a salve for my soul…

an aegean sunrise in november…winter in the air

summer was a time of sweet respite and great repose for us this year.  with the pandemic in full swing, we were unable to maintain our usual crazy travel schedule that often had us bouncing from one continent to another: an invigorating yet rather exhausting tradition. 

instead, we spent a lot of time at home, quietly, and the trips that we did take were much quieter and lowkey than previous years.  although most things were open here in turkey over the summer we still thought twice about going out to restaurants or visiting friends in their homes.  rather than take risks we chose to go out for dinner at off hours; made an effort to meet up in gardens or on balconies; and often made plans to take walks with friends or play in the park rather than getting together for drinks or an at-home playdate. 

we took long walks in nature; spent hours swimming, snorkeling and paddle boarding; and took advantage of the warm weather to hold a number of scaled down celebrations outdoors rather than needing to cancel them altogether.

the end of school vacation doesn’t necessarily mean the end of warm weather in turkey, so we took full advantage of online school, continuing to travel to the aegean coast at every opportunity.  whenever possible we would pack up the schoolbooks and laptops and escape the city… setting us a “mini-school” for each of the girls wherever we happened to land that week. although we knew that the coronavirus was still a force to be reckoned with the combination of being in the open air and having less people around us was a constant source of comfort.

it’s hard to believe that today is the last day of november and that turkey has been dealing with covid-19 on a full-time basis for just about 9 months.  the much anticipated second wave is here-full force-and istanbul, in particular, has become a true hotbed of virus transmission.  with numbers rising (and the government finally acknowledging the true extent of infection); new measures are being put into place and life is inevitably going to start slowing down again.

writing this blog and sharing snippets of our daily life was a salve for my soul during the first months of 2020 and i can’t think of a better way to end this difficult year than to return to it. our summer hiatus has been restful and inspiring, and i have much to share; stay tuned for more musings, new recipes, at home activity ideas, book recommendations and more…

ps. here are a bunch of our favorite 2020 summer moments. as strange as it was, this summer is sure to be unforgettable in its own way! 

so many celebrations this summer!

alara and alegra’s birthday- and mine and tunc dede’s too….

there was A LOT of outdoor time… hiking, biking, riding horses and seaside time too…

we learned a bunch of new games and new skills too…

school started…online…which meant exploring could continue 🙂

and with the blessing of good weather we were able to celebrate halloween outdoors in full costume!!!

“something spooky this way comes…”

it was a wonderful summer despite it all and we are so grateful to have been able to celebrate at all… these memories will certainly help sustain us in the coming months-

i banged my head…

on the branch of an olive tree…

…and out flowed the tears.

tears that had been building for a week, or maybe a month, or maybe even a year.  a lot of tears.

tears of sadness; for all that the world and humanity is experiencing right now.

tears of disappointment; for all the disappointments we are all facing right now- cancelled plans, uncertain futures.

tears of anger; towards all the people who don’t seem to understand the nearly insurmountable issues facing us- as human beings- all around the world.

tears of shame; for all the comfort and ease that my privilege affords- as people lie dying in hospital beds- or worse, on gurneys- i am able to hike through centuries old olive groves with my healthy family surrounding me.

and tears of just plain old hurt; because banging your head hurts and why, as women of a certain era, have we been taught not to show our pain or our suffering?

why can’t we be strong AND vulnerable at the same time? why can’t we feel DEEPLY; and, as a result of these deep feelings, cause change in our worlds?

by contributing what we is within our reach- money, for some, because it always helps; time, for others, because it is a true gift; conscious parenting, because we raise the next generation; real friendship, always, because what could be more helpful than a shoulder to lean on?

every day we talk about a post- covid world. what will life be like when we return to “normal”- whatever that normal might be?

i don’t want to go back to the old normal- it was too much yet not nearly enough. all at the same time. too much consumption and not nearly enough production. too much taking and not nearly enough giving. too much “me” and not nearly enough “us”.

and so, as we hiked the ancient lycian way- a centuries old trade route used by the lycians to travel up and down the aegean and mediterranean coasts-and i banged my head on the olive tree branch, i decided that it might just be ok to be strong AND vulnerable both at the same time.

strong enough to climb over rocks, to hop over loose stones and to hang on to branches and roots to propel myself forward on the path. but vulnerable enough to say, “this hurts… this all hurts. sometimes so much that it feels unbearable, unsupportable, and just too much.”

