Jamaican Independence Day or rather How I found religion

Dinner Party Guests

Last Thursday was Jamaican Independence Day. To celebrate, I decided to have a party Saturday night and make the few Jamaican dishes (and Jamaican inspired)  from my father’s country that I know. This year: Jerk chicken, grilled corn with lime-chili butter, mango salsa with deep fried plantain chips, watermelon-feta-basil salad and pigeon peas with coconut milk rice. And Red Stripe. Copius amounts of Red Stripe  — the greatest beer in the world ;).

Now, I don’t throw parties for one reason: my place is not clean enough. So this year, I finally — yes *finally* got religion and hired a cleaning woman. And let me tell you folks, I understand now why people tell me their favorite day of the week is the one which the cleaning lady comes!

Walking into my house today I felt like my living room was jumping up to hug me!  I had ALL kinds of guilt about a cleaning lady upfront. I had never had one and my parents certainly never had one. It just wierded me out (kind of the same way that the cleaning woman at work 20 years my senior INSISTS on calling me Miss Cidell even though I’ve spent the last year asking her not to).  Some of the weirded out is because I’m black, some of it because I’m just one person, a lot of it that I’m cheap, and most of it because my mom kept a house of five *sparkling* with a full time job.  All I can tell you is that when I saw my  bathroom bathroom floor so clean I could eat from it —  all that guilt went away.

A lesser miracle of sorts also happened Saturday night. For my 30th birthday my parents gave me a painting of myself. It’s based on a photo of the GREATEST hair day of my life when I was 21 and visiting them in Tennessee (Memphis to be exact). It’s about three feet by four, a good 20 pounds and hung in my living room. In the middle of Saturday’s dinner party I heard it come crashing down from the wall hitting my hardwood floors! It was so loud it sounded like someone had kicked the door in!

The hooks holding it the last three years all snapped! And, beleive it or not — it was totally undamaged! Not a single piece of broken glass, not a HAIR out of place and still a reminder of the best hair day ever.


  1. Umm, umm, I love Caribbean food! I’m glad you had a nice party; you deserve to have a good time with good friends. I am going through the cleaning lady debate as well. I’m too tired when I get home from work and my priorities are elsewhere (i.e., the sewing room or the tv. Yes, I know I’m bad.). I like your portrait too, and it’s great that no damage was done.

  2. I keep joking about getting a cleaning lady but it weirds me out, too. Especially because the best cleaning lady in town is also a very good friend. That REALLY weirds me out! She’s not a gossip, but still….. You get the idea.

    The food looks wonderful.

    • I work from time to time with a really helpful and good-hearted but weird guy who was helping someone else in my building. He doesn’t clean per se; someone else hired by my roommates does that. Rather, he helps me sort my papers and organize my very small space. Occasionally, he’ll wash the floor or the windows.

      He has health problems (or so he says, there are lot of days when he doesn’t show up because of all the painkillers he takes), so he’s extremely unreliable. I’ve explained to a friend who lives in another state that it’s not easy for me to find someone else because while he’s not cheap, he’s not as expensive as a professional organizer. In addition, he’s not a great reader, so I don’t feel overly exposed when he goes through my materials.

  3. The party looks great and I am so glad the picture wasn’t hurt.

    As far as the cleaning lady goes, remember the economy sucks right now, so if you can afford a cleaning lady, she probably needs the work. So in essence you are helping to keep the economy going. 🙂

  4. Damn I sure am hungry now. I feel ya on the cleaning lady guilt but both my mother and sister have used on in the past. Me, not yet, but I hear ya on the virtues of a clean house.

    on the picture, we all knew you were a strong woman so maybe that picture incident was just a reflection on how even your image is unbreakable :O)

  5. Back when I was married with kids and could afford it, I didn’t have a cleaning lady. I wish now that I had because life would have been so much easier. But I was too cheap and in my opinion, a certain other person could have helped me (ie: the EX!). But now I’m the cleaning lady, and it feels good to know that when the owner comes home after a long day at work they are going to be so happy to walk into a clean house. I love my job, it’s physical (which I really wanted), the hours are great, and I sleep like a baby! BTW, I looooove jerk chicken, you should post your recipe.

