In 2016…

Normally, in January, I reflect on the previous year – Did it go the way I’d imagined it would? Do I feel like I made progress, i.e. did my life improve in general? Normally, this is (I suppose, quite naturally) the time for taking stock and… I won’t say setting goals, per se, but setting goals, y’know? Only, it’s more like defining what my gut tells me the new year is going to deliver.  The last two years, I was dead wrong. Nothing went as planned and life slapped me silly.

This year, I have no idea what to expect. I’m not even trying to figure it out. It doesn’t feel like a new year.

Of course, that might be because I did all the typical “new year” stuff at the end of last year. New job, new routine, new operating basis. We also did a massive de-kluge and got rid of loads of junk. And I feel  so much lighter for it. If I’m honest, though, it’s still a work in progress. We keep coming across things that have been taking up space in our shelves and lives without adding anything. Things we haven’t looked at or used in months – years, even. So we’ve been chucking them out as we happen upon them, or donating them to people for whom they might have value.

I’ve decided not to do a “look back on 2015” post this year. Or to write about my goals for 2016. Instead, I’m giving myself only this one goal: To live every day with as little upset as possible. And that, I reckon, is a goal worth pursuing into and beyond this year.

 

Lemonade

As you may have read in an earlier post, I applied for a job in October. I thought the interview went really well. The test I was given was nerve-wracking, not because I couldn’t do it but because I TOLD myself I couldn’t do it. Because as soon as I realised how much I really, really wanted that job, I knew I’d somehow screw it up. It’s what I’ve done almost all my life: Sabotage the things I want the most.

So I did a rushed, panicked job of the test and had all kinds of technical stuff go wrong, just for good measure.

Even then, though, it still felt like things were kind of on track. And then I started pushing and nudging and I think I kind of felt the shift when I followed up for the third time. I’d blown it. I received a message that the other candidate they’d been considering was more experienced than I, but they’d keep my details on file for a possible future position.  I actually cried.

I’ve had all kinds of mixed feelings about this these past few days. I’ve explored other options, set up a few appointments with people and largely moved on. What lingers, though, is the sense of having been deemed unworthy, not only of the job but also of an open, outright, honest dismissal and having bought into that mindset myself. *

Anyway, it didn’t work out and I can’t wallow forever.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though. There have been a few highs in between the dips and it has been an especially busy time in these parts. With our eldest finishing primary school and gearing up for high school next year, the youngest getting prepped for Grade R and the year having been a tumultuous one for our Jack in Grade 1, there has been plenty to keep my mind occupied!

Since my last blog post, here are a few of the things that have happened:

I tweeted for and won a double ticket to the Titanic Expo happening in Rosebank. It’s not a huge thing in the big picture but was a much needed little boost to my emotional state.

Then, I was chosen as the lucky, lucky winner of a copy of Sarah Graham’s new cookbook, HOME. Food From My Kitchen PLUS a R1000 Yuppiechef voucher!

I spent my voucher buying several of my Yuppiechef Wishlist items, an experience which was made extra awesome by the fact that they were/are running a 4 for 3 sale, so you get the cheapest of any one of 4 items from the sale for FREE!! Naturally, this meant that I got to spoil myself not only with some coveted kitchen goodies but also some decadent edible treats!

My Yuppiechef Loot
My Yuppiechef Loot
My new Sarah Graham cookbook
My new Sarah Graham cookbook

Then, on 1 November, I got to revisit the Soweto Half Marathon, which was amazing. Soweto was my first ever half marathon last year, and I was thrilled to be able to go back this year.

It was a tough one and I was a lot slower this year than last. But I was happy to be there and humbled by the interactions between the runners and the residents of Soweto, especially around the 15km mark, where the water point that was supposed to be, wasn’t.

Residents brought out hosepipes and jugs of cold water to cool down runners and quench their thirst and I was just overcome with emotion at the kindness of strangers. That, to me, was the true embodiment of The People’s Race.

*And then, the day after Soweto, I received a rather cryptic tweet from someone I didn’t know, which would soon lead to something exciting, which I’ll blog about that in another post. I will say this, though: November shot by in a blur of panic and excitement and between my big news and the preparations for Megan’s first year at high school, there hasn’t been much room for anything.

2015 Seems to have been a hard year for many of us and I can certainly say that it was nothing like what I was expecting. But I guess it hasn’t all been lemons.

Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment to Sparkle Motion

For the past while (I’m not sure exactly how long because there wasn’t a one-time, conscious decision to make an effort in this one particular aspect of my life) I’ve been trying not to be a screaming banshee in general but with my kids overall. Because, as some of you may recall from back when I used to blog more liberally and say the things I actually wanted to, I’m kind of a (mouth-foaming, wild-eyeing, shit-losing) shouty, sweary mom.  And recently, I’ve been trying not to be.

Let me tell you that it hasn’t been easy! You see, being a mouth-foaming, wild-eyeing, shit-losing, shouty, sweary mom makes it possible for me to NOT be a complete psycho. No, I’m not joking.

Mouth-foaming, wild-eyeing, shit-losing, shouting and swearing might LOOK scary, but it doesn’t hurt anyone, set anything on fire, get anyone put in jail, break anything or cause any permanent damage. It really just lets me get rid of lots of pent-up frustration and communicate how unheard and generally disrespected I feel. But it also makes me look like an irrational lunatic. And, slowly but surely, it’s becoming less and less effective at either getting my message across or making me feel better.

Which puts me at a bit of a loss. Because sometimes I feel so completely unheard and generally disrespected within this family.

Most of the time, I get really upset with David about this because he doesn’t seem to think that it’s a problem when the kids talk back to me or treat me like their personal maid or simply ignore me when I speak to them. It’s fine for him because he’s the fun one. He’s the one they are always happy to see at the end of the day, after I’ve asked then reminded then yelled at them to get changed/pick up their toys/do their homework/put their dirty laundry in the basket…

When David disciplines the kids – especially the littler ones – it’s with a light touch and of short duration. He’s quick to call them back a few moments after shouting at them to give them cuddles and have a gentle talk about things. I’m more of a “bitch” about it. I don’t agree with apologising to them for punishing poor behaviour. I don’t feel it’s okay to let them have their way to get them to stop nagging – that’s rewarding and reinforcing the idea that if they nag hard enough, they get to have whatever they want. I believe in getting the message across effectively. So, if they nag, they don’t get whatever thing it is they want. And if they speak disrespectfully to me (or another grown-up) I don’t respond. Or give them a stern talking to. And when they ignore me, I make a point of making myself heard and getting an acknowledgement.  And if they don’t finish their supper, they don’t get dessert. I don’t believe that these are unfair expectations or reactions on my part. But I lose this battle EVERY time David is around because he feels I’m too hard on the kids and lets them have their way. And they adore him and ignore me because, clearly, I’m just unreasonble.

I often find myself questioning myself on this stuff. Am I going about it all wrong? Should I be more like David in my approach to parenting and discipline? I mean, if someone kept telling me what I could and could not do, how to speak or what I could or couldn’t have, I’d tell them (in no uncertain terms) to FOAD. So maybe there is something to David’s approach?

I saw this video posted to Facebook earlier today and while it’s hilarious, it did make me think a bit about the way I handle my kids…

I look at this and think, you know, this video makes a good point. No adult would allow another person to speak to them like this.

And yet, do I really have to point out that children are not adults? They need to be reminded to do or not do things all the time. They still need to learn all the social filters that adults take for granted and they learn them  through their interactions with others and the example of the adults in their lives. But also by the consequences of NOT using such filters in their dealings with others – adults in particular.

So, once again, it’s all down to balance, isn’t it? That magical, elusive fucking middle ground. And all the patience.

Right?

The Things in My Head

My head is full of things. So many things! Some of them make me happy, even though they shouldn’t, because I’m not really supposed to eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Because gluten and sugar and stuff.

But I’m kind of ready to pack my one-woman camping bag and spend the night parked outside the doors before they open up their very first store in SA on 25 November.

25 November is significant to my family for completely different reasons, too. It was the birthday of my younger cousin, Donnavan, who was killed in a freak accident in my matric year. He would be turning 31 this year.

And just like that, my head is full of loss. Of images of 12 year old me, watching the hearse drive off, my father’s body in the casket inside. And of the yellow daffodils my grandmother arranged for Donnavan’ s funeral in 1997. And of the helplessness I felt, watching Gaby suffer through her final moments almost two weeks ago now and how those pictures have stuck in my mind since then. And of the dream I had last night in which I was being comforted by Cath after realising my mother had died of cancer.

And of the relief of waking up, realising I’d been dreaming.