and to cry. to let tears flow; because really, if we’re not going to cry now, then when should we?

the view from a peak on the trail- overlooking the bedri rahmi bay and the city of fethiye in the distance

taking back control…

it seems to me that a big part of this pandemic is going to involve people taking back control…

a lot of us, not all of course, but many of the people with whom i have spoken over the past months of self-isolation, have found this period of forced slowing down and restricted movement to be invaluable in helping them to discern exactly what is really important in their lives and what, well, just isn’t.

we had all, people from all walks of life, widened our horizons and looked to bigger-higher-harder goals- this is not a bad thing. however, it runs the risk of creating a world in which instead of just enjoying, appreciating and perfecting the many wonderful recourses and little luxuries that already exist; social media and instant access to more, to “better”, to the “ideal” lands us in a perpetual state of wanting, wondering, striving.

and so, i find many people around me taking their own reigns firmly in hand and pulling hard– slowing down and taking back control on some many levels.

globally, people are rethinking their finances-this we must all do- and reassessing what is valuable to us. to each their own; priorities are personal.  for some, it may mean investing in a new computer to facilitate online learning; for others, a good bottle of wine once a week may be a necessary luxury; while for others it may mean focusing on creating a strong savings account for future use.  and meanwhile, the unfortunate reality is that for so, so many none of these things are even possible as the pandemic causes widespread job and income loss.

travel too, is being reassessed.  summer is time for vacation for most of us and as these plans become secondary- who wants to risk an unnecessary airplane flight right now- i see people hard at work on their homes and gardens. making them comfortable and more useable; creating family friendly areas; cleaning out and making space for what is really important. grateful to be able to slow down and enjoy their time and environments with loved ones.  honestly, for me, this comes as a bit of relief after a number of years of nearly dizzying summer travels.

but most of all, i see so many people taking back control of their very beings, of themselves

physically, emotionally, intellectually… people are coming back to and into their own…asserting their control- and with it their power.

one beautiful friend has started a long-anticipated diet and exercise regime; and with more time at home, she is sticking to it, and she is thrilled! another creative soul has started a cookbook project long in the planning. yet another has enrolled- and already completed- a handful of education courses all geared towards a longer-term project of furthering early childhood education here in turkey. 

as for me, i’m finding my voice again. somehow, in the crazy everyday busyness of parenting three kids in a bustling metropolis; it got lost.

it is so nice to hear it again- echoing in my ears as i go about the business of my day.  making decisions; some of them really tough ones- and trying to guide my family through these truly strange times; my inner voice is there, steadily growing louder and more confident again.

what do I want, what do I like, how do I feel- all this had gotten lost in the shuffle. it’s all slowly re-emerging. 

what’s coming, i’m not quite sure yet, but changes are happening. some have been small; some feel rather massive- but either way- i’m taking back control and remembering my power.

major mommy meltdown…

so last week i lost it. no, really. i really 100% lost it. household objects were broken, there were a lot of tears, curse words flew like arrows and anger and frustration erupted

from every part of my being.

it was a stunning display of unregulated emotion. but i was, at that moment, incapable of any type of reasonable regulation.

i wish i could say there was a specific issue or event that set my major mommy meltdown in motion. but there wasn’t.  it was just a ton of pent up feelings all colliding together.

self-isolation, or sheltering in place, or quarantine- however you would like to describe it- is really, really tough. this is truly a to each their own situation. i KNOW our position is better than that of many- in turkey, for sure, and abroad for sure too. but it doesn’t make it less hard.

and; this is not where any of us thought we would be right now. (literally we were supposed to be in miami for our nephew’s graduation!). so, as lovely as slowing down has been, it was unexpected, and we were unprepared.

my meltdown had a lot to do with setting good boundaries; or rather my lack of ability to do so.

boundary setting has always been one of my biggest struggles… i’ve always been an overly empathic person; getting married right after college, having children early on, and adjusting to life in a new city all just increased my hyper-awareness of others and their needs.

back in the “old days”; “normal times”- pre coronavirus- i had a system.

i gave everyone who needed something from me all that they required- constantly. but then they would all go off to work or to school and i would recoup. i could be quiet and calm and recharge my batteries by reading or doing yoga or just sitting.

