Not a Blogger

It’ll be twelve years in March this year, since I first started writing online. Back then, I was afraid to call myself a blogger, because I was still so new at it. Because I didn’t know all the technical stuff.  Because we were far away from everything we knew, in a new and foreign place and I was just me, writing my personal rants and journal-style stuff, and no-one actually read it.

And yet, what I was doing was keeping a web log of my life. A blog. I wrote almost every day, and had loads to say about all sorts of things. And it turns out someone, somewhere,  did start reading it. And after a little while, that someone became maybe three someones. Eventually, my three readers became five or six. And as I found my voice and kept on writing, a few more people started stopping by to read my posts. By the time we moved back to South Africa, I’d made contact with a few other South African bloggers and we started meeting up every so often, to share offline what we didn’t necessarily share online.

Brands started taking note of blogs as a potential marketing tool and, by some fluke, I somehow landed on a couple of media lists and started receiving invitations to cool events.

And then everything changed. Blogging as a thing and blogging in South Africa in particular grew up and got serious.

Suddenly, it wasn’t enough anymore just to have an opinion on something and to write about it. Now we were comparing ourselves to other bloggers, installing site counters (remember those?!) and keeping track of how many comments we received on each post. Within what seemed like moments, there was a massive evolution and various metric and analytics tools started showing up everywhere.

Intimidated by how much I didn’t know, I let myself get left behind and started blogging less and less frequently. Concerns around my family’s privacy started becoming an issue and I started blogging even less. Until, eventually, managing to throw together a single post per month became an achievement.

And still, life, family commitments, laziness, fear of failure – all these things – caused me to hold myself back from learning about and using all these new tools of the blogging trade.

Meanwhile, braver souls who had embraced these things started really going places with their blogs, while I stopped writing at all, sometimes for months at a time. Because I was either too busy, too blocked or just too damn tired. Of what, I can’t honestly say…

I started doing a blog makeover toward the end of last year and got as far as a header & logo after having booked and paid for an hour session with a consultant. And when I look at it now, I’m not even sure I like what I’ve done all that much.

Maybe it’s because proper blogging and all that that entails costs money these days. I definitely don’t feel I can justify spending money on my blog, when there’s so much I still haven’t taken the time to learn how to do for free…

Maybe I was just never that into it in the first place. I find that a little hard to swallow, but the statistics speak for themselves, don’t they?

Whatever the reasons, justifications, explanations or excuses, I think it’s safe to say I can’t really call myself a blogger anymore. Certainly not in the most current sense of the word.

I’m almost relieved to have reached this point, actually. No more feeling guilty for the things I haven’t learned how to do; no more pressure on myself to meet unrealistic goals; no more interrupted posts sitting in my drafts folder forever because the moment is gone. No more fooling myself that I have the time or inclination to ingratiate myself with brands or with anyone else, or writing out of a sense of obligation rather than desire.

Rather, I’m getting back to just being me, writing my personal thoughts, experiences and other life stuff, without guilt and without fear. I’m bringing back the old-school blog and there’s space on this bus for two or three someones…

 

Sprung

How is it already the end of September? I thought I was getting into this blogging groove thing but it’s already been more than a month since my last post!

That said, I’ve done a lot more thinking about posting than I usually do, and even drafted some notes on my phone, with the intention of doing some scheduled posts. I know that many of the bigger bloggers out there use scheduled posts to make their lives easier. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m wondering whether it’s worth the bother in my case, because, scheduled or otherwise, there’s still the issue of having to find the time to actually write the posts. (Those of you who have this down, some tips would be welcome!)

As you will have guessed by the title of this post, I’m doing my Spring thing today – half-arsed and late to the party, as always. I must be honest, though, and tell you that I’ve had some really cool things happen since my last post, not least of which was being invited by Jacaranda FM and Discovery to participate in a blogger activation in anticipation of the Jacaranda FM & Discovery Spring Walk 2016, which took place on 25 August at the gorgeous Planet Fitness Platinum health club in Sandton.

Upon arrival, bloggers were treated to refreshing drinks and delicious smoothies, during which we exchanged Twitter handles, greeted familiar faces and tweeted the obligatory selfie or two. Next we had a bit of a warm-up stretching session with a semi-sadistic fitness coach, interspersed with frequent water breaks and fuelled by some delicious wraps, juices and other edible treats. Because you can’t exercise properly without being appropriately plied with food, right?