And suddenly my head is full of other things again. Of how things change – how I’ve changed, over time. And also stayed the same.

Of how anxious I am about things right now. Things I hadn’t realised were so important to me. Like the job I’ve applied for and am waiting to hear about and how it’s been many years since I’ve felt so exposed, having put myself out there.

Best not to think on that too hard…

So, it’s off down another one of the tunnels in my mental maze, looking at the things about the year that’s almost gone and what lies ahead in the new one.  Now, my head is full of school things. Of how Jack seems to have gotten off to a pretty good start this term and I hope it lasts! Of how Michael is doing well in everything but Afrikaans and it’s totally my fault because I’m half boertjie and yet have raised my children to speak only English. Of how, in a couple of months’ time, Megan will be off to boarding school and I won’t be there to see that it all goes well, that she settles and is happy and makes friends…

 

It’s a good thing, I think. It’s like mental pins & needles as my brain wakes up after having been stuck in a hazy state of numb for an awfully long time.

I’m so ready to be awake!

Kids’ Stuff

It has always amazed me that my children  – especially the younger ones – can find joy in the most arbitrary and mundane of objects.

When Megan was a baby, we were inundated with gifts from friends and family. She had more toys than we knew what to do with. Educational toys, soft toys, gender-specific toys, neutral ones. Dolls, cars, balls, bears, musical toys, moving toys… Sometimes, it drove me quite crazy!

But you know what her favourite thing was to play with at a year old? An empty 500ml Coke bottle with a couple of pebbles inside it.

Fast forward a couple of years and we happen upon a particularly smooth rock on a beach in Dubai. Said rock is dubbed “The Rubia” and remains a cherished possession for absolute ages. Until I finally had to make it disappear because The Rubia became the uninvited guest at the dinner table. The night time companion who just wouldn’t get the message when Megan desperately needed to get some sleep. The most fought-over item in the history of sibling fights. So I made the fairies “borrow” The Rubia, without whose magical guarding powers the poor fairy children could never sleep safely in their beds again.

Enter a 10cm piece of red string. Meet Ropey. Ropey, who had to accompany us on every single family outing. Who had his own special place to sit on the armrest of Megan’s car seat, his own little bed on her pillow at night. Ropey who, having made it all the way back to South Africa with us,  terrorised  tagged along with us for at least another 18 months before being tragically snatched out of Megan’s had by a gust of wind on the N1 highway one day.

It is astounding how much beingness a child can grant to a random, inanimate object. And although the various bits and pieces of rubbish that my children have become attached to through the years have sometimes had me reaching for the vodka at completely inappropriate times, I have always loved that they could do that. That their imaginations are wild and magnificent, even though they could so easily pick up any of the dozens of store-bought toys they own and make up a game just as magical.

At this time of year, when everyone is gearing up for the Christmas holidays and we see more and more people begging at the traffic lights, it’s hard not to be reminded that for so many kids, those random object toys are not a choice: It’s all they know.

So, when I was contacted by Corli on behalf of The Topsy Foundation a little while ago, I jumped at the chance to spread the word about this awesomely cool initiative.

I’d seen other bloggers’ posts about The Little Toys that Aren’t, a project by The Topsy Foundation and online retailer Spree, and thought the whole concept just brilliant! Oddly enough, my kids would probably think it fantastic to play with this toy car:

Toy Car

Or this robot:

Toy Robot 2

Or this magic wand:
Magic Fairy Wand

Almost as much as the little boys and girls who DO play with them would LOVE to have a car that actually looks like a car. Or to build a robot out of LEGO. Or to have a shiny, sparkly Fairy Princess Wand!

You can help make that happen buy spending R20 at Spree on one of The Little Toys that Aren’t. Spree will not keep a cent of your R20 – the full amount goes to The Topsy Foundation to spread some festive cheer where it is needed most this holiday season.

I know that my kids are definitely getting a couple of these in their stockings this year.

Goodbye, Gaby

Gaby was not my dog. She was the offspring of a little rescue that had found her way to my mother some 15 years or so ago, heavily pregnant. So she literally spent her life, from birth, as companion to my mom and sister. They moved first from Polokwane to Centurion, then twice again within Centurion before coming to stay with us last year.

Gaby was there when my children were babies. She patiently let them tug and push and learn how to handle small dogs, as we had none of our own.

Gaby was there when we returned from our three years overseas, always happy to see us, yelping with excitement and stumpy little tail wagging furiously.

