Marlise

Happy New Year! It’s 2014. The year of the horse, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and the year our second child will be born. Yup, I’m pregnant again. Bret and I are thrilled.

I’m especially looking forward to my morning sickness subsiding. It’s rough. It doesn’t just afflict me in the morning, either. I wake up feeling nauseous and that feeling persists until I pass out around 8:30 every night. I experienced the same thing when I was pregnant with Abigail.

Speaking of which, I want to discuss something about this pregnancy that I didn’t even have to think about in my last pregnancy. We lived in California when I was pregnant with Abby. And now, we live in Texas. So what, right?

Well, so this:

While browsing the CNN website one morning last month, I happened upon an article about a woman in Fort Worth, TX. Her name is Marlise Munoz and she’s been hooked up to a ventilator in a hospital since November 26th. She apparently suffered a pulmonary embolism and collapsed on her kitchen floor. Her husband found her unresponsive and not breathing when he arrived home from work. He performed CPR to no avail and Marlise was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, she had been without oxygen for too long. A neurologist declared her brain-dead. She was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child.

I wept profusely for twenty minutes. Luckily, Abby was at the park with her dad and I was alone in the house with our two dogs (who took no notice of my noisy blubbering). As some of you know from experience, being pregnant makes one highly sensitive and rather vulnerable to tearful outbursts. But also, I felt so terrible for this poor woman, her husband, her family, and her beautiful first child who is now to grow up without a mother. I thought of my own beautiful Abigail and of my intense love for her. Then I thought of the growing fetus inside me. I am grateful for this pregnancy but I don’t have the same allegiance to this still-unnamed person developing in my womb. I’ve seen ultrasound pictures and I’ve watched him or her pump those tiny arms and legs and it moved me to tears. But my baby, this fetus, is barely 12 weeks. Not yet a complete human. Not yet someone to whom I am attached the way I am to my 3 ½ year old spitfire first-born.

I pulled myself together (read: blew my nose) and kept reading.

The article stated that Marlise Munoz’s husband and parents are insisting that she would not have wanted to be hooked up to a machine and, in honor of her wishes, they have asked the hospital to take her off life support. The hospital has refused. Not because the doctors believe Marlise will wake up, but because if the hospital takes Marlise off life support, it would effectively be breaking the law. In the state of Texas, life-sustaining treatment cannot be withheld from a pregnant patient, regardless of her wishes or the age of the fetus.

I wept again; this time out of frustration. I could not believe what I was reading. “…regardless of her wishes or the age of the fetus.” So that means if a woman is pregnant, all of her carefully planned and composed health directives go out the window?

Yes, that’s what that means. It so happens that while Marlise had stated to her family several times that she would never want to be hooked up to machines she never actually put it in writing. But it wouldn’t matter if she had. Regardless of what Marlise might have written in her advance directive, the state of Texas has made the executive decision to keep her alive.

I stopped reading. I felt sick. Not just the morning sickness. My mind was reeling. I live in Texas and was just shy of ten weeks pregnant while I read this article. It dawned on me, as I sat in bed listening to my dog lick herself, that if I found myself in this same unfortunate circumstance as this poor family, my husband would be powerless to carry out my wishes regarding my own life.

But what about the baby, right?

Wouldn’t any mother want to give her unborn baby a chance even if she herself were already dead?

My answer to that, in thinking of the actual baby growing in my womb as I write this? It depends. How far along am I? Two months? Eight months? Does my husband want to raise a potentially brain-damaged child, as well as our other child, by himself? But the issue here is this: if a baby isn’t viable outside of the womb, then why does that baby’s rights outweigh its mother’s? I realize many babies are born prematurely, survive in the NICU for weeks to months, and then go on to live a normal life. But why, in the event that the mother is incapacitated, is this decision left up to the state and not the individual? In Marlise’s case, no one knows exactly how long she was without oxygen, so there’s no telling what kind of brain damage the baby suffered. There’s no telling if the baby is even alive. Its heart is beating because of the ventilator attached to its mother. The doctors are apparently waiting until the fetus is 24 weeks at which point they will remove the baby from Marlise’s womb and assess the damage. That’s still five weeks away.

Here’s the thing: I’m not expecting to collapse on the kitchen floor anytime soon. But the discovery that once I become pregnant, I no longer have the same rights as other citizens of my state makes me angry. Is the state of Texas planning to help pay for Marlise’s child’s special needs once it is born? The baby will be born prematurely and will likely have suffered some sort of cognitive impairment, if it is even alive at all. Is there a law protecting this child’s best interest once it is outside the womb? What about a law providing for extra help for the baby’s father? He works full time and will now be saddled with raising two children, potentially one with special needs. Is the state prepared to help him pay for the childcare and medical bills with which he’ll no doubt be faced? The state is essentially forcing this man to go against his wife’s end-of-life wishes and raise a child he may not be prepared to care for.

I want to be clear. I’m not pro-abortion, nor am I anti-life. Who the hell is anti-life? I’m pro-choice. Abortion is no picnic. Neither is making the executive decision to pull the plug on your brain-dead spouse, even if that’s what she wanted.

But no one has the right to override a person’s advance directive. I doubt Marlise Munoz had any notion that she would be declared brain dead at the age of 33 while carrying her second child. What she did know, and stated several times to her family, was that she didn’t want to be hooked up to machines in the event of such a catastrophe. Incidentally, she was a paramedic herself and had seen firsthand what victims of these kinds of tragedies go through. Marlise’s own brother was on life support after an accident and her family made the difficult decision to take him off. She was not an uninformed person. But that’s beside the point. The real issue here is that the state has no right to interfere in such personal matters and essentially rob the rights of a protected class.

After weeping through this article, I immediately researched individual state laws on advance directives. I discovered that several states, including Texas, have a No Effect law, which means that a woman’s advance directives are not in effect during her pregnancy. California has no law regarding this issue. As I scrolled down the list of states that have a No Effect law (Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, among others), I became increasingly angry.

According to this law, pregnant women residing in these “No Effect” states do not have the same rights as non-pregnant women and men. In these states, pregnant women are excluded from the protected right to die.

Whatever her choice, any woman with the forethought to write up an advance directive has likely given the decision some thought. Whatever her choice, a pregnant woman deserves the respect and dignity of having her end-of-life wishes carried out just like anyone else. Much like the abortion debate, it is a mistake to remove the mother from the equation.

My expectation is that I will make it through this pregnancy just fine and that my second child will bring as much joy and wonder as my first.

And I have no doubt, regarding her own life, that Marlise Munoz expected the same thing.

