Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mo Salah, My car and other stuff

Each year a group of bloggers circulates a questionnaire around this time, intended to be answered by bloggers on Google and other forums, telling a bit about themselves.  This year’s one is loosely based on questions from a magazine.  I received mine last week ... so here goes

If there was one thing you could change about your life, what would it be - Trusting people too easily
What makes you angry - Bad coffee, disloyalty, arrogance, abuse of children, abuse of animals, racism, the increasing lack of morality on the internet and social media and number one on the list ..... adult bullying.  Also people who hurt my children.
In trying times how do you stay positive - my Faith. My family.  Belief that I am a compassionate person and can be there for others
What makes you laugh - Family and friends with great sense of humours, when my kids tease me, Mona & Lynette, Strings of Love kids, our dogs, my many church friends and those ludicrous requests (not from them)
If you could leave school now and choose a career, any career, what would it be - Advocate
Favourite saying or quote - Always in God’s time
Ultimate car - the one I have right now
Ultimate holiday - would love to go to Croatia
Ultimate hero - God
Ultimate drink - need you ask .........cappuccino
Ultimate food. Perfectly cooked fillet steak.  And Mac n cheese.
Favourite movies - Shawshank Redemption, Father of the Bride, Love Always, The Blind Side and Seven Pounds.  And just to be ridiculously laughing - Weekend at Bernie’s
Favourite sport to watch - Football ... Premier and Champions League
Favourite sportsman ..... Mo Salah Mo Salah Mo Salah and Lovren - both soooo handsome (and you of course Eugene ... sooooo handsome) - oh and Mo and Lovren can also play great football which helps
Favourite music - Any and all except rock and opera
Favourite authors - Dozens.  Especially love forensic thrillers.

Anything else you want to know?

Be good to yourselves
C’est la vie

Friday, 28 September 2018

Kitchen Conversations and the joy they bring

For many years I had a very special daily routine in my life.  The Housekeeper of my boss, who additionally is also regularly in my office building, is a wonderful lady .... like me she is married, has kids and all the challenges of balancing work, marriage, grown up kids (plus her one in school as well as also a grandchild). We understand school and all that goes with it, grown kids with girlfriends and boyfriends, family life and many other common things.  We are moms.  We are colleagues.  She calls me by my nickname, K, and we have spent many moments over the past 5 years, laughing at things, getting tears over things, getting angry over things and enjoying the daily kitchen conversation we used to have. Amazing how important the “basin” chats became.

We had a special ritual ..... I would come to work and find her at the basin in the kitchen.  Whilst I threw some yoghurt and muesli in a bowl (I find it impossible to eat first thing in the morning before I go to work) and made a coffee, we would catch up on the past 24 hours.  We went through a wide array of topics in every week - the political situation and who had done what, stories about our kids, concerns we had, fun things that had happened, what we had done on our leave etc.  It was just 10 mins, but felt like so much more. I remember when she went to the sea - first time ever - her son sent me blow by blow photos .... first step into the water, first time knocked over by a wave.  On Sunday she leaves to the sea again ..... I cannot wait for the pics.  When I took Setswana lessons she helped me with my practising.  When her daughter had to do a school assignment for LO incl gynaecological instruments (yes you heard right), I was the researcher.  When the baby shower rolled around, I sat at home and made colour printouts of all kinds of pics for the party.

I see her in my office now on Wednesdays and between her time in my office and then the boss’ office, making them smell wonderfully of furniture polish, we try and keep up our ritual.  Sometimes it is hard to be working, answering the phone and talking to someone who is in and out, also while she tries to bring some order to my very full desk .... but we are trying.  Even she misses our kitchen chats I was told today. We keep each other up to date as much as we can in the time we have ........

but those Kitchen Conversations ...... they will be in my heart forever.

Cherish the special moments ..... it is the little things that are very often actually the big things in our lives.

Till soon - be good to yourselves

c’est la vie xxxx

Monday, 24 September 2018

Strings of Love - my dream is now real

I combined a plan that was a long time on my personal wish list, with a crazy moment of “now is the time”, and recently started my young adults discussion group, Strings of Love.

I have always found a gap in society for this.  Even in schools.  Even in my church.  A place, even in a church, that is not a Youth Group and all that goes with that, but is also not the place for professional counselling, like Lifeline.  A “half way stop” for chatting, discussing, sharing, asking and interaction.  A more structured space, with a specific starting topic each time, but with enough space for a brief social chatting time and a snack at the onset.  But structured talk had to be the focus.  This is not intended to be the Buena Vista Social Club kind of gathering.

For years I have been chatting to young people who seek me out.  Via my own kids, through their school they were at, through church, through friends of friends and all sorts of ways.  This has gone on, on and off, for the past at least 20 years.  Some teenage kids that turned to me for space to talk are now in their 30’s, married with their own kids.  Many of them still keep contact with me.  Some are still in my life, 12 years later.  And from this, always, I wanted to have a more structured space.