Gaby stood sentry to her mistresses, only ever barking at unknown visitors to the yard and faithfully obeying The Mom’s every command.

Gaby kept our yard free of the rats that plague Johannesburg, making short work of sniffing them out and killing those that dared stray into our garden.

When my mom moved at the beginning of September, Gaby stayed. She would stay with us until my mom had found an animal-friendly place of her own again.

She missed The Mom, you could tell. Still she woke up every morning happy and excited to see us, eager to please and obedient as always.

But perhaps that little tail wagged just a tiny bit less effusively? Those first few days, she’d come into the house and look for The Mom in the room where she used to stay.

Still, she ate her food with gusto and yelped in greeting when  we’d been out and come back or friends came to visit. She barked at the rats that would scurry along the top of the high garden wall. She sniffed around the places she thought they might hide, ever vigilant and ready to dispatch them with speed and efficiency.

And then, on Friday evening, after a hot and uncomfortable day, she didn’t want her dinner. On Saturday, she hung lethargically around in her kennel, getting up only to drink water or to come inside in search of respite from the heat. She seemed to perk up that evening, when we got back from watching the rugby but not by much. And her water bowl was empty. On Sunday morning, she could barely stagger between her bed and her water bowl and I took her to the vet the moment their doors opened.  By then, she’d begun to foam about the mouth slightly, and had had a very loose stool.

The vet diagnosed heamorrhagic gastro, most likely caused by the spread of a cancerous growth she found in in Gaby’s belly.  She plied her with shots to ease her pain and combat the bug, sending us home with two antibiotics, more pain meds, a rehydration solution and a paste for binding her stool.

Gaby bit me twice as David and  I administered her medicine – something I don’t think she’d done to anyone before in her life – her jaw clenched tight in pain.  And as the afternoon wore on, her discomfort became increasingly plain. She lay still on her bed, just inside the door that leads out into the garden, getting up only for water when she could muster the strength to stand.

After a few more hours, she could no longer drink any water, either.

I stayed with her into the night and hoped that my being there was a comfort to her.  She made two sharpish yelps in pain right near the end and I stroked her and whispered to her that we all love her and it’s okay to let go. And she did. At 01:05 this morning, I watched the light leave her eyes and she was gone.

Rest in peace, sweet little friend.

Gaby 2000 - 5 October 2015
Gaby: b. 2000 – d. 5 October 2015

Catch up

Last night, a friend and I met up with a former colleague from Dubai, who’s currently visiting South Africa on business. I got home at 2:00 this morning. It was so good to reconnect with old friends and feel a little bit like a person again, rather than a mom. People have more fun than moms, you know. And bikers have more fun than people. But we won’t go there just right now…

Anyway, we met up and enjoyed some cocktails and beer and a very late night burger, which was delicious. And we talked about all kinds of grown-up things, like education and learning and the study of literature in a hypertextual world. Things I used to be deeply engaged in before my whole life became all about five other people.

It was wonderful!

My brain misfired every so often, trying to plough through the fog of misuse that settles when you spend 80% of your time in the company of a pre-schooler, and still it was marvellous.

Apart from that little detour, not much out of the ordinary has happened around these parts this last while, so I’m going to follow Angel’s lead and post some random photos from my phone.

Mud party
What little boys do when Mom’s not home
Chris Riddell, 2015 - 2017 Children's Laureate, explaining the negotiation with "Edna Mode" in the publisher's "Making Books Beautiful Department" to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
Chris Riddell, 2015 – 2017 Children’s Laureate, explaining the negotiation with “Edna Mode” in the publisher’s “Making Books Beautiful Department” to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she's mouthing off something cheeky, doesn't she?
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she’s mouthing off something cheeky, doesn’t she?

Oh, also – I’m job hunting at the moment. There are one or two possibilities I’m very excited about but I’ll tell you all more when I know where things are headed. Wish me luck!

 

 

Right Now

I don’t give a fuck about gluten free, healthy eating. I just want to dive mouth first into a mountain of doughnuts. Chocolate ones, sugared ones. custard ones, doughnuts with sprinkles, cruller doughnuts, horn doughnuts, fried doughnuts, baked doughuts, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kremes – I don’t care! Give me any of them! Give me ALL of them!

Clearly, this is a sign that I’m missing something in my general nutrition. And I’m sure I’ll get to finding out what it is eventually. But just for today, I want to fall off the wagon so hard, that wagon’ll think it’s taking off!

