Monday, 17 October 2016

Praying out loud in public and other questionable things

So on Saturday I joined a public Rosary rally in the park at Magnolia Dell.  Yes we took along our Rosaries and our hymns and prayers and everything else the coordinator had mailed us.  Yes us Catholics - we stood in a circle which drew attention.  Yes we sang - out loud and prayed - out loud (long prayers and short ones) and yes we prayed the Rosary - out loud. 

Yes we attracted stares - some of interest, some of confusion, some of mirth.  Some glanced our way, read our banner and carried on about their business.  Some stopped to hear what we were doing, some snickered, some stared openly.  Some smiled and seemed encouraged.  

It is a funny thing public displays of Faith.  We can go to a park, wearing the shirt of the sports team we support, kick around a ball and shout sporting terms.  We can go to a park and put up a display of art and other wares and encourage others to stop and look.  We can let people ride through the park loudly ringing bells and encouraging people to buy ice-cream.  We can lie on the lawn and play our choice of music loudly.  But have a public display of Faith?  Pray?  Out loud?  Ai Wena - what is that thing you are doing?

Many times during illness, strife, family problems etc we rush to pray......I am pretty sure that many of the sport playing, art selling, icecream eating, music listening people rush to their Faith and prayer when things go wrong.  You see - we rush to it now - yes things are going wrong - but we would have prayed the Rosary in public even if we were living in a country of great harmony. 

Now I am not saying that you have to be a Bible bashing scream Alleluia every second kind of person, running around explaining how people should "save themselves and turn to the Lord".  But I am questioning why we have to appear restrained.  As I stated in my FB post with photos of our gathering, I have a friend who told me that she liked so-and-so because "they are religious, but not overly so" - please pause whilst I snort in mirth.  Overly so?  So what is the barometer?  One mention of the word Jesus and 2 mentions of the Bible is okay, but if you lean towards three mentions of Jesus and 4 of the Bible and one the Lord has heard my prayers, jirre then you are dangerously in-the-face overly religious. 

Yes we don't all believe, yes we have different Faiths, yes we have different levels of Faith ..... but just because I am not a Sharks supporter does not mean I should criticise their supporters' level of enthusiasm and noise when they play here. Ramadan is very serious. When my Muslim friends are giving alms, fasting and praying during this time, I don't find them "overly".  I have served on a Board with a close Muslim friend who had to break the fast at sunset and had a little tupper of small food that she then ate during the meeting. That made her dedicated to her religion in my eyes. The same when we are in Lent.  

So if you wish to support your Faith and celebrate it with the same zest that you support other important things in your life, do so.  And if you wish to do it quietly to yourself.  Then do that.  But be careful of how you judge other's choices. 

Remember that now more than ever our country needs prayer - for SA, for the crappy political goings on, for rain.  So pray!! 

Whether whispered or bellowed.  Just do it. 

till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Friday, 16 September 2016

social media. selfies and other not so smart smartphone stuff

So the smartphone ..... what a welcome addition to life.  It is there all the time, ringing, knocking, vibrating, blinking in silence, whistling, tapping, lighting up.  Alerting us that someone is calling us, called us, sms'd us, whatsapp'd us, tweeted us, tagged us on FB and then of course there is the plethera of sms'ing, whatsapping, tweets and FB that we ourselves do.  And then there are the websites, chatlines, chat sites, Tinder, meet a man, meet a chick, online shopping, online bookings etc etc.  Oh and not to forget that other thing - sexting and selfies and other such stuff which can come back and really be an issue .... because remember darlings ..... what you put out there is out there.  For good.  You can delete your message and photos or drop them into any place you wish .... they can be found should it ever be necessary.  Aaaah cyberspace .... what a blessing and a curse. 

I read an interesting article this weekend in the paper ... and then listened to a prank call this morning on 94.7 to such a chat site.  As the producer, Brad, said .... there is this misconception (mostly) (before everyone gets their backs up) that chat sites are there simply to meet people and chat about the weather.  The anonymity often leads to all kinds of games.  Once again darlings, when it is out there, it is out there. And I said often, not always. 

Am I judging no - not in the least - each one of us probably know of at least one person doing this - maybe even you - but I am asking for renewed consideration.  2 years ago someone I am acquainted with sent me a photo.  I could have taken it as them hitting on me, but because I was 100 % sure they were not, it would be laughable, I now sat with a delightfully uhm .... well ... picture - which confirmed a behavior in very clear terms, that was not intended for me. This is not unusual - when you are jumping between messages on Whatsapp you can accidentally get onto the wrong one ... I myself have done it .... not with a photo but with a message.  It can be problematic. 

I waited for an apology.  An explanation.  At least some embarrassment.  The person hopefully knows it is not my style to pass it on, show anyone, identify them to anyone and I have not even told that person.  And it is not my intention to.  In my heart I hope that they did not realise what they had done, because if I ever find out that they did, and simply just, out of arrogance, said nothing, it would be the end of contact we do have.  I sent them messages after that, and them me, till today, so I give them the benefit of the doubt that they did not see what they had done. C'est la vie. Everyone has reasons they do stuff - it is their stuff.  I don't do blackmail.  Some things we take to the grave, not necessarily because they deserve it, but because it is beneath me to do anything else.  I am simply stating it here because it serves a purpose in this blog. 

So people young and old .... it is social media .... and even your private messages never ever belong solely to you .... the cellphone giants can reach anything ... anytime .... should they need to.  Forget about your pin number, fingerprint, hand swiping, code pattern, urine sample locks on your IPads, Computers and phones. 

