Title

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Eye of the Storm

Well, I just experienced my first full on hurricane...and I'm still here to write about it. We were very lucky that Sandy was a category I as it passed over the island and that she came from the South and moved North at a relatively quick speed. (Many hurricanes come from the East and move West devastating the entire island as it lumbers across.) That said, there was still significant damage to the Eastern parishes. Our dear friends at Source Farm suffered damage to many of their buildings and crops. A number of people living in rural areas experienced flooding and mud slides. More than 70% of the island was without power for 2-3 days and some are still without electricity. Our apartment complex lost some trees as did our neighbors. We were on "Hurricane Holiday" from work last week as our schools and offices were without power and many of the major roadways were blocked by debris.

The storm caught many of us by surprise here. It wasn't until Monday that I learned of then Tropical Storm Sandy and its potential to come our way. On Tuesday, the principal at our school was making announcements every 30 minutes about the storm's progress and the plans the school had for making preparations. We had to secure all of our classrooms as well as the staff room and other common spaces. We were dismissed early to ensure everyone had time to return home safely and prepare for the big event on Wednesday.

During my free period on Tuesday, I made a grocery list of all the last minute items we needed. Mo left his office early and picked me up at school and we promptly went to the store (along with the rest of Kingston). There was excitement in the air as everyone made their plans and there was no bread to be found on any of the shelves...

Once home, I began cooking up a storm of my own. I made cookies and soup, rice and peas, popcorn, coffee, pasta, sandwich fixings including tofu mayo and hummus. I anticipated that we would be without power at some point and that it could last for any length of time.I wanted to ensure that we had more than enough to last us through the coming days. Mo put batteries into anything that took them and secured all of our windows and outside doors. We charged cell phones and any other electronic gadget so that we had ways to communicate with the outside world. I even remembered to fill the bathtub in case the water supply was disrupted. (Thank you WNYC for doing a story on disaster preparedness at some point during my Brooklyn tenure!!)

Wind is the natural element I fear most. The howling and whistling, the twisting, pushing and pulling...a hurricane is what I have dreaded most since moving here. Having gone through the experience though, I will say that I at least faced that fear even if I did not conquer it wholely. I am grateful for Nature's mercy shown to us. I am proud of Mo and I for being able to work together as a team to keep our family safe (and well fed). I am proud of myself for having the foresight to think of things like crayons and paper for the kids to draw on, extra diapers, candles and bathtubs full of water. Being prepared is something I have struggled with for a number of years. I was always under the impression that I was prepared for anything and then I became a mother and realized what a fallacy that was. I've lost count of the number of times I was caught out of the house without a diaper or snacks or extra socks...or showed up at the doctor's office without the insurance card or return cab fare or immunization card...and the list goes on.

It sounds funny, but Hurricane Sandy gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I can do this adult/parent/teacher thing.

Now I turn my thoughts and prayers to my friends and family in the Northeast of America. May Sandy be as kind to you, Loved Ones. I'm sending you all my deepest love.
Rae

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where Have I Been?

You may be wondering...

or maybe you're not.

Either way, it's good to be writing again.

So since my last post, Summer has ended. And we decided to mark the occasion with a trip to an amazing place called Castleton Gardens. It is one of Jamaica's best kept secrets. Just a half hour drive north of Kingston, Castleton is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the Caribbean. It follows the Wag Water River which you can swim in. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon. See...





September greeted us with back to school activities. Both Shine and I have returned to the classroom full time. We found a lovely "homeschool" school right on our street. One of our neighbors started a school in her house. Actually, she began by homeschooling her own two (now adult) children. Soon her friends and relatives were asking her to teach their children and then suddenly she is converting her garage into a classroom. The experience so far has been amazing. Shine has actually uttered the words, "I love school" and "I'm happy". Of course, I'm over the moon that we found such an amazing place and it's RIGHT NEXT DOOR!

As for me: I am now a full time art teacher in one of the island's most beloved high schools. It has been an adjustment to say the least. As I've written about before, the education system here is very different from the U.S. so I have had to learn very quickly a number of very rigid syllabi as well as adjust my teaching style to teenagers plus acclimate to the demands of a full time work schedule and being a mom and a working artist. It has not been without its challenges, but so far I'd say that we are all adjusting well. 

Oh, and I get to play field hockey! For those of you who don't know, I was crazy about hockey in Jr and Sr High School. I even considered playing in college (until I realized they practiced at 6am). I'm helping to coach the junior team at my school. It's been fun to be back on the field. I have a lot of really fond memories from then.

Song is super busy being almost 2. She is into everything! And while her busy-ness can be exhausting, she is just so funny that you find yourself laughing at her antics (well, most of the time...).

Mo is about to take his licensing exam. Fingers and toes crossed that it is smooth sailing. We have also been working together to design a line of furniture...because we aren't busy enough. Actually, we need to outfit our apartment and we thought, hey, we went to art school, let's see what we can come up with. We are really excited about our concepts and we will hopefully have prototypes on view next month (read as: a table and a couch in our living space next month...)

That is the update for now. There is a lot more that happened, some happy, some sad and some just plain scary. I will write about all of it soon.

Until then,
Peace and Wellness,
Rae


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On Being a National

There are days I feel like a stranger in a strange land, that no matter how long I live in one place, I will always have a pull, a longing for another place. That no matter how much I assimilate into one culture, there will always be something that reveals my origins, identifies me as an other.

Today is July 4th, my home nation's birthday. I am currently sitting in a quiet cafe sipping Blue Mountain coffee and listening to an Emo album of Bob Marley songs as performed by a nymph-like woman (or so I imagine). It is an incredibly gorgeous Kingston morning. Mo is at work. At home, Song is playing with the babysitter and Shine is engaged at summer camp. It is just another day.