This year, prompted by something really horrible said to me (it seems strange that the ugliness of one person who is supposed to be way better than that, can spark something so positive), I knew that this will be the year in which this will start.  In May, on a half day retreat at the Jesuit Institute, there was discussion about the ties that bind us to various people in our lives.  During the individual reflection afterwards in the garden, I was thinking of this and my mind leapt from ties that bind us, to strings, to love and there I had it “Strings of Love” ….. I knew that my months of prayer and discerning had been answered.  The times that I had asked God ….. will I manage?  Will they come?  Will I know what to say?, had been dealt with.  The name leapt up.  I wrote it down and walked back to the common room and told the young girl who had come with me …. “I have a name”.  

I set about to start my planning.  The venue was easy, my office at the church is 10 steps away (in the same building) from the Adami Centre, which forms part of the house in which our offices are.  I am the parish secretary of a large Catholic church and part of my “personal ministry” time is also to run the Repository for the parish.  The Repository is in the Adami Centre, so it is all intertwined.  It has chairs and tables and a little kitchen area and is ideally suited also for the young adults in this centrally located area who have no car and need to walk there.  The hire cost that the church charges the public is affordable and so I looked no further to hire a place.  My group is also very beneficial to the church as many of my members are parishioners, so as parishioners there is a “community programme” right on their doorstep that they can attend, and feel comfortable in.  There is no other group like this available in a big radius, so although not included as a parish ministry, the fact that the young people know me and know many of the others there, has made it easy to get going and to include people who are not in our parish, as our young people are very welcoming.

Next up was the fact that I know that young people love to eat.  And no matter what the age, hotdogs and Oros are always welcome.  So I ensure that I have enough viennas and rolls to give at least 2 (sometimes 3) to each one, lots of Tomato Sauce and a big Oros.  This is a great “hello and how are you” catch up time at the beginning and I usually allocate the first 30 or so minutes for everyone to arrive, eat and get ready.  Trust me this gets very loud.  But it is a wonderful heart-warming gathering of young people filled with joy.  It is also a good time to welcome new people, or people who are not from our parish, not Catholic, not known to others etc.   And our young people never let me down in this welcome.  This time we even had an exchange student from Chile.
I pack the chairs out in a large circle and each time I buy / make a little bookmark / purse sized card with a message on.  I encourage them to put it up on their pin boards, in their cars, in their wallets or anywhere else where they will see it regularly over the next month.  This month I also bought and gave each one of them a little cross.  My heart leaps when I see how kids of all ages get this excited about this little thing I give them.  After the first meeting, the youngsters took to social media, posting pics of where all they had their cards.  There were pics at work, varsity, school, church, sports camps …. The cards went as far as Swaziland.  Heart-warming indeed.

The youngest currently attending is a Gr 10 pupil, followed by a gr 11 pupil and then there are 3 pupils in Matric, with the oldest member being 26 years old.  We have a great spread across 19, 20, 21 and 22 years, and then about one or two of each 23, 24 and 26 years.  Almost an even number of males as females (which is very interesting to me) and a mix of pupils, students, part-time students or people working in internships, or a full-time job.  The older ones are still very student-like, if that makes sense.

We settle down in the circle, I find out who has anything big that has happened to them since we last met (good or bad) and I tell them the same.  It is lovely that in any discussion they always want to hear my personal answer as well.  The first time we met I was pretty anxious.  I had started a Whatsapp group explaining my dream and the response had been good.  But would they come?  As the starting time arrived I found myself pacing up and down between the kitchen and the entrance, somewhat anxiously.  My son says he was just starting to feel heartbreak for me ……and then ….. I heard car doors slamming ….. footsteps ….. voices ………. And my dream became a reality …..

Trust is imperative.  That I have theirs. That they have mine. I made this clear. This group is not a catalyst for a gossip session the next day on social media.   To prove my willingness to bare all to them, I put a plastic dish in the centre of the room at the first meeting, along with some pieces of cardboard and pens, and told them each one was to write down one thing they wanted to know about me.  They did not have to put their names.  I did not want trivial questions like favourite colour.  I told them to dig deeper.  I would answer unless I had a very good reason not to, and I would say so.  The youngsters did not disappoint, and the type of questions they asked showed me that such a group was needed, and that many of the questions they were asking themselves, were ones they asked me.  I was honest, brutally so, I never left a single question unanswered.  Some made me teary, some made me have to think very well before I verbalised an answer, some made them laugh.  But I answered.  Because they need to see that I am serious and prepared to be there.

This past Saturday we delved into a list of “17 things not to give a damn about”.  It was a good framework for issues of gossiping, the “what-ifs” or life, body image, body shaming, being right all the time, the ability of social media to destruct relationships, trust, social anxiety etc.  The thing that made me the most emotional was how eagerly all of them gave input, honestly, no holds barred and that many of the issues that the guys raised, were previously thought to only be concerns for girls.   It was wonderful.  And proved that the fact that we once again spoke non-stop for over an hour, meant there is a need.

