The start of the work week is always hectic. But you already know that. Today was the usual Monday morning blur of packing lunches, waking kids and trying to get out the door on time.
At school, morning assembly happened and it wasn't until I heard the girls singing the National Anthem that I realized I was still at my desk reading exam papers instead of in the patio. The bell rang. Classes began. Classes ended. Free period filled with grading. Lunch time meeting with exuberant ninth graders excited to take art in tenth grade and "start their careers". Ten minutes into the first session after lunch and I'm still shooing exuberant ninth graders out the door and to class. Back in the staff room, Head of Department tells me about an evaluation meeting with the Principal and Vice Principals at 1pm. Heart jumps into throat and stays there for the next 50 minutes while I continue to grade. Meeting happens. I'm congratulated on a job well done. Students enjoy my enthusiasm and teaching style. I float into my last class of the day where there is really loud singing as the students iron off the wax from their batik fabrics and tear paper for their collage frames. There is an explosion of construction paper, cardboard and wax bits all over the studio. Bell rings and the girls leave trailing bits of wild color behind them. Back in the staff room, I put on my flip flops and start the trek home. Looks like rain.
As I cross campus, I am greeted with big smiles and loud shouts of "Hi Ms. B!" from all directions. I phone home to say the surprise evaluation went well. Realize we did not go to the market on Saturday and have one turnip in the house representing vegetables.
At home the kiddos come running at me looking for hugs but mostly for treats that might be hidden in my bag. Song takes my bag and dumps its contents onto the couch exclaiming, "Wow! Money!" as all the grocery receipts from the past who-knows-how-long cascade down the pillows. Shine shoves a new Lego creation in my face and begins detailing the gimmicks, number of pieces and very long series title the figure is supposed to belong to. I pour a glass of water and try to take it all in.
Call my sister to find out how her day went. My kids argue over what cartoon to watch on youtube and complain they are hungry. I feed them granola bars. Song insists on two which I find half chewed in random places around the apartment. Still haven't figured out what to make for dinner given the one turnip situation. Mo calls to say he will be late. Calls back a few minutes later to say he'll be even later. Decide on omelettes, toast and fruit salad for dinner. Begin to make dinner. Phone rings. Gallery calling to tell me I sold a painting. Yeah! Chop up the mango on the up beat. Phone rings again. Wrong number but poor woman spoke broken English and was calling from New York and didn't quite understand that it was a wrong number. I lost track of Song. Finished conversation with wrong number. Found Song in the bathroom painting a post-it with Desitin. She smiles broadly and announces "Painting". I notice she is also covered in black ball point pen. Apparently a self drawn tattoo of "You (me), Daddy, Shine and Me (her)" playing football on both of her legs. Suddenly she has the urge to pee in the potty. Hooray! As potty training has been bumpy at best. Takes off diaper. Wiggles and squirms on the toilet seat and unrolls the toilet paper as if it were an Independence Day streamer. I remember there is an omelette on the stove.
Song emerges from the bathroom sans pants to have a pretend conversation on my real cell phone. I finish dinner, set the table and finally convince Song to put on pants. Both kids eat two bites and then complain about how full they are from all the granola bars. Of course. Song wiggles down from the table to play with blocks. Shine starts his homework. I forget that I didn't put a diaper back on Song. She pees on the floor then proceeds to dance in the puddle. Shine runs through the puddle on his way to get a pencil. Song tears off her wet pants and insists on taking a bath. I clean up puddle and find her already in the bathtub, shirt still on. (Luckily she hasn't figured out the faucets yet.) Shine yells from the balcony EACH and EVERY spelling word as he adds a suffix to the root word making it -ing and -ed. Then reminds me after EACH and EVERY spelling word that he wants to take a bath with Song so don't take her out of the tub yet. Meanwhile she is a prune and the water is arctic. He finally finishes and barrels into the bathroom, splashing into the tub where a water battle of epic proportions ensues. I retrieve the mop for the second time. Wrestle Song out of the water and into her pajamas then begin to pick up the toys.
From the computer room, I hear Shine say to Song, "Want to hear a story?". She nods yes. He tells her to come sit next to him on his chair and scoots over to make room. He then proceeds to read her a story called, "The Miser's Gold". He pauses periodically to explain the various characters and the plot. The greedy old man. The mean robber. The nice fairy. I settle into a chair on the balcony. There is an amazing sunset before me. I hear their little voices. I see the beautiful sky. I remember all the good that happened today.
What has happened at the Boston marathon has shaken me. One of my favorite times of the year in Brooklyn was early November--NYC marathon time. The route was only a few blocks from our apartment. The plan was usually to meet up with some friends for brunch and then head to the race...or vice versa...head to the race with friends and then eat brunch. Either way, it was always a great day. I loved the humanity of it. Each runner has their own reason for entering the marathon. Each spectator is filled with pure joy and enthusiasm as they cheer/support/love each runner. The experience always made me teary eyed and always, always restored my faith in people. I'm guessing the Boston marathon would be a similar experience...a gathering filled with lots of cheering and pats on the back and "you can do it" shouted at complete strangers.
Jamaicans are no strangers to violence...my newsfeed each day is filled with stories with gruesome headlines. I cringe at how wicked and evil people can be. It makes me want to retreat to the hills and never look back.
But then I think of these words:
There are still helpers out there and lovers and people who choose kindness over ego.
Yesterday, I was sitting in a cafe putting together my proposal for an art competition. Sitting in the middle of the cafe were three twenty-something American ladies and their two Jamaican (male) tour guides. Instead of being delighted that I was in the presence of some fellow Americans, I cowered at my corner table hoping not to be noticed or associated as "one of them".
Am I proud of my cowardliness and disassociation? No. Am I proud of the raukous behavior and blatant ignorance that disrupted the otherwise serene atmosphere of the cafe? No.
Worse was when the ladies and their guides finally left and I was bombarded with the loud whisperings of the other cafe patrons. (Some of whom were ex-pats like myself.) Both the local Jamaicans and the ex-pats were disgruntled as the stereotypes of the loud, ignorant and completely oblivious American were perpetuated.
I wanted to stand up and yell, "We are not ALL like that! We are not ALL like the Real Housewives of Jersey Shore (or insert other horrible reality TV show)." Or at least part of me wanted to stand up and yell that. Another part of me wanted to pretend to be Canadian...
When I left and got into my car, the radio station was playing classic American country music. Johnny Cash's voice filled my ears and warmed my heart. This is the America I love. The home and hearth mentality. The DIY movement. The back to the land revolution. The family matters state of mind. The Johnny Cashes and Martin Luther King Juniors and Abraham Lincolns and Wendell Berrys and Ina May Gaskins and Barbara Kingsolvers and Audre Lordes and Cornell Wests and Ira Glasses and the Barack Obamas and Corey Bookers and all the other fabulous Americans who have contributed in positive and progressive ways to the well being of human kind.
I found it interesting that I should be greeted with these two opposing views of America both the one I detest and the one I love nestled side by side in my day. It reminded me that we have a choice every day to put our better foot forward. We all have these two sides to us...our dark side and our light side. We are in control of which one we follow, which one we put into the public, which one we allow to guide us. Which foot are you leading with?
Peace and Wellness,
Photo Courtesy of Brooke Woodside
“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” ― Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community