At my other home, the one I conjure in my dreams at night. The one that produced memories that I hold close to my heart. At that home, my family is preparing for a picnic. There will be loads of food with Uncle Bud at his station by the grill. There will be cousins running, jumping, shrieking, playing. There will be fireworks and flags.

My patriotism towards America has been questioned on more than one occasion. If I loved America, why would I ever leave? If I were a real American, why would I scrutinize and dare to speak out about the injustices of the government? If I were truly patriotic then I should have no problem uttering the words, "America is the greatest country in the world."

Here, I am almost immediately identified as a foreigner wherever I go yet American is hardly ever the first guess. It is usually British followed by German or Canadian. (I once even got Australian!) While there is a large population of all of those nationals here, Jamaicans are inundated with American culture. (The music has now changed to some very American country music with the twanging vocals and steel guitar whining softly in the background.) All of the television programing available in the States, is available here too. If I had cable I would be able to ogle at Anderson Cooper on the network news and be in the know with the latest episode of Downtown Abbey. Florida is a quick 1 hour plane ride away. I can BoGo at Payless and get super cute sandals and it is only a matter of time until I am rummaging through the clearance racks at Old Navy. So I find it curious that American is not the first thing people see when they see me. Do I really disguise it that well? Maybe I'm not as American as I think I am...

But I do love America and I am proud to be an American. I don't wear my patriotism on my shirtsleeve for the world to see, but just get me talking about the gorgeous (and vast) landscape. Ask me about John Muir's writing (who was actually born in Scotland) or Edward Abbey's radical visions. Give me an opportunity to expound on the New York School of painting and how those artists propelled us into the contemporary art of today. Let me share with you the history of indigo dyeing in the Southern United States and tell you about the Gullah people still living off the coast of North Carolina. I will spend an afternoon with you exchanging Native American folktales. I will bake one of the most delicious apple pies for you too and I'll play you the best jazz music while we eat it. Let me tell you about Community Supported Agriculture, cooperative education and public libraries. And then allow me to remind you of this:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. 

--Declaration of Independence 

Yes, I do love America. Happy Independence Day! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day

Dear Poppo,

Happy Father's Day! I miss you more and more every day. (I thought this was supposed to get easier as time goes by...) I miss your laugh, your warm smile. I miss your abundant generosity and your quiet support. I miss the care you take in doing tasks. I miss the way you write in all caps like an architect (a profession I think you would have excelled at given the opportunity). I miss just hearing your voice and all the love that is conveyed, even if you are just commenting on the weather.

Everyday I see something that reminds me of you. And while I know that you are here in that cosmic way, I really just want you to be here---flesh, blood and bone.

The children miss you too. Shine comments almost daily about how he wishes he could see you again. It's time for him to learn how to ride his bike and I remember how you patiently taught me in the alley behind our house. You held the seat of my pink Huffy and ran countless times up and down, up and down until I finally got the hang of it. And Song has her own sweet memories of you. She runs to your picture and points and squeals whenever we are talking about you. Maybe she remembers sleeping in your arms for three hours while Mo and I went to his office Christmas party. You were afraid that if you put her down she would wake up and cry because we weren't there. That you held her all that time means so much to me.

I can't tell you enough what a wonderful father you were. You went out of your way to show us how much you cared. I'm so happy that you were the man I got to call Dad.

I love you, Dad.
Wishing you much peace,
Corey Rae

Remembering a Brooklyn Father's Day when Shine was brand new.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Year 2

Friday is the second anniversary of our big move. I can't believe it has been that long already! Wow, the places we've been (and have yet to go)! This was where we were just one year ago. And this was us two years ago.

Overall, I am counting my blessings. We have been following the directives of the Universe and some amazing experiences have come our way. I am most grateful for this time to heal our family. We are building and growing; living and loving; making a difference in the people and communities we encounter (and they are making a difference in us).

In honor of our second year of island living, I thought I would share with you the 5 things I love most about Jamaica and the 5 best things about America (aka: the things I miss most about the U.S.).

The 5 Best Things about Jamaica:

1. Fresh Food
There is nothing like going outside and plucking a ripe mango from the tree and devouring it on the spot.

2. Sea and Mountains
The landscape here is exquisite. I will never get tired of watching the turquoise surf kissing the sand or turning a corner in the road and being greeted with the beautiful green mountains.

3. The Culture of Fix-it
No matter what it is, there is a shop that can fix it. From shoes to computers and appliances (large or small), there is someone here who knows how to repair it. The concept of a disposable consumer culture is (largely) absent.

4. Customer Service
Jamaican people are friendly people. I have yet to visit or call any office, store, school, institution, etc and not be greeted with a smile and kind words. And the best part? The people bagging your groceries at the store walk your bags out to the parking lot for you and put them into your car. For a momma shopping with two wee ones clinging to her limbs, this is phenomenal!

5. Ingenuity
Some of the most creative and inventive people I've ever encountered live on this small island. They say "necessity is the Mother of invention" and it couldn't be more true. Jamaicans don’t let a lack of resources stop them from doing what needs to be done. Need to get a goat to market? Have a bike? Goat rides on bike to market.


The 5 Best Things about America:

1. Sweet Corn on the Cob
Need I say more?

2. Family Bike Rides
The American concept of bike riding just doesn't exist here. There are no bike lanes or wonderful kiddie trailers to attach to the parent bike. They aren’t even called bikes here but bicycles. (Bike refers to a motorcycle…of which there are many…) I miss my wonderful cruiser with its wire basket and shiny fenders. Some of my best memories surround bike rides and I want Shine and Song to have similar memories.