The Wave

We’ve lived in Alpine now for 8 months. Hard to believe it’s almost been a year. I’m slowly getting used to it. Slowly. It’s so quiet here. Except for the train that rolls through town several times a day. It honks and toots and wails. I don’t mind it anymore. When we first arrived here back in April, I cursed that blaring, echoing horn when it woke me up at 3 a.m. on our first night. “Are you serious?” I hissed, bolting up in bed. Bret mumbled something about how I’d get used to it and then fell back to sleep. I quietly wept and whispered that we’d moved to hell. Lo and behold, Bret was right. Now, I sleep through that train. And during the day, I welcome its blaring, proud cry because it helps break up the long stretches of quiet in this town. That kind of quiet can easily unnerve a city girl like me.

Mostly, I’m adjusting though. I like that it only takes me 3 minutes to get to the grocery store and parking is usually hassle-free. They also don’t have parking meters anywhere in the city limits so parking is not just hassle-free, it’s actually free. I guess there aren’t that many people clamoring to get into those spots. I also like the sense of community I feel here. People know each other. I’ve gone to potlucks with almost all of my neighbors and I see many of the same faces at the grocery store. I don’t know everyone in town but I do feel like people generally keep an eye out for each other.

Admittedly, there are some small town rituals I’m still struggling to adopt.

For example, strangers wave at us. Perfect strangers. We’re driving down the street, let’s say, on our way home and a perfectly normal-looking man or woman in a perfectly normal-looking car passes us on the opposite side of the road, smiles, and waves. Bret always waves back and nods his head while I sit there, at once fascinated and uncomfortable. Why us? I wonder. Why is that person waving at us? Does she wave at everyone?

Bret grew up in the sticks outside Tucson so this kind of behavior is normal to him. “It’s just the way it is in a small town, babe,” he tells me, waving at an elderly man walking his overweight beagle. The man waves back. I half-expect the beagle to wave back too. “Do they wave at every single person they see?” I inquire. Bret shrugs, “Maybe. Or maybe just people they pass on the road.”

Wow.

I tried to imagine people doing that in Los Angeles. LA is a city of 13 million people. Freeways twist and turn like giant, concrete snakes and there’s less walking and more driving there. I spent a good portion of my life in my car when I lived in LA. I actually thought of it as my little apartment on wheels. I always made sure my car was stocked with snacks, makeup, a hairbrush, bottled water, an emergency first aid kit, a cell phone charger, road flares, and books and magazines in case I ever got stuck waiting somewhere. This was normal. Now that I live in a small town, I’ve come to realize that maybe it’s not so normal to spend that much time in one’s car; common in Los Angeles, perhaps, but not especially healthy.

As for the waving? I don’t think anyone ever waved at me in LA. When I would occasionally take my dog, Ruby, for a hike in Runyon Canyon, people smiled and said hi as they passed me on the trail. Sometimes I would be the one to initiate the greeting if I were feeling especially friendly that day. Sometimes the stranger and I would stop and commiserate about our dogs for a minute or so. It always felt so nice. So connected.

But waving at random people on the street? No way. People kept to themselves. Didn’t make eye contact. Didn’t engage. It’s a crowded place, Los Angeles. It’s hard enough to make it to your destination in under 30 minutes no matter where you’re going. So, there’s no time for waving. The thousands of other people on the road are a hazard at worst, a nuisance at best. Why on earth would one engage in waving at one of them, let alone all of them? Who has that kind of time or patience aside from a parade float queen?

The only time I ever saw a driver in LA personally interact with another driver was to curse him out for violating the rules of the road. I once saw two old men in tennis whites get into a fistfight over a parking spot in Old Town Pasadena. Occasionally you’ll see someone pause to let another person cut in front on a crowded freeway or intersection. And you can almost hear the collective “Awwww” from the other drivers on the road because it’s such a rare and wonderful event. But nobody waves at each other. Not for the hell of it. Not to say hi. Not to acknowledge each other’s existence. It never occurred to me to wave at anyone I didn’t know. It didn’t matter that we were sharing the same air, the same road, and the same city for, quite possibly, years. What happens to the human psyche in a society where we cease to have the time or interest enough to offer a simple hello? Do we become more suspicious? Cautious? Do we lose awareness of ourselves as part of a bigger community? Do our own needs become more important above all else? I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that the more time that passes here and the more people wave at me, the more a part of the community I feel. The more I sense that my actions affect the lives of those around me. I’m understanding in a much more profound way than I ever understood living in Los Angeles that not only do I matter, but the people in my community matter too.

I still can’t bring myself to wave at strangers, though. I mean, I can reciprocate when someone waves at me first. I’m not a complete asshole. I wave back. I smile. I pretend not to feel totally and utterly awkward. I just haven’t reached the place where I feel comfortable initiating the wave. I never know quite when to wave and to whom. If the Sheriff drives by am I obliged to wave? What about a group of kids walking along the street? Do I wave at them or would that seem creepy? What if seven cars pass me on my way to the grocery store? Am I supposed to wave at all seven, or can I wave at one or two and the others will understand?

If we stay in Alpine long enough I suppose I’ll eventually feel comfortable waving at strangers. Maybe it’ll become second nature. We have this one neighbor named Shirley. She’s about 80 years old with short white hair and she’s just about the nicest person you’ve ever met. Full of energy too. She bounds around, smiling and waving at passersby whenever she’s outside weeding her front yard. She’s 80 and she weeds her own yard! I don’t even weed my yard and I’m 37. Shirley is an inspiration to me. She makes waving at strangers look so natural, so effortless, so un-awkward. I think it all comes from the fact that she doesn’t care how she looks. The kindness just emanates from her and it doesn’t occur to her to think about herself in those moments, let alone how she appears. Why should she? She’s downright lovely. And more importantly, it doesn’t matter. Kindness is beautiful.

So, for all the complaints I have about Alpine (too small, not enough decent restaurants, lack of an ocean), living here is slowly turning me into a nicer person, a humbler person, a person who can see the beauty in strangers stopping to say hello.

Happy Holidays! With love and a wave from West Texas.

I’m Back

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I’m back.

I took a wee hiatus from the blog for …oh, about 8 months. Not that you were counting. But you missed me. Tell me you did.  I missed me. I missed writing.

A lot has happened since my last post in September. In short, Bret and I quit our jobs at RSICA, left Amman, and we’re now living in Alpine, Texas. WTF, you ask?

In short, the film school in Jordan where Bret and I were both teaching, RSICA, was in dire financial shape. It was a precarious situation for us. So, after many hours of careful (often tearful) deliberation, Bret and I decided to cut our losses and quit. It was a painful decision, but ultimately the right one. We gave our two weeks notice, packed up our shit, and moved home to the states. That was in mid-February.

