Pregnancy: A Reading List

There a million resources on pregnancy available, either in the bookstore or online.  A lot of them are great; a lot of them are terrible.  (Beware, especially, of getting any sort of medical information online– there are a lot of websites and blogs that are written by people with zero medical training, with a lot of blatantly false information.)  Here is a short list of things that I’ve found interesting and/or helpful either before or during my pregnancy.

How-To Books

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

Okay, let’s start with the most basic.  What To Expect has been around forever and is equal parts loved and loathed, although it seems like they listened to reader feedback and have made some pretty significant changes and updates in recent years.  I personally found this book to be super helpful, in part because it’s so comprehensive.  You can read about each month– baby developments, symptoms, physical changes, and commonly asked questions– as you experience it, plus there are separate sections for things like pregnancy complications, labor and delivery, and the first six weeks postpartum.  Chances are you can find most of your worries or curiosities addressed here.  However, some of the information seems a little outdated, which brings me to…

Expecting Better: Why The Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong by Emily Oster

This is by far the best, most helpful book I read for pregnancy.  Go out and buy this book if you’re considering getting pregnant.  Read it before you get pregnant.  Read it again after you get pregnant.  And go back and skim through it during your pregnancy.

Emily Oster is a professor of economics at Brown University and a Harvard-trained statistician, and she tackles common pregnancy advice by going to the actual published, peer-reviewed medical studies and analyzing them.  Some of the conventional advice turns out to be absolutely true– there actually are harmful (to pregnant women) bacteria in cat poop, although you’re just as likely to contract them by gardening as by cleaning out the litter box– and some not so much, like the fact that there is actually zero evidence that bed rest is beneficial to pregnant women.  She also does a great job of statistically breaking down risks so that women can decide for themselves what they want to do.  So much of the advice for pregnant women is based on fuzzy or outdated medical studies, and certain things we take for truth (like the fact that you shouldn’t eat sushi) are not actually all that clear.

As someone who likes fact- and science-based approaches to things, I really appreciated this book.

Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth

And then on the other end of the spectrum, we have this book.  I… did not like this book.  It was recommended to me by a lot of people but I couldn’t finish it.  Basically, Ina May Gaskin is a midwife who provides natural, unmedicated vaginal births at her Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee, and has been since the 1970s.  This is great!  I am all for women taking this approach to childbirth, if they want to.

However, the way the book was written– all focused on the personal experiences of the women, rather than the medical side of things– didn’t work for me.  This might be exactly what some women want/need to read about childbirth, but I felt it really was lacking in actual information.  I stopped reading maybe a third of the way through the book when one of the women referred to her cervix (at least I’m guessing it was her cervix) as “the gate of life.”  It’s completely a personal preference, but this was not the childbirth book for me.

Books on Raising Kids

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

This book, about an American woman raising her kids in France, got a lot of attention when it was published in 2012.  It’s an in-depth look at how French culture treats pregnancy and child-rearing differently than American culture, and it turns out that there are a lot of very big, very stark differences (including the claim that French babies sleep through the night at three months, which sounds amazing, but I remain skeptical).

As someone who has lived in three countries and seen how parenting is handled differently in each country– and as a teacher who has seen the results of different styles of parenting– I find stuff like this fascinating.  At the very least, I think it’s good to read differing perspectives on parenting because it can make you look at common ways of doing things and ask, “Why?”  I recognized a lot of the things about American parenting that she criticizes in the book, and those are things that I think most American parents don’t even think twice about.  You don’t necessarily have to read it as a curriculum on how to parent, but I found it interesting and thought-provoking.

Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske

This is the German version of Bringing Up Bebe, published just in January of 2018.  I kept hearing about it and since I just moved to Germany and am having my first baby here, I thought it might be useful.  Again, I found it interesting and thought-provoking, and also very, very informative to learning more about my new adoptive culture.  It talks specifically about how Germans strive to instill a sense of independence in their kids from a young age.