3. Libraries
This will be my philanthropic area of interest (when I have more than two minutes to devote to it). There are libraries here, they are just in a sad way. Even growing up in my little hometown in PA, I would spend long afternoons snuggled in the stacks reading (and dreaming) about far off places. In Brooklyn, the library was not only the place we went to discover new books, but also to listen to great live music, view an art exhibit or drink a great cup of coffee. It was one of my favorite places to go especially on a hot summer afternoon...

4. Wild Places
Barbara Kingslover said it best, "Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd." The idea of National Parks and Wilderness Recreation is a new concept here. Jamaicans are just starting to appreciate and embrace the natural landscape beyond the sea and sand. And while there is an amazing number of wild species here, there are no large predators and I think it is this absence that I feel most.

5. Accessibility of Goods, Information and Services
Americans have the world at their finger tips. There is virtually nothing that Americans don't have access to (and usually at a very low or no cost). I just wish more people in the States realized this and took better advantage of it. Instead, I feel like this contributes to a disposable culture and lack of ingenuity that will eventually put the U.S. at a disadvantage.

I hope that we can eventually merge the best of  both worlds and truly find ourselves at home in both places.
Until soon…
Peace and wellness,
Rae

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Something New

I'm now a weekly contributor to E.C.C.O. Magazine, Jamaica's online magazine about all things eco-friendly and good. Check out my first article here.

Until soon,
Peace and Wellness.
Rae

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hyper Speed

Many Moons ago, when I worked as an academic adviser at a Brooklyn art school, one of my amazing students shared with me a poem she had written. I don't remember the poem very well, only that it was about the world and our lives speeding up to a point where everything explodes...or implodes...or whatever atoms do when they go really really really fast. (Sorry physics friends...I may be a lost cause...but I love you...and physics and Einstein...) Anyway, my life has been like that lately. I feel like I'm in overdrive. I wake up Monday morning and it feels like an hour goes by and suddenly it's Friday morning. And yes, life is like that even on a "quiet little island" in the Caribbean.

This is what Hyper Speed looks like in the tropics:










 












Peace and Wellness,
Rae
P.S. There are many new and exciting things happening for us including a segment I will be featured in on The Susan Show. (She is like the Jamaican Oprah!) More on all of that very soon!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Life is Change


Welcome to the Fabulous Hybrid Blog Carnival. Our topic this spring is Change! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Blog Carnival hosted by The Fabulous Mama Chronicles and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on change in all of its many forms.
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

****** 
It is only change that is at work here.~ I Ching 

Over the last 22 months, my family has experienced considerable change. This whole blog, in fact, was started to document the changes we were making by relocating our family from Brooklyn, New York to Kingston, Jamaica. Our journey has been much more than just a change in address, however.

We have undergone significant transformations in all aspects of our lives. Some of the larger changes include: Reawakening our Spiritual practice; deepening our commitment to our marriage and our family; expanding our careers; making our health a priority.

We have also made some small changes such as: starting a container garden on our balcony; rethinking the children's bedtime routine; making Friday night our family night; saving for a rainy day; being conscious of the words we use (promoting a culture of positivity); transitioning to a vegan diet.

So, what have been the results of all this change? While there have been ups and downs in all the areas I mentioned above, the overwhelming results to these changes have been positive. When I look back just one year ago and compare it to now, we have improved our quality of life ten fold. And when I take a moment to reflect on our life in Brooklyn and compare it to our island life, I can't believe we are the same people! As I have written a number of times before, we were a family of desperate and broken people looking for a way to rebuild ourselves and heal. It took us a number of years to come to the realization that our life in Brooklyn was both unhealthy and unsustainable. It was scary to put all of our possessions on a boat, say good bye to our friends and loved ones and start over again from scratch. But once you accept the fact that Life is Change, the fear goes away and the possibilities begin to multiple.

========== 

Energy is neither created nor destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. ~Einstein

I find a lot of comfort in this quote by Albert Einstein. It helps to assuage the fear that comes with having to confront change. It has been a mantra of mine recently as I have been grieving my father's death, and it helps me to think of him as vapors riding the cosmos and swirling with the clouds above.

It also reminds me that when change happens, I will still be me no matter what...but I could become a better me, a happier me, a more enlightened me, a more patient me, a more forgiving me if I allow the change to occur. Fighting against change is painful, fruitless and frustrating. It is going to happen anyway, follow it and see where it takes you. You will be happy you did.

Until soon...
Peace and Wellness,
Rae



 Visit Hybrid Rasta Mama and the Fabulous Mama Chronicles to find out how you can participate in the next Fabulous Hybrid Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. It will be updated by 3:00pm PST on Monday. April 30th:

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    The Visitors

    Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul
    ~ Emily Dickinson


    Since moving into our new apartment, we have been visited by a number of different birds. Our first visit was an owl that Mo and I watched every night for a week shortly after we moved in. The next visitors were peadoves and finches which like to snack on the leftover seeds our neighbor's parakeets scatter on their balcony. The doves and finches love to bring the seeds over to our balcony, however, to eat them. (They also love the crumbs that are sometimes left behind from our own meals.) Occasionally one of the little finches will get brave and hop through the rails of our balcony gate and into our living room. One of our most spectacular visitors was a hawk which perched on the rail of our balcony to eat its lunch. This bird was immense and its gaze intoxicating (not to mention intimidating). One of the most ominous visitors was a peadove that got trapped in our bedroom right before my dad died. After his death, however, we woke up to greet one of our most beautiful visitors, a hummingbird which was flying around the ceiling above us.

    So, what do all of these visits from birds mean? Throughout literature, folklore and mythology, birds are considered to be the messengers of the Divine. They inhabit that sacred space between Heaven and Earth that we humans can only dream of going. Some believe that birds come to carry the souls from this world into the next world and offer a kind of peace or sanctuary to the person making the transition.