  6. I know how you feel about a cleaning lady. I always thought that was for rich people only…of which I was not one. My mother- in-law cleaned houses back in the 50’s so it kind of creeps me out too, but I guess today it’s a different world and if you need one to help you get on track, go with it. Your dinner party sounded fun and it was a miracle about the picture. You look so beautiful in it.

    • My paternal grandmother, and perhaps my great aunt, were maids/cleaning ladies. Their tiny apartment in the projects was spotless.

      Why didn’t I inherit that gene? Why? Why? Why?

  7. I find that paying someone a very decent rate helps assuage the guilt.

    Good for you. Sure, cleaning up on your own would have been the “elegant” solution, but after years of experience and for whatever reasons (including lack of time, I’m sure) YOU COULDN’T OR WOULDN’T DO IT. So you decided that it was worth the money to pay someone else. And you’re helping the economy a tiny bit by providing some income to someone.

    Congratulations on facing reality.

    Pay the cleaning person well.
    Be respectful and appreciative.
    Don’t be overly disgusting.

    There’s nothing more to say.

  8. Oh that table looks amazing! How hot do you make your jerk? I once made it very authentically with habaneros. DH gave me the look he gets when the food is too hot for him.
    I have to say that my favorite day of the week is when my cleaning woman comes. There are so many more interesting things to do than clean. Enjoy the free time.

  9. First, your food sounds incredible. I’ll be sure to be in Baltimore for the next Jamaican Independence Day.

    Second, I hired yard workers for the first time ever 2 weeks ago. I felt guilty too. But when they were done, I was thrilled and I asked them to come back the following weekend.

  10. Ah, I’ve a cat – I can’t have a cleaning lady. She’ll clean, and then Biscuit will mess it right up, there’s no point. That being said, pre-cat, I did have someone come in once a month, and it really was the best gift I could have given myself – I had no guilt…

    • My household has three cats. The only time they get in the way is if I’m making my bed — they love to play with the sheets. Otherwise, they gravitate to, and seem to respect, cleanliness.

  11. yummmmmmmm the menu looks mouth watering – especially the thought of washing it down with the red stripe! I’m making that salad this weekend fer sher. I’ve been guiltily wanting to hire a cleaning lady & since I was a military mom/wife for a minute – I know how you feel (but I’m TIRED, & I want to sew and hang out and…)

  12. Oooooh, I need a cleaning lady. My kitchen floor is gross. I always wonder how *do* people keep clean houses?? I have this really type-A friend who has a five YO and boy twins and their house always looks perfect. Perfect.

  13. The author, David Sedaris, used to clean apartments/houses for a living.

    As a few others have mentioned: The economy is bad (and even if it were not bad), so if you NEED someone to clean your apartment and you have the money to pay someone to do it, there sure as heck is going to be some skilled cleaning person who can use the work and the money that work will pay. So don’t feel guilty or bad about hiring someone to do that work for you.

    Something to think about (and I do not know if this is your circumstance): If you have too much stuff (a.k.a. clutter) that you do not use, that you do not love, then often all that stuff creates a living space that one is unable to stay on top of keeping clean. I find that the best way for me to keep my home clean is to keep the clutter at bay.

  14. I have toyed with the idea to hire someone to clean too. Cuz I hate cleaning. Hate! I can do it. But I hate it. And I don’t even feel good afterwards because the cleaning us such a terrible experience. At least it would be nice to have someone come in once in while to do the stuff that me and my boyfriend never can muster up the energy for, like dusting, washing the windows and cleaning the wooden trims. We did hire cleaners (for the first time)when we moved this spring and that was worth every dime!

  15. What a relief, you were not hurt when “you” felt down!

    This dinner looks pretty nice, yummy.