And the end of our Jordan adventure. Poof!

It was surreal coming home for good. Looking back on it now, our time in Jordan feels like a distant dream. I had always compared traveling there to tumbling through the wardrobe and finding ourselves in Narnia. When we would return to the US for vacation, nothing much had changed stateside. We would reappear as if we’d never been gone. Although, we felt different, even if only in perspective.  And then vacation would end and we’d sift our way through the layers of the wardrobe and find ourselves back in Narnia.

This time, we were leaving Narnia for good.

In late February, Abby and I moved into my mom’s garage in Grass Valley while Bret went to Los Angeles in search of a temp gig.

There are few things in life more humbling than living in your mom’s garage. Abby and I slept on what was essentially a beach ball even though it was technically an “inflatable bed.” My mom did everything she could to make us comfortable. She gussied up the garage with shelving units, a rolling clothes rack, and a quaint turquoise trash can from Ikea.

But it was still a garage and I was still 36 and living in it. I had hit a low point.

But in many ways, my time in Grass Valley was an important interlude. A time to reflect and deal with my feelings about what had transpired in Jordan. It took me several weeks to process my feelings about our premature repatriation. When I finally did allow myself to feel, what I experienced was a mixture of sadness and relief.

Relief because we were finally coming home to the US! Land of the free, home of the brave. I could wear a tank top in public without being ogled and possibly groped. The drivers, more or less, follow the rules of the road here. Whole Foods! Trader Joe’s! In ‘N Out! Abundance! Equality for women! No more call to prayer waking me up at 5:30 every morning!

But sadness because I was leaving the people I’d met and grown to adore. My producing colleague with whom I’d developed a deep friendship and my wonderful students! The RSICA students and my Aqaba International students will forever hold a place in my heart. I’m so grateful for Skype and Facebook because if I never get the chance to see my students again in the flesh, at least I get to see them online.

And sadness that I had left behind this amazing adventure, this life of an expat; an identity to which I had grown attached. There was an intrigue to my life, a sexiness. I was the American woman living in the middle east. My friends and family and even strangers remarked on how brave I was to live and work in a muslim country surrounded by warn-torn Syria and Iraq and the instability of Egypt and Libya. How positively brave!

I knew the truth. Jordan was reasonably stable and living there was actually no riskier than living in Los Angeles. But the middle east was far away, exotic, unusual. And as a result, I felt special. I felt like people thought I was interesting. It’s taken me a few months to realize that I was no more interesting in Aqaba or Amman than I was in Pasadena. I’m still me. I had some cool experiences and certainly learned many things about the other side of the world. But wherever I go, there I am.

And here I am. In Alpine, Texas!

WTF?

Yeah, it’s weird. Much like our move to Jordan, totally unexpected and yet singularly awesome. Bret got an assistant professorship at Sul Ross State University and so now we’re living in a different foreign country known as Texas. The Lone Star state. A state in which I never thought I’d live. A state that Louise from Thelma & Louise refused to even drive through while she was on the run from the law.

Alpine is a tiny (population < 7,000) West Texas town three and a half hours east of El Paso and six hours west of Austin. There is no Starbucks, no Target, and the nearest Wal-Mart is 45 minutes away. We do have a drive-thru liquor store though.

You may have seen the recent 60 Minutes piece on Marfa, Texas. It’s the artsy enclave 26 miles west of Alpine, and I kid you not when I say it puts Silverlake to shame in the hipster department. Marfa is so deeply hip that it has a state-of-the-art drive-in movie theater and a boot company that makes only one style of unisex vintage boot. These boots cost $500 a pair and are backordered 10 months due to popular demand. Here’s a link in case you want to up your hipster ante: www.cobrarock.com/

Marfa is also the place where No Country for Old Men, Giant, and There Will Be Blood were filmed. Very hip.

Alpine is less hipster-ish, although we do have a food truck. It’s called Cow Dog and it’s awesome. www.cowdogdog.com

Here’s the thing. I grew up in Northern California and then spent my entire adult life living in Los Angeles. Aside from our year and a half in Jordan I’ve only ever lived in the Golden State. I’ve traveled fairly extensively to Europe and around the continental U.S. but never actually lived anywhere else.

I’m being terribly blunt when I say that I’ve always believed California was the greatest state in the union. It’s beautiful, it has culture, and fabulous weather. It has Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the PCH! San Francisco and LA. And if you get tired of those places, you could always go to San Diego or Mendocino or Santa Barbara or Santa Cruz. California is beauty and more beauty. The Beach Boys wrote a song about its women and Jim Morrison too, although he was partial to the chicks in LA. My point is, California is amazing. Why would I ever leave?

Because it’s fucking expensive.

And if you don’t have a job, then it’s impossible to survive there. Unless you’re a trust fund baby. And while my parents have been more than generous with me throughout the years, trust fund baby I am not.

So, Bret and I were forced out of LA. Squeezed out like pus from a zit. Crass. Sorry. But it’s how I felt when we first left LA. I felt awful, pathetic, lame. I couldn’t hack it. I had tried and failed and was being kicked out of the club. A part of my brain still resides in the halls of junior high where I was the gawky new girl who didn’t belong.

But here’s what I’ve discovered since we moved here in April. I like Texas. At least, I like Alpine. It’s charming and interesting. It has yoga and pilates studios, some decent restaurants (albeit not many of them), a natural food store, and a park within walking distance from my house. There’s an ice cream and shaved ice shop called Murphy Street Raspa Company that my daughter adores and it’s housed in an old historical building made of wood and owned by a young woman with a dog named Rodeo. www.raspaland.com

Here are some photos of Murphy Street Raspa Co.

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And here’s a picture of Rodeo in his “cave:”

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There are train tracks that run through town, a volunteer fire department, and a tiny farmer’s market every Saturday morning. And I’m on a first-name basis with my local postmaster. She even stopped by our house to apologize in person when a package didn’t get delivered to us on time. This place has character. It’s unique and, while small, it has most of what one needs to get through the day. And then some.

As for the people, there are some rednecks. Like the owner of this truck (zoom in on the photo below to get a good view of those bumper stickers): Image

There are also big-haired anchors on the local Odessa news channel. And bugs the size of my arm. But there are also intelligent, kind, generous people here who come from all walks of life. One of Bret’s colleagues is from Ireland, and a fellow mom I met at the toddler library group hails from India. I’ve also met people from California and other states in the US.

