!).