Almost feel like I need to tiptoe back into my public diary. I can’t believe I’ve been gone for so long. It’s not that I had nothing to say its just that a lot of it was not for human Internet consumption….

Lots has intrigued me. Lots has happened…lots didn’t happen that I had hoped for…..I tend to go silent when I’m truly overwhelmed. And I’m not the silent kind. I’ didn’t expect to be stuck in my overwhelmed state for so long. And that brought on shame and the ever lurking sense of failure. So I basically never win. But I’ve seen in the last few months that this sense of shame is not solely self inflicted but supported and stimulated by the majority of people around us.

I’ve been intrigued by the discussions on the net regarding a high profile case and the high level of violence in our country. I have been saddened by a few successful women in my environment who are seemingly stuck in situations of toxic relationships. They cry like little girls not knowing how to fix someone else’s happiness. I suppose they have been reduced to that exactly. Little girls with no sense of control of their situations or fear. I’m amazed by how easy people judge the perceived victims or fools….women in particular display little solidarity to their sisters in trouble. The old boys club stick to each others sides. People questioning how intelligent women get involved in toxic situations. No one rarely asks the question how intelligent, seemingly respectable men display controlling or violent behavior in the supposed sanctuary of their homes. So not only are the women ashamed but they are shamed by those on the outside….

In between surviving my own emotions and other people’s emotional outbursts I’ve been doing a little bit of growing up. There’s been lots of introspection. Is my attitude and old behavior still working for me? How do I go about letting go and taking baby steps forward in the confinement of shame and fear? There’s a saying in Dutch that describes people who worry lots as people only see bears on the road when they wish to start something. Well I’ve been trying to face my bears. Sometimes I get around them and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes i just allow them to exist and sometimes I befriend them.

Facing them has allowed some light at the end of the tunnel. I only can determine what my boundaries are and what I will accept from others but especially my own demons. I can’t erase what has happened or the choices I have made or what I have allowed to happen. I can however make different decisions moving forward. And the true realization of that freedom allows air into my lungs, brings about a sense of hope, gives me courage to move forward with my held high and make peace with my quirkiness. So what that I’ve been a social recluse for a few months. It’s been quite a big step just allowing myself to exist without a sense of compulsion to be nice. I’ve worked in the garden, pulled out weeds and discovered entangled flowers. The stove and oven have been doing overtime with all the recipes I think of that may disguise the discomfort with bursts of flavour. The downtime with the babies triggered my forgotten inner strength and stability. I’m going back to me. The good parts then…

Kitchen Diaries….

March may be the reason the grey skies are lifting. Technically in Africa, it means we are moving towards autumn. But my weather psyche may still be European orientated and therefore I may be feeling the lightness of spring.

The babies came home on Saturday after a 16 day absence. It was crazy! I did manage a few stolen moments, but the house is empty without them and I don’t seem to function at all. It doesn’t make sense in my mind that you carry them for 9 months and nurture them for years, only to have to accept a week on; week off agreement and a twice  a week meet and greet through some high gates, in the name of …….its hard not to be bitter…..

I have no routine without them and end up cooking with pantry ingredients to soothe an emptiness and burning hole. I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen. I was in heaven! And the babies leave no chance to abuse the situation. ” mom, can you make me…” “mom I really missed your…” And so I mix, knead, chop, fold, whisk like there’s no tomorrow. As if they could stay longer, if I cooked better.

Someone once told me that keeping a house or cooking food didn’t make me a good wife. I suppose it doesn’t. But what it does, is make me happy. The figuring out of what to do with beetroot, vinegar and sugar. Or 3 tomatoes, a butternut and some home grown herbs. The sense of their disproportioned bodies hanging onto mine whilst we hang over bubbling pots. Priceless!! Pure love……home….

On Sunday I blew a gasket. No seriously, my dad’s car’s gasket. I spent two hours along side the road (next to a graveyard)with two security guards who came to rescue a damsel in distress. There were some interesting elements that passed us. Let me put to you this way. I needed no rescuing or protection. My big girl panties were fitted tightly!! No vagrant was going to mess with me.

Last night I had some sort of weird incident with two suspicious men at the gate and who proceeded to climb over the fence and well.. I dunno what they were looking for. Again I called in the security guys and will happily continue to pay their monthly fees. Bottom line is they were looking for someone to save and I was ready to knock out whoever had trespassed.