So be sensible.  Be discerning.  And for goodness sake double check the name before you push send. 

A little bit of Friday wisdom. 

Till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The madness of a cricket test match. A madness of supporters. The fun. And of course, Faf

Test Cricket.  Yes it is about the score, the runs, the wides, the 4's, the 6's, the LBW's, the batsmen, the bowlers, the umpires, the outs and the ins, the reviews, the state of the pitch and the innings. 

But.  It is also about  the sun, the caps, the suntan lotion, the beers, the boerewors, the Sunfoil placards, the Standard Bank sponge finger and then ...... oh yes and then my darlings ...... 

it is about who sits around you.  

Day 1 of the NZ vs SA Test in Centurion, I part with my ticket as I have something urgent to attend to.  However my Day 2 ticket is all mine.  

We sit on the grandstand in really good seats and then starts the day long cricket.  And spectators. 

Behind us we have one young guy and two girls.  The entire grandstand added together simultaneously, did not speak as loudly or as dramatically as he did.  The arm movements alone could have conducted the Philharmonic. All day.  From 10 am to 4 pm.  They leave before the end.  I silently thank whoever was responsible for that.  We know ALL his business.  Who pisses him off, who he loves, his scant knowledge of cricket, his illnesses over his life ranging from a cold to his appendix and others that I quite frankly would have not wanted to know. The two girls did not get that much chance to speak. Little wonder they always offered to go and buy the beer. 

At noon arrived a family behind us.  Initially only 3 of them.  The guy behind me had a half drunk bottle of flavoured water.  In very thin plastic.  Which he proceeded to squeeze and release, squeeze and release.  Not drinking it.  Squeezing and releasing the bottle.  For 40 mins.  Like jumping on and crumbling plastic.  At the 40 minute mark I had to ask him if he was doing it for a reason.  Because he was 9 cm from my ear.  All he still had to do was click a pen on and off.  

He spent the next 30 mins on the phone.  Trying to tell his friends how to find him and their seats.  They were in the stadium.  All the grandstands are numbered alphabetically.  The rows and seats clearly marked.  Till today I do not know why he did not give that info instead of "no man my broer, look where the smoke is coming up from that guy in the blue shirt's braai, now look 18 m to the right is a girl with a green coolbox, now we are directly opposite that on the other side of the stadium".  Well at least that is what it sounded like to me. 

Then his friends arrived and it got really fun.  The one behind us knew everything.  About everything.  First he gave his very long view about the new planet that was discovered. Then he gave the rundown about why Faf, who was edging towards a century, could try bat better.  Now please understand.  Leave Faf.  No seriously, I will cut you.  
Next up there was a review called for on the field.  "I am telling you ous ... it is out, everyone can see it is out".  It was in.  So now we have "I was just about to say to you ous that it is actually in".  Go figure. 
Now looking at FB he notices a special for Levis at R1000.  "This is daylight robbery" wisdom spews forth "my cousin knows a ou who can sell you 3 pairs of Levis for under R1000".  The boys and I wonder if the label will say Levys.  Some blessing comes about and they decide that the two ladies should go home and make salad and them three ous will go buy meat and beers at Spar.  They leave to go home to braai. 

Down near the front are 5 young guys ... late 20's.  Their guns are impressive, oiled and on display (their upper arm muscles in case you are battling to keep up).  The only thing more impressive is Steyn's bowling speed.  And that look he gives the batsman.  It could wither a planet.  They have a systematic pattern for 6 hours..... buy beer, return, drink, buy beer, return, drink.  It is the return which causes the amusement.  Because it steadily declines between 11am and 5pm. One guy is the beer fetcher.  At 11am he does his returns by carrying all 5 beers and leaping down the steps to their seats, two at a time.  By 2pm he is taking the steps sedately, one at a time.  By 330pm he is going down one step at a time, but taking two of his own steps on each one.  By 430pm he has forgotten there are steps and by 5pm he does not even know why there were steps in the first place.  And where the hell is he? 

Next up to cross the row was a young woman.  She was wearing something.  Words fail me. It seemed to be a dress.  But it was a blouse.  Worn as a dress. Short.  Very short.  And on top it appears that she had lost a huge piece of the material.  Because not much of her very vast cleavage was covered.  As she passed the people in her row they were cut off from the sun for a long time.  They possibly even missed a wicket.  They did not seem to mind much. 

Our back row was then replaced at 4pm by 3 guys who had spent the entire day in the beer garden, probably hanging over the edge of the pool, shirtless, loud and obnoxious.  They were blood red.  They had had more than an adequate amount to drink.  Granted they were quite funny.  But they had about another 3 "just for the road" in the hour behind us.  Must have been a helluva long road.  Clearly they had played cricket.  90 years ago.  Naturally they would do it waaaaay differently to the very talented SA team.  They told us about their local pub in Boksburg that they were stopping at on the way home.  I prayed for all the other drivers and passengers on the road.  

And then of course there was mummy and her two grown up daughters who sat two rows in front of us.  She took a photo as the women (her girls) walked into the grandstand.  She then took at least a dozen pics of them watching cricket.  "Mummy is talking to you" was her mantra.  She then discovered that there were beers, donuts, boerie rolls and chips.  She had a lot.  Of each.  As the day progressed her hair became more wild.  Her photo taking became more frantic.  She then grabbed a Sunfoil poster and wrote on it *KEVIN we missing you at the cricket* and held it up.  She waved it almost as much as the guy lower down who had written THE EFF SAVED YOU on his.  It did prompt a man further back to shout "Ag sharrup en sit man .... almal weet die DA is die rede dat hulle iets het om te save".  Local is lekker. 