    There are many stories just within my own family about birds and the afterlife. My mom's brother spoke of birds sitting all around his hospital room before he died from diabetes. A white dove was lying beside the road my sister traveled on her way to class before our grandmother died. Then dozens of robins filled my sister's snowy yard one January before our grandfather died. Right after his death, a brilliant red cardinal moved in to my parents' back yard and lives there still. There was the trapped peadove mentioned above and then following my dad's memorial service another peadove appeared on my sister's car where it was noticed first by my nephew. While I was in Pennsylvania for my dad's service, Mo was at his parents' house where he said a hummingbird kept his company following him about the yard.

    While I have gotten used to our apartment turned aviary, I have to admit that my most recent encounter with a bird shook me to my core. Earlier today I was working in my upstairs studio (which is actually the walk in closet in my bedroom) while Shine watched videos on the computer and Song took a nap.  I was engrossed in painting when I heard the familiar flapping of wings. I stepped out of the studio and into the bedroom where I saw a tiny gray bird flying around the ceiling fan. It then swooped towards me, flying into the wall between my studio and the bathroom. Then it tumbled down the wall and landed behind a clothes basket. I immediately moved the basket away from the wall to retrieve the bird but it was GONE...as in disappeared...as in vanished...as in not there. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I emptied the basket while calling out, "Dad, Dad, is that you? Where did you go?" Because my immediate thought was that it had to be my dad coming to visit. And then the more I searched the bathroom, my studio, the other clothes basket, the rest of the bedroom, I thought this really must be an encountered with the Divine because there was no trace of a bird...anywhere.

    Is it possible I imagined it? I suppose it's possible. But I'm sure I didn't. And just to confirm my belief that something otherworldly happened today, I found a teeny tiny little feather on the floor of the bathroom this evening when I was giving Song her bath. And we were in the downstairs bathroom which to my knowledge has never had a winged visitor...


    The dove on my sister's car.



    When was your last encounter with the Divine?
    Peace and Wellness,
    Rae


    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Spring Cleaning

    Spring and its promise of renewed life and new beginnings is a great time to throw open the windows and get the gunk out. Mo and I have immersed ourselves in Spring cleaning and I'm not just talking about our house. A few weeks ago we met with a holistic medical doctor. Think of him as part Naturopath, part Psychiatrist, part Reiki master and Guru of all things positive and Earth loving. The program that he prescribed for Mo and I is one of intensive detoxification. We are following a vegan diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables, taking herbal elixirs that promote liver, gallbladder and colon function, getting rid of the parasites, exercising daily and receiving biweekly Rife treatments.

    In our first consultation, we were asked a series of questions including, "Have you thought about your life's purpose?"; "Do you have any regrets?"; "Have you experienced any trauma in your life?" In our follow up visits these questions and our responses have been revisited. The idea is that we purify not only our bodies, but our thoughts as well.

    This detox experience has been eye opening and truly life changing. In the first week, I had an increase in energy that I have not experienced in well over six years. The edgy mood swings vanished. I found I had more patience and felt more calm and balanced overall. Since adopting a vegan diet, I have found that my body is actually craving fresh foods. I reach for bananas and star apples instead of carbohydrates when I want a snack. Strange little bumps and areas of discoloration on my skin have cleared up and gone away. My teeth are whiter!! (This was a side effect I wasn't expecting, but plaque forms when the body is acidic instead of alkaline and by eating a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, the body returns to its natural alkaline state and the plaque disappears.) Mo and I have also been communicating better. We find ourselves on the same page more often and laughing, relaxing and enjoying life more. I have even noticed a change in the children. I believe in the saying, "If you want happy children, you need happy parents first."

    The human body is made to run at optimal health. It is when we start to pollute it by eating processed non-foods,  using household chemicals (that are ironically made to "clean" our environments), focusing on negative thoughts/experiences that our bodies become susceptible to disease. I encourage each of you to take a look at your lifestyle. Look inside you cupboards, assess your goals and dreams, take an honest look at your relationships. Have you discovered what your purpose is? Are you living Joy? Are you feeling your Best? It may be time to detox...

    Until soon...
    Peace and wellness,
    Rae




    *Coming soon: A look inside my cupboards...what does eating whole foods look like?

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Lessons from Ms. M

    Last Fall, I gave in and agreed to get a domestic helper. (Well, actually, I got a part time teaching job and we needed child care.)  Our helper, Ms. M, is wonderful and I honestly don't know how we managed before she came into our lives. She came highly recommended to us and on our first meeting, I knew there was something special about her. When she smiled, her whole face lit up with a warm and comforting glow. And Song, who refused to go to anyone who was not Mommy or Daddy, snuggled right up to her.

    She has taught me many things in the short amount of time she has been with us. Here are some of those lessons:

    1. Put the Children First: Sounds pretty obvious, but I actually need to be reminded of this daily. You see, I am very task oriented and I like to get through one thing before starting another. So, if Shine asks me for a peanut butter sandwich while I'm folding the laundry, my initial response is: "Sure, when I'm done with this." Needless to say, it is usually met with a lot of 5 year old wailing. Ms. M on the other hand will stop ironing a dozen times in order to make a sandwich, flip through a boardbook, help attach a Lego piece or put on a shoe. It takes about 2 minutes away from the ironing and the house remains peaceful.

    2. Be Efficient: I am astounded at the amount of work Ms. M gets done in the eight hours she is here. It would take me three days to do what she does in one.

    3. Sing: Maybe it is because she is singing all day long that Ms. M is able to accomplish so much. It keeps her in a rhythm and helps her find a groove. It also makes for a very cheerful house.