but now there is no real downtime. we are all together all the time in a single space. frustrations, disappointments, irritations and excitement, elation, and pleasure too are all happening all the time.  these are big emotions and they are now swirling around me all the time, often unchecked, and often with little chance for me to recover.

last week it all came to a head. too many questions, too little compassion, and just too much overall; i was overwhelmed, and i snapped.

the next day i was exhausted. all those emotions that had come rushing out had taken their toll. but i sat down with my family and together talked- a lot- about how we were all feeling. about how best to regulate some of our feelings. about trying to remember each other’s needs a bit better, and more often. it felt really, really good.

and as a wise woman reminded me later, this is it.  this is life.  and this is family.  it has sharp edges and soft curves.  it is a series of small adjustments and tiny shifts that come together to create an imperfect balance. a balance that frequently requires re-examining and new approaches.  there is no “perfect formula”; there is loving and listening and caring enough to change- even just a little bit- in order to keep the beautifully imperfect flow; flowing. 

our last family trip before the coronavirus pandemic began in full force was to south africa…

a little challenge…

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE this week we have a little challenge for you… with all the cooking going on at home- three meals a day, (and some snacks too) everyday, is a lot! add to this the nervous grocery shopping that seems to happen each week before the weekend lockdown; we have found ourselves with too much food! and as more and more people are affected by the pandemic globally, it is a hard truth that while we find ourselves with too much; there are SO many people who find themselves with not nearly enough. according to the world food program, a united nations agency, disruptions in the food supply chain, decreases in donations to food aid programs, and school closures could cause the global number of people facing acute hunger to double this year.  this would mean that up to 265 million people could be in danger of being malnourished, or worse starvation. around the world, the repercussions of these changes, coupled with strict lockdowns in many countries such as india and kenya, have made finding healthy, nourishing food extremely difficult for at-risk groups. and, as a result of school closures an estimated 368 million children have lost the nutritious snacks and meals they normally receive; creating a significant risk of underdevelopment and other growth issues. with all this in mind; and looking at the abundance that we are so privileged to have, we have started a little challenge for ourselves.  this week, with the exception of fresh vegetables and fruits sent from a local farm, we will not buy anything new. no new bread- if we run out we can try baking our own. no new sweets- we will bake, or just skip the cookies this week. if someone doesn’t like the kind cheese we have left- that’s ok, we can make hummus or try something new. no new drinks or juices- we’ll finish what we have. no more meat- if we finish what’s in the freezer then we can have a couple of vegan days too. we have plenty. And focusing on what we have rather than what we don’t have seems like a pretty good plan these days… so feel free to follow along- and join us too! i’ll be posting a daily picture of our fridge as it empties out, and sharing more recipes too as we go through the week; stay tuned

PS: this recent article from new York times explains the global situation in a very clear, child appropriate manner… you can find it here

choices must be made…

last night, as part of its plan to slowly reopen metropolitan life and the national economy, the turkish government announced a handful of changes to current co-vid 19 restrictions.

next week, young people get to leave their homes for the first time in nearly two months. so do older citizens; those over the age of 65. each group gets separate days. hairdressers, barber shops and malls can all open their doors again on monday- but must follow strict social distancing and sanitization procedures.

it makes me nervous.

but i can understand that people need to get out of their houses. not just because so many residents of istanbul have been cooped up in small, crowded apartments for the past two months and need the psychological relief of getting out; but also, because people must go back to work and make money. the turkish economy did not enter the global pandemic in a particularly strong position and there are so many people who need to reestablish actual incomes to meet their basic needs.

it is scary to be thinking about all these spaces reopening.  it worries me, the thought of people being out and about again.   i don’t like this path to reopening because it leaves a lot of grey area.  there will be choices to be made now. i liked the clear mandates; the government telling me what i can and cannot do. where and how i can go.

i admit, fully, that my privilege allows me this luxury. 

i have a large, comfortable home; plenty of good fresh food; enough money saved to weather this storm; a private outdoor space that my family can use freely; the girls’ e-learning is just fine, they are busy and engaged; my parents, and erim’s, are all safe and healthy and we can see them- from a safely masked distance- at least once a week; and we have learned how to connect virtually with loved ones who are further away.