And the people actually born and raised in Texas aren’t all closed-minded redneck bigots. I’m going to tell you straight up that that was my prejudice before we moved here. I had a deep-seated fear of Texas. I thought most Texans wore cowboy hats and shit-kickers and chewed tobacco and beat their wives. I knew that Austin had a cool music scene and prided itself on being a liberal-ish town. But Alpine? What was I to find here? Would my free-spirited daughter turn into a big-haired debutante who believes in creationism? And what about me? What on earth would I do in Alpine? Who would my friends be? Big-haired former debutantes who believe in creationism?

As a matter of fact, no. Not at all.

I’ve met liberal artists, writers, teachers, lawyers, and small business owners. I’ve also met and befriended some conservative folks and they have invited me into their home for dinner and made me feel welcome. And none of them have big hair.

See, Alpine is a college town. And while it’s not Harvard Square it has a student body of 2,000 and a faculty count just shy of 200. And where there are universities there are liberals. Incidentally, Alpine is in Brewster County and Brewster County is one of six (or so) blue counties in Texas.

Alpine is also starkly beautiful. It sits at an altitude of 4800 feet and is surrounded by mountains. Huge white clouds billow in a blue sky that goes on for miles. We have electric thunderstorms and the wind is not shy about making her presence known. I’m listening to the wind right now as she rustles through the trees outside my bedroom window. It sounds like ocean waves.

One downside is that it’s really dry and dusty here. I drink gallons of water and apply face cream a million times a day. But April and May are apparently the driest months. I welcome the humidity of summer.

And admittedly, I’m a city mouse so living in Alpine is taking some adjustment. I’m used to more noise, more places to shop, more people, more options. Life moves faster in the city. But these days, I find a little less of all of that quite appealing. Sure, I miss Trader Joe’s and the Hollywood Bowl but I like that I can get to the grocery store in literally 3 minutes. And I don’t hear helicopters flying overhead every night. Sure, the train that runs through Alpine a few times a day (and night!) isn’t exactly quiet but it’s a beautiful sound. Haunting. Like something from a bygone era. And the starkness of the landscape here is a constant reminder that the world is big and I am small. And that’s a good thing.

So, I’m back.

The evolution of a blog. First Aqaba, then Amman, now Alpine. Each place unique, each its own little world.

I will keep you posted.

And here is Abby. My girl. She’s almost three. Image

Back in the Saddle

We’re back in Jordan. We’ve been here since September 1st. I’ve been meaning to post something to the blog for three weeks but after several attempts and much editing I decided it was best if I was fully recovered from jet lag before posting something for all the world to see. Also, I didn’t want to write through the lens of negativity and anxiety I often feel when I move to a new place. Maybe it’s just me but the initial adjustment period of a move is often overwhelming and rife with cursing.  Therefore, I decided to hold off on publishing anything. Until now.

So, hello!

For those of you not in the loop, we no longer live in Aqaba. We now live in Amman. Same country, different city. Amman is the bustling capital of Jordan (located in the northern part of the country) and it has a population of 4 million. Aqaba is a sleepy seaside community in the south of Jordan with a population of 100,000. We lived in Aqaba last year and while it was fun, by the time we left I was ready for some good food and good shopping. Small towns can be lovely but the ones I prefer have names like Carmel and Mendocino.

When we left Aqaba for summer break back in May, I was so excited to be going home to the U.S. I was also looking forward to moving to Amman upon our return to Jordan in the fall but that felt far far away.

Summer vacation was amazing and cathartic. I haven’t been on vacation in years and certainly not a three-months-long summer vacation. I haven’t experienced that since I was a kid. We went to Tucson to visit my in-laws and Northern California to visit my parents. We spent time in Los Angeles catching up on doctor’s appointments and visiting friends. We went to Carmela, my favorite artisan ice cream shop in Pasadena where they have flavors like strawberry buttermilk, salted caramel, and honey lavender. We went on a road trip through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. We went horseback riding, Bret caught trout on a fishing trip in Bozeman and we ate it for dinner. We ate sweet corn on the cob almost daily. It was a real summer. And it was perfect.

***Little side note: I also read two awesome books this summer that I’m recommending. The first is called The Fantasy Bond by Robert Firestone. Read it. It’s amazing. The other is The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons. I recommend this book to every woman (and man) on the planet, even if you don’t have a daughter. You should especially read it if you do have a daughter, but even if you don’t it’s an insightful book that examines the way in which we teach our girls to handle conflict. It’s a book about how to raise (and be) real girls, not “good” girls.

And then, the three months were up and suddenly were in a packing frenzy, stocking up on all the things we were concerned we wouldn’t be able to find in Jordan. Important, big things like my medications and little (but also important) things like pure vanilla extract and organic cotton tampons. In the weeks leading up to our departure, I was anticipating what life would be like in Amman. I’d never really spent much time there. One day, to be exact. Last year, we drove up to Amman to go shopping and then drove back down to Aqaba the very same night. I will never do that again.

But that one hellishly long day did offer me some insight into the Amman experience. I knew we would have ready access to more stuff, I just didn’t know the true extent of it. More significantly, I didn’t really know what it would be like to live in Amman. All I really knew was Aqaba. And despite its deficiencies, I liked it. I loved the Red Sea. I loved how clear blue and small it is. I loved living right on the beach and being able to walk outside our apartment and be mere feet away from the sand and water and tall date palms. I didn’t have any idea what I would love about Amman.

We arrived at the Queen Alia airport and already things felt different. The most obvious being was that we didn’t have to hop on yet another flight after 20 hours of international travel. I was relieved. It’s a short flight from Amman to Aqaba but at the 20-hour mark it aways felt like salt in the wound to have to board yet another plane. Also, Royal Jordanian Airlines could never seem to get our luggage to arrive in Aqaba when we did. Every fucking time they left at least one of our bags (usually mine) behind in Amman. I started to become accustomed to being without my clothes for the first few days in Aqaba.

Not this time. When we arrived in Amman, I chased Abby around the baggage claim area for less than 10 minutes before Bret appeared, sweaty and smiling, our suitcases piled high on a luggage cart. “Got ‘em. Let’s go!” I was in mild shock. It had never been this easy before and I had prepared myself for disaster.

We walked out to the curb and were immediately greeted by a driver holding a sign with the word SCOTT printed on it. His name was Mohammad and he spoke English quite well. And he even had Abby’s car seat already waiting in the car. That made my heart swell.

Bret sat in the front seat, Abby was nestled in her car seat, and my sunglasses were still on my head. Life was as it should be and we were off to our new place.