    4. Look Your Best: Before leaving for the day, Ms. M takes time to change her clothes, reapply make up, restyle her hair and make sure she looks her best before stepping out into the street. For an overworked Momma like me who often forgets to wipe the crusted oatmeal off her T-shirt before racing to the grocery store, this was a nice reminder to take a few minutes for myself each day. It's true that if you look good, you feel good...and if the Momma feels good, chances are the kiddos will feel good too and life will run much more smoothly.

    5. Jump on Opportunity: Jamaican people are often described as opportunistic and this is often construed as being something negative. But just think for a moment, how many times did you let an opportunity pass you by only to regret it later?

    6. Be a Real Kitchen Diva: Since Ms. M's arrival, I have learned how to peel green bananas with ease, strip and cut sugarcane,open a coconut, keep yam from turning rusty and make creamy cornmeal porridge (mine always has lumps).

    7. Enjoy Life: I know little about Ms. M's family life, but I do know that she has 5 children, lives in an impoverished neighborhood and has a very small household income. However, she never complains, always smiles, always takes time to chat with other people, is always willing to help, is dedicated to her children, loves to laugh, always smiles and just takes pleasure in being alive. Jamaican people are truly remarkable in their ability to count their blessings and enjoy life.

    Until soon...
    Peace and wellness,
    Rae

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Growing

    Yesterday I put the kids in the car and drove to a nearby plant nursery to do some soul searching and "plant therapy". (I guess this is my equivalent to shoe shopping.) I love plants. They really bring me a sense of peace and well being. I could have spent all afternoon there, but alas, the kiddos wanted to get back home to have some snacks. 

    When Mo came home from work, he noticed that I was smiling...a lot. And I realized that I had finally exhaled. For months, I had been holding my breath in varied stages of anticipation. It feels good to breathe again...





    Lots of herbs and some tomatoes too!


    Shine picked out the petunia because he said we needed at least one plant with color!



    Scotch bonnet pepper seedlings started from peppers Mo's parents gave us from their farm. I love that we are continuing the cycle of growing!


    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Life is Beautiful

    Dear Poppo,
     
    My heart aches that I am so far away right now. I want to be there to hold your hand, to comfort you and tell you, "it's okay." I would speak these words to you instead of writing them...

    I started calling you Poppo after I saw the movie, Life is Beautiful. It is what the little boy called his father. The movie moved me deeply. It is the story of a father and son facing unspeakable horrors yet holding on to Hope and finding Joy amid so much pain. The father went to great lengths to protect his son from the cruelty we humans sometimes inflict on each other. The father reminded me of you and how you dedicated your life to loving and protecting us, your family.

    You have taught me many things. I am so very grateful for your guidance and advice. I have never doubted your love. Even when you didn't understand my choices, you were always there for me. I knew that no matter how foolish or selfish or stubborn I was acting, you would be there loving me...supporting me...forgiving me. Now that I am a parent, I realize how much patience you must have had. How much hurt you must have endured at my hands. How much you must have worried. Yet, you held your tongue and you loved.

    This life with you has been beautiful. Although this journey through cancer has been surreal. I don't know why this had to happen to you...you have always been the good guy...the guy that wins in the end. I will miss you deeply, but you will live on in our hearts and in the smiles of your grandchildren. There are many people waiting for you in Heaven. Your parents, your favorite cousin who always made you laugh (and oh how I love your laugh!), your best friend from childhood, your sister-in-law, your father-in-law (who I know is waiting with a beer and a good rhyme!), aunts and uncles and many others will be waiting with open arms. It is time to be free of the pain. It is time to be free of all the hurt and unkindness that being human makes us endure. Be peace. Be light. Be love.

    When I see the hammock swinging in the breeze, I know that it will be you visiting.
    I love you, Dad.

    Always,
    Corey Rae



    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    All About Love

    Over the winter holidays, I was engrossed in re-reading bell hooks' book, "All About Love". Throughout the thirteen chapters, hooks is determined to define love, not as a noun, but a verb. She writes:

    Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word "love" is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word "love" and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book, "The Road Less Traveled", first published in 1978. Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Explaining further, he continues, "Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love."

    I have read these words many times before, but on this reading, I finally got it. You see, in my younger years, I was a hopeless romantic. I believed love to be sonnets and guitar chords and late night confessions of the heart. So when I met Mo in the fall of 2000 and there were no over indulgent words of poetry perched on his lips or songs of the heart written just for me, I thought, "This will never last." Unless...

    "Unless, I choose to make it last..."

    In August of 2000, I was on the cusp of turning 25. I was moving to the "Big Apple", the place where, "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". I was on a quest to find myself again after a messy break-up of the relationship I thought would last. I was entering one of America's best schools of art to obtain my masters degree. I promised myself...no serious relationships.

    So, from the first moment I saw Mo, I thought, "Wow. Cute. But, NO!" Plus, I was working for Residential Life and Housing as a Resident Director and Mo just happened to be a Resident Advisor assigned to my team. During training we had a long session about the implications of mingling with staff members, especially those we supervised...so double NO.

    Mo was not only assigned to my team, but he also happened to be the RA assigned to my floor...which meant he lived directly across the hall from me. I found him stopping by to borrow things like brooms and pans and silverware. During one of these casual neighborly exchanges he said, "You have a lot of books. Have you read all of those?" He seemed shocked when I said, "Yes." He sat down and started going through them. He poured over the philosophy and anthropology books I had. We began to talk about them and then hours later we realized, we were still talking.

    Our visits became more frequent, our conversations longer. We would cook dinner together through the week, pick up things from the grocery store for each other and generally look after each other. But both of us were aware of being in a vulnerable place and not wanting anything serious or committed. (He was dealing with his own messy break-up which involved two children as well as trying to cope with the rigorous demands of earning an architecture degree while being a foreign student in a foreign land.)

