Plain Ordinary Bliss

Smiling in the face of ordinary, everyday, satisfying sunshine

There is such grace to ordinary moments.
Such grace, sometimes beauty and all-the-time sweetness to claim when days are just…well, ordinary. But, here (where my mother exclaims, “You don’t even wear a watch!) I have the time and space to be observant of the ordinary, of all the things that get blurred in rush. And for this I am thankful.
You see Zuberi, my huzban’, is wired to love work. As in outside our home, with the aid of gadgets, deadlines and work plans. He loves it for the loot it provides, certainly. But he also loves what he does (think of ways bring more “dallas” to the University of Belize) and how he makes it happen (talking, talking, talking and using the computer – his two passions…besides the ‘Bola women, of course.)

Zuberi and Tasneem, WorkMan and WordWoman


We can’t have two workheads in one house so wouldn’t you know – the mighty God-dess of the Universe helped us find one another: a work-lover and a well…word-lover. (Not that working with words isn’t work…but…I don’t thrive on it quite like Zubee.)
Zuberi’s work affections afford me time to make mothering my ministry. I know this ain’t every mother’s mission. And I don’t believe it should be. Every mama mothers in her own way and this is mine: I am the household “heavy,” the CEO of the ‘Bola-dome, a domestic engineer.
And though at times I wonder if I shouldn’t be working for money, I actually enjoy this gig. It is often splendid in its, well, ordinary-ness.
And because my word-love grows from observation, and because observation ignites curiosity, and because curiosity fuels creativity, I spend time each day marveling at the observation of the absolutely, divinely ordinary.

Such as…

Hanging Beauty

The joy of laundry

Hanging laundry. I love to hang my laundry outside to dry. I could claim my affections are ecological. Yes, we save lots on our electric bill.
True, we’re decreasing our carbon footprint.
Sho’ nuff, no bleach can work as safely as the whitening strength of sun.
But it’s not that…well, not all that. Not for me.
I love hanging laundry, the physical act of heaving a bucket of wet clothes, diapers and towels out the backdoor, into the backyard and near three clothing lines I tied to the window frames and our soursop tree. I love the no-cost simple pleasure of hanging our wears by color and size. (Did I just hear someone hiss, “This chic don’t have enough to do?”)
I love the athleticism of it: the lugging of the bucket, the tricep flex while clipping the laundry to the line, the back bends while reaching down again and again to pick up the next wet thing.
Call it Laundry Pile-lates. I like the motions of the chore.
And I like- ok, looove- the look-back factor. Once my bucket is empty…I walk along the lines, straightening seams and fixing crooked clothespins. I begin to walk back into the house and then…BAM!…I look back. And smile. Every time. I sigh and chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all. Zuberi says I look at my laundry the way some dudes look at their cars. Yeah. I can’t help it. The fabric looks beautiful flapping in the breeze like prayer flags. Who knew wet clothes could be so artistic and yet…so ordinary?

Zenani, 3, beneath our mango tree


Yemurai, 7, Azizah, 3 months and Asali, 5 sit in the shade


Yemurai with mango style


Hearing home under a mango tree. It began with an ordinary walk to the neighborhood lake. It was hot – of course – and the plan was to take a family stroll, look at the water and return home. Asali and Yemu rode their bikes, Zenani rode Zuberi’s shoulders and Azizah hitched a ride in my sling. As usual, the trek there was more exciting than the trudge home. Yemu zipped ahead of us. Asali said she was hungry and Zenani feel asleep on Zuberi.
Azizah napped the whole way there and back.
We decided to stop in the shade of a mango tree. There’s mango trees everywhere in our ‘hood and this one is along the main street. It’s big, leafy and shady. Amazing ain’t it?, I asked the ‘Bola crew, that a bunch of leaves could truly block the heat of the sun?
Just then, a woman who lives in the house alongside the tree came outdoors.
“Good afternoon,” I said, “We’re just stopping to enjoy the shade of your tree.”
“All right,” she said. “Help yourselves.”
And there was something about the way she said it, something in the way she dragged out the “r” in “right,” something soulful, kind of drawly, definitely not Belizean.
“I thought I heard a child singing out here. I looked outside and saw a girl riding her bike singing a song. Is that your child?,” she asked.
Yep, Yemu was singing some ditty while riding home.
“I thought to myself, ‘Who is that child?'” the neighbor said.
And there was something about the way she said, “child.” It sounded vaguely American, definitely Southern.
We just had to ask where she was from. Toronto, she said, by way of D.C. (BAM! I was born in D.C.!) We asked her name. “Jackie,” she said. (Double-BAM! My mama’s name is “Jackie.” And everybody knows I LOOOOVE my mama!)
And just like that, Miss Jackie became a sonic soul-saver. Every conversation brings the sounds of “home,” of African-America, of Soulville.
Miss Jackie – who came here five years ago when the Lord instructed her to leave Toronto and share her love of Jehovah in Belize – can transform a “honey” into a five-syllable croon: “Hoonnnnnaayyy.”
And she calls me “girl,” as in “homegirl”or “sistergirl.”
The other day a simple convo about gardening led to a chat about greens – collards, baybee! – and that ordinary reference showed how friendships can grow from an plain ole’ afternoon stroll and the shade of mango tree.