When we arrived at our apartment, the landlady greeted us. The first thing she said in a thick Jordanian accent was, “Where are the dogs?” We explained to her that we had to leave them at home because of the heat embargo at the Tucson Airport. The airlines refuse to fly animals if the weather exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Tucson in the summer is waaaay hotter than 85 degrees. More like 110. In the shade.

The embargo was news to us as we’d never had to fly with animals before. We had no choice but to leave them behind with my mother-in-law. Now we realize leaving them behind was the best decision for the dogs. One of them, Sophie, has a chronic illness and is allergic to everything while the other dog, Ruby, is a chewer and afraid of people with dark skin. Bringing them here probably wouldn’t have been the right move for them. But our landlady was sincerely disappointed. Apparently, she’s a real dog person and was looking forward to meeting them. Generally speaking, in the Arab world, dogs are just one step above pigs. And pigs are haram (forbidden) in Islam. But there’s this portion of the population here (the progressives) who like and own dogs. They do have veterinarians here as well as pet stores. But generally, the locals have cats or birds as pets rather than dogs. Just a cultural difference. In Mexico, people cuddle with their chickens on the couch and watch soap operas. This is not a stereotype. I’ve witnessed it.

Our apartment is nice. It’s got engineered wood floors which is kind of unusual in Jordan. Mostly, apartments and houses here have tile or marble floors, or sometimes carpeting. Wood is very hard to come by in this region being that it’s a desert. Our apartment in Aqaba had tile floors throughout which made it feel a little cold, a little echo-y. Also, our apartment here is bigger than our joint in Aqaba.

We have 2 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, a large living room, dining area, a decent-sized kitchen and a backyard. What we don’t have is the Red Sea right outside our door. And 7 swimming pools at our disposal, which we had in Tala Bay (gated community where we lived in Aqaba). Pros and cons, right?

Amman is much bigger than Aqaba. Not just in terms of population density but geographically too. And while the Dead Sea is a mere 35 minutes away, the Dead Sea is no Red Sea. For starters, there’s nothing in it. It’s so salty that it’s completely devoid of life — no coral, no fish, not even amoeba. Just salt. This means you shouldn’t get the water in your eyes. It also means it’s impossible to be eaten by a shark. Pros and cons.

On the pro side, Amman has more availability of goods and services. There are several large grocery stores with fabulous American and European imports. Things like, Oscar Meyer Thick Cut bacon. This was a very happy day in the Scott household when we discovered Spinney’s has a whole pork section (we call it the haram section). Spinney’s is a big, western-style (by that I mean American or European, not cowboy-themed) grocery store. It’s located in the newest mall in town, called Taj Mall. Taj Mall feels like a slightly smaller (and vertical) Glendale Galleria.

I like Spinneys. I find their produce to be less impressive than the other grocery stores in town but they have a fairly extensive organic and gluten free section. You can also buy things like Stonewall Kitchen brand bruschetta for $17 a jar, if you’re so inclined. On our most recent trip to Spinney’s I found Horizon organic string cheese. Abby loves string cheese and I love organic food. I’m a bourgeois white lady from Los Angeles. What can I say?

The other grocery stores are nice. Cozmo is my favorite. They have things I never thought I would find in Jordan. Things like Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour, fresh blueberries imported from Belgium, and organic, unsulphured dried apricots. I know. This is the shit I care about. But it’s a good store. Miles is another awesome grocery store. It has wood floors, a nice variety of products, and if I squint my eyes I could be at Whole Foods. Miles is located on the basement floor of Mecca Mall, for those of you who live in Amman or plan to visit. They sell a fantastic olive oil liquid hand soap called Dr. Mak. It’s lightly scented with essential oils and it’s made right here in Jordan. It’s a little pricey but good to support a locally made product.

There are also American and European clothing and shoe stores here (Gap, Nine West, Mango, Gymboree, Tape A l’Oeuil). The only problem is that the prices are marked up about 30-40% because of import tax. So, a simple T-shirt at the Gap that would cost about $15 in the U.S. is more like $30 here (this number reflects not only the import tax but also the conversion rate, which is about .71 JOD to $1). I probably won’t be buying many clothes here. Just as well.

There’s this nice kids place called J’Imagine where I’ve taken Abby several times. She loves it. It’s an indoor play place that is quiet and clean and has wooden toys, baby dolls, a pretend city with a grocery store, veterinary office, a restaurant, a doctor’s office, and a fire house. There’s also a large water station with fish, fishing poles, and rubber ducks. Abby loves playing in the water and pushing the various baby dolls around in the stroller. She also likes to play cashier and ring up baskets full of play groceries. Here’s a photo:

Abby fishing at J’Imagine

Abby ringing up the groceries at J’Imagine

I’m glad J’Imagine exists. It’s a tasteful, thoughtful place for kids (and parents) with an atmosphere conducive to imaginative play, rather than forced bells and whistles like Chuck E. Cheese. We’re planning to check out the Children’s Museum this weekend. Hopefully, that will be another place Abby will like to visit.

A couple of things I’m not too thrilled about regarding our new digs:

1) Our apartment has rattan furniture with white upholstery. We have a toddler. This is significant for two reasons. A) Rattan rips easily, and B) Small grayish-brown footprints on the white couch are not as cute as you might think. We’re in the market for some grayish-brown slip-covers.

2) Our fridge is the size of an acorn. Our landlady cheaped out and furnished the kitchen with Fisher-Price Barbie appliances. The oven is literally the size of a breadbox and is not insulated. The first time we used it, the entire kitchen warmed up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the oven itself started steaming. Bret has since disconnected the oven from the gas line and we now use the stove (which has a flat, glass cover) as counter space. We reluctantly decided to shell out the dough for a new oven, which we plan to sell when we leave. It’s a nice Italian model that is sturdy and insulated. It wasn’t as expensive as the German ovens (go figure) but it wasn’t exactly cheap either. Some things I just can’t live without and a decent oven is one of those things.

3) The traffic here is bad. Not only are the drivers batshit crazy, there are many many more of them here than there were in Aqaba. And Amman is laid out in such a ridiculous, Byzantine way that not even those who’ve lived here for years know how to get anywhere, much less give proper directions. Thank god for Google maps.

4) It’s noisy here. Much noisier than Aqaba — at least where we lived in Tala Bay. Most nights, Bret and I sit in the living room after Abby has gone to bed and either work on school stuff, write, or just hang out and try to relax. But the noise of the city feels as though we imported the 405 freeway to Jordan and parked it right outside our apartment. Not so relaxing. Also, the prime minister has a house (or an office?) on our street and his helicopter flies over us at least once a day. We figure it’s his hoo ride — not sure. Either way, it’s loud. And to top off the cacophony of honking horns and helicopter blades, we can hear call to prayer five times a day. And one of those times is at 5 in the morning. Every morning. Sometimes we’re even treated to dueling calls coming from different mosques. They’re just slightly out of sync which gives the already haunting sound a strange echo. Drop in some drum and bass and it would be the perfect comeback single for Enigma.