    I'm not sure when either of us chose to fall in love with the other. But it dawned on me on September 11, 2001, that I was indeed in love with this guy who was somewhere around the World Trade Center at the precise moment those fateful planes hit. I felt an overwhelming amount of relief when he called to say he got to work safely but they were evacuating his building. He arrived back at my door hours later, sweating, covered in dust and tears. I hugged him so tightly. I just knew I never wanted to let go.

    Thanksgiving of that year found us making a trip to the U.K. together. I don't remember what inspired the trip and surely everyone around us was questioning our decision to travel at such a tumultuous time, but off we went anyway. The vacation gave us a chance to see what it would be like to be this "international" couple...the artist and the architect traveling the world. (Okay, so may be a little of that sappy, romantic stuff seeped into our relationship at certain points.)

    Despite a great trip, our return to Brooklyn found us at odds. I was relieved when Mo decided to return to Jamaica for winter break. When the term started up again in January, we were still on again, off again and our relationship stayed that way until the spring. In May of 2002, we decided to move into an apartment together. We chose commitment.

    When the term ended that May, Mo decided to spend the summer in Jamaica working for his father. I stayed in Brooklyn and made arrangements to end the summer in Jamaica with him. It was difficult to be away from each other for those two months especially since we felt like we were finally on the same page with our relationship and wanting to work together as life partners. My trip to Jamaica was extraordinary. I loved it and I knew I loved him. For the first time, I felt like there could be a future for us.

    This time our return to Brooklyn found us deeply in love. Christmas of 2002 found us engaged.

    The first week of 2003 dealt us a devastating blow. Our relationship was again tenuous. Circumstances surrounding Mo's children and their mother back in Jamaica left us at odds. We realized that in order for us to move forward together, we needed to deal with our feelings regarding Warrior and Earth Mother. Mo needed to put to rest the relationship with their mother and come to terms with the fact that he could not rescue her or the children. We decided to go to couple's counseling. Counseling was great on the one hand but not so great on the other. We were both struggling. Neither of us knew for sure what we wanted. Counseling revealed that we were very different in so many ways...that we lacked a fundamental understanding of each other. While we struggled with our relationship, we had another thing to consider...Mo's immigration status. He was in America on an F1 student visa which would expire 30 days after graduation that May. He would be forced to return to Jamaica unless...

    Unless we got married. After several meetings with our immigration lawyer and with our counselor, we decided that we were not ready to end the relationship (which would have surely happened if Mo went back to Jamaica). However, we weren't really certain that we wanted to continue it either. Or, at least I wasn't certain I wanted it to continue. But I agreed to get married and "see" how it went.

    July 3, 2003 found us in the office of the City Clerk of Manhattan aka City Hall. In attendance were my parents, my best friend, Mo's aunt and grandmother, his best friend, a mutual friend and Mo's mentor. We said, "I do", had brunch and then went off to our Honeymoon in Ithaca, NY. I was feeling dazed and confused. I still had a lot of doubt about our relationship and whether or not we were doing the right thing.That my wedding day was not the best day of my life always bothered me until very recently (last week) when I read this. (I am slowly understanding that it is not where we started, but where we are that matters.)

    July 3, 2004 we celebrated our anniversary and our marriage by renting out a space in a neighborhood bar and inviting all of our family and friends. I have always considered this my wedding day because I was truly, truly happy and in love and committed to Mo. We danced and ate and celebrated! It was great!

    We seemed to even out and enjoy a true honeymoon period right through the birth of our son, Shine, in May 2006. Indeed, it wasn't until 2007 that we began to feel uneasy. While the pundits refused to acknowledge that the American economy was falling apart, it was apparent to most of us living and trying to work in NYC. Mo and I began to face years of unemployment and financial uncertainty.

    The pressures of trying to keep our heads above water began to take their toll. There were many moments of wanting to throw in towel and call it quits. At the end of February 2010, I found out I was pregnant with Song. This very unexpected event came when we were on the verge of physical, emotional and financial collapse. Moving here to Kingston in June of 2010 was by all means an attempt at saving ourselves and our relationship. It has been a long and weary road. However, we are still here...still choosing to love. I have been realizing (thanks in large part to the reading of "All About Love") that marriage (or commitment) is consciously choosing love every day.

    Mo's aunt posted this quote on her Facebook wall recently:
    People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. (source unknown)

    I think bell hooks would agree with this. Love is not that swooning "sweep you off your feet" feeling. Love is harder than that. Love is deeper than that. Love holds more Truth than that.
     

    Choose Love.
    Rae



    Friday, February 10, 2012

    The Mom's Staycation

    I am being granted a vacation or staycation, rather. This weekend, Mo is taking the kiddos to his parents'. I am staying home...by myself. I am both thrilled and panicked by this idea. I have not been "on my own" for well, for a very, very long time. I am overwhelmed by the idea of having 56 straight hours all to me. My goal for this staycation is to finally get the studio set up and get creating. I have committed to having a vendor's stand at the Marcus Garvey Festival February 19th. While very excited about the event, I have yet to organize my stuff.

    On the To Do List:
    --Dye fabric for sarongs
    --Cut and sew fabric for wrap around pants
    --Assemble new line of fabric jewelry
    --Organize the studio for all of the above to occur
    --Lay in the hammock and read
    --Make use of the jacuzzi tub and give my poor back a break
    --Try out all the yummy recipes I know my family would be less than thrilled to eat
    --Catch up on some Art gazing

    I will let you know how it goes.
    Until soon...
    Peace and Wellness,
    Rae




    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    "To the World!"