It also talks extensively about the German daycare, kindergarten, and education system, which is drastically different from the American one, and that was useful to me as a soon-to-be-parent and super interesting to me as a teacher.  In my opinion, the strongest part of this book wasn’t the parenting advice, but more about how so much of what we’re doing with education in the US is having the opposite effect than we want, and showcasing another way of doing it.  I think anyone who has young, school-age kids should read this book to get a clearer understanding of why subjecting five and six year olds to standardized tests, or giving them lots of homework, can do more harm than good in their educational life.

Books About Motherhood

Black Milk by Elif Şafak

Elif Şafak (English: Shafak) is a well-known Turkish novelist and Black Milk is her memoir about postpartum depression.  I read this years ago, soon after moving to Turkey, and loved it.  It’s imaginative and funny and paints a vivid picture of someone who loves her child but struggles with early motherhood, and also how having kids impacts her sense of self, since shifting from “writer” to “mother” is a profound change in identity.  (Something another essay I mention below talks about as well.)

The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs

A book about infertility might not seem directly relevant to your situation if you find yourself pregnant, but this nonfiction book is a beautifully written look into many facets of parenthood, how it feels when you can’t achieve something that you badly long for, and the various emotions and logistics tied up in things like IVF and adoption.  It’s well-researched and does a great job of combining the informational with the personal.  Several of the chapters of the books are available online as essays, which you can find at the author’s website here.


Writer, Mother, Both, Neither” by Belle Boggs

Another one from Belle.  (Actually, just check out all her writing, she’s great.)  This is an essay she wrote discussing how becoming a mother has complicated her professional life, and the lengths that working mothers are forced to go to in order to juggle both a career and motherhood.

The Size of a Memory, the Size of a Heart” by Laura Giovanelli

“I am going to be a mother, and all I can think about is my father.”  A beautifully written personal essay about how becoming pregnant made the writer reflect on her relationship with her estranged father.


Pregnant Chicken

This is a fun website with lots of different articles and blog posts on pregnancy and having kids.  Again, I don’t recommend using any medical information you find online without fact-checking it against a reliable, peer-reviewed source, but this is a good website to waste some hours and is low on the bullshit scale.

Alpha Mom’s Pregnancy Calendar

Alpha Mom has a week-by-week pregnancy calendar and out of all the ones available out there, I found this one the most informative and entertaining.

National Institutes of Health

I don’t recommend googling anything medical-related while pregnant, because it inevitably will just scare the crap out of you; however, that said, everyone will give into it at least a few times, so be sure you’re using reliable, scientifically-sound resources.  The NIH website has articles and published studies that are all written by doctors and peer-reviewed.  Whatever you do, DON’T go onto the pregnancy/mommy discussion forums, because everyone and their sister will be spouting anecdotal evidence and old wives tales and claiming they are true, and making you believe that you have cancer, shingles, and rare blood diseases all at once, and that your baby will be born with two heads or something.  Just don’t do it.


Happy reading!









A Sunday Walk in Odenwald Forest

One thing that has taken some getting used to since moving to Germany is that everything shuts down on Sundays here.  All shops and malls, including grocery stores and little corner shops that sell essentials, close their doors for the day.  (I had a panicky moment the other week where I was terrified we would run out of toilet paper on Sunday and not be able to buy more– if nothing else, it’s a lesson in planning ahead!)  Literally everything but the occasional bakery or restaurant is closed, leaving the question: what do we do with ourselves?

Yesterday my husband and I decided to get outdoors for a bit.  One thing I really like about Germany is how easy it is to get some fresh air; there are walking and biking paths everywhere, through neighborhoods and random fields and alongside every major road.  Where we live is also surrounded by forests, so we did some Googling and headed out to Odenwald, found a random parking lot beside a twisty mountain road, and set off.

(This is where I feel like I have to mention that “wald” means forest in German, so saying Odenwald Forest is a bit redundant, like saying PIN number.  But, sometimes clarification is nice.)

The parking lot had five different trails branching off from it.  We didn’t have a map– and there were none around that we could see– and four of the trails went pretty steeply downhill over wet rocks; at six months pregnant, I decided I’d rather go for the fifth path that was wide, flat, and gently sloped uphill.