    Another relief:
    1/ My house is far from as clean as it could be. I makes me feel guilty. Even more right now that I’m catsitting for my neighbours, and their house is soooo clean! But they cheat: they have a cleaning lady 🙂 If I needed a proof that a cleaning lady is worth the expense, I have it. Good to know that I’m not the only one in the world with a “dirty” house.
    2/ My boss was very happy with my work last year, and was starting to talk pay raise. And I was foreseen a cleaning lady in the very near future. But then recession came, and our wage policy is 0% for this year. But as soon as I get that pay raise, I’ll hire a cleaning lady:
    a: I hate cleaning,
    b: I’ve no time for cleaning: I working longer hours, and when I’m home, I want to play with fabrics, not with sponges.
    c: they have a hire office for that kind of help in my village now, you can hire babysitter, cleaning or ironing ladies, or gardeners, etc… and it is easy.
    d: I could even get tax refunds for hiring a cleaning lady. Her wages would not be that expensive, and it would help her make a living.
    e: I love the feeling of going back to a clean home, especially when I did not make the cleaning.
    f: what about a cleaning boy? (just kidding, …).
    g: if I have a clean house, I will gladly exchange it for vacations with other people. Right now I’m too ashamed to do so.

    The only drawback I see is that I’ll feel compelled to do a last big cleaning first. 🙂 but believe me, I’m eager to get that pay raise.

  16. I love reading about your adventures. Red Stripe is Larger not beer. Keep up the good work!

  17. I love, love your blog. However, big mistake Red Stripe is a Larger and not beer. Keep up the good work!

  18. We hired a cleaning lady a year ago and about a month after she began I told her that if we fell on hard times I’d stop buying groceries before I stopped having her come over! Aside from that wonderful feeling when you walk in the house on cleaning day, I know longer have guilt while sewing. That is soooooo worth it!

  19. Awwww, you’re so cute! I want a cleaning lady, too. So bad! And I would like a Red Stripe, but I am pregnant so phooey to that idea! And good gravy, your hair is indeed fabulous. It’s even shiny in the painting!

  20. I went through exactly the same feelings before I hired cleaners. And now, it seems like the wisest thing I ever did. I love cleaning day! Even if I collapse from the late-night marathon of getting ready for her.

  21. I would have loved a seat at your dinner table! You reminded me that I had decided today was cleaning day…I’m glad your painting is intact, you look very pretty there but then you always look pretty 🙂

  22. For some people (me), it’s not just the labor, but the almost unbearably unpleasant experience of having to go through old papers, and the constant distraction of trying to figure out whether to keep things and if so, how to store them some place where they’ll be easily locatable if necessary.

    I think of my mother, who was a disgusting housekeeper and who foisted most of the housekeeping on my sister and me as kids. If it wasn’t done properly, and it often wasn’t — we were schoolkids — she was abusive. Needless to say, my awareness of these background issues for my dread of cleaning hasn’t helped me resolve them — so much for self-examination. I enjoy buying new cleaning implements and organizing materials, which I may or may not use. I used to be an avid reader of books on organization and cleaning methods.

    I told a friend of mine who was considering paying big bucks for a professional organizer that she should schedule reinforcement sessions say, once a month, afterwards because being organized is a habit that has to be developed. But she never listens to me.

    The guy who helps me tells me that it’s easier for him because it’s not his stuff. I also find it easier to help someone else. Once I tried to set up an exchange system with a friend(I’ll help you sort through your stuff and you’ll help me), but it didn’t work.

    A friend has told me that her friend’s daughter is going to be attending college in my city and will be up for making a little money now and then. Maybe I can give her some light “personal assistant” work (sorting and filing papers, taking clothes to the dry cleaners).

  23. I have no doubt in my mind that as soon as my children go a cleaning lady comes in! 1. I am providing someone with a job – so I’m stimulating the economy and 2. If I ever want to sew or do anything other than work and clean she has to come in.

    I’m glad your picture wasn’t damaged and I’m glad that you’ve gotten over your “issues” A clean house is a good thing! 🙂

  24. I work full-time and have a 1-y-old, 2 cats, and slobbo husband. Last spring, I had a meltdown because I could not stand feeling the crumbs on the soles of my feet anymore, and I felt like I was working ’round the clock b/c at home, I am the cook, maid, laundress, and often the primary caregiver to the child. The stress was too much.