So, all in all, it’s okay here. I did have one dark day a few weeks ago. The protests in response to that stupid YouTube video were going on and I was nervous. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then read the fucking news once in awhile. Bret kept reassuring me that we weren’t in any danger and Jordan is a very stable country. He’s right. Our embassy here was being watched by what looked like hundreds of military personnel, and, besides, most of the protesters (only a few hundred in a city of 4 million people) were the radical guys with beards and bad teeth. I don’t say that to be an asshole. We have radical guys with beards and bad teeth in the U.S., too. Interestingly, it’s the bad-toothed, bearded guys who hate each other while the rest of us coexist just fine and get on with the day. I haven’t gotten the stink eye from anyone or rocks thrown at my car (yet) so I’m optimistic that I’m safe here at the moment. Safe enough.

That’s the thing. What we see in the news is never the full picture. I read CNN and the Jordan Times online, among other news outlets, and while there are indeed protests happening throughout the region in response to what was basically a shitty home video, it doesn’t mean everyone in the middle east hates the U.S. Likewise, I remind all of you radical, anti-American types who burn our flag and call our president names, that one crappy video does not speak for or represent an entire country of people. Furthermore, and this is the most ironic part, the crappy YouTube video was made with Egyptian money by an Egyptian Coptic Christian. The bottom line is that people who don’t understand freedom of speech don’t fully get it that the government doesn’t endorse anything and everything its people create. In the U.S. blasphemy is just talk. And talk is cheap.

Things seem to have quieted down this week in terms of the protests. Although, I won’t be surprised if some other incident sparks the crazies and the flag-burning erupts again. It seems that someone is always pissed off about something. I think it’s that they weren’t loved unconditionally as children and they take it out on the world. No injustice is as great as a child rejected by his parents.

But that’s another conversation for another day.

I’m trying to enjoy this time in Amman. Some days, I feel cranky and fearful and I just want to go back to the U.S. But other days, I feel so grateful for this experience. I never thought I’d live in the middle east. For years I was afraid of this entire region and wouldn’t have even contemplated coming here for a visit. And now I live here. And most days, I really like it.

By the way, I’m keeping the name Aqababy even though we’re living in Amman. I’m not sentimental, just lazy. Now that we’re back here in Jordan, I’ll be posting here more often. We’re planning more travels. Stay tuned.

Adjustments

So we’re back in the U.S. for the summer. It’s nice to be here. I’ve already giddily skipped around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. And Bret has sufficiently stuffed himself with bacon.

It was an interesting and productive 10 months in Aqaba.

Bret finished his first year of teaching at RSICA. I finished my first year teaching middle school drama at Aqaba International School. And Abby turned 2 years old.

We arrived in Tucson a few weeks ago to kick off our a three-month summer vacation. Working in academia has its privileges.

Now that we’ve made the 23-hour trip to and from Jordan a few times, Bret and I have decided that Aqaba is like Narnia. The journey back to the States feels like what we imagine the four Pevensie children felt as they sifted their way back through the wardrobe. Incidentally, there’s also Turkish delight in Aqaba. No White Witch though. And no talking lions.

In other news, when we go back to Jordan in the fall we’ll be moving to Amman rather than returning to our luxury gulag in Aqaba. This is because RSICA has moved to the capital city and while it seems to be a good thing, I’ll miss our little place by the Red Sea.

Or maybe I won’t.

Maybe I’ll look back on our time there with fondness but great relief. Relief that we’re no longer in such a small town with all its quirks and limitations. I do know that I’m looking forward to living in a bigger city. Amman is a fairly modern place. It has a Pinkberry, y’all.

We’ll still visit Aqaba from time to time. Amman is crowded (4 million people), so no doubt we’ll need a place to retreat on weekends. It’s only one hour by plane or three hours by car, albeit a bumpy ride.

And even if I am initially homesick for crazy Aqaba-Narnia, I’ll remind myself of Marianne.

Marianne was a friend of my mother’s when I was growing up. She was a tiny German-Jew who once trained to be a ballerina and was also a mentor for my mother. She would say to mom in times of stress or disappointment, “Life is a series of adjustments.” Marianne was elderly and had lived through many things, including the Holocaust as a teenager, and later, the death of her adult son. If anyone had the right to sum up life so succinctly, it was Marianne. She passed away several years ago but her words have stuck with me, and the older I get the more I understand and appreciate them.

It’s easy to feel adrift when you’re an expat, particularly a newbie. Some of the expats in Aqaba are veterans of this way of life. One expat friend, an American we’ll call Jessica, is married to a German guy who works in the hotel industry. In the last 8 years, they’ve lived in Morocco, Switzerland, Germany, Dubai, and now Jordan. They have no idea where they’ll move next. Every two years or so, her husband gets a new assignment from his employer and they just pick up and go– and start over somewhere else. Jessica has enjoyed her globe-trotting life. She hasn’t always loved the places she’s lived (namely, Dubai) but she managed because she knew it was only temporary.

One of my students at the International School, a bright Romanian girl, has lived all over the world in her 13 years on the planet. She manages to maintain a really positive, upbeat attitude about her constantly shifting life. Even though she’s only 13, I get the sense she already understands that being flexible is much more fun and rewarding than the alternative. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb: “The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind.” What’s with all the quotes today?

One of the more difficult things about being an expat, especially a serial one, is that you’re always leaving people and people are always leaving you. I mean, it’s nothing personal. Technically, expats aren’t leaving each other, they’re simply moving on to the next gig. It’s well understood within the expat community that this lifestyle is so itinerant and most of the expats I befriend are really easy-going, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It sort of reminds me of the end of summer camp when you have to leave all your friends. You were thrown together for a short period of time, relied on each other for support and kinship (in some cases, even saw each other through pregnancies or other huge life events — although that never happened at summer camp) and then you move on. You’re not sure if you’ll ever see each other again. You vow to keep in touch but there’s an unspoken understanding that you may not. Some of us relocate to strange-sounding places in Africa, some stay put in Aqaba, some move back to our countries of origin. And some move to Amman. Everything is always shifting.