The scenery was stunning.  When we first started walking, the weather was a bit wet and misty but the path was clear, with fog hanging out in the trees on each side, and the woods were quiet.  The trees were so dense and dark that we both wondered out loud if we were in the Black Forest.  We looked it up when we got home and we weren’t, but the Black Forest is very close by, and I can see where the name most likely comes from.

Start of the hike

While walking, we passed many other people of all ages out doing the same thing, as well as many mountain bikers and– wait for it– mountain unicyclers.  Yes, you read that right.  We saw multiple people riding unicycles through the woods.  I can’t remember the last time I was that simultaneously amused and impressed, and all of my hobbies suddenly seem incredibly boring in comparison.

Also, we discovered that Germans are bit more interactive in the woods than in regular life.  The lack of eye contact/interaction with strangers is something that both of us are adjusting to, but towards the beginning of the hike, we passed a group of twentysomething guys on mountain bikes waiting beside the path, and they smiled and said hello to us.  This kind of thing never happens normally– when I use the walking paths in my neighborhood, the people who pass each other literally pretend the other one doesn’t exist– so we thought, “Huh, maybe this is a thing when hiking.”  I know in the US that it’s customary to greet other hikers in the woods, so we decided to at least make eye contact and nod or smile for the rest of the hike, and there was about a 75% success rate of people nodding or saying hello back.  Not too bad!

As mentioned, we didn’t have a map on us and didn’t know where the path led, so we walked uphill for maybe a mile before turning back.  The higher in elevation we got, the denser the fog became until it eventually shrouded the path.

Odenwald: a neighbor to the Black Forest.  You can see the condensation on the trees at this elevation.

At that elevation, dew was sticking to everything; even my husband’s mustache and beard suddenly had visible drops of condensation on them.  The occasional wind gusts that came through the treetops sounded like cars on a highway.  It truly felt like we were in another world.

We weren’t out for that long but it was a nice first foray into a local forest, and we will definitely go back.  In some ways, everything being closed on Sundays is nice because it forces you to take a breather and make some time for yourself, and hiking is a really nice way to do that.  It’s hard to beat the combination of fresh air and endorphins.



All in all, a really great Sunday, and I’m looking forward to the next one, hopefully this time with a map.


Turkey vs. Germany: Initial Impressions

An outsider’s perspective after 3.5 years in Istanbul and 1.5 weeks in southwestern Germany.

Interacting with cashiers

Turkey: Ah yes, here is an obviously foreign person, I shall talk to her with minimum expectations of her knowing Turkish.  Oh, she speaks some Turkish!  What a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  I will laugh gleefully in her face at how cute it is that she’s trying.

Germany: Here is a normal German person, I shall speak German to her… wait, what is she saying?  Is she trying to speak German?  Are the words coming out of her mouth a known human language? *narrows eyes* Is she foreign, or perhaps just very, very stupid?

Hard liquor in grocery stores

Turkey: There is one tiny shelf behind the cash register, please request what you want and then provide your life savings, dignity, and firstborn child’s soul as tender.

Germany: Feel free to peruse our aisles of booze at your leisure, or if you are pressed for time, grab one of the many travel-sized bottles located near the cash register for your convenience, that will be €1.79, enjoy 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


Turkey: 45°F (7°C) and rainy

Germany: 45°F (7°C) and rainy

Passing strangers in the aisles of stores

Turkey: You in my space, BITCH?  YOU WANT SOME OF THIS? *takes off gloves, throws them on the ground, prepares for sparring and body checks*

Germany: No eye contact, ever

Saying goodbye

Turkey: Many Turkish phrases repeated several times, multitudes of cheek kissing and waving at the door

Germany: Awkward eye contact

Green spaces

Turkey: Oh, you want to keep your forests undeveloped?  Bwahahahahahaha!  You’re HILARIOUS.

Germany: YOU get a forest! And YOU get a forest!  EVERYBODY gets a forest!!!!

