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.

Admitting Defeat

It dawned on me yesterday that I was fooling myself if I thought I was going to make it to marathon ready in less than 2 months. Less than a month and a half, even.

So, as much as it breaks my heart, I won’t be participating in the Knysna Forest Marathon this year.  Instead, I’ve made an appointment to see a physiotherapist this month and she’ll be helping me treat this niggling knee injury properly, so that I can get back to running and training the way I want to.

It’s been a shitty time these last couple of weeks. Health issues in the family have been a problem – my mom took a nasty turn last week with the diabetes and, after not paying too much attention to Jack’s moaning about a sore tummy for quite a while, I finally took him to a doctor and it turns out he’s gluten intolerant. His liver and intestines are taking strain because he’s been eating all the wrong things and I couldn’t feel more like a fucking horrible mother for not listening to him sooner.

On the upside, the tumble dryer has been repaired and our lives are that much easier once again. Also, my mom having to have emergency treatment for seriously high blood glucose levels (24.5!!!) and Jack’s visit to the doctor have driven home a little bit better what I’ve been trying to get the family to understand for months: We should be eating Paleo. Or at least as close to it as we possibly can.

The hardest part of that for me, of course, is giving up the sugar and the decadent desserts. And the dairy. Apparently, Hashimoto’s sufferers are supposed to cut out gluten AND dairy. And just like that, my whole life is once again about food and giving up the stuff I love eating most…

Except that my whole life can’t be about food because there’s simply too much to do. And my Meg is off to high school in a few short months’ time. She’ll be boarding in another province, coming home one or two weekends a month and holidays. So much planning, talking, preparing to do!

She can’t wait to go, which I’m glad about. At least she’s going into it with anticipation, rather than feeling like we’re deserting her or don’t want her around. I guess we wouldn’t have considered boarding as an option if she’d felt that way but still…

A part of me is almost jealous that she gets to go to an awesome school with some amazing teachers. And another part is terrified of sending my child off into the world. Yet another part looks forward to her absence so that I get to enjoy her that much more on her weekends and holidays at home for having missed her so much while she’s away. This Mom gig ain’t for pansies!

 

The Tragedy of the Tumble Dryer

I’ve mentioned a number of times, I think, that we are a large household. There are eight of us. That’s double the average middle class household in South Africa. As such, we do a LOT of the following:

1. We eat a lot. Four adults and four growing children equals a lot of hungry people. Food is important.

2. We wear a lot of clothing. This translates to having a washing machine and tumble dryer that work very, very hard.

This weekend, tragedy struck – our tumble dryer started making a horrible, grinding noise, indicating that its drum bearing is stuffed. We had a crap load of wet washing, though, so we still made use of it, albeit sparingly. But then, on Monday, it stopped heating at all and we have had to start hanging up 8 people’s laundry on the washing line outside. This in itself is a logistical feat of epic proportions. Throw into the mix a massive, shady tree that prevents the clothing on the line from seeing the sun and you have lots of wet washing that stays wet forever.  And don’t even get me started on the ironing. The dryer used to make it so that at least half of the washing didn’t need ironing. Now, everything has to be ironed and it’s a double hand tragedy.*

Now, all the eco-activists out there are probably going to have a go at me about using a tumble dryer in the first place, because electricity crisis and eco what-what… But the simple truth of it is that without the dryer, I’m screwed.

I’m planning a small memorial service for the trusty tumble dryer tonight, after which there will be pancakes for dinner (stuffed with savoury mince) and dessert (with strawberries, whipped cream & syrup). Because it’s Wednesday and Wednesday nights are pancake nights.

And until we either have this one fixed or are able to buy a new dryer, there will be morning mourning in this house every day. True story.

*Double hand tragedy: When the tragedy is of such magnitude as to warrant the clamping of two hands over the mouth in grief, as opposed to a single hand tragedy, whose lesser magnitude demands only one hand…

On Learning, Purging, Races not Run and Runner’s Knee

I’ve been chipping away incrementally at the many things I need to master in my life for the last while, all the while dreaming of when it’ll finally be done so that I can get to the more enjoyable bits of life.

And then I read a blog post yesterday by a blogger I haven’t read before – a letter from her 40 year old self to her 20 year old self – in which she states that it hit her at 38 that her life is already here!

This is something I have struggled with all my life – this inability to live in the moment, always wanting more, always looking ahead instead of simply being in the now. Most often, it’s about not having the money to do blah right now or putting off something I want to do because I’m not getting around to doing the things I’m supposed to do, first. And if I’m honest with myself, the root cause of the problem is me.