The group is not only open to our parish.  It is not only open to Catholics.  It is not only open to Christians.  My group has only one criteria ….. Be You. We pray when we end the meeting. It is our way.  No one is forced to join in.

So I am currently discerning over my plans for the October meeting.  I spend a lot of time on the phone or meeting (outside of work time) with young people who want some one-on-one advice, help, or most often of all ….. someone to listen.  They know that I am just a number away.  I am happy to meet them in my lunch break or my off time, because very often just telling their story helps them sort it in their heads.  I offer them space.  You do not know how important that is.

My own kids (19 & 23) attend the group and their pride in me is so special it always brings me to tears.

I have been blessed that so far someone always steps up and says they want to sponsor the hotdogs and Oros because they love the concept I have come up with.  I am so grateful for the assistance with the costs.  However I have promised the kids that even if I have to pay the hire and food myself, this group will always go on. 

So to those who said follow your dream, to those who take a genuine interest in my planning before the time, to those who are interested in hearing my thoughts after the meeting, to those who actually ask what I experienced ……. You are the wind beneath my wings.  And I treasure you.  Sometimes the most support comes from those we least expect it from, and vice versa.

I hope to have more and more people join.
Follow your dreams …. I did.

Till soon
c’est la vie  xxxx

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

My lunches in a Catholic graveyard

What an enormous blessing my job affords me.  Death affects everyone.  And affects the families of the deceased, enormously, in different ways.  And as part of my job, I get to work with many people and families that come to the parish office to arrange funeral Masses and Services with our clergy, and then with me for every person who wishes to have the internment of Ashes in our Garden of Remembrance.  I have also worked with many families who move ashes from another GOR to ours, or bring ashes back from overseas.  It is an important time in these families’ lives, and to share this process with them in the weeks it takes, is very special. 

The Garden of Remembrance is very close to my heart.  Not because I have any family there yet, but because of the 70 plus families I have worked with, whose family, friends and others are remembered there.  We have sold niches to people preparing for the future, sold niches to people immediately after a death in their family.  We have had people now needing to use niches bought years ago.  I often get asked, when niches are being selected, "how do I know which one to choose?".  Very often people choose immediately and come to me with a picture of the niche or the number.  When people are confused as to where to place their family, I often tell them to go and sit in the Garden of Remembrance. Just sit. And listen. And look. And wait. You will know.  I don’t know how, but of this fact I am certain.  The process of picking words for a plaque is easy for some and so hard for others.  Getting to the point of sending me those words, is so traumatic for some that even I am driven to tears.  Many many times I have had people opposite me in the office, when the plaque is manufactured and ready, who say they are not ready yet and how will they know.  I always say the same thing.  Go home. Go sit in our Garden. This week, next week, next month, you will know when you are ready to place the Ashes.  I have had people bring Ashes to me and then just not being able to hand me the box.  It is heartbreaking.  I have gone and sat in the Garden with many many many people over the last 5 years.  Just sat.  It is a blessing.  Every time. 

I deal with the administration side of engaged couples in prep *149 so far* .. I do wedding rehearsals *27 so far*, I stand available for questions .... my opinion on veils, invites, you name it. Simply because I am impartial.  I mop up tears. I prepare baptism certificates, very often for couples whose marriage certificates were also written by me in years gone by.  I get so excited by that! 

However death is a huge part of our office.  My own friends have asked me if it is not depressing.  No.  It is very sad.  I have seen families heartbreakingly enter our offices after family have died from illness.  I have seen families who are shattered when their adult children, small children, babies - pass away.   Parents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Sudden deaths. Long time coming deaths.  Tragic deaths. When Fr C is not able to be there he trusts me to deal with arrangements with the families.  I find that incredibly moving - Fr Chris likes to know about the deceased person ... what families remember most fondly, what the person liked to do etc.  I listen to the most wonderful stories.  How people met. What their hobbies were. Their funny traits.  Husband mourn wives and vice verso.  Grandparents.  Parents.  Raw grief.  Raw pain.  The reality of life.  You do not have to be a member of clergy.  Just like undertakers deal with it, so does the secretary of a parish office.  And in a very big parish like ours, this is often about 25 times a year.  I have often had to go to the bathroom and wipe my own tears away after dealing with a family.

I marvel at how many people I have sat in the Garden with, or at my fountain,or in the Adami Centre, at my desk, in their car, in the church.  How many tears, how many tissues, how many whatsapp’s.  And I am so grateful for this. 