Windows in apartments

Turkey: Silky, draping, sumptuous curtains; fantastic for adding ambiance and elegance to your home

Germany: Very functional, industrial-style electronic blackout shades; fantastic for pretending you live in a cave


Turkey: Tuna Can and Ufuk are TOTALLY legit and normal names; also, let’s make the words for “bread” and “man” almost identical so foreigners can embarrass themselves by asking for fresh, hot men at the bakery

Germany: Let’s just go ahead and put the word “fahrt” on all our traffic and pedestrian signs






Moving Again– This Time, to Germany

In August of 2014, my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Istanbul, Turkey from North Carolina; tomorrow, movers are coming to our apartment and we’ll begin the process of relocating to Germany, arriving to our new town a couple of days before the new year.

This has been a long time in the making, between the planning and figuring out logistics, but it didn’t really seem real until recently.  Suddenly, what once felt abstract now feels very concrete and immediate.  We’re doing it.  We’re moving countries, again, and will be dealing with everything that comes along with that– a new language, new culture, making a new social group, etc.

I find myself thinking that it has to be easier this time around, since I’ve already gone through the process once and know what to expect.  I know that learning the language won’t be instantaneous and I’ll have to be patient, and not be afraid to make mistakes while I’m learning.  I know that there will be a million cultural idiosyncrasies that I could never imagine and that I will have to learn how to navigate.  I know that I can’t take anything for granted or assume that things will be the way that I’m used to, even small things.  I haven’t spent much time in Germany– only a long weekend in Berlin.  I’ve never been to the small city in southwest Germany that we’re moving to.  (Although my husband has several times for work, and assures me it’s very nice.)  Germany is almost a complete blank slate in my mind at this point and I know the only way to get used to it is through immersion, and figuring it out as I go, and I know that requires patience, patience, patience.

Adjusting to Turkey was a journey.  I had no idea what I was doing when I moved here.  And that was fine– sometimes you just have to take the plunge.  I went through a cycle that I later learned is pretty common when it comes to moving to a new country: things were awesome at first, then got difficult, then got easier, then got difficult again, and finally really evened out and became normal, easy life at after about a year and a half.

It looks something like this.


For me, the “frustration/annoyance with everyday differences” was the grocery store.  I never would have guessed that would be my biggest stumbling block when adapting to life in Istanbul– I had done a fair amount of traveling and had studied abroad before this move, and had gone grocery shopping in other countries without any problems, but our local grocery store in Istanbul was an entirely different story.  We lived in an old, busy central neighborhood, and our local grocery store was VERY small and VERY crowded, and as it turns out, the social rules dictating personal space are very different in Turkey than in the US, which made squeezing around the tiny aisles with a million old Turkish aunties who had no problem throwing some elbows or bumping into me really stressful.  Plus, you bag your own groceries here, and people are not shy about almost physically pushing you out of the way if you’re going too slow, so checking out and having to converse in a new language, handle a new currency, and bag my groceries as quickly as possible all at once with a bunch of pushy people bearing down on me was… well, it was an adventure.  And not really a good one.

But I adjusted.  I learned to be quicker when counting money, and I learned to speak up when someone was crowding me.  Life here got easier again.  The “confronting deeper cultural/personal issues” came when I had my first job here, which ostensibly was in English but I needed a level of Turkish to communicate with the support staff which was beyond what I could speak at the time, providing almost daily frustrations in addition to adapting to a new work environment, with a new work culture.  But then that eventually got easier, too.

I’m hoping it goes more quickly in Germany, now that I know what to expect.  However, there is one huge thing that is different with this move: I’m five months pregnant this time around, which completely shifts the planning and focus of the move.  This time we’re less concerned with living in a cool neighborhood downtown with lots of bars and shops, and more concerned with having an apartment big enough to house a newborn and hopefully guests as well.  I’m spending a lot of time researching healthcare and birth procedures in Germany, and looking for mom groups I can join in our city.  When we were moving to Istanbul, I was so excited about the ADVENTURE of it all, the mystery of a new city and the excitement of discovering it, and while there is certainly some of that this time– I’ve already made a list of places in surrounding countries I want to visit, thanks to the fantastic train system in Europe– I’m probably spending most of my time fantasizing about all the green space and parks in Germany where I can take walks with the baby.  After living in Istanbul with its 15+ million people and nonstop traffic, I’m looking forward to living in a quieter, more peaceful place.