having all three girls at home all the time has been, for me, heavenly. i thrive on being a mother and my family all together fills my heart. with no formal school or afterschool activities to rush off to we have had time to eat long meals, cook, do yoga, take walks, watch movies and pop popcorn slowly- the old-fashioned way.

i have been happy to stay at home, to enjoy my people, and to slow down.

but now, with no clear understanding of how it will work, we are being allowed – kind of—to speed up. and with that comes choices…

some decisions seem easy, and probably will be, for many of us.  having gotten the hang of online shopping; i won’t be going into a mall anytime soon.  so many of our favorite restaurants are now offering takeout or delivery options, so no need to risk that. and schools will certainly be closed through may.

but what about socializing? if we can go to a mall can we go sit on a friend’s front porch? our nephew was supposed to graduate from college this weekend; can we raise a glass of champagne to his success? should i bring my own glass? decisions and choices must be made…

and the biggest, probably most difficult of these, involves my children.  on their day of “freedom” (4 hours next friday) can they see their friends? how safe will that be?

i trust my girls.  they are intelligent, worldly, understanding children.  they fully grasp the potential danger of this disease- if not to themselves directly, then to their loved ones.  but they are also human. And i get it. it is amazing that we can connect virtually, but i really want a hug too.  leaning, literally, physically, on a friend is irreplaceable.  we are naturally social creatures. we thrive in close knit communities. we need it. And oh, have we missed it!

so here comes the hard part.

i knew it was coming. i was dreading it. the choices. each of us will have to weather the storm of the coming weeks and months in our own way. in ways that feel “ok” to us.  but i know that saying “no” when other parents say “yes”- staying in while others go out- is going to be hard.  and so, starting next week, we’ll do our best to weigh our options, cross our fingers and continue to take each day as it comes.

so, i have some questions…

last night i locked myself in the bathroom. seriously. just being in my own space wasn’t enough, i needed to close and fully lock the door. i can’t remember the last time i did that. maybe just after i gave birth to alegra 10 years ago?

regardless, last night i found myself locked in my small bathroom; simultaneously listening to npr on my phone and alegra reading aloud to me from the other side of the door while dozens of questions swirled around in my mind.

i don’t presume to think that my questions are too radically different than most peoples’. and, to be fair, my questions are, mercifully, not of the day to day existential variety.

i KNOW that i will still have a roof over my head tomorrow, and i will have more than enough to eat. my children will be able to continue their studies over the internet; comfortably, warm in their own rooms- content with their 3+ meals a day.  even if our economics do eventually change due to the global pandemic, i will still be blessed with plenty. and in the case of a health emergency- covid-19 related or not- i am privileged enough to be certain of sufficient health care.

but even armed with this knowledge- i am still human.  and an over functioning, type a human at that. and so, despite all this certainty- and all these guarantees- i can’t help but worry. almost obsessively.

And so, i have some questions…

on a grand scale… when will this all end? what would it be like to get the coronavirus? is my (are our) immune systems strong enough? what will happen to the girls if erim and i both end up in the hospital at the same time? what is going to be the economic impact of all this- not just in my household, but nationally; globally?

on a knowledge and medical scale…what the hell is an antibody and how important/effective will they be in the case of covid-19? even if the virus seems to disappear over the summer will it just reappear in the fall; or in the winter? is it better to just get infected and move forward from there? or is that worse? what are the long terms repercussions of getting sick going to be? if (and hopefully when) a vaccine is developed will i feel comfortable being vaccinated; having my children vaccinated?

on a smaller, more personal scale… what is going to happen to schools? seriously, what is the deal with the SAT? will colleges open in the fall? how will admissions work going forward? how much impact is this time in self-isolation going to have on my children?

and once life gets going again… (it is going to, right? eventually?) where will we feel comfortable going? will i be ok with the girls going back to school, to activities, to riding? when will we feel comfortable travelling again? what about going to the US again? what will the short- and long-term global reverberations really be? how much future planning makes sense and how many of my plans will end up being little more than daydreams?

what is frustrating and also, from a social science perspective, fascinating; is that really no one, no scientist, no politician, no researcher, no educator, no one has the answers to these questions.

a virologist may have some preliminary notion of how immunity to covid 19 will likely work in the future. i also feel certain many virologists and researchers are working hard to discover, perfect and produce a viable vaccine. 