Suitably stretched and refreshed, we made our way to the club’s fabulous indoor running track, where we split into teams and it was fastest feet first for some amazing prizes. This part of the day’s fun brought me to the shocking realisation that, having not run all winter, I am extremely unfit! Luckily, through sheer luck and the kindness of better athletes, I walked away with the best prize of the day: A complimentary 6-month Premium membership to Planet Fitness, which I intend to put to very good use, regaining some semblance of fitness and (hopefully) toning up for the coming summer! You can catch a glimpse of me coming in 6th or 7th place, here:

(I’m the one in the light blue crop top! 😛 )

Because happiness is healthy-ness, right?

 

Voer Die Wit Hond

The following is a post I started writing in December last year:

I cried in the car on the way to work this morning.

You’d think I’d be singing and dancing instead, right? I should be. The folks at work have been nothing but kind and welcoming. And the prospect of a decent, regular income is nothing to cry about.

Yet, here I am, coming apart at the seams.

It’s been happening at random intervals over the past week or two and after giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m depressed.

Apart from half-whispered utterances to my husband in moments of exhaustion, I haven’t used those words to describe my mental state in many years.

But the fact of it is, they fit.

Of course, I know that these feelings don’t just come out of nowhere. They build up and escalate over a period of time, often unnoticed until it all crescendoes into an enormous, dramatic mess.

I’ve been lucky this time in that I picked up on a few clues recently.

On Friday, we had the end of year party at work (I know – how cool are these guys for including me, when I’ve only been working with them for a week, right?). We were thoroughly spoilt as the company treated us to a matinee at Madame Zingara – a big favourite for me! The food was amazing, as always, as was the Merlot I washed my meal down with.

And then I went home and slept all weekend.

And that’s as far as I got with that post.

I cried in the car on my way to work again a few days ago. Apparently, it’s a thing for me.

I don’t plan it. I’ll be driving along like a normal person and, suddenly, my eyes just fill up and spill over while Tony Blewitt talks through mouthfuls of biscuit on the radio and I can’t stop it. So I blink lots to clear away as much blur as I can while I drive and I try to avoid getting tears in my mouth.

Those of you who’ve read my blog since the early days will know I’ve had run-ins with the black dog many times. I always live to tell the tale.

I don’t know why I’ve been feeling this way, so I’m not sure how to fix it. For the moment, I’m just telling people. I tell them that I’m not feeling myself and I don’t know why. I tell them I’m sad about nothing in particular. I tell them that the voice in my head is saying mean things to me. (Okay, maybe I don’t say that bit out loud.)

I talk because putting it out there makes me accountable for how I deal with it. Or, at least, for dealing with it at all. And that’s how I’m getting myself out of bed every day; I remind myself that checking out would be such a pathetic cliche.

I’m not running. Or baking. Or washing my hair as often as I probably should. I’m not bothering with make-up or looking like much. But I’m getting through every day having done enough to pass for functional and, right now, that’s good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

We bought a house.

The building next door to the house we’ve lived in for just over 5 years now once belonged to the Mayor of Johannesburg. You could tell, looking at what remained of the original house when we first moved here, that this house had been a grande dame in her heyday.

But several decades, a nightclub and a fast-food joint (both of which failed) later, the house is no longer the grand old home it once was. And then, a little over a year ago, things started happening there. There was talk for a short while of the house being restored, which made me happy. But then we learned to our horror toward the end of last year that this beautiful old landmark is to become a KFC instead, complete with drive-through ramp and window overlooking our garden and living room.

And so, after 5 1/2 years (the longest stretch we’ve spent in any one house), the time had come to find a new home.

The decision to buy rather than rent was made quite quickly, although not lightly. And we told ourselves we’d take our time and not settle for something we could live with, but that we’d hold on for the perfect place; one that lies within a particular little pocket of the neighbourhood, has VERY little work to be done and came at the right price.

I felt oh, so very adulty, looking over the options, inspecting every tiny detail and debating the merits of each house we viewed with my husband. We came really, really close to putting in an offer on a particularly pretty place, until we went to see it for the third time and discovered some very nasty, VERY expensive issues. The seller (according to the agent, at least) refused to negotiate on the price, though, so that was a bust. There was just something off for us about that particular agent… And so I mentioned to D that there was a particular house I’d looked at a couple of years ago, that had recently come back on the market. We chatted with the agent, who put us in touch with a bond originator and we started looking at whether or not we’d be able to swing the bond on this place. But by the time we’d gotten a pre-approval figure back from the bond originator, the house had been sold.