There are a million things that I will miss about living in Turkey.  I think there is literally nothing better than a waterfront meal at a fish restaurant in summer, either on the Bosphorus in Istanbul or on the coast, and there is no beating the amazing and unique history of Istanbul.  I’ll miss being able to pop off to either the Mediterranean or Aegean coast for a quick weekend trip, or randomly stumbling across ancient ruins and being able to explore them whenever we want.  I’ll miss the fantastic Turkish breakfasts and the ferry rides.  I’ll miss the street parades and the simit-sellers yelling outside my apartment, the strolls on the seaside, and the friendly street cats who are just waiting to be petted.  And I’m sure there are a million other things I’ll miss that I don’t even realize yet.  It’s always that way when you make a big move.  Although it’s not like we’ll never be back– my husband’s family is here, so we will always have a connection to Turkey.

Right now I’m feeling very grateful for the experience of living in Istanbul and everything it’s taught me, and very excited about this next step in our lives.



Seven Artists I’m Loving Right Now

(Quick note: generally whenever I use images in this blog, they are all pictures that I’ve taken and own the copyright to.  Obviously I don’t own the images in this post, but I do list sources for them and, when applicable, websites for the artists.  The cover painting for this post is Portrait of James Hamilton, Earl of Arran by Kehinde Wiley, which can be found here.)

I love art, I love art museums, and I love finding new artists to follow.  Below is a list of some of my current favorites, all of whom are contemporary working artists except for one.

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley has been making well-deserved headlines lately, since Barack Obama chose him to paint his presidential portrait, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  I discovered Kehinde Wiley several years ago by his re-imagining of Judith and Holofernes, which hangs in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, my old stomping grounds.  The NCMA is a great museum in general, but I literally stopped in my tracks when we got to Wiley’s painting.  There is something I love in the combination of his hyper-realistic portraits and brightly colored patterned backgrounds that I haven’t seen from any other artist (although his works do remind me a bit of this Vincent Van Gogh painting, which I also love).  He also provides a fresh take on many existing artworks, like the aforementioned Judith and Holofernes and the famous portrait of Napoleon.

You can find his website here.

(Image 1 Source, Image 2 Source, Image 3 Source)

Judith and Holofernes
Randerson Romualdo Cordeiro
Alexander I, Emperor of Russia

Monica Martino

Monica Martino is an artist living in Georgia who makes all sorts of hilarious, clever products like t-shirts, mugs, and paintings, all designed and drawn by her.  Basically, she does what Urban Outfitters does, but better, and as a small business.  I have several friends who have bought things from her Etsy shop and been thrilled with them, and they make fantastic gifts, in case you have anyone in your life that you’re still stumped on what to get them for Christmas.  Anyway, seeing her stuff always makes me laugh, and I have a bunch of things bookmarked on her Etsy page for future purchases.

You can find her Etsy shop here.

Perfect stocking stuffer for your grandma, no?

Ester Hernandez

Ester Hernandez is another artist I discovered via the North Carolina Museum of Art (no, really, it’s wonderful! go visit if you’re in the area!), where her painting La Ofrenda was part of a special exhibition of Chicanx artists.  Her work is part of permanent collections in the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and Stanford, and she also has permanent collections in Mexico City and London.

You can find her website here.

(Image 1 Source)

La Ofrenda


Clare Caufield

Clare Caufield is a British artist who does dynamic, dreamlike drawings and paintings of city scenes.  I found her while obsessively poring over Etsy, looking for art of my favorite cities.  It turns out that she has her own website as well where she posts her galleries, exhibitions, and art she has for sale.

You can find her website here.  All images were taken from her website.

View from the Rialto Bridge, Venice
Charles Bridge, Prague

Gustav Klimt

Okay, hear me out.  This one is obviously different from the other artists on the list because he’s both 1) dead and 2) super famous and firmly canonized.  But I think he’s worth putting on here because I didn’t really know much about his work until recently.  The only painting of his I knew was The Kiss, which honestly, is not my favorite work of art ever.  Maybe it’s been ruined for me because it’s so ubiquitous, and I associate it with, like, college dorm room posters and notebooks and stuff.  (But a lot of Van Gogh and Monet stuff fits into that description as well, and I still like them, so maybe not.)