    So I did 2 things: joined Flylady (I know, I know) and hired a cleaning lady to come 1x month for 3 h. Cleaning lady costs me $75 (seems to be the going rate in SE central MN), but she works hard and does a lot in that amount of time. If I have another child, I’m going to ask her to come 2x a month. I originally couldn’t stand Flylady (I tried her out years ago and couldn’t take the sunshine spraying out her… well, anyway), but now that I’m older, wiser, and a little more tolerant, the core cleaning and decluttering methods have been useful to me.

    Sadly, my hobbies are way neglected (housecleaning has become my hobby of sorts), and I haven’t read an single book in entirety and have seen only 2 movies since the baby was born. But people can drop by anytime with no warning, the bathrooms are clean, bed is made, laundry done, and I no longer have crumbs underfoot. I find it relaxing instead of stressful when I survey the house.

    It’s a compromise, that’s for sure. It would be awesome to have meaningful work, time to spend with the family, a clean house, nutritious meals, good exercise, personally renewing hobby time, and a full night’s rest every day, but oh well, I try to hit all of them in a week and feel like I’m doing all right.

  25. Yeh mon. Red Stripe is de only way feh goah!! Irie, it is the best inna the world! LOL. I made curry chicken with rice and peas and some roti on the side. Since my son is underage he drank ginger beer and pineapple soda.

  26. Fried plantains….so good….red stripe…WOW you are torturing me. That painting is such a cool gift. Glad it survived. 🙂

  27. I always had a travelling job. I am not a good housekeeper. My husband and I only fought about the dirty house. Consequently, I have had cleaners for over 30 years. When I retired, I forgot/refused to give up this necessity. You are so right about that evening after they come. That clean smell, the order! What a treat!


  28. I love my cleaning person so much and the benefits she provides that she’d be the last service I’d give up if I had to economize. Seriously, I’ll cut my own hair before I let her go…I’ll eat cereal every day…I’d even buy all my fabric at Jo-Ann’s, that’s how much I love having a cleaning person!

  29. first of all… I think that your hair looks better wilder…it seems to me to suit your personality better.

    As for a cleaning lady….I grew up with out one…but as I see it, I am employing a lovely human being to do honest work.

    As for being called “Miss Cidell”..at first i really resisted being called “Mrs. Sarah”…it reeked of plantation life to me…the same way I hated it when my son’s friends of color with Southern roots used to call me “Miss Sarah”. I realized after way too long that i wasn’t being called that because I was the lady from the “Big House” but because that’s the way well brought up Southern kids call adults. I finally realized that their calling me Miss Sarah also had a bit of the way I called my parents friends Aunt or uncle..because we were so close.

    The “Mrs. Sarah’ is the way the woman who cleans my house refers to all of her employers…the same way that I call the guy who takes care of me when I am sick “Doctor”.

    the woman who cleans my house has been in our lives for about 15 years. We have taken care of each other through sickness and the death of family members,and happy occasions as well… I tutored her for her citizenship tests. it’s a realtionship that can be one of exploitation, or one where you each go the extra mile for the other.

  30. You celebrated Independence Day, how sweet! My dd departed Jamaica on that day, Aug. 6th, last Thurs. She spent the entire summer with my family. I asked her to purchase some ‘thank you’ cards before she left for the airport. She said all shops were closed because it was ‘some sort of holiday’!!! Couldn’t believe she didn’t know which holiday it was. WORST was, ‘I’ asked her why were the shops closed, which holiday was it?????? My niece piped-up in the background that it was Independence Day. I almost died from embarrassment. I had forgotten, how sad! Taking a cue from you, I’ll once again, make the effort to celebrate this day like we do at home. Thanks Cidell!

  31. Stop feeling guilty; how you spend the money you earn is up to you. It’s not like you have a slave peeling you grapes. If you’re anything like me I’m sure you work more hours than you are actually paid for and the time you do have is too precious to be spent cleaning. Also, remember that in these harsh financial times, cleaning ladies are probably the first thing that gets cut from a household budget, so your cleaner is probably very happy to have this work!