Still, we met up with the agent, gave her our list of requirements, price range, etc. and she set up a few appointments for us. And then, after four or five houses, she suggested we take a look at a particular house that had been up for sale for a while. She said she knew it wasn’t what we’d said we wanted but I guess she must have just had a feeling about us and about this house.

Let me begin by saying that the house is pink. Not a subtle, pale kind of pink that could almost pass for a warm, creamy colour. No. It’s a deep (albeit sun-faded), bright, just-this-side-of-salmon kind of pink.

Of course, my first comment was that it would have to be painted immediately.

It is also enormous, filling the bulk of a steeply sloped, 1300m2 stand with its 4 levels (5, if you count the triple garage at the very bottom).

The garden is a ghost of its once glorious, terraced self, overgrown with weeds and home to all kinds of rubbish left behind by tenants who did a real number on the place.

We put in an OTP within an hour of having seen it once.

By 5pm, the seller had accepted.

That was on 15 April.

We are now approximately 2 weeks away from moving into our very own home for the first time. There is a huge amount of work to be done to make it the home we want, but it’s ours, which makes all the scrubbing, painting, fixing, weeding, sealing and other stuff worth doing.

I plan to document the transformation of the house as we go, so watch this space!

 

 

 

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.

 

Getting to Know Me – Tagged by Cassey

Are you named after someone? 

Yes – My mother. My father filled in the birth certificate application and gave me her name without discussing it with her first. She was pissed, so they added something to make it a little bit different.  Very few people know what my name actually is.

When was the last time you cried? 
Eh? I cry almost every day these days. Sometimes because something is just so damned beautiful and sometimes because it’s just so damned sad. I think it’s probably time to visit my doctor and get my hormone levels checked because I’ve only ever been this prone to tears when I was pregnant.
No, I’m not pregnant now. It’s probably thyroid related. Or else I’m heading into early menopause…
Do you have kids? 
Yup. Four of them. Megan is 13, Michael is 12, Jack just turned 7 and James is 5.
Yes, they are all mine. I birthed them myself.
No, I do not need a lesson on contraceptives.
Yes, they keep me busy and on my toes and drive me crazy.
No, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
I like to think so. I can be a bit of an asshole, but it’s mostly without malice. Also, generally, when I’m being an asshole, it’s to myself.
 
Do you have a guilty pleasure? 
Many, many guilty pleasures. Mainly in sugary, edible form. (Ola, WHY did you have to discontinue the Red Velvet Cupcake Magnum? It was one of my reasons for getting out of bed every day!)
Do you like handwriting? 
 
When I was still in school, I refused to learn how to use a computer. I wrote everything by hand. And I wrote lots and lots of stuff, from poems to stories to long, long letters full of the agony of my misspent youth.
Now, typing is so much faster and neater.
What is your favorite cereal? 
Not sure. Most of the cereals I love are no longer an option for me because gluten. But if I’m going to fall off the wagon, it’s going to be over something sweet and most likely chocolatey. Like Coco Pops. Or Milo cereal. But I won’t turn up my nose to a few bowls full of Cheerios, either.
What is the first thing you notice about people? 
 
The way they “feel”.  I can tell within seconds of meeting someone whether we’re going to get along or not and it’s based entirely on the vibes I get when I walk into their space. I have yet to be wrong.
What color are your eyes? 
Blue/grey, sometimes green. It changes with my moods. And sometimes with what I’m wearing.
Scary movies or happy endings? 
 
I used to love scary movies and then, one day, I didn’t. Give me the happy ending – the world is scary enough without Hollywood’s help!
Favorite TV show? 
 
I’m not a big TV watcher, but there have been a few shows I’ve enjoyed over the years:
Friends
How I Met Your Mother
Big Bang Theory
Game of Thrones
Dexter (STILL haven’t watched seasons 6 and 7!)
Sons of Anarchy
Prison Break
Summer or winter? 
There are bits that I love and hate about both. Winter used to be much harder for me before I started treatment for the thyroid issues. Now, I don’t get as cold as easily, so it’s easier to enjoy the hearty, warming foods and hot beverages and the rich colours and luxurious clothing.
Then, I also love the lightness and freshness of the warmer seasons. I like the greenness of gardens and the sound and smell of a giant thunderstorm and of the ground after heavy rain. I like easy, summery salads for dinner and ice-cream and popsicles. I like soft, flowy skirts and dresses and strappy sandals.
Sorry – can’t pick just one.
Hugs or kisses? 
Depends who they’re from. ;P
What’s the furthest you’ve been from home? 
London, on a business trip in 2007.
Travelling to different places was one of the BEST things a job has ever meant for me and I will always remember those trips with fondness. I hope I’ll get to travel some more before I’m too old.
Do you have special talents? 