Today I blew two gaskets at work. And I got it seriously wrong in one case. I’m wise enough to know when I’m wrong and humbly asked for forgiveness.  The point is, I’ve been miserable for weeks. I have been angry and resentful. I have been drowning in sadness and missing my sister, as if it would bring her back. I have been trying so hard to not feel and hoping the anger would get me somewhere.

 I have forgotten I’m the lady with a pink kitchen. I’m the girl who is happiest drinking coffee with the canine babies every morning. I’m  happiest discussing the days menus with the babies and watching them eat. I’m at my best extracting potential from those who think they have none. I will never climb mountains or walk with crocodiles for fun. I will never be everything to some I wish to be. But I am everything to those who matter most. My spring is here……xxx


The L word…

So January was not my month for 2014. And February didn’t get much better. I think I jinxed the month when I had such high expectations of positivity, new beginnings and happiness. Me and my big mouth….

Well the universe decided to hand out some lessons. She tends to throw harsher lessons when we don’t listen. And I’ve proven to be special needs in getting the message. My ability to deny the obvious and run around in circles even surprises me at times. Imagine the vulnerability I open myself up to ….

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just that I was raised to be quiet if I had nothing good to say. You’ll be happy to know that I have been thinking lots though. I’ve been observing….maybe taking stock of my life. Trying to find my strength and the quiet….But then again one can only be so quiet for so long.

So I managed some wins in February from a work perspective. I’ve never been scared of hard work. But didn’t win in other areas. I have to admit I’ve been treading water too long now. My babies have been gone too long and that kills me. I haven’t put on my dancing shoes as I so promised I would. I’ve spent too little time in my pink kitchen and not cooked enough meals. I managed to kill some of the plants in the garden because of sheer neglect. I’m finding it hard to find the energy I once had. I’m finding it hard to determine what I need.

I got an unexpected call from my oldest friend tonight. My first love. She gave me a long distance love transfusion. With the babies not being around I haven’t been able to give or receive any love transfusions…..And she reminded me of how we all need our daily dosage of love.

I’m not making any promises about March. I will not have or create any expectations. I think I need to roar a little….

January blues…

Two weeks since my last post….I am slacking…it’s not that I didn’t have anything to share its just I couldn’t find the words to define or describe my feelings. And also I realise that some feelings are not to be  shared with all and sundry.

So January leaves me restless, unsettled and lacking direction as always. Too much pressure for new beginnings when all I want to do is hang on to the old and bygones. The good thing about the myriad of emotions and thoughts i have experienced is that it leads back to my running shoes. So I go from hedonistic indulger to daily runner. the babies are so proud of my commitment to a healthy lifestyle, yet all I’m really doing is tiring the thought machine. 

i don’t think I cooked enough either. Just too much time spent on focussing all that has been lost in the fire and feeling ashamed. My sister was the strongest person I’ve ever known. Even in her death she almost seeme invincible. It’s been 3 years and a day and I still need to remind myself of her words, that I would be perfectly fine without her. That any answer i ever needed was in me.

its a pity that those answers did not come when I wrote my financial management exam this week. Lets just say its highly unlikely that I’ll be promoted to  CFO of any organisation…

and then yesterday I realised after sitting going through another session of “find fault in Ellen” that I need to stick closer to what I know. That I need to have faith in what I do, who I am and what makes me happy. That some people make it their life’s mission to bring down others. They clearly do not get the pro’s of ADD. That being an easily distracted, pink loving, kitchen fetishist, baby adoring  and simplistic person is soul soothing to some. That  making me wait outside a gate to see the lives I carried and gave life too is nothing short    of sad. That the hustle of other little people building burgers in my kitchen, making tents in the sunroom and advising on the food they’d like for supper is a sign.. A sign that are answers are clear. That its more than ok to be dreaming about the homemade pasta I’ll be making tomorrow. That our home will be filled laughter, friends and love. That January is over and she needs to make room for February. Momma has big plans for February…..

Reality bites…

The first week back to normal has been quite a nightmare. Suppose it is for everyone, but what good would a blog be if I didn’t get to record and share my grievance with any willing reader??

