Ital (eye'-tal): of or from the earth; vital; life giving; natural.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Consciousness Raising

Mo and I are legally married. However, I never took his last name, instead I kept mine in all of its monosyllabic-Germanic-confusion inducing-glory. It's my name and I happen to like it. Not to mention that I have spent 30-odd years building an identity around it. To be honest, I was always ambivalent about marriage. I envisioned sharing my life with someone but it wasn't ever important to me whether or not we were a legal union. As one of my heroes, Joni Mitchell sang, "We don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall, making us tied and true..." but a legal union was important to Mo and so off to City Hall we went for that piece of paper.

And in hindsight, I'm happy we did it. I love Mo very much and it was wonderful to celebrate our love with everyone close to us. We had a beautiful private ceremony with the city clerk and a few family members and close friends at our actual wedding. Then the following year on our anniversary, we had a big party at a neighborhood bar.

Mo's surname though never interested me and he was fine with that. In fact he respected my right to choose whether or not to take his name. Although excited to share a life with Mo, I just wasn't willing to give up what I had already created on my own, with my own name. I thought about hyphenating both our names like so many of my friends, but adding any more syllables and a hyphen to boot just wasn't appealing. Plus he wasn't interested in adding my name to his, so we just kept them as is.

I have always prided myself on my independence and my identity. I went to an all woman's college where on the first day I was given the latest edition of "Our Bodies, Ourselves". At a reception with the Dean later that day, she read us the poetry of Adrienne Rich and emphasized the importance of being a collective of women, not girls, but women. I joined the woman's group on campus, marched in countless "Take Back the Night" rallies, went to marches on Washington to protect women's reproductive rights, signed petitions to stop the stoning to death of women in the Middle East, had brunch with Gloria Steinem who was also our commencement speaker. I surrounded myself with liberal, progressive women and men who felt that women's issues were a basic human rights issue. I married a man who views me as his equal and who is not above helping out around the house that we share and who respects me and my beliefs.

So, now I'm here where there hasn't been the same kind of Woman's Movement to shape the consciousness of the culture. I admit to writing this post out of some frustration. After a third trip to the bank to try to get my name added to Mo's bank account, we've run into more obstacles. Because we do not share a surname, we have to produce our marriage certificate, so back to the bank we go for a fourth time. Even after providing them with our marriage certificate they will still list me as "single" in their files because I do not have any identification with my "married name" on it. When I attempted to explain that I never changed my name and that I will not ever have identification with Mo's last name on it, the teller just raised her eyebrows and said, "As I said, we'll just use your maiden name for now until you get some identification with your married name." I was surprised by her total disregard for what I was saying. I thought if my name were going to cause a stir anywhere, it would have been at the Immigration Office. But they never even questioned the different surnames and issued my Alien Registration card with my name in tact. I even brought this card with me to the bank which the teller took and photocopied as I.D. But I guess here, as in the States, the Banks trump the Government?!!

I give most people credit in that they try to refer to me by the proper name even though Mo's is much easier to both remember and pronounce. And I try to be patient. I wonder if I need to be more flexible. I wonder if I'm being selfish. I wonder if it's my "first world privilege" showing itself. I wonder if in the larger picture it matters whether or not someone puts a Mrs. in front of my name. I wonder all of these things while trying to be patient and gracious but I just can't help but cringe when I'm called by the wrong name. We have lived happily for 7 years with Mr. and Ms. and I like it that way.

I understand that this country has been marred by illegitimacy. There are so many people, particularly women, who are looking to legitimize their existence. Many official documents and government benefits can only be obtained through paternity or marriage. So having that proof such as a shared surname, provides the woman with a certain amount of status and security. She is not just a "baby mama" or a "matey" but she is someone legitimate and deserving of a proper place in society. It is a lingering effect from a culture built upon slavery and colonialism. But if Jamaica really wants to move ahead and be competitive in a wider global community, a broader view must be taken. The women I have met here so far are very independent and self sufficient. Many female professionals are choosing to hyphenate their surnames although I don't know them well enough to ask whether their legal documents contain both names. So I find it odd that these formalities still exist in the bureaucracy. The same bureaucracy in which most of the employees are women (with hyphenated names)! Mo saw a firetruck pass him the other day with a woman suited up on the truck! We would never have seen such a sight in Brooklyn for all its other liberal views! It is also quite common to see female bus drivers and female road construction workers. So again, I'm confused by the persistence of such archaic customs of delineating everything through the male. I really want to have a good old fashioned consciousness raising where we come together as women to highlight our strengths and work towards positive change. The mainstream culture here is still one that objectifies women through song lyrics, billboards and ads painted on local establishments. I feel like I must stick to my gut which says, "I'm a Ms.!" and join with others who feel the same way so that we can begin turning the wheels of change.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Celebration Time

We have been celebrating! The past few weeks have granted us many gifts and we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Parties and family gatherings, birthdays and milestones have all been welcomed, cheered, shared and enjoyed. Please join us in our happiness.