During my lunch breaks I usually do one of two things.  Sit in the Presbytery garden and read / do my crossword, or go to a coffee shop and do the same.  Now that Jess is in Pretoria, that lunch restaurant is always by her.  Recently I looked for a new sunshine spot at the parish and I realised that I would use the garden of remembrance.  So I take my lunch, and my book and my coffee.  And I sit in a different spot there each time.  With great respect. I sit. And I listen. And I remember.  And I randomly let my eyes fall on a plaque or booked spot.  And I play in my mind the story behind that plaque, that family, that moment.  There are beautiful ones and tragic ones. Angry ones and touching ones. And I always leave with a prayer for a family in particular on each time and also all those there. Each plaque and each niche has a story attached to it - and I can tell a story for every one I have worked on.  Each family is different, each story is different.  I just tell them in my mind. 

I ring the wind chimes every time and I listen.  It is not morbid.  It is not depressing.  It is a moment in which I thank God for the chance to touch these lives in a little way.  I thank God for giving me a nature of deep compassion,  I thank God for the blessing of being able to have my lunch here in the Catholic graveyard, because it is so important to me and close to my heart.

I am blessed indeed. 

till soon, be good to yourself
c'est la vie 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Trying to be human and a disciple .... all at once

Striving to be a disciple of Jesus.  
Wow.  Quite a challenge. 

Seems so easy to say.  Just go along all day, being nice, smiling, never losing your temper, never being abrupt, never being dismissive, never treating others unjustly, being loyal - just being the perfect disciple. Be that person who is just a walking model of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. 

When you meet such a person, I would like to be the first to know. Sometimes I think that chasing the attributes of the Fruits is akin to being a bit robotic and unnatural. 

Because life is what happens amidst all our intentions to be that disciple.  Life, that messy, complicated, happy, sad, intense, fun, joyful, hurtful, slow, quick and crazy thing that we all live. 

I am pretty sure that most people start the day with good intentions.  I know that I try to.  When I wake up I try and think of the best thing I expect from that day.  Some days it is a big thing, like succeeding in finishing a task I have been battling with, or dealing well with a difficult relationship, or finding motivation for a project at work or something joyful with family and friends.  Other times it is a simple thing, like the warmer days that are here, or the prospect of a good coffee somewhere at lunchtime.  But I always think of one thing.  Most mornings I try and do my Bible reading before I put a toe out of bed.  I have a beautiful Catholic Bible and it is used to practice the age old tradition of Lectio Divina.  I started at the front of the Bible and am reading my way through, cover to cover.  Each day in a column on the side, it tells you the next verses to read and it gives you something to reflect on about that reading.  After reading there is a prayer in there and then an “action” or something to think about during that day.  At the moment it is focused on trying to act as an image of God with everyone I deal with in my daily routine. Several days last week focused on trying to see everyone I come across in a day, as being in the image of the Lord.  Trust me neither of these are as easy as it may sound.  In fact some days it is damn tough to see the image of the Lord in some people.  That practice of reading, reflection, prayer and daily action is known at the Lectio Divina way of working through the Bible.  Really lovely.  I remember shortly before my Grose Ouma died, she told me that she had read the Bible cover to cover more than 20 times in her life. 

If I find that I have really battled with a particular action, then I stay with it for a day or two more, not reading further until I feel I have tried at least to overcome my difficulty with it.  In addition at night I usually do the Gospel reading for each day.  Like any human being, there are days that I do not get to it in the morning, too tired, too grumpy, too stressed, oversleeping .... these happen.  I found that buying a little zip bag for my Bible helped.  I put it in the car every morning so when I find a time in the day, I do the reading, praying and action seeking then.  Luckily for me I am right opposite the church 5 days a week, and have literally forty steps to Adoration from my office, 5 days a week.  Plenty of opportunity.  I have even been known to do my readings whilst having a cappuccino at Jess at Cafenio.  Or by the fountain outside my office door, or sitting on the steps of my office, or in the Garden of Remembrance, or on the boss’ back lawn.  That is the beauty of Bible reading - it is an anywhere, anytime, any situation kind of book. 

Right now it is almost 1am and I am writing this in the Adoration Chapel in the church, during my Perpetual Adoration hour.  I am right in front.  This iPad is on two cushions, balanced on a chair which I have turned to face me.  Right up close, front and centre in front of me is the monstrance.  This way I can both write and chat to the Lord at the same time.  

He likes this blog so far.  I asked him.  I pause every now and then to continue chatting to the Lord, because I have much on my mind.  I even asked him a few minutes ago - “what is your plan for this issue I have now, because I assume you have a plan?”.  Sometimes our lives lead us in a way which has us wondering why we are wandering around in a seemingly pitch dark forest, unable to clear our minds, find direction, find answers, find solace.  That is what I now debate with God. It is a funny relationship.  I talk, rant, ask questions and then I wait.  The answer comes in the silence.  Sometimes I get it from Him right away.  Other times it takes several days before I find the answer.  But I have to listen for it.  I do not always agree with His suggestions, but I focus always on the fact that the answer I want is not always the answer that I need. 