We left at 545pm.  It was an awesome day of cricket.  Brilliant weather.  Fantastic team. 

And spectators for the fun of it. They make it really part of the outing. 

Local is indeed lekker ne'. 

Till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Dear Mr President

Dear Mr President ..... You had a palatial home built with more annextures than the average Medical Terminology Book.  You had every kind of unnecessary and lavish item there.  Most South Africans objected.  You chose to ignore them. 

Dear Mr President .... The Guptas came along and seemed to become the day to day managers of our country and politics.  They ruled like puppetmasters and did unusual little things .... like land a private plane at a military airport.  Most South Africans objected.  You chose to ignore them. 

Dear Mr President .... The Sudanese President, a war criminal, was allowed to leave SA despite a High Court order ...... You allowed it.  Most South Africans objected.  You chose to ignore them. 

Dear Mr President ..... Universities and Education Institutions across the country took to the streets in protest under the banner of #feesmustfall.  Did you go out into the community and address the situation?  No.  You were hardly ever seen 

Dear Mr President ..... At your Inauguration you said "I will devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all its people" .... please remind me again how you have unfailingly attempted to live up to this statement

Dear Mr President .... On the same day you said "There should be no excuses for failure" but then spent a great deal of time making excuses for such - or blaming Apartheid

Dear Mr President .... you allowed many people in high places call the shots to you over the years - you defended them and allowed them to run many important institutions into the ground.  Most South Africans objected.  You ignored them. 

Dear Mr President - I excitedly voted for change and the end to the horrible Apartheid years that I had grown up in.  I saw great hope.  Why did you let me down?

Dear Mr President - on several occasions now I have watched on television how you conduct yourself during sessions of Parliament .... shrugging off questions, laughing at inappropriate moments and seemingly finding the promises you made at your inauguration to be completely inconsequential. Why did you let us down?

Dear Mr President - when Tshwane was going wild and our National Broadcaster was hiding it behind reports of missing dogs and other such dribble, where were you?

Dear Mr President - over the past years many many times on Twitter there were the comments - Your country is burning Mr President - do something.  Why did you ignore us?

Dear Mr President - The horror of Marikana etched itself in the memories of South Africans and the world. Did the Marikana Report find its way into the hands of the families affected? Why did you let them down?

Dear Mr President - a country got tired - of the promises - the lack of delivery on them - the spiralling of unemployment and service, the corruption, the excuses.

Dear Mr President - a country went to the polls last week

Dear Mr President - a country spoke up. And it said "no more". 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The handbag. The church bell. Those embarrassing moments.

The 10 am Mass is currently on.  I should be in it.  I was.  At least for a very short time. And then it went pear shaped. 

I opened the Repository from 9 to 10 am as usual.  It was going well.  Great filter coffee, lovely customers, new floors, everyone likes the new layout of Repository and all was sunshine and happy Sunday morning.  

Two customers stayed after 10 am and as we were chatting about items in the Repository and WYD, the time ticked on and I only ran across the road at 10:10 ... this sometimes happens when I still have customers. Also there was a problem with an overflowing Jojo tank pointed out to me by several parishioners, which required me to make a call after 10:00 to someone. It could not wait.  And the Repository is my Ministry. 

Not wanting to walk into the church so late, and with the cry chapel being full, I circled the church, entered from the other side by the Sacristy and stood quietly in the passage at the back of the church.  It was still going well.  I listened to the Homily and decided I would stay where I was.  Nic was altar serving alone and all was still well. 

Until then ..... 

Hearing the Sacristy door open behind me, I turned to see who was in there in the middle of the Mass.  Two things happened simultaneously.  I saw one of the young counting guys walk out and in the swing around I hit the church bell with my handbag.  It rings once to signal the beginning of Mass and the entrance of the Priest, Altar servers, Readers etc. 

It rang 4 times.  The young guy snorted and ran back into the Sacristy..... I was paralysed with embarrassment and while it was still ringing ... and with 409 parishioners who had swung around ... I turned and ran into the Sacristy behind him. 

I wished in that moment that I was a visiting Catholic that would not be at this parish again. Or a completely unknown parishioner.  Or invisible.  But no, I have to be the parish secretary. 

Now in the big scheme of things this is not a catastrophic issue.  The bell rang.  It was a mistake.  And yes, out of nerves and being so red faced I could not stop laughing ... nor could the youngster.  Luckily out of sight. 

I went outside to the grotto.  Sat with the statue of Mary.  Prayed and apologised profusely. 

Now I am in my office.  Waiting for Mass to end.  So that I can tell my son that those bells .... it was his mom. 

Apologies to anyone who may be grossly offended.  There are worse things that could have happened. 

c'est la vie .... such is my life. 

Till soon 

Friday, 29 July 2016

A million Catholics at WYD. But also millions who are not.

The media is full of World Youth Day in Poland.  A massive gathering of Young Catholics *and the not so young* to spend time together examining their Faith, interacting with other young people, visiting churches and other landmarks, attending Masses and of course the very wonderful opportunity to actually see the Pope, up close (or as close as you can get with a million people) and personal.

Much attention and photographs have been published on social media about this - flags, excitement and a mutual bond of Catholicism.  Many comments have been published about how this massive group of dedicated young people intend to carry this message forward and live it out when they return to their respective countries and parishes.  Will everyone do this - no.  However one hopes that the majority do.