Not really. I like to bake, though, and do a mean shower karaoke!

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!

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!

 

 

(I’m) A Little Bit of Everything

I’m a bitch

Jack recently needed to have a couple of teeth extracted because they had decayed to the point of causing infection in his mouth. (Yes, I know that’s bad and you can keep your judgements to yourself, thanks.)

I was of the opinion that the situation provided an opportunity to teach Jack the importance of good oral hygiene by showing that the Tooth Fairy does not collect and pay for rotten teeth. D felt otherwise (and had his way in the end). While we argued about it, though, he made a comment that really stung. He might as well have punched me in the gut: “How would you like it if you were your mother?” This implies, of course, that I’m an unreasonable bitch and my children shouldn’t have to suffer me.

Well. Okay, then. I’ll just file that away under “Things to throw in the husband’s face during a future disagreement.”

I’m a lover

One who doesn’t discuss in public what belongs in the bedroom… 😉

I’m a child

If you’ve been reading MamaMeeA for a while, you’ll know that my mom and sister moved in with us in April last year.  It was going to be a three or four month thing, while they sorted out some stuff, found new jobs, etc.

I moved my daughter out of her large bedroom with ensuite bathroom and put my mom in there. I moved my office out of my office and into my bedroom, and my daughter into what had been my office, which she would share with my sister.

I rented a storage unit in which to store those of my mom’s things that could not be squeezed into our house and moved out of our house and into storage those of our things we could live without, to make room for the rest of my mom’s stuff.

We adjusted and adapted and made do.  My mom found a job near our house and contributed from her small salary toward the household. That big project we had going from last year ran well into this year and the regular income from that masked the fact for quite a long time that we were going to run into trouble. And then my mom left her job for another one that didn’t work out. And then that project of ours was over and we ran into trouble.

So, in the middle of last month, I called a family meeting during which I asked my mom and sister to move out at the end of the month.

I’m a mother

Yeah – no surprises there! Between the weirdness of watching my two eldest enter puberty and all that goes along with that, wrangling my strong-willed Grade One child to some semblance of  pretending to cooperate with his teacher in class and having the youngest at home during the day (a new and hopefully temporary development), that fact is hard to miss.

I’m having so much fun with the younger kids at the moment! My littlest J happened upon a PEZ dispensing Perry the Platypus among his toys a few days ago and when I saw a packet of PEZ sweeties in the checkout queue at Dis-Chem later, I bought it.

Then I filled up Perry while James watched a movie and waited a few minutes before I called James and asked him whether he’d heard something that sounded like magic. James being James, he played along and agreed that he’d heard “magic noises”. I suggested that perhaps the noise had come from Perry the Platypus, prompting James to set off in search of the toy.

Watching him discover his “magically” refilled PEZ dispenser at random intervals over the past few days has been so much fun!

The older kids are doing pretty well, too and I find myself enjoying many proud mom moments lately.

Michael started playing chess this year and it turns out he’s really good at it! He’s currently one of the top players in the school and I’m so pleased he’s found something he enjoys, is good at and is likely to stick to.

Megan has started writing prolifically once again after seeming to have lost interest for a while. She’s also suddenly started surprising me with some impressive academic results and I’m so glad she’s finding her groove.

I’m a sinner

And these past few weeks, I’ve been paying for my sins.

Right now, I’m implementing a strategy to put my little company back on track after a few setbacks. I won’t lie – it’s slow, tough going and I’m not having loads of fun. But it does help to have a plan in place. Plans, actually. Plural.

Phase One entails handling the immediate internal issues, including the setting up of standard systems and protocols and drafting policy for future operations. This follows naturally on recent events and is the product of lessons learned from the experiences of the past couple of years.

Phase Two is where things get interesting and while I can’t say much until all of the various NDAs and other agreements are finalised and signed (single most valuable lesson learned so far – no verbal agreements!!), I am  excited for what all of this means in terms of long term potential.

I’m a saint

Okay, so that one’s never going to fly. I’m not exactly the choirgirl type. But I could be.

Could have been.

If I’d wanted to…

 

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.