So this week I am going to focus on answers.  Solutions.  Fix-it methods.  Try and be part of that corny saying “don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution”. 

That is of course if I do not forget about the disciple of Jesus thought, and throttle someone. 

Till soon 
C’est la vie 

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Sticks and stones .....

So how do you handle personal insults?  Head in the sand?  Buckets of tears?  Anger?  Resentment? ..... do you take on the people head on?  Do you try and justify why they said it? Do you let it eat away at you?  Do you allow them to get away with it?  Do you fall for the overused excuse that they are allowed to have an opinion?  What is your way?

3 weeks ago I met someone I never knew before.  It was providence.  We discovered a mutual and burning dislike of adult bullies.  He is a person in a position of authority, and within 5 sentences to each other we discovered our common interest in this.  So we have spoken again about it after that, and we intend to work together on something to do with this very phenomenon.  

The American Psychological Association defines this kind of bullying as “a form of behaviour in which someone intentionally and regularly causes another person discomfort, insult or pain”

I want to highlight 1 of the 5 types of bullying discussed on 2 sites - 

Social bullying - “Covert bullying is harder to recognise as it is usually carried on continuously behind the bullied person’s back.  It very often manifests itself in what may seem like simple sharing between two or more people, but when it escalates to a level which starts affecting the bullied individual, it becomes unacceptable, unkind and morally wrong.  This form of bullying includes discussing a person continuously with one or more others in a negative way,  referring to someone in a demeaning way in conversation with others and/or being judgemental about personality traits in another.  When this happens on a continuous basis, it goes beyond simple discussion or light commenting and crosses the line to adult bullying”.  

What interested me even more (as it is something I have started to discover in conversation with others), is that these bullies are not perfect people.  Not emotionally, not intellectually, not morally, not in any way.  They are ordinary people, with good days and bad days, good habits and bad habits, good traits and bad traits.  Yes, they are just like everyone else.  Yip, hard to believe hey. 

Recently someone told me that I can be quite nasty.  Accepted.  I do not walk around with a halo attached to my head.  And in this case nastiness is a defense mechanism to protect myself.  However there is a massive difference between nasty and the kind of continual judgement that people that I chatted to, were referring to, These dear folk break down others over and over and over again, demean them, judge them and discuss them - over and over again.  Once is a once-off, ten times is concerning, continually......that is a pattern. 

Talking to your family about another person, or talking to a counsellor or a close friend, this is normal life.  However when that discussion is to only find fault - GET. A. LIFE.  Or better still, make sure that your own life is beyond reproach.  An interesting point is that once a person thinks you are accusing them of adult bullying, they get quite vicious in their reaction.  It says more about them than you.  Their arrogance and ego would never allow them to believe that anyone would stand up to them.  Do not let them confuse you into believing that “having an opinion” and “insulting you” are the same.  Talking to someone about a person for their opinion or  sympathy with your plight, is normal.  Using that on a regular basis to be mean .... makes one wonder if they are not justifying their own behavioural issues by focusing on another person.

So stand up.  And if you find yourself unable to, contact me.  And I will find you some help.  Some guidance.  Some coping mechanisms.  

So this is dedicated to all those people.  And to my new friend.  May the two of us have great success in our plan to write together and address this. 

C’est la vie dear readers. 

Till soon. 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Writing the wrongs and rights

So I have just returned to work after a wonderful ten day break.  Most of it in a nature reserve.  In a chalet, 20 mins drive on a dirt road from the main entrance. It was heaven.  Quiet, in the bushveld, no calls, no emails, and the bonus of warthogs and impala on the stoep every day. My hubby and daughter joined for one night, my son and his friend for 5 nights. Perfect. 

I took the advice of a professional I consulted, and I used the time as I often do, to journal, but specifically letters this time, as she suggested.  I have always journaled, and filled the books not only with writing thoughts and gratitude and memories, but also to work through challenges.  I have dozens upon dozens of full journals, and I happily spend money on beautiful A5 journals with great paper and memorable covers. This and beautiful pens make me an easy person to buy a gift for!

I came home having handwritten 71 A5 pages in coloured pens. All in one journal. It was quite a process. But in the quiet, on the stoep, mostly alone, I wrote. Early mornings, sunset, late at night. Whenever I felt like it was time. These notes and letters were to be to specific people, to say specific things.  Now I know the whole "splinter in your own eye" blah blah blah, but sometimes when we have things to say, and do not get to do so because we get stonewalled, we start doubting ourselves, we start believing not only the good labels, but also the not so good ones.  Now let's be honest - we all deserve some of our labels, and we sometimes have to listen and say "wow, damn, I am actually losing my way a little", but other times we need to say "no, that is not ok to say that".  So I diligently took her advice, and wrote.  A bit like "Dear John", except these letters were not at all to do with romance. 