What has concerned me somewhat is the amount of emphasis on only this group when talking about the time to come, and I have even read 4 different articles / opinions over the past week which seem to indicate that the young Catholics who are dedicated to their Faith and active in their parishes are somehow restricted to those who made this trip.  Many young people were fortunate that they, or their parents, or a sponsor, were able to fund the huge amount *especially for South Africans* to attend. Many others were chosen because of their involvement in the various youth activities and other in their parish ... and rightly so.

However perhaps thought must also be given to the other Youth who could not afford to go, or did not make the cut ..... numbers are limited ... parishes have budgets ..... and please understand that I get that.  It is a bit like prefects.  Many awesome people do not make it, it is a numbers game.

But to prevent a "us and them" when kids return worldwide, it is important that those that went take cognisance of those that didn't.  That they are still collectively a group, that together they need to carry the Faith and messages forward, collectively they are a generation.  Feedback is needed from those who attended, so that collectively they learn.

I am sure some will be offended by my thoughts on this. Please know this is not an attack on those that went, but simply comments about focus of media.  But this is my forum.  And as the blog is named .... c'est la vie

till soon

Thursday, 23 June 2016

cloudy waters washing over me

In Afrikaans there is a wonderful phrase "troebel waters" ..... cloudy, murky, turbulent ..... those are the waters I find myself in this week.  Unchartered waters - I feel like a lone person in a lifeboat being whacked from one side to the other by wave after wave after wave after wave of not entirely getting stuff right. 

I have always been a strong swimmer - a direct description of a person who can take the multitude of days that come your way .... great, mediocre or just downright crappy.  This week I have felt stuck in doggy paddling - two steps forward .... then 9 to the right and 109 backwards. 

Everyone seems to have a theory about why I am so uncertain, so confidence-less (yes I know that is not a word) - Sadly not one of them have it right.  Mainly because no-one has actually asked in depth.  And by asking you have to accept my answer.  And listen. And not judge. 

I have walked the road flat across to the Adoration Chapel where I have debated, questioned, demanded and laid bare my "troebel waters".  A colleague of mine very kindly sent a note on Monday afternoon to say that she was worried as I did not look ok.  I was touched, she sees me only for an hour or two a week.  No judgement.  Just are you ok. Sometimes people do not ask.  They decide what your attitude is and then react accordingly.  Often they have it so wrong.  Perhaps we need to ask first before we react. Be gentle.

Today at work I did a very tiny thing for someone ..... simply a part of my job.  But to them it was a huge thing at a very sad time in their lives.  She called me a rockstar.  It made me smile.  And then a short while later, in the afternoon, I doubted it.  Because when you have what a friend of mine once called in his blog "grit in your eyes", thrown in your eyes, you get blinded by it and lose all ability to see yourself. 

Instead you simply get lost in a cloud of doubt, tears, second guessing every task and a deep sense of being lost. 

This too shall pass. 

It has to. 

till soon 
c'est la vie 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Be the parish secretary. Go on I dare you.

Parish Secretary.  Now to many people those 2 words conjure up the image of a retired lady, in twinset and pearls (and I mean no offence to either retired ladies or twinsets and pearls), sitting in the office for a few hours a day, answering the seldom ringing phone, making the odd cup of tea for the priest, filing a handful of documents a week and crocheting and reading to fill the rest of the hours.  That I believe is how most people think the advert for such a post would read.

Now I do not know every Parish Secretary that there is.  I do not know if the opposite of the above is unique to very large parishes only.  Or to parishes like mine that are vibrant and alive and have dozens of interest groups, ministries, support groups and other things like perpetual adoration, a massive catechism group, young adult group, youth group, bible study, parish council, articles in publications, soup kitchen, Lifeline and on and on and on.  

Busy parish = Busy priest = Busy secretary.  

I opened this blog with the perceived parish secretary definition.  I do not think anyone in our parish (unless you are not paying attention) thinks that is what our secretary (me for those who are not keeping up) does.

Correctly stated it would read as follows should anyone want to advertise for another secretary here in the future:

Parish Secretary:  one person with 6 ears and 10 hands needed.  Able to have a conversation on the phone whilst simultaneously listening to the person standing opposite them and the priest asking them something.  Must be able to type, file, answer the phone as well as their cellphone at the same time (both calls will be work related – guaranteed), make good tea and coffee.  Must be of a sleuth level equal to Sherlock Holmes and must be able to source anything from missing wedding records of 1973 to companies that remove bees, a good price for gas cylinder refills, the name of a parishioner who attended Mass last Sunday and sat in the 4th row, 9th from the right and the barrage of questions including such as “does the Priest have to be present at Confession” and “Why did the Priest replace the Our Father with something else on Sunday" (he didn’t – ever).  Be able to handle people who are awesome, friendly, rude, demanding, uncooperative, grieving, hysterical, laughing, chatting, warm, comforting, kind or needing something.  Must be able to discern when people simply want to talk and unpack on someone (my Lifeline Counselling training has stood me in good stead).  

Must be able to run the very full diary of a very busy and involved priest who also has a radio show, a newspaper column and a plethora of committees and other that must be attended to in addition to a very big parish.  Must have the discernment to ensure that meetings are spaced according to the time the PS (parish secretary) deems will be suitable for the priest, dependent on the reason for the meeting/counselling/preparation/blessing etc.  PS must be completely knowledgeable with the Home Affairs as well as the Catholic Church requirements for marriage and must ensure that the file of documents for each one of the normally 30 a year are handled correctly. All bridal couples will not be equally easy and patience (even sometimes counting to 100) is required.  She must be able to complete all the documentation – marriage certificates and Home Affairs register and ensure that she has everything for the Priest to register the marriage.  PS also needs to know all the rules and requirements of Baptisms, married couples, unmarried couples, one parent not Catholic, needs of Godparents and must be able to spot and draw to the attention of the boss (aka Priest) any possible problems when the forms cross her desk.  Especially in a parish with 25 Baptisms a year.  A good working knowledge of annulment is a strong advantage to be able to ensure that documents are correctly filed and to know what is needed in terms of a 2nd marriage. 