But that’s life, isn’t it? Even when we think we know what to expect, it doesn’t necessarily happen that way. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have expectations or make plans. It just means we have to remember that life is a series of adjustments. Things change. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to. Sometimes things work out better than we ever thought they could. Sometimes we win $24 on a pair of Lotto scratchers.

I have one expat friend (we’ll call her Zelda) who is a longtime resident of Aqaba. She’s married to a Jordanian man and owns her own restaurant, so she has no plans to leave Jordan anytime soon. Zelda is often the one “left behind” by other expats. She lamented this a few months ago, incidentally while we were at a going-away brunch for another expat friend (we’ll call her Kim) on her way back to Australia. Zelda said, “It doesn’t get any easier, saying goodbye. You just learn to accept it.” As we toasted Kim’s friendship and wished her luck on her ongoing adventure, I looked down at my bowl of soggy mueseli and felt a pang of sadness. I had only known Kim for a short while but she had become a friend and I would miss her.

But thankfully, we have email and telephones and Skype and Facebook. And of course, airplanes. So, keeping in touch is easier than it’s ever been. There’s nothing quite like sitting across from a friend and laughing together in person, but technology is better than nothing.

Parenthood has also served to remind me that life is ever-shifting, changing, surprising me. I make choices, plans, I hope for the best, and beyond that, the only thing I can do is bend with the wind.

In the Valley of the Moon

So, you guys know about my trip to Petra. Now, I’m going to wow you with my trip to Wadi Rum. Or maybe I’ll underwhelm you. Whatever your reaction to the following, at the very least it may inform you about where to stay (or not stay) should you ever visit Wadi Rum.

We went to Wadi Rum earlier this month when my mom was visiting. I think we traveled more during her 10-day visit than the entire 8 months we’ve lived in Jordan.

Wadi Rum is a desert valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock about 45 minutes east of Aqaba. It’s the largest wadi (or valley) in Jordan. It’s also really fun to say: Wadi Rum. Waaadeeee Ruuuummm. Rum is pronounced just like Captain Morgan’s.

We chose to stay at the Rahayeb bedouin camp because it was hosting an Easter egg hunt that weekend. I, for one, have a hard time resisting an egg hunt in the desert.

We left Aqaba around 6 p.m. on a Thursday and arrived in Rum just after sunset (around 7). You can’t drive a non 4-wheel drive vehicle into the actual camp, so we parked at the Captain’s Camp parking lot and hitched a ride with bedouin drivers into Rahayeb. There are many camps to choose from in Wadi Rum, some nicer than others. Rum is a pretty well-known tourist destination. David Lean shot much of Lawrence of Arabia there. Bret’s colleague knows the owner of Rahayeb camp so we were able to score VIP tents for the night. More on that later.

The moon hung over the valley as we drove into Rum. It was stunning. And the sand is fine and soft, like a caribbean beach. Without the turquoise water and steel drums.

The surrounding towns of Wadi Rum are really poverty-stricken. Children with dirty faces run around playing with whatever trash they can find on the streets. Herds of goats wander and lone donkeys stand around munching on trash. All the women cover completely and you rarely see them out and about. As we drove through these depressing little towns on our way to Rum, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in one of them. If it’s all I ever knew, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad? I don’t know.

We arrived at Rahayeb Camp by 7:45 p.m. and at that point I was ready to eat. Unfortunately, about 150 extras from Spring Break Shark Attack had descended upon the otherwise serene camp and were yucking it up around the campfire. Literally, one hundred and fifty teens dressed in the unofficial spring break uniform (t-shirts, miniskirts, shorts, flip-flops) were standing around, hooting and hollering at nothing in particular. They appeared to be children of wealthy Ammanis and were apparently a last-minute group who showed up at the camp just before we arrived. They were also supposedly leaving right after dinner. Either way, this was not the magical Wadi Rum experience we were hoping for. Yes, okay. I’m old.

After a lively 10 minutes by the raging campfire, we were escorted to our VIP tents by the harried host who kept apologizing for the Girls Gone Wild atmosphere. I told him I didn’t mind as long as I saw some titty.

The tents were rad. Bret, Abby, and I shared one and mom had one to herself. Here are some slightly blurry pictures:

The bed

The sitting area inside the tent.

The tents were lit by candlelight except for the bathrooms, which had their own electricity (and running water!). We had a king bed and a lounge area with a couch and sitting chairs. The bed had grains of sand in it, but was otherwise comfortable.

Unfortunately, we were asked to wait until 10:30 p.m. for dinner. The camp host thought it somehow made sense to make us wait until after the extras from Spring Break Shark Attack had finished eating. Fuck that. I had a hungry toddler to feed. I grabbed two plates (1 for me, 1 for my mom) at 8:30 and jumped into the line. I blended in surprisingly well with the spring break crowd. What can I say? I’m a MILF. I stocked up on hummus, salad, labaneh, chicken, rice, and vegetables. They even had a platter of middle eastern pastries. I scurried back to the tent where mom was waiting with baby bird.

The food was decent. At Rahayeb, they cook dinner on hot coals underground. Right before the camp host serves the meal, the guests gather around and watch as two men pull a metal box out of a sand pit oven with a dramatic flourish. They rip off the tin foil and reveal roast chicken and lamb. Everyone applauds and cheers, not because of the spectacle but because the food has finally arrived.

After dinner, Mom retreated to her own tent and Bret, Abby, and I fell asleep in our gritty bed to the sounds of howling wind and the echoes of drums and oud on the rocks outside. The oud (pronounced ood) is an Arabic instrument that’s a cross between a banjo, fiddle, and a mandolin. Bret’s colleagues stayed up late to enjoy the live music, while I fell asleep dreaming I was Brooke Shields in the film Sahara. What is it with me and that goddam movie?!

The following morning, we woke up around 7. My skin felt dusty and I was tired. I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped. But when I saw the views outside the tent, I didn’t care. I was so impressed that it didn’t bother me that I was groggy and still had Maria Muldaur’s Midnight at the Oasis stuck in my head.

Here are a few images:

The view from outside the tents. The grooves and ridges in the rocks are formed from wind and sand.

Captain’s Camp, one of the other bedouin camps.

The view from one of the dunes overlooking the Rahayeb Camp.

More rocks and sand

Me outside the tent in my pajamas.

That background doesn’t even look real. It’s real.

Hand-carved benches at Rahayeb.

Wadi Rum is actually very big and seems to go on and on. It’s spectacular.

We had a quick breakfast of boiled eggs and hummus. We also had some Nescafe after five minutes of trying to explain to the camp host that we wanted American-style coffee with milk. The Arabic coffee is very strong and thick and is blended with cardamom. I’m not a fan. I like cardamom in baked goods but not in my morning joe.