I pretended that I was speaking to the people, without interruption, and I recalled good memories, bad memories, fun times, even more fun times and then the less great times. I got to say what was on my mind.  A one-sided conversation yes, but one in which I could say everything and there were no people to say that I was wrong.  Because in these cases I was not.  Labels can be so destructive. 

The 2nd part of the advice was to send these letters to the relevant people (yes I took pics and whatsapp'd them).  This was the more difficult part.  I got 4 different reactions.  I sent 2 letters, I used 2 as a reference point in interactions.  1 of each of those verbally spoke with me then.  It was a wonderful long phone opportunity to share things with them. Even mixed with a bit of arguing.  Because I had spent so much time listening to my apparent long list of "challenging personality issues" compared to other's seemingly very short own lists, I never got to speak up. One person is meeting with me next week and to the last person it was obviously just reading matter.

She had told me that some would say they were sorry for hurt caused, some would be on the fence, some would rather be right than be sorry and some would rather just spend all their time looking for the splinter in MY eye.  She is clever.  I would hope so. 

So has it been liberating?  Yes,  
So has it been successful?  Mostly.  
So has it made a difference?  Quite a bit. 

But I have spoken.  I have not kneejerked, lashed out, looked for excuses, felt sorry for myself, been a victim. I have said it is not okay.  

My kids will verify vociferously that I have taught them - when you make a mistake or when you hurt someone, say sorry. 

Perhaps I should add more strongly - and when it is done to you, expect an apology. 

However I think the former statement is worth more.  Because it says something about your character. 

So here I am. 

I don't always get it right
I write to people when I am hurting (some people ignore, some people lash out, some people are icy - we ALL have our way)
I suffer from anxiety and depression when I feel threatened. 
I overthink
I overreact (like everyone else - drama queens galore)
I sometimes speak without thinking
I am authentic
I apologise
I make right
I care 
I love
I live
I laugh

If you don't do any of the above at all, are you sure you are alive?

So yes - I have done the writing of the wrongs and rights. 

And I look only forward. 

Till soon
c'est la vie 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Sugar rushes, birthday cakes, growing up and other stuff

Birthday parties. Life as we know it.

No matter what stage of life we are in, or what age, somewhere, sometime, we all attend them and host them.

I remember going through the plethora of kid’s parties.  Spur was the most common choice.  Almost right the way through from Gr 0 to Gr 5, moms (and sometimes dads) sat on those brown leather seats and chatted, whilst kids played in the play area, chasing each other, shrieking and only coming back for the party meal of a hamburger, a drink and an icecream.  Sugar rushed and tired we ended the day (and that was just the parents).

My darling kids liked nothing more than a party at home, in the back garden.  We had Clamber Club come over and build a lot of obstacle courses in the yard.  We had the Pta Zoo bring their travelling zoo of tiny animals and reptiles to give a talk and allow the kids to touch the animals as well as all the types of skins the zoo staff brought along.  It was a hit.  We did have to ensure that our wailing dogs were kept inside.  It would be frowned upon if one of our dogs ate the Pta Zoo tortoise. Then there were the swimming and water slide parties complete with 209 lit of Sunlight Liquid or bath foam on them - the dress up parties - the parties that included going to play soccer in the park - the list is endless.  We had parties at which magicians and clowns entertained the kids and we even had a party at which a huge purple Barney character arrived.  That one was a little concerning as the person in the costume kept removing the head and flirting with the mothers.  Somewhat not appropriate behaviour for Barney.  It ended when one outspoken mom told him “to get his shit together and entertain the kids”.  Each party required an only made by mom cake and I became an expert at Google and other sources of age appropriate decorated cakes.  I would bake the night before and watch the delight when they saw it in the morning.

Besides for Jess’ 21st and my 50th, mom baked cakes are still the request for birthdays.  Nic is now 19 and Jess 23.  Party packs were a big thing.  It was not enough to give the kids ten tons of chips and sweets at the party, one had to ensure that the sugar rush continued long after the kids went home and that they were able to take a box of treats, aptly with their name on, home for future snacking.  Luckily they became their parent’s problem to deal with. 

As the kids grew older, the parties changed.  Jess liked to have a group of girlfriends over and they seemed to spend most of the time giggling and changing their outfits.  Not sure how each girl arrived with so many clothes in their bags.  It seems it was always pre-arranged.  Also at these parties was incessant chatter about boys and other stuff.  Her 13th was spent with 5 friends at a restaurant, girls adorned in feather boas and tiaras.

Nic moved into the realm of action cricket and soccer parties and luckily these were also simple.  Get a group of friends.  Arrive at the venue.  Pay for 90 mins of games. Make two teams.  But also serve cold drinks and sweets.  Talk about nothing but sport.  Vaguely notice girls, except for those playing in the teams at the party.  

Then they got older.  The cakes remained but Eug and I had to move a little into the background.  Kids rocked up, pizza was ordered in abundance, FIFA came out and when it got late, everyone fell down somewhere and slept since it was usually 3am by then.