The PS must be sound in the areas of bookkeeping and be able to correctly identify the correct department costing for all documents before handing to the Accountant.  Must be able to run a tight petty cash as well as any other areas where she is accountable for money.  In the case of our parish, being able to administer and control 500 niches in the Garden of Remembrance, all the proofs and final manufacturing of plaques, the liaising between office and families of the wording etc, sometimes looking after Ashes, the arrangements for blessing and placing of Ashes.  Again as a major part of this parish, this is a big job and requires tact and understanding as those you work with are often fragile.  Or feuding families.  The PS should be able to find every Baptism, Wedding, Death and Confirmation record of every person since 1967.  This will be tested often.  When people incorrectly think they were Baptised at your church, when in fact they were not, the PS needs to be able to smile whilst muttering on the inside at the waste of time searching for entries.

PS must be well spoken in at least 2 languages, must have grammar and spelling that is far above average and an ability to write – articles or anything, is a great advantage.  In addition she must be available all the time.  Before and after work – calls will start at 630am some days and the last requests / instructions from parishioners will often end after 9pm. 
PS must be as comfortable talking to the Archbishop as she is out shopping for dishliquid and toilet paper.  Diversity is the order of the day and any expectation of any 2 days being the same is non-exist.

She must be able to find priests to stand in for Masses or help at Confessions and having 14 priests on speed-dial who know you well (and like you) is a distinct advantage.

Confidentiality is key, people very often bare their souls in the priests’ office and even reception.  High levels of integrity are needed.  As are patience, empathy, generosity, humour, humour, humour, friendliness, warmth and yes, sometimes a stern voice when taken for granted by those whom you actually serve.  In addition, PS needs to be able to fill candles on a table one minute, write the bulletin the next, deal with the pile of mass intentions and see they are properly placed on the next .... she must be a master of removing paper jams in the copier (normally caused by the boss), repairing the plug of the kettle if needed and filling the fountain.  A working knowledge of labour laws to do with contracts, leave records and other staff matters is also a distinct advantage.

PS must like to drive.  It will be required. Finally an ability to read the boss' mind and try and stay one step ahead is a big plus.

So ….. for anyone who ever wondered what I do every day.  Or what this parish secretary does.  Or how we can possibly be so busy in the office Fr Chris and I.  There it is.

Read Fr Chris’ comprehensive article about 5 weeks ago which was published in the Southern Cross newspaper as his regular column.  You will be amazed to read the intense workload of a priest.  Then read my article above. 

 I do not have time to put pearls on – I barely have time for lipstick.

Welcome to the world of a parish priest and parish secretary.  It will never be dull – you have my word.

Busy priest = Busy secretary. We are a perfect match and that is a blessing.

I would not have it any other way.  

Till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Friday, 15 April 2016

best self. better self. what a disaster. wisdom from a nun.

Two weeks ago I commented to a friend that when I come back in my second life, I want to be a nun.  She asked why but the answer was complex .... and has nothing to do with my unbelievably awesome hubby and kids, but much more to do with a striving for excellence, compassion, kindness, near perfection and everything else that seems to come to mind when I see these ladies.  And yes, I speak to nuns regularly in my job. And yes they laugh if I say I strive to be as perfect. 

It took me longer to get my friend to stop laughing than it did to complete my nun explanation.  I do agree that when looking and listening to me, nun is not at the forefront of your mind.  Admit it. 

But yesterday I thought a lot about nuns again, because I spoke to one twice on the phone this week, and having spent time with several nuns on a social level over the last two years, I know to be true the fact that they too are striving .... to be compassionate, to be kind, to be doing the right thing ..... 

Our parish priest, as you know, had the most impact on me the day he spoke to us, a while ago already, about always trying to be "our best selves" or "our better selves".  Now let me put it out there ..... I appear to really suck at this.  I actually thought I was spending 75 percent of my life making progress at "better self" and 25 % failing dismally.  I do not know how my fellow parishioners feel they are doing - but I seem to always have either one or both my feet in it.  

I have a nun on email .... who is not a local one, which makes it better for frank discussion. I have asked myself repeatedly this week if it so hard for them as well.  She asked me what "them" encompasses.  "People like you, who God chooses for their job", I told her.  It elicited quite a chuckle over the email lines.  "Did God not choose you for your job", she asked me.  That part was easy - anyone who knows even a tiny bit about me knows that the one thing I love ridiculously much in life is my job - to have worked with people when they are getting married, having babies, saying goodbye to loved ones, placing Ashes, I get to touch their lives in a tiny tiny tiny way, but I have come to really love being with the parishioners and they shower me with love in return.  But this was not my question.  My question was is it much easier for her to be her "better self" all the time.  Is it just lay people who fail. 

Her answer came in capitals - NO.  "We make mistakes, many of them, we speak too fast, we judge too quickly, we apologise too slowly, we pray too much, we pray too little" ... it was a long list.  "Anyone who deems themselves as never failing certainly has quite the opinion of themselves" .... I wish I could let you hear what must be the accent she speaks with. 