Abby played in the sand with a friend’s 3-year-old son:

We were planning to stay for the egg hunt but then the camp host informed us they were expecting 300 people and a DJ. A side note: Jordanians love a DJ. Any chance they get, they throw in a DJ. Get married — have a DJ. Going out of business — have a DJ. Get a chest X-ray –have a DJ. Also, they moved the start time of the hunt to 2 p.m. when it was originally scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Rarely do things start on time in Jordan. Mom, Bret, and I all agreed that a 300-person techno-party egg hunt in the scorching desert sounded like hell on Earth. So, we packed up and left.

Readers, I don’t recommend you ever stay at Rahayeb. There are many camps in Wadi Rum and Rahayeb was not very accommodating. They refused to drive us out of the camp the following morning which is totally unacceptable as that’s the only way to get out. It’s not like you can hail a cab. Fortunately for us, Bret’s colleague had a 4WD vehicle and she drove us back to our car at Captain’s Camp. But part of the service guests pay for at these camps is a ride back to civilization.

Also, Rahayeb charged us 55 dinars (or $77) per person, not per tent. This included dinner and a meager breakfast. At all the other bedouin camps in the area the charge is per tent, not per person. I admit, we had the nicer tents complete with private bathrooms. But for them to make us wait for dinner and then refuse to drive us out the following morning was bullshit. I will not stay at Rahayeb ever again and I recommend you avoid it too.

But definitely go to Wadi Rum if you get the chance. And I also recommend falling asleep to the echoes of drumbeats on the rocks.

EGG-TASTIC!

I decided to jump on the Easter bandwagon this year.

Last year, Abby wasn’t even a year old so we didn’t bother. But this year she seemed ready to experience the strange pagan rituals of Easter.

We were planning to have her participate in an egg hunt hosted by a bedouin camp in Wadi Rum. We’d spent a night at the camp during the last few days of my mom’s visit and we thought it would be the perfect way to introduce Abby to the strange and wonderful ritual that is egg hunting. But the morning of the egg hunt the manager at the camp told us they were expecting over 300 people for the hunt and they’d hired a DJ. Uh…no. We hightailed it back to Aqaba. The good news was that Abby didn’t know what she was missing so it was no big deal.

Instead, I home-brewed some vegetable-based dyes (no Paas coloring tablets in Aqaba), boiled a half-dozen eggs, and Abby colored her first Easter eggs. She loved it!

And I had a blast watching her plunk eggs into the jars of colorful liquid. But she wouldn’t leave the eggs alone long enough to let the colors set, so this is what the first batch looked like:

Didn’t matter. She had fun and that was all I cared about. I actually think her favorite part was ripping each egg apart, crushing the shells and mashing the egg yolks into a paste.

Toddler Godzilla!

After our day of coloring and smashing eggs, I decided I wanted to try the vegetable-based dyes again. I had used a variety of ingredients for the first batch. I just experimented with various fruit and vegetables. Here’s what I tried:

Yellow: Ground turmeric
Orange/Brown: Green tea
Pink/Red: Hibiscus tea
Violet: Black currant juice
Pink/Magenta: Pomegranate juice

I also had a small bottle of artificial green food coloring so I used that to make a bright green dye. It was Ba-right. It was also very artificial looking next to the natural dyes.

The first batch of eggs came out so pale because, like I said, they only soaked for a few minutes. I was curious to see what they would look like if they soaked a little longer. Also, I wanted to try some other vegetables like purple cabbage and beets.

My inner Martha Stewart was unleashed.

So…

After Abby went to bed that evening, I did what any tired mother of a toddler would do:

I stayed up late experimenting with egg dyes.

First, I put a head of chopped purple cabbage in a pot with 2 quarts water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt and brought the mixture to a boil. Then, I let it simmer for 30 minutes. Then, I strained the cabbage and reserved the dark purple liquid.

Here’s a picture:

Then, I did the same with two large beets (chopped and peeled) for pink/red dye. And then I tried 6 tablespoons of ground turmeric for yellow dye. Each mixture contained (aside from the aforementioned vegetable or spice) 2 quarts (or 4 cups) of water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt. I brought the beet and turmeric mixtures to a boil and simmered for 30 minutes, just like I did with the cabbage.

Here are more pictures in case you care:

I let the dyes chill in the fridge overnight, along with a fresh batch of hard boiled eggs.

I was a bit too proud of these beauties. They are beautiful though, aren’t they?

Then, I fell asleep with my clothes on.

The following morning, Abby tested the new dyes. But this time, as soon as she dropped the eggs into the bright liquid, I whisked the jars away from her curious little hands and into  the safety of the kitchen. Martha Stewart was in full effect. Abby was okay with it. I told her the eggs needed to take a nap.

Two hours later, this is what we got:

The blue eggs were from the purple cabbage juice, the yellow from the turmeric, and the green one was the artificial food coloring again. I’ve heard kale or spinach both work well for green, but I didn’t have either of those on hand. Something to try next year.

Unfortunately, the beet liquid turned the eggs (not pictured) a shade Bret described as “real estate white.” They just looked beige to me. Beige and disappointing. Bummer. I think next time, I’ll leave the skins on? Any advice on that, readers?

And because I’m unable to leave well enough alone, that evening I brewed a few cups of hibiscus tea mixed with white vinegar and salt and dropped the “real estate white” eggs into that mixture. I was hoping the deep red hibiscus tea would turn the eggs pink. Or at least a pale shade of coral. Something spring-y.

And then I got distracted by various things online, the state of my old pedicure, and then passed out in my clothes again. What is wrong with me?

The next morning, I hobbled out to the kitchen and found a glass jar of putrid purple liquid with two very soggy tea bags floating in it. Oops! I had forgotten to remove those goddam hibiscus tea bags! My heart actually jumped a little. Did the eggs turn pink?! After 8 hours, they MUST have, right?

No. They turned black.

The charcoal grey/black one in the front is the hibiscus experiment. It also has a few scratches on it from the metal tongs I used to try and extract it from the jar. Wide-mouth jars are always advisable when dyeing Easter eggs.

Kinda Nightmare Before Easter. And kinda sad that this whole thing became my life’s work for a few days.

I’m planning to hold off on any further dyeing projects until next Easter. I hear onion skins are a good choice as they can make cool swirly patterns on the eggs. We’ll see if I have the patience next year to sit there and remove a bunch of smelly onion skins.

I guess this is what happens when one has children. One starts investing a lot of time and energy into the art of dyeing boiled eggs. It could be worse. I could be dressing up in a plush bunny costume.