Jess and friends went to a restaurant/cocktail place for her 18th.  They asked for all the ID’s.  I vouched for her age before leaving.  They insisted on seeing it.  Naturally Jess had left her ID at home.  20 kms away.  I had to drive home, scan it, mail it to them and only then .... one hour later, could she get a cocktail. 

Nic spent his with friends, it was a fun night rumour has it.  Boys will be boys. Enough said. Hatfield.

When Jess turned 21, I turned 50 the following day.  We had a joint party, a night of real fun and joy in the church hall.  Our family, my friends and her friends.  Lamb on the spit and a jukebox.  Casual and a lot of fun.

Nic’s 21st lies ahead in some time still.  Will be interesting to see what we go with.  On Sat evening the four of us attended the 21st party of twins.  A nautical theme.  It was such a lekker night.

And hubby?  You may wonder why I am so quiet on the subject of hubby.  Hubby likes it quiet.  So quiet it is almost unnoticed.  With us 3.  And at a stretch lunch somewhere with only the closest.  Small.  Just a “hello new number of age, nice to see you”.  That is fine, each to his own.

I have a friend who one day observed to another friend of ours - “When Karin has a birthday the whole world has to know about it, she makes sure of that”. 

Not sure that he meant it as a positive thing..... but every year ... every birthday ...... every new number ...... every blessing of another year ..... must be celebrated.  It is a privilege, not a right. And I won’t apologise for that.

Celebrate it with great joy and thanks.  Or quietly.  But celebrate it.

So yes, I get excited about birthdays.  There are worse things I could do.

Till soon,
C’est la vie

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Icecream. Prayers. Lent and other challenges

Lent is almost at the halfway mark.  I have battled in places.  I have succeeded in places.  I have spent a lot of time pondering and questioning my Faith.  I have challenged myself, I have challenged others.  I have even challenged my Faith. 

The whole Lenten experience has changed for me over the years.  Now I even find it changing year on year as I grow older (or is it wiser?). As a child we all probably clutched onto our Mite boxes, filling them with enough coins that we actually had to lug them to church at Easter (is that because then we still had 1c, 2c and 5c coins as well?).  Sometimes the little box could not even handle the strain.  We mostly gave up cold drinks, sweets, chips and other delights.  Social media and cellphones could not be given up - could not give up something that didn’t exist.  I did have a friend at Primary School (we did Catechism first at Mount St Bernard that was in Waterkloof / Waterkloof Heights) and then at St Pius X, who gave up swearing every year (he was in Std 4 and had quite the vocabulary).  His Lenten effort usually lasted from Ash Wednesday to around 2 Sundays after that.  And then with a very loaded sentence he would denounce any further efforts.  I somehow don’t think that he had a Mite box.  The church would have made a fortune off of him. 

This year our dear Padre suggested that we give up something that we can keep “given up” after Lent.  A habit or whatever that we should not just set aside for 40 days.  I decided to go with a “let me try keep it up for longer than 40 days” effort, as well as a simple “let me go without it for 40 days”effort.  The let me go without it has been challenging every time I want to have a Mc Donalds little cone in caramel dip.  Or when I go to Lucky Bread or Grounded @ Echo and want to have a peanut butter shake.  Those that know me know how I love those two items.  However neither are fun without the ice-cream.  Also being sadly missed are the Sunday morning after Mass waffles and ice-cream at Royal Danish.  A Sunday morning waffle is a bit sad looking if it lies there on the plate, alone, glancing furtively at the ice-cream tubs in the display counter.  So ice creamless I am for 40 days.  Then my “keep it up after Lent” plan has taken some concerted effort on my part.  Old habits are hard to shrug off.  Have a failed on this one?  Sometimes yes, but I have succeeded more times than failed, and I know that I am making a big effort.  And that counts for something. 

Prayer and Almsgiving have to, in my mind, be an ongoing effort.  Not just for Lent.  I have the added blessing of working in the Parish Office and for the Parish Priest.  It means the church and the Adoration Chapel are a few steps from my office.  I am able to walk across every day, more than once a day, for a few minutes or a “cup of coffee with the Lord”.  Sometimes I think God sees this as more of a curse than a blessing, because there are times when I go across so often that He must be thinking “What, seriously? - Again?”.

Then there are the Sundays.  Apparently we do not have to do our Lenten sacrifice on Sundays.  I have two schools of thought on this ...  firstly if you have given up something for Lent and want to perhaps take a little respite on Sundays, so be it.  I have greater opinions about giving up something for Lent and then stockpiling that thing on Sundays in order to survive without it the coming week.  Seems a little futile to me, but then perhaps some would think it quite fine if I resorted to having 3 peanut butter shakes and 4 caramel dip cones on Sundays?  I don’t think so.   I have yet to have my Sunday ice cream ...... but oooh the temptation.