She was extraordinarily real.  It was like speaking to Lifeline except that no-one knew me. 

But she heard me.  She understood that I want to be understood.  That I am not going to get it right every day.  At least I am prepared to admit that.  Many won't.  I will not always pray enough, say the right words all the time, judge slowly, speak the words people want to hear. But she says, that makes me human.  She also asked me to write down the names of 3 people who seem to get it right most of the time.  "Not names of people who they themselves think are above this theory, names of people that YOU think are getting it right". The 3 names obviously meant nothing to her since she did not know any of them, but an interesting analysis followed.  That is between her and me.  

But I will try.  Every day.   Because I do not want to have to start every 2nd sentence with Sorry. 

Right at the end of our chat I realised that some will always sit in judgement.  And others will always be judged.   And very often the latter, is the one trying harder. 

She chuckled, "well then, do you not think that the judged is more successful at trying to be their best self than the person sitting in judgement?" - I love email - you always get the wording right when you repeat it. 

Wisdom in a habit.  

I am going to aim for 40 % success in better self this week.  Swift to bless, slow to chide. Which means I should come in around 28.2%

When you are mad at someone - write their good traits in column A and their bad traits in column B ...... A usually far exceeds B.  But then, before you go further, how about writing down your good traits in column A and bad traits in column B .... still being your best self?

Can you see me chuckling? Trying to work out who can honestly say yes. 

What are you going to strive for this week? 

till soon 
c'est la vie 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

50 kinds of gorgeous papers. what a lot of love.

Many of you do know that when I turned 50 in January, my daughter turned 21, and came home from Cape Town for our joint celebration.  When she left to go home, and I returned from the airport, there was a glass jar on the dining room table.  Beautifully and colorfully decorated .... and marked in front in silver koki ... "50 Things About You".  My Jess had decorated this jar and inside were 50 slips of folded paper, to be opened and read one at a time whenever I felt like it.  And on each of the 50 papers she had written some memory - funny, poignant ... whatever, that she had of me. 

Friends have asked me what kind of things these slips said .... which I read out to my hubby and son, much to their amusement.  So here are the ones I have already opened - you will learn something about me .... and share in my joy at the same time. If you think you know me really well ... did you know all this? So ... as written by my daughter to me -

  1. One word "crispy" - you sometimes forget things on the stove
  2. You have such a beautiful handwriting ... you often start a form all perfectly in the beginning and then towards the end you are scribbling
  3. You are now 50 years old and becoming part of the penshie club (pensioners) so you do not have to feel bad about getting pensioner discount (which a supermarket offered me at the tills when I was 45)
  4. You constantly check up on me, even though I live in CT, and you still "mom" me
  5. You are glitter and bling mad
  6. Saying to us you are "3 mins away" from where you must fetch us ... but we hear the dogs barking at our home
  7. You still think skinny dipping is ok - which it isn't
  8. We love you even though we know that you DO cut your own fringe
  9. You try and "guilt trip mom" us sometimes 
  10. You make the best ever mac 'n cheese
  11. You take us on spontaneous trips to Mc Donalds at 11pm for Mc Flurries - in our pyjamas
  12. You ALWAYS manage to mess on your top when you eat - always
  13. You throw your whole heart into everything you do 
  14. You taught me about hygiene and taking good care of myself from a very young age
  15. You own a 1000 different pens, but use the same 3 every day at work till they are finished
  16. One day you accidentally waxed my entire eyebrow off mom #enoughsaid
  17. You know the absolute true meaning of sacrifice
  18. You buy a Beeld every day, without fail, for 30 years
  19. You make the BEST chip dip
  20. Remember the endless soapies we watched since I was small like Ally Mc Beal, Fraser, 7de Laan and Isidingo (I still watch the latter after 15 years - K)
  21. For the endless speeches you helped me write and listened to over and over and over again
  22. When you pour something cold in a glass, you fill it, immediately drink half, and top it up
  23. You grab any glass at the basin when you want water
  24. You get irritated by dogs barking, even if they are 5km away
  25. You cannot go to the movies without a regular popcorn and a LARGE slush puppy
  26. You had Alvin and the Chipmunks as a ringtone a couple of years ago
  27. We have a fun family "gang sign" like The Force be With You.  You cannot do it with your fingers
  28. You cannot drink or read anything unless you have established where the middle of the cup/glass/book/mag is
  29. You took Zumba classes with me in your late 40's and really shook it up
  30. You wrinkle your nose up when you laugh
  31. You randomly bust loose with your own songs and raps - loudly
  32. Before you eat a bowl of icecream you add 100's and 1000's and 5 other types of Nicoletta toppings - stars, silver balls, choc bits
  33. You are so brave - more than you can ever realise
  34. You are a pro at hair buns for ballet and getting the hair perfectly smooth
  35. You are so completely centered in your Faith and such an example to us with this
  36. You were at almost every soccer match, hockey match, cricket match, netball match, swimming gala etc when we grew up - and we loved it 

And so I still have 14 to open.  So what did you learn about me that you never knew? 

till soon 
c'est la vie 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

casting your nets. asking for help. that man in the arena

Casting nets on the other side of the boat was the Gospel today during Mass.  

It gave me food for thought whilst driving home.  How often do we do that?  Or do we tend to fish on the one side of our boat day in and day out and eventually in total despair just toss the net back into the boat.  Now I have, through trial and error, happy and bad times, by hook or by crook and such, become over the past couple of years a master of casting the net both sides of our boat.  Hell, I even cast in front and back sometimes and if necessary I will even swim under the boat dragging it. 