    This morning Shine asked me to join him in saying, "To the World!" over and over and over again in a very joyful and animated fashion. It is a common expression here that signifies doing "big things" or "taking it to the next level". Shine had a different explanation:

    Shine, "Do you know what 'To the World' means?"
    Me, "No, please tell me."
    Shine, "It means that there is a portal that goes from Earth up to Heaven. Then there is another portal that goes from Heaven into Outer Space. Your energy goes zip (swooping hand gesture) out of your body and through the two portals 'To the World'. "
    Me, "Wow, that sounds pretty exciting."
    Shine, "Yes, it is." Pause. "You know, the Little Lord Jesus is already there, right?"
    Me, "Really?"
    Shine, "Yes. He was born Higher than us, so He got there first. We will see Him once we go through the portals. Let's play Legos now."


    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Honoring an Icon

    Today is Bob Marley's birthday. The island has been celebrating its most influential and far reaching National Hero. While some may think of Marley as a cliche of Jamaican Culture, one must acknowledge the breadth and scope of his political as well as musical genius. Here's to you Mr. Marley. You changed the world in so many wonderful ways!

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Truth, Part 2

    My last entry on Truth outlined some of the general areas where I am seeking Truth and Honesty in my life. In this post, I will go deeper into my own patterns and how I am working on accentuating what is working and fixing what is not working. The I Ching teaches that Life is flow...seasons are cyclical...that we create patterns that we carry with us through many lives. We need to recognize those patterns that are pushing us towards our Incarnate Purpose and we need to alter the ones that are holding us back from fulfilling what we have come to this Earth to do.

    1. Marriage: Mo and I have a crazy love story that I will share with you one day. At the time, we were probably one of the most unlikely couples to get together and settle down. In many ways, we couldn't be more different. In other ways, we couldn't be more similar. One way that we are the same is in our need for independence. We form our own agendas and set about completing our goals individually, instead of seeing where we over lap and could work together. And we often neglect to inform each other of our plans. We both have these tendencies, yet, I become very upset with Mo when he forgets to tell me something. I also have a hard time admitting when I am wrong or acknowledging my own faults and apologizing.

    2. Parenting: There are times when I become too focused on the task at hand that I forget to ease up and just go with the flow. I become impatient with the constant interruptions. At times it becomes a battle of wills just to get shoes on and get out the door to do the grocery shopping. I yell...sometimes a lot. I have to remind myself that children are great mimics. They do what you show them...not what you tell them. And while getting the daily chores done is one thing, in the bigger picture, it just doesn't matter if/when/how they get done. What matters is that I am teaching my children how to be joyful, confident, compassionate, productive individuals.

    3. Step-Parenting: In this area, I am having a hard time advocating for Warrior and Earth Mother. I feel that this is partially due to a scarcity of resources. I am not advocating for them because to do so would mean diverting our already meager resources of money, time and energy. We are still trying to build a strong foundation for ourselves, advance our careers and settle Song and Shine. I feel that if we spread ourselves too thin, then we will collapse from trying to carry a load that is much too heavy for us right now. This doesn't mean that I do not love or care deeply for them, because I do...very much.

    4. Disease: Some believe that disease is a manifestation of a troubled Spirit. That illness happens to draw our attention to that area of our psyche that is clogged, broken, out of alignment and holding us back from fulfilling our Divine Purpose. I can see this with my dad and his diagnosis. The Truth I need to face is that this is my father's journey. I would like him to respond in certain ways...in ways that I hope I would respond if it were me and my diagnosis and my journey. I need to accept that it is out of my control...that this experience and these lessons are his.

    5. The Present Moment: I often suffer from "the grass is greener" syndrome. I have found it difficult to settle down in one place. I reach a destination and then begin thinking, "Where can I go next?" or "If I were just not here but there, my life would be great." I lived for just shy of ten years in Brooklyn. Eight of those ten years were spent in the same apartment. Other than my childhood home in Pennsylvania, that is the longest I have lived in one place. However, when I reflect back on those Brooklyn years, most of the time was spent thinking about how to leave and move to the next place. I feel like I didn't embrace being in NYC...like it was just a stepping stone on my way to finding...well, finding what exactly? I could never be sure. When we moved to Kingston, I became determined to lay down roots and really start to grow. I am making the most of the opportunities here. This is my home. This is where I belong in this present moment.


    Face your Truth.
    Peace and Wellness,
    Rae

    P.S. Read Part One here.
    Read Our Love Story here.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Truth

    Truth and Justice have been recurrent themes here in our house lately. In fact Shine declared today that his Lego Ninja are great people because they fight for Justice and all that is Right. Mo too is a seeker of Truth. He goes to great lengths to ensure that the Truth is seen and acknowledged.

    When I attended the I Ching workshop in the fall of last year, I learned that one of the lessons I am to take from this life is to acknowledge patterns (both good and bad) and to adjust those patterns that are harmful and stifling. To do this I must be honest with myself as well as with those close to me. It is hard to take an honest look at yourself. There is Truth to the saying, "The Truth Hurts." Reconciling what is with what we think is there or hope is there or want to be there is difficult but necessary if we are going to live an authentic life.

    So here are some Truths I am wrapping my heart around. I realize that I am not the first person to make these observations. They are not profound or even very insightful...but they are what I need to acknowledge for myself. They are what I am facing at this moment. In no particular order:

    1. Marriage is hard. There have been moments over the last few years that Mo and I have each considered going our separate ways. We have faced many difficulties...some of our own making and some that we have had little control over. What has kept us together is this idea of possibility...when we think of all that is possible with our combined efforts, we see amazing things.