Then I went to Vienna, Klimt’s hometown, in the summer of 2016, and it turns out that he’s actually a really amazing artist.  (Who could have guessed, right?)  His work was everywhere you turned in Vienna and so much of it was more interesting than The Kiss.  He’s worth looking into more if you don’t know much about him.

I don’t have a website where you can buy his stuff (obviously), but I do recommend that you check out the movie Woman in Gold, about one of his paintings that was stolen by the Nazis and starring Helen Mirren, based on a true story.

(Image 1 source, Image 2 source)

Dame Mit Faecher
Detail from ‘Medicine’

Hayv Kahraman

Hayv Kahraman is an Iraqi painter, illustrator, and sculptor who is based in Los Angeles.  I honestly don’t know much about her outside of her art, but her work seems to focus mainly on women and the Iraqi diaspora, and is both wonderful and, at times, harrowing.  She’s getting lots of attention both within the art world and from more mainstream media outlets, so she’s someone to watch for sure.

You can find her website here.

(Image 1 Source, Image 2 Source, Image 3 Source)

Leveled Leisure
Honor Killings

Ingrid Vermeer

Ingrid Vermeer is a Dutch artists who I found on… wait for it… Instagram.  She did a project where she drew portraits of people on Post-It notes every day for a year, and then switched to 100 days of drawing on found objects.  It doesn’t look like her stuff is available for order online, but I really enjoy following her.  Her art is just… fun.

She can be found on Instagram with the username studioyellowdays and her blog is 365 days of post it people.

(Image 1 Source, Image 2 Source, Image 3 Source)

Self-portrait on an old encyclopedia page
Some of her post-it people
Part of her 100 days of drawing on found stuff project


Rome: An Ode to Off-Season Travel

I’ve been to Rome twice: once as a 19-year-old study abroad student in 2005, and the other at age 30 in 2015.  The two trips, ten years apart, could not have been more different.

(Yes, this happened two years ago; a friend recently posted pictures of the Trevi fountain and it made me all nostalgic, so I’m finally writing about it.)

My first time, it was a weekend trip.  I was in Italy for the summer, living and studying in the small hilltop town of Orvieto, in Umbria.  (Google it!  It’s beautiful.)  I went to Rome for the weekend with some other girls from my American university who were also doing the summer study abroad program.

Fountain at the Vatican

My memories of the 2005 trip to Rome are hazy at this point, but I mostly remember it being hot, crowded, and overwhelming.  I’m sure there were things I liked about it, but the most vivid recollections I have are standing in the heat in front of St. Peter’s and trying to find drinkable water, getting lost at night trying to use public transportation, and climbing up the hill to the Vatican Museums only to see a note on the door that it was closed.  And did I mention that it was HOT?

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The Trevi Fountain

And I’m sure a large part of it was me, and my lack of experience; I was young, it was my first trip out of North America, and I wasn’t used to navigating big cities.  My only experience with life at that point was my tiny hometown and my quiet, small college campus.  Rome was a whole different beast.

Yet I hear others report similar experiences there when they go during the summer, at the height of tourist season– that it’s crowded, hot, chaotic, and with really long lines.  When everyone inundates the city for the summer, it turns into a rat race of trying to cram everything you want to see into a few days while fighting millions of other tourists to do it, all with scorching temperatures.

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Piazza Navona

My trip in 2015 was almost the exact opposite experience.  I’m a seasoned traveler by now, and have lived in big cities, and toured many more.  I’m not stressed out by them anymore.

But perhaps the biggest difference is that we went in fall, during the off-season.  And it was absolutely lovely.

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Have I mentioned the food yet? Drool.

My husband and I went for a long weekend (four or five days, I can’t remember) and the city seemed almost empty by comparison to my last trip.  Everything was calm, quiet.  This time my main memories are of wandering side streets and stumbling upon the most amazing architecture, visiting the Trevi Fountain at night, of drinking cheap carafes of wine with lunch, of walking right up to both the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum and buying tickets without any lines, and going right in.  The memories are of beautiful weather and candlelit dinners in restaurants near our hotel.