They say "necessity is the mother of invention".  Well Amen to that.  Whilst discussing it online with someone this afternoon she commented "but you do not know how hard it can be" .... no my dear, I do.  Trust me we have the PhD, MBA, and every other letter in this. Re-casting is what my speciality is.  I am not addressing this to people who tell me they are battling because they now eat out 3 and not 5 times a month ... or cannot have weekly take-aways, or have to give up a coffee date, or scale down their car, or buy less at Woolworths ... I am talking to people who are battling to put food on the table, fuel in their cars and clothes on their backs.  For whom the little decisions are the huge and scary daily decisions.  

So for the many that I currently know, that are battling, mostly with finances, in a time when so many are reeling from the cost of living, getting retrenched, having to close their businesses, finding themselves so lost, so desperate, so overwhelmed, let me lead you as follows, and if you know me, you will know that I speak from experience.  I will place at the end my favourite verse "The Man in the Arena" ... I have been that man, we have been that man, so yes, I am qualified to speak on this subject. 

1.  Ask.  Someone.  Anyone.  You have to learn to ask.  For help.  For a shoulder. For food.  For assistance.  Ask.  Yes you have to stick your pride in your pocket.  Churches have Outreach programmes, these are able to assist you.  Peruse the web for places that help.  Speak to your priest, speak to your friends, speak to your colleagues, speak to your family, speak to a counsellor (and you can do so at Lifeline, confidentially and at no cost whatsoever), but talk to someone. Sometime, somewhere, someone will hear you.  If not, keep asking. I did the Counselling course at Lifeline ... several hours a week for 13 weeks ... intense ... but has given me a skill no-one can ever take away.  To listen.  To understand. 
2.  Do not drive anywhere, and I mean anywhere that you can walk.  Trust me .... if you walk 2km here and 1km there it adds up ... fuel kept in your tank.  No short trips, no unplanned trips.  Know exactly in the morning what your route will be .... school, work, whatever ... plan in the stop for bread .... plan in the random stops ..... no extra stops. 
All of the out of the way stuff must be lumped into one day.  Sometimes it comes down to the wire with fuel.  
3.  You may have to stop handing out car guard money at every stop.  This is hard I know - you can feel really dreadful.  But there comes a stage when it is family first.  It may only be R3 a day that you save, if you make stops daily, but over a month - R90 buys bread and milk my friends. 
4.  Give up the extras - DSTV for starters.  You will survive.  Maybe you have to have it off for a month.  They credit you when you have it put off by them.  Yes it is awful if you are a huge fan.  Find a friend, or two, who won't mind you popping in to watch sport by them, or would not mind you coming over once a week to catch up on your series.  Again refer to #1 - ask.  It may give you the R750 back into your budget.  If there is no choice, switch if off for 6 months.  You can put it on anytime.  Is it hard? Yes.  And you may need to look at old fashioned ways of entertainment - trust me it is possible to play Cluedo 16 times a month. 
5.  Kids first.  In everything.  Food, clothing and all other needs.  Kids first.  Spend the money on the crucials across all family members, but for all other critical things kids first. First to eat, first to be taken care of.  And I am not talking about working salary earning kids.  I mean dependants. 
6.  Work out if there is something you can do to bring in a little extra.  Can you sew?  Offer around school to do simple sewing repairs for friends.  Do you do calligraphy?  Paint? Make costumes well .... repair stuff like toasters, read aloud well .... whatever ... advertise for free over and over in the Junk Mail .... you will be amazed what people are happy to pay for to take it off their plate. 
7.  Have a yard sale, or a boot sale, whatever you want to call it.  Go room to room ... get rid of that lampshade you got in 1999 that you know you are never going to use again. That top you are going to wear when you lose 10kg.  Now is your chance ... you will be amazed how much stuff you can amass over time. Advertise .... a good way is to stick up a note at your local supermarket board for notices. And if you are nervous about security ... find a spot .... where there are people ... like an open shopping centre car park in your neighbourhood ... and I am not talking about Menlyn or such obviously, people walking past buy.  And it is not "selling your stuff" it is getting rid of clutter.  
8.  Need something urgently that cannot wait?  Look online.  2nd hand is not necessarily rubbish.  Clothes, sports equipment etc etc .... it is there.  OLX and Gumtree are good places to start. 
9.  If you are a believer, then pray.  Again and again and again.  To whoever it is that you follow and believe in.  I am Catholic, and I sometimes think that God must have rolled his eyes and thought here she is again!!! But as hard as it is .... All in His time.  Every time. 

I can go on forever.  If you have a question, a fear, a desperation - I am going to do something unusual and offer my email address.  I did it once before last year and was inundated with mails.  I cannot offer money, or jobs or any such.  But what I can offer is a list of places you can turn to, many many suggestions ... hundreds in fact on survival ... so contact me on - we are not bound by where we live in the world ... we are bound by the fact that we are humans. 

Wishing you love ... and patience....... and a calming of desperation. 

till soon 
c'est la vie 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Once upon a book

When last did you visit a book exchange?  When I was in high school and studying afterwards, this was quite the rage.  We did not go to high priced bookstores that exist today, nor were there really any.  CNA was the stationer and not really a book store, having the selection it has now.  You bought new books through Leisure Books or found them at smaller stores. However libraries were what people did.  We took out a pile of books and returned or renewed them two weeks later.  Every suburb had a library.  With a vast range of books.  However as I grew older, renewing on time became a problem for me.  I think that every library that still exists has a photo of me on their system "do not give her books" - simply because I lost two and refused to pay the R375 per book they wanted for a book that was for sale elsewhere for R100.  The rest was for capturing the book on the system, tagging it and what not else.  I would have helped them with that for free.  And two books in 21 years was hardly a bad average.  Books were probably also not the premium they cost now.  I can remember book exchanges - they were always small. And crammed.  And they smelt of books.  Well read, often handled, books.  That semi-musty, semi-dusty smell.  They always seemed to have very small aisles and very helpful assistants and worked everywhere on the "bring books in and swop for other books and pay a small amount"  The more you brought and the less you took - you could almost walk out without parting with money.  