politicians and civil servants are working; each in their own way, to serve their publics. i would argue many are still working to serve themselves; we’ll see how long that is sustainable.

meanwhile, educators around the world probably have many valid and reasonable ideas concerning how education will and should shift in the coming years.

parents, children, families and friends also all have valid and reasonable ways in which they envision organizing their lives- at least for the foreseeable future.  and business owners, big and small, around the globe, are more than likely holding zoom meeting after zoom meeting as they attempt to reorganize, reorder, and eventually, reopen their businesses.

but for now, regrettably there is no real end in sight; and no magic answers to my never-ending questions.

so, i am going to do what i can. i will start each day as it is; a new day…i will get up earlier than everyone else in my household to have a quiet cup of tea, write in my journal and do some yoga; i will oversee e-learning and help with brainstorming and editing; i will make sure we all have lots of healthy- fulfilling meals; i will get fresh air as much as possible; i will give back when and where i can; and most importantly-  i will try to remember to take deep breaths.

camp mode…

we are now smack dap in the middle of our fifth full week at home and something fascinating has happened… the girls have switched into what i can only describe as “camp mode”.

the first week was hard, for the girls there was a lot of uncertainty; what was e-learning going to entail, how will i see and talk to my friends, which activities will i be able to continue, how will i pass ALL this time at home?

for me it meant a lot of preparing; who knew what markets would remain open, would fresh meat and fish be readily available, what about medicines, how would i manage to keep the girls busy as the days went by?

the second and third weeks were really a process of settling in. the teachers and school “figured out” e-learning, and so did we; we stocked up on really important supplies- both foodwise and funwise; and we got ourselves organized into some sort of routine (this seems to be ever shifting, but for now it works).

through the blur of all this change and adjustment though an extraordinary thing occurred. 

one day, as we sat around the dinner table, i realized that all three girls had arrived at the table with their water bottles- just like at camp!

asya’s was from her summer session at georgetown, alara’s was a coveted glow in the dark rockbrook water bottle, and alegra had a mason jar from earth fare filled to the brim and ready to go.

from a practical standpoint i wasn’t surprised, the water bottles are just so easy, and require us to do less dishes. 

but what did surprise me is what the appearance of these bottles meant; i had been so worried about how the girls would handle this new reality of staying at home. how would they manage when their lives suddenly slowed down; especially after being so busy all year. 

but i shouldn’t have worried. 

thanks to summers spent at camp, they already knew how!

summer camp may not be the best fit for all children; i was frequently homesick as a child and probably would not have enjoyed sleepaway camp.  but my girls love it. and i believe that they have learned a range of skills that they would not have been able to develop with their parents around all the time.

specifically, camp has taught my children to be more independent; more resilient; to make decisions based on what they need, even in the face of peer pressure; how to fill unstructured time in a way that makes them happy; and also how to deal with strong emotions- something we have plenty of right now.

ever since i noticed that we had entered “camp mode” more things have started to catch my attention…

asya and alara are reading through books at a breakneck pace- i can barely keep them in books- and alegra has read more in the past three weeks than she has since school started. 

we have done countless art projects; daily yoga classes have become a key part of our routine; alegra has played tons of games- and learned some new ones-like hopscotch; and for the first time in a long time, there is SO MUCH conversation going on. (we aren’t singing at the dinner table yet but give us a couple more weeks at home- i’ll keep you posted!)

obviously, the lazy, lovely days of summer camp cannot compare to the somewhat stressful, uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic. but there isn’t a single person with whom I’ve spoken who hasn’t said that they aren’t so sad to be slowing down. 

harder for some to do, and easier for others; but “camp mode” seems to be working for us right now.

lockdown life begins (sort of) …

last night, the government ordered a two-day lockdown- it was probably a very smart, if poorly timed, move as the weather is supposed to be fantastic this weekend after a good two weeks of rainy cold days. people would have certainly tried to make the best of the sunshine and get outdoors as much as possible; ruining any gains we may have made through the past month of social distancing.

unfortunately, the announcement was made around 10pm and was set to go into effect at midnight.  in response, many people rushed to do last-minute shopping. they were probably planning on making grocery shopping their weekend activity; particularly as many are still working full time. neither businesses nor the government can afford a full economic shutdown along the lines of the ones in the u.s. and italy; and many of these working citizens aren’t really able to shop online or in shops during the week. 

