Why I Love Starbucks

Starbucks Peppy Barista

OK, now for some light-hearted, fun writing.  I love Starbucks.  People tease me for that, often saying, “But it’s so expensive!  You pay $6 for a cup of coffee.”

I try explaining that I do “star dashes” and gather little gold stars on my smartphone that count toward free coffee and food.  Plus, I get anything I want to order on my birthday!  People usually roll their eyes or shake their heads, not believing that it could be fun and not-so-horribly expensive to frequent a designer coffee business.  I don’t go out to dinner at restaurants, I argue.  Doesn’t that count for something?

Jessica, Mom & Jonathan 2010 2

When my kids were teenagers, we often went to Starbucks in Southern California, sitting together outside under a green umbrella, wearing our summer t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, squinting in the sun.  We talked and planned together, ate the Best in the World Lemon Cake, and got free house brew coffee refills because I have a Starbucks Gold Card.

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Writing my Way Home for Christmas

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Jessica as an angel and Jonathan as a gold-crowned king in a California play 2004 

Help me write my way home to see my children in California.  I haven’t seen Jessica (21) and Jonathan (18) in the 3 years I’ve been teaching English overseas.  After I got divorced from their father (who got everything, including them), I couldn’t find a teaching job in America, so I went to Russia in October, 2010.  After 6 frozen months, I flew to Turkey where I lived and taught for 2.5 years.   I met my Turkish husband there.  After nearly getting arrested for writing about the Turkish freedom protests and posting a photo, I went (with my Turkish husband) to teach English in China just 2 months ago.

In all these ups and downs, I’ve been able to support myself.  But I haven’t bought a much-needed new computer (my old Apple laptop is 9 years old and very slow).  I haven’t taken a real vacation.  And I haven’t been able to afford a trip back to Los Angeles to see my children.

From Sunday, November 3 to Sunday, November 10, all 5 of my books are only $.99 (less than a dollar) for Kindle format.  You can pick from my true cancer survival story, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy.  Or you could splurge and pay $9.99 for a paperback.  My books encourage people to survive anything, and they make great Christmas presents.  Light can shine in the darkest places.

Please buy one of my books for a friend, think of me, and share my story.

Thank you.  See my books here.

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Jessica, me, and Jonathan in California in 2010 before I left to teach overseas

Sweet Masterpieces

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I taught a group of 9 Turkish children, ages 9-11, for a month this summer.  We learned to speak basic English:  numbers, colors, animals, places, and questions with answers.  For our last day, I printed out a book for them with spaces where they could draw pictures, color, and write things they learned.

“I take photos with my camera.  I write stories.  I mix the words and photos together to make books, and you can do this, too,” I encouraged them.  They looked at me with their sweet, feisty eyes, and I realized,

We are all a masterpiece, like a book of words and pictures.

Benefits of Being Nobody

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The 19th Century American poet Emily Dickinson once wrote:

“I’m nobody—who are you?

Are you nobody too?

Then there’s a pair of us

—don’t tell—

they’d advertise, you know.”

Emily never saw her poems published. Though a newspaper editor once offered to publish her insightful lines, she refused, stating that she enjoyed being nobody.

When I told this story to my Turkish students who were studying English, they exclaimed,

“She had mental problems!”

But maybe Emily had a point. There is great freedom in being unknown. An anonymous person, almost invisible, can walk through a crowd of famous people without being noticed.

There were a lot of professional journalists in Taksim last Sunday. They wore matching colors and had a huge television camera and tripod, a hand-held microphone, real gas masks, and backpacks full of goodies. But Turkish police targeted them, under orders from Prime Minister Erdogan to suppress the news so that Turkey doesn’t look bad to the international community. I saw a four-member team from Germany hanging in the background while I walked, almost unseen, toward the line of police who guarded Taksim Square. They didn’t notice a middle-aged woman, dressed like an English teacher, who carried a small camera.

Of course, the downside of being nobody means that you may operate on a shoestring budget and only with items you can pack into a purse. But you can travel light. That’s extremely handy when running away from police attack vehicles shooting pepper spray at your back.

Maybe someday Erdogan will know my name. That could be a bad thing. I keep waiting for that knock on my humble Turkish apartment door in the middle of the night. Until then, however, I will continue to be the nobody who records what is happening in Turkey.

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My Life is a Mirror

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Can you find me in this picture, standing next to my Turkish husband in Istanbul and taking a photo of a mirror gallery we found in Taksim?  Sometimes my life feels like layers of glass backed by silver–a mirror to reflect life here in Turkey.

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I’ve always loved taking photos through glass and into mirrors.  Here is a shot of me taking my own portrait in a gilded mirror at the Greenpark Hotel on Kar Tepe mountain in Kocaeli.

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Sometimes glass is so clear that you can barely see it.  The treasures it protects appear to be close, as if you could reach out and touch them with your hand.  But they are shielded from us, like a dream, a faint desire, an absent child.  I took this photo of my favorite wedding shop in Izmit, Kocaeli where I have lived for two years.

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Glass works two ways (unlike a mirror), and sometimes people look back at us through it, as in this gown shop in Izmit where the customers inside wonder what I am doing outside with my camera.  How is your life like glass or a mirror?  What do you see–or reflect?  Do you capture images in pictures or in words?

“Best Moment Award”

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Journeyaroundtheglobe nominated my Blog for the “Best Moment Award,” and I’d like to thank this adventurous writer and mom who has seen so many places and who cared to follow my own travels.  I’d also like to thank my children Jessica and Jonathan, who are always inspirations for my Special Moments.

I held Jonathan’s hand across a New Zealand suspension bridge above a raging river when he was 8.  The water roared down from glacial mountains, and he looked up at me with eyes the same color as the river.  He squeezed my fingers tight and trusted me.  Now he’s almost 18 and about to graduate from high school.  I haven’t always led him to the safest places, but I think he will never forget our adventures in New Zealand.

I snorkled with Jessica among brightly-colored fish in a Kauai coral reef cove when she was 8.  She jumped out of the aquamarine water and screamed, “There are fish down here!”  I held her trembling shoulders in my arms and promised her safety.  Now she’s 20 and finding her own home in California while I teach English in Turkey.  I miss her and her brother Jonathan and am trying to write my way home to visit them.

The moments we shared will always live in my heart, and I am grateful to my children for walking with me.  I am also grateful to my Blog readers who care to read about my adventures, and to the Creator who imagined such transitory beauty in far-off places–and in a child’s eyes at home.

You can read more about my adventures in my book “Fire and Ice.” Continue reading

Time is Like a River

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Time is like a river that flows past us, like children who quickly grow up and leave as a current journeys toward the sea.  Enjoy Chapter Twelve of my book, Fire and Ice:

Despite the obvious risks and warnings, I would let Jessica drive our little Saturn car to Forest Falls, so she could practice for her driver’s license, and we could walk together there.  We would roll the windows down and let the air sweep up our hair and laughter.  We whisked by desert plains that rose slowly toward the mountains.  Cactus, sand, and golden hills gave way to sharp green cliffs and oak trees, and then a gorge filled with marbled granite that had swept down on torrents from the summit.  To our right, the river (I will call it Selah’s River), cut into the mountain’s lower walls.  Willow trees clustered around the cold, clear pools between the rocks, and people sometimes parked beside the road and climbed down to wade or swim there. Continue reading