  32. First, that’s a beautiful portrait of you. Your parents must be very proud of you. Second, your dining room is so cheerful with the yellow backing in the built in shelf units! Looks like it was an excellent party. Finally, your cleaning lady is your business; spend your money as you want to.

  33. Definitely get a cleaning person if you have to. In today’s world, with demanding jobs/extra hobbies, it’s not a crime to hire a person to come clean your house. I just helped a co-worker locate a person for her home since she works full-time and is pregnant. I have friends who have cleaning people come in and they totally enjoy it. I would hire someone but I’m watching my pennies right now but intend to employ someone once I’m in a better place financially. Even my mom encouraged me to get someone, shows how crazy busy I am. So go forth and hire someone guilt-free! 🙂

  34. I have to say this because I’m a feminist — If a messy guy were thinking of hiring cleaning help this wouldn’t even be an issue.

    Although most people value a tidy, well-organized home, it’s usually still women for whom the maintenance of such mythical home is presented as a moral duty. Cooking is another issue. There was a pro-gourmet cooking piece in The New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago that essentially put the decline of home cooking in America on working women. (God forbid that a man should take any responsibility in the home.) It was retrograde, sexist, and also ignorant of the daily reality of many people.

    Again, as long as you’re respectful, reasonable and pay well, there’s no reason to reproach oneself for getting help.

  35. The food looks wonderful. You deserve a cleaning lady. While I am inclined to agree with “feminist” above, having a cleaning lady contributes to the economy and frees up your time for more important things, like almost anything else.

    Marilyn D.

  36. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED my cleaning lady when I lived in New Orleans and I never ever felt guilty LOL! It was neccessary and I’ve been searching for a new cleaning lady here in Alabama, the first one we had just didn’t work out, it’s hard to find someone you can trust. Enjoy it you deserve it and it makes life easier!

  37. I love the painting – we should all have something like this that reminds us of the best day ever in our lives!!

    I’m a firm believer that we all excel at something which means that we all have some areas that we are seriously lacking in. Rather than show off those lacking areas to the world, I just figure it’s best to give others who excel in areas I can’t hope to, a chance to show off their assets. And this leaves you more time and energy to do what you do so well, and less guilt over what you can’t. It’s the only logical way to live and allows you to excel in the area that you like and are gifted in.

    • I think part of the reason that people, especially women, are reluctant is because hiring cleaning help gets into the gray area of hiring a servant. Even though cleaning is a skill, it’s not viewed in the same way as painting a picture or sewing, or many things.

      If you’ve been raised in a democratic society with the myth that classes don’t exist, it is a little hard to hire help, especially since the people who are doing it usually are not your financial and educational peers and they may come from a completely different educational background.

      A great blog called “Sociological Images: Seeing Is Believing” had a post on “Kitchen Spanish.” It was a manual published by an L.A. society women’s group and was full of helpful phrases like “Do that over again,” etc.


      I don’t think anyone reading this blog has those attitudes, but when we put together that background with the guilt that women uniquely are inflicted with over being messy, it’s not surprising there’s some hesitation.

      • meant to say

        and they may come from a completely different cultural background.

  38. Oh my! L-O-V-E the food you prepared. My brother and I are fans of most all foods that originated south of Florida! Rice and peas, my fave!

    And about that cleaning lady. I’ve not gotten one for all the reasons you’ve named (except the mom with 5 kids, but I get the picture). I think I will try it one day when I get over my own inhibitions!

  39. I’ve had a cleaning lady for over two years. It really makes a huge different, because I can lay out patterns and fabric on the floor now. I’m not a horrible housekeeper, but I sure don’t wash all the floors every other week. That’s the big thing my cleaning lady does and I love it. She doesn’t do a lot of other stuff (windows, dusting, dishes, laundry) but I can handle everything except the floors. It works for me. And it does inspire me to declutter the night before she comes! 🙂 Good on ya.

  40. Your dinner looks delicious. If you ever need any help with any of your Jamaican recipes, just drop me an email. Let go the guilt and enjoy your clean house.

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