Azizah Grace - a divine creation


Diaper Changes. Since I’m the household executive, I do most of the diapering. I probably refresh Azizah 7-10 times a day. It’s a basic childcare task, at best a chance to share smiles, laughter and chatter with our baby girl. Other than that, it’s a must-do, an ordinary chore. But, recently I really started to look at Azizah differently. While cleaning her body, I saw her as a being, a physical expression of the mystery, majesty and magic of the Divine.
How is it that her esophagus hooks up so perfectly to her stomach, her intestines and her colon? How is it that my liquid gold breast milk energizes every cell in her body, from skin cells to the ones in her eyes? Her fingers? Her kidneys? Her brain? Her heart? And this grew inside me from a clump of cells smaller than a speck?
How is it that every tube connects so flawlessly to other tubes and allows me the gift of pondering the brilliance of anatomy during a perfectly ordinary diaper change?
Who knew the daily, routine work of digestion could inspire a praisesong?
And since all bodily functions are a blessing of the Divine, who knew diaper changes could bring awe and gratitude?

Meditative Runs. I strive to make my morning exercise as routine as brushing my teeth. I wake up at about 5:13 a.m., or so. I make sure the baby is sleeping on a full tank of breastmilk, I tug on my gear, puff my inhaler, rub on repellant, stuff my cell phone into my sports bra, lace up my Nikes and I’m out.
I run for fitness but mostly for solitude, for precious Tasneem time, for meditation in motion.
It also gives me a chance to use observation to distract myself from aching thighs. To my neighbors, everything I observe is ordinary, just features of rural Belize. But to me, everything I run past inspires appreciation (I run past cattle, roosters, palm and mango trees every day…for a woman used to trotting along sidewalks past dogs, deer, skunks and oak trees, this is an amazing landscape).
Every morning, on a routine run, I seek to savor the ordinary.
One morning, I ran past a bull standing frozen in the middle of the street. I saw, and heard, a green parrot squawking overhead. A Rasta on a bike hailed, “‘Mornin’ sistren.” One dude waiting for the 6 a.m. bus told me I need to run more “on my toes.” A sista rocking a black headwrap called out, “Finish up Mommy!”
Half-eaten mangoes litter the road. So do thousands of discarded plastic water bags.
Dogs, with the terror bullied right out of them, scurry past with their tails tucked low. Or they remain slumbering in the middle of the street. Only twice have I had to pick up rocks to let a barking few know I ain’t no chump.
Those a just a few snapshots of what I see on an ordinary morning run.
And here’s the best part: after recording these scenes in my mind, I get to spend the next few hours blissed-out on endorphins. And this ain’t no ordinary feel-good, my friends, my post-run rush is SPECTACULAR.

Tasneem with (from left to right), Asali, Azizah, Yemurai and Zenani


Gazing at my girls. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mamahood machine. There’s oatmeal to make, kids to rouse, rules to enforce, orders to dispatch, locks to style, clothes to iron, panties to pick out, socks to retrieve, bodies to oil, homework to check, meals to plan, endless talent shows to watch, whines to soothe, tears to wipe, diapers to change, bellies to fill, a baby to nurse, a paying gig to prioritize…and I didn’t even mention wifely duties! (As Zuberi says, “This is the life we have chosen.”) It’s easy to move through the motions with the sole goal to do everything faster, faster, faster.
And then one of the dawtas speak. SaSa asks to do her latest passion: ride her bike. And that daily request brings my mania to a halt. She wants to show off her one-arm ride (and she does it with this cool-girl expression that makes me chuckle), pedal and coast and keep up with her big sister.
She wants to breeze past me and flaunt her independence. She wants to do what kids love to do – play outside. It’s an ordinary request, right? And it’s a perfect one, most everytime.
I move faster to make it happen. I saute a little faster, give the beans a final taste, put ‘Zizah in the sling, find Zenani’s flip-flops and follow SaSa’s lead. We head to the yellow house at the end of the street. Yemu zips along on her mountain bike or jumps her electric-cord jump rope.
Zenani asks, “Can I run?”
And me and Azizah stroll. I watch my girls. And I marvel at them.
Look how coordinated they are! Look at how big Zenani is! She may be a runner just like her mama!
Lord, is that SaSa turning around without falling?
Yemu rolls past with her feet flying off the pedals.
She and SaSa ask if they can ride around the corner and buy popsicles. They show off three “shilling” (25 cents) coins and promise to bring one back for Zenani.
I let them go.
I stare at their bobbing heads, their lean backs, their brown calves and skinny ankles and, if I squint, I can still see them as babies. But now, on an ordinary afternoon, I see my little girls becoming big girls and I’m grateful I’m walking slow enough to witness their sweet transformation.