as a result, the news hit like a bombshell and within half an hour throngs of people were massed in front of markets and shops, jostling to get in, most with masks and gloves, but some without. 

memes on istagram and whatsapp were immediate and darkly funny… things like, “we managed to spread a weekend’s worth of germs in two hours,” or “the lockdown news was greeted with great public jubilation as the people took to the streets in celebration!”

erim and i had left the house briefly yesterday afternoon to buy some groceries; even we were feeling a bit stir crazy and wanted to get out when we saw the sun.  in our little neighborhood people were out and about.  some shopping for passover and easter supplies. some walking their pets. some visiting with friends by sitting on separate park benches.  erim commented, “at the very least they should declare a lockdown for the weekend”. 

our grocery trip was a bit unnecessary, as were those of some of the people we saw yesterday, i feel certain. it is hard to change habits overnight, and uncertainty makes us feel even more antsy than usual.

but in all honesty, with our large-by-istanbul standards house, and our own garden, we are so fortunate. i can’t imagine how difficult this lockdown must be in other parts of the city, where large families so often share small apartments without the respite of even a balcony.

(there is a great article about this in the new york times today- discussing a similar issue in french suburbs- you can find the article here– while social unrest is less of an issue here, the problems with overcrowding and lockdown do apply)

our city is sure to be extra quiet this weekend. we had already noticed a significant decrease in both noise and air pollution, even though people have still been moving around.  at various points over the past month of social distancing the global pandemic has seemed surreal and a truly quiet istanbul might be the most surreal moment to date.

we’ll be trying to keep things at home as “routine” as possible though. on sunday we’ll celebrate easter with an egg hunt in the morning and a late lunch- maybe we’ll even get dressed up and have champagne.

and then we’ll see what monday brings…

anxiety is just as contagious as covid-19

one of the most important pieces of advice I received before we went into “stay at home mode” last month was to make a schedule (or “program”, as alegra calls it) and stick to it. each day we have specific times for all our routine activities, breakfast, lunch and dinner; e-learning; exercise; socializing with friends; creating through art, cooking or music; and even blocks of time that we all know can be used for free-time or “alone time”.

during these uncertain times, watching the nightly news has also become a key part of our routine; as unalterable as e-learning or walking the dog.  as we watch the news, inevitably our phones start to bing and ping and light up- signaling messages from friends and family all over turkey who, like us, are trying to figure out exactly what is happening here and abroad, and glean any possible information about the future; either from official messages or from shared information.

last night was interesting, the president addressed the nation in a live press conference, detailing government efforts to combat the spread of the virus and keep deaths to a minimum.  messages from friends meanwhile cautioned that full lockdown; in turkey this is called “a ban on being on the street”; was certainly coming this week. friends also indicated that the government may soon decide to seize private assets in order to have more cash at their disposal.  rumor had it that private individuals would still be able to access their money; but only a certain percentage during a given time period- probably a month. 

the girls heard this, rumors coming from an anxious place, and oh boy, did that anxiety spread like wildfire throughout our house!

you could call it serendipity, or maybe just plain coincidence, but over the weekend two close friends sent me brene brown’s podcast on anxiety and calm.  i finally found time to listen to it yesterday morning while the girls had “e-school”. it could not have been better timing…

in the podcast, brown explains, and demonstrates, just how contagious anxiety is. and then she offers some advice on how to handle it. be it with a child, a co-worker, a friend or a spouse, the tools she provides are simple, and last night they WORKED.

despite the fear i felt rising in my chest as the questions flew around the dinner table; i took a deep breath as calmly as possible and said, “we don’t have any official information indicating that any of these rumors are true. until then there is no need to worry about this. once we have more information, we can-if necessary-make a plan that will work for us.”

honestly, i am still a little surprised that i managed to say it all so calmly, and i am equally and pleasantly surprised at how well it worked to calm not just the girls’, but my nerves as well.

there will be more rumors to come, decisions made by the government, the schools and other institutions that will surely make us anxious. just remember that anxiety is contagious- so take deep breaths, be sure you have all the information and don’t forget to wash your hands.

you can access the podcast here:


let me know how your family is handling all these big questions; sharing resources and tools is crucial in these odd, odd times.