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Cheap (but good!) wine is 100% my favorite thing about Italy

It was such a nice, relaxing trip, and when I think about Rome now, I only think about how romantic it was, and how I’d love to go back again and again (…. but not in summer).  If you’d asked me before this trip if Rome would ever hold any special place in my heart, I’d probably have said no– before, it seemed mainly like one of those “go once and see everything, and that’s enough” cities.  But now, it feels like I’ve seen an entirely different side of it.

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In St. Peter’s Square– look how empty it is!

I guess the moral of the story is that most places deserve a second chance, because you never know how your experience will change– and that beating the summer crowds (or waiting for them to disappear) is worth more than just a cheaper plan ticket.


We’re Bad at Celebrating our Anniversary… and That’s Okay

My husband and I haven’t had much luck in celebrating our wedding anniversary.  Granted, we’ve only had two chances, but both times were kind of a failure.

For our first wedding anniversary we were on opposites sides of the world, separated after the failed military coup in Turkey.  He was in Istanbul and I was in the US, waiting for my visa to be approved.  The separation was largely unplanned (as was, obviously, the coup, at least on our part) and the day was, quite frankly, depressing as hell.

This past anniversary– two days ago– both of us forgot about it until mid-afternoon.  We had flown into Istanbul the night before from the US, missing a night of sleep in the process, and we were jet lagged and disoriented.  I slept until 1pm that day.  My husband called me from work around that time, we chatted, neither of us remembering that it was our anniversary.  I remembered maybe a couple of hours later, and at some point, he called back and was like, “Uh, I forgot about something earlier…”

We celebrated by snuggling on the couch and going to bed early, after talking a bit about how gift-giving is relationships is kind of overrated anyway.

And that’s totally fine.

For starters, our anniversary was always going to be a little muddled.  We got married three times: once by officially signing the papers at the courthouse in Istanbul and getting our “Uluslararası Aile Cüzdanı” (International Family ID), and then by celebrating with one wedding in the US and one wedding in Turkey.  (Yes, I know we’re spoiled.  But with all the logistical difficulties of having an international marriage, it’s nice that it comes with some perks too!)  All of our “marriages” happened on vastly different days– at the beginning of August, the end of August, and the beginning of October.  So, we took the courthouse date– the day we officially got married– as our anniversary, but apparently we’re not very good at remembering it.

And then we went on our honeymoon the following February, because why not stretch out the celebrations for six months? (Okay, the real reason was my work schedule. But it sounds fancier the other way.)

The real reason, however, that not doing very much for our wedding anniversary doesn’t bother me is that we already felt married by the time we actually *got* married.  Our lives didn’t magically change after that day; it truly just feels like a piece of paper, something official to let other people know what we already knew.

The anniversary of our first date always sticks in my mind, and holds a lot of meaning for me– that is a day that definitely did change my life.  And I knew pretty early on that we’d get married.  I know that some of my family members (ahem) were pretty appalled when I moved to Turkey with him when we had been together less than two years and weren’t even engaged yet, but I never had any doubts.

Recently we went back to North Carolina to see friends and we visited some of the places that, in our minds, were instrumental to the early days of our relationship.  We went to the cafe where we had our first date (an awkward couple of hours of chit-chatting over lattes), a diner where we got breakfast often, and, maybe the best one, the spot on the University of Chapel Hill campus where we used to sit on weekend mornings, drinking coffee and eating donuts (bought from the now-closed Krispy Kreme on Franklin Street) and people watching.  Both of us have strong associations with that perch under the trees; it’s more or less where we fell in love that first spring and summer that we dated.

Anniversaries are nice, and a good mile marker of sorts– it’s fun to see the years pass by with the person you love and have chosen to spend your life with–but so much of romance exists in the quiet everyday moments, some that you don’t even realize at the time, like how good it feels to have a relaxing Sunday binge-watching a TV series together or, sometimes, the simple act of drinking cheap coffee out of styrofoam cups under the green canopy of a college campus.