I won’t, though. Buy all the doughnuts, that is. Instead, I’ll polish off this bag of fruit pastilles I bought this morning, having already inhaled a packet of strawberry Mentos in under 5 seconds. Then I’ll plough through that slab of Aero Duet sitting in my cupboard. Then I’ll feel awful about myself and need to eat something that’s actually food, so I’ll have something with protein in it for lunch.

Apparently, I stress eat. Yeah.

So excuse me for a little bit longer while I neglect my blog and anything vaguely like a social life in order to gorge myself on every kind of junk food I can lay my hands on. Oh, and deal with the demons. Almost(ish) done wrangling them bad boys, then we can have a nice, long chat.

 

On Moving Things and Shifting Perspectives

I’m trying to be a bit less whiney, which means I stop myself from saying stuff a lot. In fact, it means I’m being pretty quiet lately – and I don’t mean just on my blog.

I got to meet Sheena’s beautiful baby boy this week and, driving home from there, I realised that even in the middle of getting to meet this gorgeous little man, taking a couple of hours out of the grind to just relax and be sociable for a bit, I’d been an insufferable moaner. Sheena, if you ever read this: Sorry!

My mind is on moving a lot at the moment. Mainly because where we live is beginning to feel kind of crowded but I’m also thinking about being moved in other ways – in the feely sense.
I posted a photo to Instagram a few weeks ago of a little note tied to a piece of string with the remnants of a yellow balloon, which David had found on top of a factory roof he’d been inspecting in Alrode that day.

And since seeing it, I’ve been somewhat more inclined to consider where people are coming from, what their stories could possibly be…

When the Going Gets Rough

This past week or two, for the first time since we took the plunge and branched out on our own, I felt disheartened and uncertain about the future of my little company.

We spent eight long months working on this one big project that was supposed to kickstart our journey forward.  We poured every resource we had into setting up for this project, whose scope was large enough that it would generate sufficient income to recover costs plus quite a bit extra.

Long story short, we allowed ourselves to trust that our goodwill and consideration for a longstanding relationship was enough to keep everyone honest and it wasn’t. A lesson you’d think we’d have learned by now.

That said, all is not lost and we still walk away at the end of the project in a position to meet our commitments. But I can’t help feeling burned and I’ll admit that I gave some serious thought to packing it all in these last few days.

But then I had to ask myself what I’d rather be doing and realised that that’s a very tough question to answer.  Not because I don’t dream of doing any number of different things but because I’ve already invested so much of myself in this business. I’ve been in it, giving it my all, from the research and development down to the logistics of sourcing and securing the raw materials, setting up the factory and pulling on my gloves and respirator, lugging those 25+ kilogram bags of ingredients around and mixing the product, before finally slapping on the pail labels and delivering it to site for the client.

And the longer I thought about it, the more I realised that, yes, we got screwed again. Yes, it’s been a blow. Yes, I’m pissed that it didn’t all go to plan and that you can’t take people at their word but more than that, I’m pissed at myself for letting it happen. For being the nice guy when, for everyone else in the game, it’s just business. For putting too many eggs in this one basket and not making provision for a scenario like this and having a Plan B. For trusting that it’ll all be okay instead of grabbing the situation by the balls and beating that shit into total submission. My bad. I’ll refer back to the many mental notes made in the process of this project and draft them into firm policy for the way we do business in future.

At the end of the day, I have this project to thank for a steady stream of income for the past several months, in spite of obstacles and setbacks. It has forced me to learn things I never dreamed I’d do and I’ve learned at the same time that I am pretty perceptive and capable and should trust my instincts more.

It was suggested recently that I sell my company to someone else and I was surprised at how fiercely the feeling struck me in my gut that that is NOT what I want to do.

Yes, I want to pursue the different creative ideas I’ve carried in my head for years and years. I want to complete my degree and explore a few other study options in completely different directions. I still want to be, do and have all the things I’ve dreamed of.

But I want to do them while I continue to develop and expand my existing company.

Did I ever imagine that I’d make my living manufacturing an industrial roof coating product? No.  Does the idea of making paint make my pulse race and send me roaring into each new day? No.

But this business has reminded me that I once dreamed as much of being a scientist or engineer or architect as I did of being an actor, a lawyer or a writer. And it has, despite me, crept into my heart.