I procrastinate and delay and put off and avoid doing things because I don’t enjoy them. Or I’m uncertain of myself and afraid of doing it wrong, so I do nothing instead. And every day that passes, I tell myself I’ll get on it tomorrow. But tomorrow, the cycle repeats itself and I go to bed again, telling myself I’ll do it tomorrow…

And every now and then, when all things are perfectly aligned, I have a good day and get things done. And it goes smoothly and everything works and I don’t have to force myself all that hard to get going. And it feels great. But it’s not enough.

So, I’ve decided to revisit some of the successful tools I’ve used in the past, to get myself motivated and busy, doing the things I need to get done.

One of these was the 31 Baby Steps on this website. I don’t necessarily like all the stuff on there or agree with her very touchy-feely vibe. But I can look back and recognise that when I started doing the 31 steps a few years back, and kept at it, it was one of the most productive phases of my life so far.

Another is doing a daily Battle Plan or To-Do List and sticking to it. This is a tricky one for me at this point because there are just so many things I need to get done and have neglected for too long. And the difficulty for me is in prioritising the list. Getting work stuff finished is urgent but so is making sure that the kids are all fine. At the same time, I need to up my skills in various areas, in order to be able to properly do what I need to do. This means finding the time and resources to study some stuff I’m not that clued up on, otherwise I’m never going to get anywhere. And having a clear, uncluttered space in which to work is the only way I can focus, so sorting out my space and the house in general is just as important.

I was thinking today that perhaps, instead of working off my big “Master Plan” for the year, I should break down the day into specific time slots, each dedicated to a specific activity. That way, I get to do some work in every area of my life, every day, and slowly get to cross off all the stuff I need to do, until I’ve caught up…

I’m giving myself a deadline by which I need to be caught up on everything, from each child’s individual space, cupboard, school stuff, etc., to each room in the house and each division of my business, not counting stuff I have yet to learn how to do. That deadline, I’ve just decided, will be 30 June 2015.

In the process of catching up and sorting out, I should be able to set up systems for maintaining these various areas and activities, so that I don’t fall behind again. Kind of like the FlyLady system. Starting small, slowly working up to more things, so that you can keep a handle on it all as you go. Which should free up time for learning the things I need to learn and so on and so forth.

There are a few different areas of study I’m interested in but I’ll start with my incomplete BA (Language & Literature) at UNISA. I won’t be able to register again until next year, though, so I should be able to do a couple of short courses in the meantime. I’m looking at a basic web design course, so that I can finally get my business site and blog to look and work the way I want them to, and a digital marketing course, for obvious reasons.

Considering the time it’ll require to complete my UNISA degree, the other things I’m keen on are purely theoretical at this point, but I have decided that I’m going to re-do matric Maths (I dropped to Standard Grade because I was lazy) and also do matric Science next year.  With those, I’ll be able to sign up for a BSc or BEng degree when I’ve completed my BA. I’m looking at BSc Chemistry or BEng Mechanical – ideally from somewhere other than UNISA.

Speaking of time and the lack thereof, my propensity for procrastination and general disorganisation aside, I’ve noticed that I still waste lots of it opening email newsletters every day. In fact, the percentage of emails I receive every day that are actually meant for me, from someone I know, is embarrassingly small, given how many emails I open every single day. This is, of course, another symptom of my online competition entering addiction – You know how it is: Like us on Facebook, sign up for our newsletter, tweet about our promotion/s, etc. for an entry…  I know I said some time back that I was going to clean that shit up and I did, some. But today I realised that I still receive far too many emails that I really couldn’t care less about, purely because I entered a signup-tied competition at some point.

And you know? I think this is something that brands may want to take a closer look at. Yes, it’s good to build your mailing lists. Yes, you want to attract customers with giveaways and promotions. But what good a mailing list made up of mostly people looking for free stuff?

Anyway… So today I unsubscribed from another dozen or so newlsetters I receive every day and never read. Tomorrow, I’ll have a look at what comes in and purge a few more.

In other news, the running is not happening right now. I was registered for 2 races these past 2 weekends and I missed both. It broke my heart because the kilometres and race experience are vital to my preparations for the Knysna Forest Marathon in July. But I have had to accept that it is even more vital that I treat and recover from this case of runner’s knee I’ve developed, otherwise I may find myself unable to run at all in the long term. That would be tragic.

I’m still going to try to be ready for Knysna but  if worse comes to worst, there will be other marathons later in the year.

What’s happening in your world?