The Matriarch's Birthday

87 years young! The birthday girl looking beautiful in blue!




Baby Q's Shower

Sitting pretty before the festivities begin.

Earth Mother smiling big.

The Cheese Face! So that's where the family trait comes from!

The watchmen.

Playing games.

Baby Q enjoying some Ting.

Laughing hysterically. We ladies did a lot of that!

Loved the cake!

The big game winner and the Hostess with the Mostest!

Shine's First Day of School

"Cheese!" "I'm ready!!"

Through the gate.

A Citizen and A Legal Alien!

We're official!

Mo Designs a House

His first original design to be built, a gorgeous bungaloo in St. Mary

A Lovely Birthday!

My birthday bouquet made with love by Mo and Shine. It was supposed to be a surprise along with breakfast in bed, but Shine was so excited that he woke me up to say, "Mommy, Mommy, me and daddy and grandma are picking flowers and putting them in a pot for you! Come and see them!! Hurry, Hurry!"

After a ladies day of shopping with Earth Mother and Mom-in-law, Mo and I had a date night! He took me out for a fabulous dinner! We stuffed ourselves silly with yummy food!

Miss K's Christening

Looking adorable after being sprinkled with Holy Water.

With Mommy and Daddy waiting for the water.

And then there was cake!

We are family.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I feel like I have been writing a lot about us, but not really about us. Meaning, I've been relating anecdotes about our move and our adventures, but I've written very little about who we are and what we do. So I thought I would take some time to introduce us. I'm an artist. I love making things...whether they are art things or food things or other things. I have an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn which is where I met Mo, who is an architect. He makes things too. BIG things...like houses and hospitals. And he is my resident physicist and art handler. When I have a conundrum about one of my sculptures, he always has the right answer! I like to say he creates the space and I fill it. Recently, I got a book the collaboration between artists and architects. It is a very unique dynamic. We have only truly collaborated once on a sculpture, but I look forward to future work together. Our approach to our works is both ecological and socially responsible. We attempt to use recycled or sustainably managed materials to make our work.

There are a couple of places where you can view images of my fine art as well as the fine craft and jewelry that I create:

I've also added a direct link to my etsy shop at the bottom of this page. Mo is still working on his website so we will share it soon.

Until then,
Peace and Wellness,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Positive Vibrations

When I first sat down to type this entry late last week, the only thing on my mind was the terrible day I had spent at the immigration office trying to sort out Shine and I's migratory status. But after re-reading what I had typed and of course allowing some distance from the experience, I realize that retelling the negative details serves little purpose. Instead, I would like to focus on the positives that came out of the experience.

First, Shine is now a true Jamaican through and through. We were able to finish up his citizenship application and we came home with a certificate and letter stating that his citizenship has been granted. The certificate is huge and very official with a little (and very adorable) picture of Shine at the top. He spent the rest of the day practicing his Jamaican accent. I was in hysterics.

Second, Mo has a dear family friend who upon hearing about my debacle, has taken it upon herself to call on her connections working in the various administrative offices to help us navigate the system. She has really gone out of her way to assist and I couldn't feel more blessed to have her help. After a few phone calls, she has straighten everything out and given me the correct procedure for filing all the paperwork for my own citizenship application.

Third, after we left the immigration office feeling very hungry (and I admit to feeling quite defeated), we decided to head to Juicy Pattie to celebrate Shine's new status. It was packed of course because it was the lunch rush hour. I feared lots of whining because we would have to wait a good while to get our food and we had just spent 3+ hours waiting. But the cashier who took our order, either saw the look of hunger and desperation in my eyes or was just plain considerate and nice (because that's how most people are down here), ran to the back and came out with a tray filled with our order. I thanked her repeatedly for her kindness while Shine made his way to his favorite spot by the fish tank. He was happy as a clam chomping away on his patty and slurping up his cherry juice. He found everything the fish did laugh out loud funny and was excited to talk like other Jamaicans. His spirit soon lifted my own.

Administrative hurdles such as what I experienced last week are expected when making such a huge move. I'm sure I could exchange horror stories and show off battle scars with fellow expats across the globe. Immigration is not an easy process no matter where in the world you live. So I'm over it. I've chalked it up to experience and lessons learned.

Until soon...
Peace and Wellness