Saturday, 26 July 2014

Being grateful

It's hard not to be a morbid Milly or cynical Sue at the moment. Wherever you look there's bad, sad news. Twitter, Facebook, TV, radio and newspapers tell of bombs falling, horrific hijackings and planes missing. 

There's never a shortage of tragic tales. And it's so easy to get caught up in it and rue the state of the human race.

But sometimes, and more often than not, there's something to be grateful for. My husband, Mark, has a small production company where they shoot promotional and corporate videos as well as music videos, and on Friday he spent the day in a 'squatter camp' to shoot some footage for the Lead SA campaign. Surrounded by the poorest of the poor, his spirit was lifted by a team of nuns and a philanthropist who give of their time, resources and funds to educate and take care of over 450 learners. Without this school, that started off with one little prefab, these kids would have no hope and no future. Mark came home grateful for what he has (even though we often consider it little) and for the opportunity to meet amazing people. 

I have a lot to be grateful for too, but forget to take the time to say thanks and count my many blessings. Be they five years old going on 16, or two going on delinquent, I am thankful I have Ben and Emma. The alternative is so much lonelier and quieter. 

I am thankful for 12 years with a husband and friend who still makes me laugh, who supports and encourages me and puts up with my crap. A man, who with a slight wiggle of his hips and a wink of the eye makes my knees wobble.

The other day Ben asked for water and while I was getting a cup ready he said "this is taking for long!" And then Emma asked me how long does it take to make water? "Not long at all", I said " we turn on a tap and there's water!" I always try and make them aware of their blessings too and throw in my 'little pearls of wisdom' so I explained that some children don't have it that easy. That a glass of water is a luxury after a long long walk to fetch it, boiling it to make it okay to drink and then having to use it sparingly. "So you see, we have lots to be grateful for." I finished off. Which lead to another conversation about gratitude.

But to cut a longer story long, we've decided to do 'what we're grateful for' at the end of each day. There's no limit as to how many things we can say, but there has to be at least two things from each of us. Emma and Ben have no problem, from getting cuddles to having a funny story read to them. It's me, the adult, that ums and ers as I try to think of things I'm thankful for. 

And what I've discovered, as is always the case with children, they drop in their pearls of wisdom. And teach me to stop looking out for the big things because I'm missing out on the most important. 


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Where'd our village go?

"I miss that village of mothers that I've never had. The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone's throw, feel miles apart from each other. The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one-on-one with our little ones."

This morning, lying in bed, with the tingling of a migraine starting, probably caused from the last two days, on my own, with Emma and Ben, I came across this article, I Miss the Village, on Huffington Post. It resonated with me on so many levels and I found myself reading it over and over.

In an age where we are SO 'connected' I don't think we've ever been more alone, on our own. I remember growing up in a neighbourhood where everyone knew everyone else. We'd get home from school, drop our bags, lie about homework being complete and dash off to no. 7, 11, 8, 15 or 16 Hammond Road, to swim, pick peaches from trees, play catches, hide and seek, red rover, cricket and or tennis. School holidays were a blast. Our road was a cul de sac and so days were spent outside, from 7 am until some annoying parent ended our game of 'skop die emmer' at eight or nine at night. If a kid was missing you didn't think the worst. You didn't alert police. You sent siblings to the various houses to find them and chances were they were having supper because aunty Norma, Sally or Betty had made their favourite meal.

Our little 'village' raised us. Even if our own parents were out of sight, being spotted by a neighbour snogging the local hottie, puffing on a forbidden cigarette or skipping school meant we were in trouble, because that very same neighbour would pop in or call the offending kid's parents to let them know. Visiting at a friend's house meant abiding by that friend's mom's rules. We listened and heeded their telling off. And if we were stupid enough to misbehave or be cheeky or rude, our mom would know about it before we had even gotten home.

I don't remember ever hearing my mom say to a friend or a family member "let me check my diary to see if we're available". People 'popped in' and stayed. For lunch or dinner or umpteen cups of tea. There was no Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Instead people sat opposite one another, laughing (not LOL'ing), crying (not *insert emoticon with tears*). We didn't know what each other was up to without spending time with them.

Phone calls were long. To friends, boyfriends and family members. Because there was lots of catching up to do. Even if we had seen them two or three hours earlier at school. Aunts were visited every Sunday but during the week a lot could happen and would need a half hour conversation of telling and retelling what was said, what was done. We didn't cut people short with a "I'm busy, can you whatsapp me?"

Emma and Ben have spent some time with Ester, our retired nanny, in Cosmo City and they  have loved it. From the laughter and banter on the taxi to the endless stream of visitors at her house. People chat to one another, neighbours borrow sugar and eggs, there's grannies and grandpas and big sisters and grandchildren in a house and everyone shouts at the TV during the soapies. When they get home they talk about all the kids in the park and the people in the neighbourhood. They love the hustle and bustle and the togetherness. I don't know, maybe you feel a part of something in all that busyness. We, in our houses with high walls, decorated with electric fences, wifi and ADSL, facebook, email and twitter, are alone. Dogs barking at the gate means that a 'stranger' is dropping off the community newspaper, not that there's an unexpected (very welcome) visitor. After shushing them we go back to our laptop, desktop cell phone, to continue being 'social'.

"The days would be full of conversation as we expertly flexed a muscle that has since gone weak: the art of listening. Quiet empathy in lieu of passive judgement, and when called for, gentle, sincere advice. In our village, our members are our estate and we build them up."

I too miss that village. The one from not that long ago.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


It's not often I use a profanity as a title, nor do I regularly use punctuation marks in them but this time around I couldn't help myself.

Why F@ck It All! you ask? Well,  in the last few days I have read an article based around self-soothing and how bad it is for babies. I've also read an article written by a UK nanny explaining how parenting is in crisis because we don't let babies learn to self-soothe. We also don't 'discipline' our children enough apparently. But ask 10 people what discipline means to them and you'll get 10 very different answers, from beating the sh!t out of a child to a slight shake of the head and wag of the finger.

I've read / heard / seen the positive effects of the latest LCHF 'diet' and have also read  and heard how the very same eating plan is detrimental to ones health and should be avoided at all costs. I know of at least five pro banting people and another five anti banters (are they called banters?) and in all of this I'm still trying to figure out what banting is.

I don't know. I just don't get it. With Emma and Ben there was no such thing as self-soothing. Probably because I hadn't read or heard about it. Emma happily lay in her bed chatting to herself (which she still does) and Ben was a screaming mess. The only way to get him to stop crying was to hold and rock him, and often that didn't work. Have I messed up one and not the other? Emma nowadays loves falling asleep next to me. Ben doesn't. He likes it but if you ask him if he wants to lie in his bed he says yes.

Years and years ago I lost weight with Weigh-Less. Nowadays I keep myself 'in shape' with an eating disorder. Works for me, if not for others (said with tongue in cheek before anyone jumps on the comment bandwagon). Because I don't need to lose weight I have no idea of what the various eating plans are nowadays. And if there comes a time when I do need one, I'll find one that works for me.

In a nutshell I suppose what I'm saying is 'diet and let diet', 'parent and let parent', 'live and let live'.

We're all just trying to make our way through this little adventure called life.