I read hundreds of books that way.  For a while in a previous job I had an Apple IPad and read a couple of books on here.  It is not for me.  Convenient but just not the same.  I like the real life look and feel and smell of books, both new and previously loved ones.  I love a new book of which you gently open the spine (my dad worked in a busy book store for many years as a teenager and learnt the art of "opening" new books) - I have spent the last 20 years opening every book in this house from novels to school books and varsity books this way.  

The upper end bookstores today sell mainstream novels of popular authors for R260 to R380.  It is crazy and perhaps better prices would encourage more people to read.  So you need to shop wisely .... Exclusive Books has an annual book sale - visit it more than once over the 2 week period.  They keep topping up and prices keep getting better.  I picked up 2 great new titles for R40 each.  Then there are branches of Bargain Books, unfortunately too few of them.  They have a good mix of new titles at good prices.  The Centurion store is by far the best. 

Then there are book "exchanges" who today work more on a sales method where a popular title will cost you about R60.  Or a book club which is more about wine than books but at least you get to pay for one book and read five or six.  

There is also OLX, Bid or Buy and other such sites.  Keep your eyes on these for good deals.  

Look around - there is much to be read.  Just sniff out the bargains. 

Till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Simply Being

So life has been craziness itself.  Work has been its usual merry go round of busy busy and no two days the same.  Being a wife is always fun - especially when you are married to someone as witty as my husband .... being a mom is always interesting - particularly when you are mom to a 17 year old who plays tons of sport and is always busy ... and also has the wit of his father .... just much drier ... and then my not so baby girl ... ok at 21 not baby girl at all, who keeps us up to date every day with her cheflife in CT.  Life is busy. 

So now when our son went off to stay with my sister for almost 5 days when the school hols started, then returned for one day to check on my hubby and I and of course get laundry done and then went off to the coast with a schoolfriend and his family for Easter, time was suddenly available.  In abundance.  Laundry was minimal, dishes were minimal, driving was minimal.  It co-incided with the plethera of Easter public holidays, so besides going off to church every day of that weekend, we had nothing to do the rest of the time.  My body said WTH? 

So armed with ShowMax, Netflix and a very thick paperback, I became one with the couch. A lot.  It usually started with me reading and then quickly morphed into dozing.  I cannot remember when last I slept as much as I have over the past 6 days.  Mid-morning and mid-afternoon ... early evening ... you name it ...... 3 or 4 hours at a time.  Without watching the clock constantly.  On day 5 I started getting concerned about this laziness and when I told a friend that I appeared to be sleeping my life away, he simply commented "Good" each time. 

Hubby and I went to the movies, we did our favourite thing (browsing for ever in Exclusive Books), had coffee and decided to make salad for dinner - simple and quick.  

I took 2 days leave from work and find myself now sitting in a coffee shop blogging. My job means that I am called on my cellphone - all day every day.  So posting a voicemail that I am not available was quite a moment for me. 

Sometimes we need to do this - switch off.  Our minds.  Our TV.  Our worries.  Our tiredness. 

Sometimes we simply need to be. 

till soon 
c'est la vie xxx 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

the fantastic fabulousness of being fifty

Some people arrive at the number five zero and go into some sort of panic spiral about being more than halfway through their lives, having to only look back now and no more forward. They panic about every little line, every kg, every everything.  Some tell me they are now on the back 9 of their lives ....... jeez, where was I when all this paranoia set in? 

January 27th heralded my 50th birthday ...... I don't like it ...... I love it!!!! 

Fifty years old and: 

  • I really could not care if people like my haircut, haircolour, style of dressing, bling jewellery and love of all things bright
  • I will be as boisterous as ever, if not more so, because I see no sense in going through life muttering and apologising
  • I will not make excuses for who I am and what I do and do not like
  • I will continue to drink as much cappuccino as I can, watch as much ShowMax as possible, follow Borgias to the very last episode, watch Isidingo as I have for the last decade, eat chocolate and mangos. 
  • I will get too little sleep, laugh too loudly, love too much and probably get hurt in the process.  Yet I will not stop. 
  • I will believe in myself, dream much and live life with as much glitter as possible
  • I will not tolerate anyone who does not trust me or stand up for me when needed.  If you do not know me by now .... well then you never will 
  • I will blog, note, write and follow that path.  If you are lucky enough to receive a letter from me .... treasure it .... because if you shrug it off in silence it will never be your blessing to receive another one
  • I will love my kids and hubby until the end of the world.  I will hold dear and close to me the friends and family who would fight for me till the end of the world.  Because I will for them. 
  • I will wear lots of lipgloss, a big smile, a crazy laugh and a handbag with more stuff than most people use in a lifetime. 
I will be bright.  And colourful.  I will be 50.  I will be me. 

till soon 
c'est la vie xxx

Okay so lets move to another province

“The company feels that there are great growth opportunities for it in the Cape” says hubby whilst we are sitting on the stoep of our chalet...