    2. Being a mother is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had. There are days when I think I'm not going to make it to bed time with my sanity intact. Then I read this and felt relieved. It's supposed to be hard if you are doing it right and if you are filled with a crazy amount of love for your children. It is not hugs and laughter and bright smiles twenty-four-seven. It is a lot of grit and determination and tears. But those kairos moments are truly worth it!

    3. Being a step mother is even more difficult. I wonder sometimes if it's the role of step mother in general or  just my position as step mother in an adversarial situation that makes it so hard. Maybe it would be easier to embrace this role if all parties could work together for the best interest of Warrior and Earth Mother.

    4. My dad will not recover from his cancer. This is the hardest Truth to accept. I feel angry, cheated, sad, frustrated, depressed...I'm very grateful for the two months I did get to spend with him. I am happy that Song and Shine were able to make memories with him. I know Shine will take them with him through his life and think fondly of his dear Poppo. Although Song will probably not have full memories of him, she may hold on to the dream like images of his gentle hands, warm laugh and caring demeanor.

    5. I believe with my whole heart that we are in the right place. That things are unfolding the way they are supposed to be.  It has been a struggle to start life over from scratch. Sometimes I catch myself longing for something that we had in Brooklyn...like a piece of furniture or a local shop. But, I love my life in Jamaica and I cannot imagine our family living anywhere else for this phase of our lives.We will see if the winds carry us other places but for now we are living, loving and seeking Truth on this wonderful island.

    Face your Truth.
    Peace and Wellness,
    Rae

    P.S. Read Part Two here.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Bird by Bird

    When I was in college, I took a creative writing class where I was required to read Anne Lamott's book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life". I was immediately taken with Lamott's writing. Honest, poignant and eloquent, her directives for both writing and life are profound for their simplicity.

    "Bird by Bird" has become something of a mantra for me...reminding me to place one foot in front of the other in a cadence of one step at a time. You cannot rush, jump, bulldoze, plow or race your way through this journey. It must unfold moment by moment, bird by bird.

    So it is with the settling in of our home. Since our move in August, we have been living among stacks and piles, boxes and suitcases. Although I wrote about feeling "at home" in our new place, there was still some lingering feelings of transience compounded by the fact that all of our personal affects were boxed away, sights unseen. Part of my dis-ease at being gone for two months stemmed from this unsettled feeling. And part of the anxiety of returning was couched in the question, "What am I returning to?"

    Much of the past six months have been clouded with uncertainty and self doubt. All areas of family, job, health and love have been affected. Have I made the right decisions for my children? Am I in the right career? Am I supporting my parents enough? Will my dad recover?

    This New Year has already brought us many blessings. Upon our return to Kingston, we have fallen easily into a rhythm. We have been greeted with open arms from those we had left. The children are right back to basking in the warm sunshine and delighting in the fresh food. Mo has gained some esteem with his career. I am back to teaching, creating, cooking, learning. And our home is starting to feel like a real home...box by unpacked box...bird by bird...



    Shine and Song's new room. Designed, painted and built by Mo and I.



    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Chasing Rainbows

    Halfway through the first month of the new year and I finally have some time to reflect on how 2012 has started for us. I guess I can't complain that my days, hours, minutes have been filled to the brim with mostly exciting activity...

    We boarded our plane at JFK airport early Saturday morning on December 31st, 2011. The predawn taxi ride was very similar to the one that began our adventure on June 15, 2010. We arrived home just past 1pm in the afternoon, tired and hungry but happy to be back. Our house was quiet long before the midnight hour. (I think I took a quick rest in the hammock and said "Happy New Year" to Mo around 9:30pm.) We didn't miss ringing in 2012, however, because promptly at the stroke of midnight, our neighborhood erupted in fireworks! We sleepily greeted each other with wishes for a great New Year and rolled over and went back to sleep. I'm sure if we would have gotten out of bed we would have seen a spectacular sight...but we need something to look forward to in 2013~

    Sunday morning we packed a small bag and set off to Manchester for our Christmas/New Year's celebration with Mo's parents. I have to say, it was one of the most lovely days. The children played joyously with their cousins, the adults ate and drank and laughed heartily. The sun shone and we basked in the simplicity of togetherness. Long after the children went to sleep, the adults sat around the dining table talking and laughing some more. We discussed everything from life and fate to politics to Dance Hall artistes to world banking practices. Some of it was very heavy, yet we laughed. I think that is one of the things I appreciate the most about Jamaican people...that in the face of adversity, they can laugh! That there is always a bright side to look on! I gained some important insights about Jamaican culture...my husband...his family...and myself during the course of the night. I am grateful for the experience and in time I will share more of what I learned from this wonderful night. It has helped immensely with our transition back to island life.

    On Monday we returned to Kingston. For the entire journey we followed a complete double rainbow!! We could see both ends of both rainbows...and we could see where they touched the earth. It was absolutely incredible! I never saw a rainbow touch the ground before!! We delighted in this wonderful omen and gave thanks for the many blessings that we have.

    This year is sure to have its challenges but we are optimistic about what is ahead.

    Many blessings to you,
    Rae

    Image borrowed from the Internet. (Where's the camera when you really need it?)


    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Welcome (Back) to Jamrock

    Hello!
    I'm here!
    We're here!

    It has been a wild ride but here we are settling back into our tropical routine. I have much to write about but seemingly little time to write these days. Our time in Central Pennsylvania was very special. It was wonderful to reconnect with everyone I hold so close to my heart. I'm grateful for the opportunity to step out of one world and into another.

    In the coming days I will share our journey with you through pictures and words, thoughts and observations. We made it to Kingston in time to ring in 2012 with fireworks and rainbows and a new government in power. There is a lot of positive energy flowing here and I'm happy to take it all in. So far this New Year has been a truly awesome experience.

    Until soon, many blessings to all of you!
    Rae