So on I go.  Curving around the halfway mark.  I have also had much time to think more deeply about my Faith.  I have had many deeper questions about the Catholic Faith.  About the “rules” and other things that I have pondered over and I have utilized my Padre’s vast knowledge to debate these with him.  Sometimes I think even he must think “What, seriously? - Again?”.

However I believe that we never stop growing in our Faith, nor should we.  It is such a huge part of my life, so why should it not evolve along with me?  Questions are not necessarily criticisms, they are to me, just a deepening of my Faith.  And that has been big to me this Lent. 

So ice creamless I wander forth.  Pondering (not just about the shakes and waffles), my Faith and the other thing I hope to keep up after Lent. 

Catholics - gotta love us. 

Till soon 
C’est la Vie xxx

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

My life. My joys. My choices.

So.  Moms have superpowers.  I am not saying that dads don’t, but moms ....... moms have superpowers. 

Last week I had one more crazy than normal day at work (and they are usually crazy on a normal day) ... lots of stuff ...... plenty of it intense .... lots of bookkeeping .... a nonstop phone and many walk-ins. Just for fun I also had a Barium XRay on Friday.  And a wonderful push a pipe down into your throat thing on Thursday.  And a scan on Wednesday.   You should really try all that if you are bored and want to do something revolting. 

I stayed an hour extra (sometimes you just cannot stop halfway in something) and then did the 35 min drive home in the traffic thing. 

Then started the very diverse evening ...... by the time I flopped down to watch some TV at 10pm, I had tinted Jess’ hair, written the outline of two other blogs, picked up the pizzas from Romans, read 24 more pages of my Alex Cross novel and counselled a young person who contacted me for help.  My life is never boring.  Ever. 

Just as Nic got his licence, after getting his car, Jess moved back from CT and got a job as Manager at a Greek bistro near to my office.  She gets a chance to develop menu dishes there and is playing a pivotal role in the development of an updated menu. She is as happy as can be.  This however means that she, of the has a car she cannot drive as she has not got a licence, now needs to be dropped by me in the mornings.  At 630am.  They open at 645am and by them they need to be up and running in every way.  So I ditched leaving home at 630am in the morning to drop Nic at school, for leaving at 6am to drop Jess at Cafenio.  Just when I thought my 17 years of driving them in the mornings was done. 

The bonus of this however, is the fact that I get to have brekki and great coffee every morning while I am around killing time till our office opens.  I have been coming here for 2 years, it is a nice feeling to look up now and see my daughter interacting with customers.  She is fabulous.  We are making up for missed time in the 3 years she was in CT. 

Then of course on Thursday night I also did a Wedding rehearsel with a young couple.  It started 30 mins late as they waited for a substantial amount of family and friends who all wanted to be there and we only finished at 845pm.  It was loud and busy and the couple was so nervous.  Then well into the evening, the couple realized that they had not had their 3 Unity candles made for the wedding.  Which was taking place less than 48 hours later.  So there I found myself on Friday evening, with white candles, turning them into appropriate wedding candles with ribbon and silver writing etc etc.  They looked beautiful.  Even if I say so myself. 

Fri night I had planned to go to a local craft and food market with a young friend, but the heavens opened and we swopped it last minute for movies and a very late night Mc Donalds (yes I know we should not eat Mc Donalds).  I kept hoping I would not doze off in the movie. 

So Saturday I turned into a “yes you can wear your pyjamas the whole day” kind of day.  I lay on the couch reading and watching Catch Up on DSTV and I never felt bad at all.  Hubby and both kids were working and it was just me and the dogs (and the cat and hedgehog but they are more aloof when it comes to me). 

Today it was back to normal.  Back and forth.  Last night I had a proclaimers course at the church till 830pm, tomorrow night I am going to dinner at a very special parishioner and her family.  Nic has started training with his new soccer team and soon Saturday afternoons will be taken up with me being a soccer mom again.  I love it. 

I realize that I need to always be discerning about what keeps me busy, and why.  A while ago a close friend, who regularly tells me what to do, and I adore him for it, suggested that i do that.  Discern.  Do not do stuff because you feel you have to.  Do not do stuff that fills your time so much that is stresses you.  Do not do stuff because it makes others happy, but you unhappy. 

It was a difficult process.  But discern I did.  And discern I do.  Sometimes I still have to do something i am not overly excited about, but for the most, I give thought to what I say Yes to.  And I think well before I offer to do something. 

It has been wonderfully liberating. 

Now I am doing the same with people who sap the joy from me.  No matter who they are.  I cannot be around people who make me feel like I am going to have an anxiety attack every time I am with them.  I won’t spend large amounts of time with people with whom I am always on edge.  I am not a drive-by friend. You cannot just drift into my life when you need me, and then complain if you do not get my attention.  

So now let me go, because one of the things I offered to do, is calling for my attention. 

Till soon
Be good to yourself

C’est la Vie 

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