So I started off with a list of little maintenance jobs I needed to do around the house. I made a good start at the hardware store and am starting to fit in nicely. Didn’t get the chainsaw…people like myself shouldn’t be handling chainsaws. its just wrong….and dangerous!

Dropped sun-browned babies off with their father and attended to mine who was exceptionally pale and tired. We took him off to hospital for blood tests. Its January and I must admit the month paralyses me. Its the last month Tanya lived and part of me died with her. When she died, I wondered who would still love me for me? Warts and all? And then the thought of losing my second biggest fan, my dad, really caused  my heart to pause for a second or two. If he goes…then there really is no-one left who loves the chaotic mess that I am.

I got to work and remembered my passwords and codes. Was delightfully surprised that the others seemed genuinely pleased to see the boss lady. Spent the whole of Monday checking my email. I hadn’t done that for the entire month??!!! Big mistake….it just causes panic to settle in as you are confronted with unfinished business and new tasks that lie ahead. It also meant an acute overdose of unfriendly legal correspondence filled with summaries of one’s incompetence, short falls, ruthless descriptions of failures as a female person. And when you don’t respond to the first correspondence, the words are repeated and highlighted to ensure that you don’t forget which Goliath you are facing…..I could feel the positivity and faith of December slipping away….

The rest of the week I spent taking care of dad after hours and re-connecting with clients during office hours. Their gratitude to have me around and their faith in my abilities is humbling. Their words lift me out of the darkness I am so easily pulled into.

The sunroom has been turned into the official laundry room. The disappearance of the helper with the roses means we are still experiencing a housekeeping crisis. One week back at home and I realise that I need to put out this fire quickly. Interviews will be held next week. The pool is sorted but the yard needs more than I can offer. Our current drought has also just made everything aesthetically worse. And I wont get started on light fittings that are giving in and broken pumps, plugs and leaking plumbing. I found myself taking down numbers of handy men and helpers at my supermarket last night. I saw one where a man offered his maintenance services in exchange for accommodation. hmmm… I have an entire empty guesthouse at the back. I wonder what I’d get if I threw in free meals as well…and are we talking a “John Rowland” kind of settlement?? Any volunteers?

I haven’t cooked in over six weeks. This cant be right. I’m sure it adds to this weeks misery. I am so happy that the babies are back now. Sophie and I will be making a Thai feast tomorrow evening. I know I’ll be happy creating, instead of watching things fall apart…

Reality bites but next week will be better right???



Love Boat 2014

Finally  I can share some of my thoughts again with you!!! Saturday morning…2nd favouritist day of the week. Babies still asleep, canine babies lying around me, 2 load of washing done, attended to the pool, a quarter of the garden raked, braai area dust free and a fresh pot of coffee!!!#happiness!!

My silence has been totally involuntary! I have had many discussions with you in my mind and provided you with detailed descriptions of life on the “Love Boat 2014”. I actually kept some sort of diary as the sights were not the kind one keeps to themselves. Especially not me. I have trouble containing my normal thoughts let alone 5 days of ultimate voyeurism…..

So the love boat trip was my gift to myself and the babies. I figured that if I made it through 2013 with not a single stay at a mental health institution, we would need the sun soaked, luxurious get away. I’m a 70s kid and grew up watching the love boat. I’m an over indulger, so being pampered for a week seemed like a plan. My babies have half my genes, so I knew they world appreciate the luxury. But above all I have just successfully survived the first year of single mumness, so I got to decide on the family holiday for the first time! Yay!!! No walking with lions, no crocodile hunting, no cramping in treetops or  relieving oneself in rivers. Just relaxation in the sun and the biggest decision would be what to have for dinner. #heaven!!

The rights to this luxury did however come with the responsibility of being operations manager, driver and feeder. I unwillingly had been promoted from holiday facilitator and bad navigator to captain of the ship. I hate some of my responsibilities at time!! I don’t wanna fix stuff or plan routes, stand in line with the men at the petrol stations whilst handing out wet wipes. Sometimes I still wanna be the sandwich maker, the assistant, the passer of juice and sweets….the homemaker….anyhoo….#letting#go!!!

I drove the 929km to DBN.  I navigated, took one or two wrong turns, laughed with the babies, sang out loud, still handed them juice and sweets and watched them sleep. I had lots of time to think and make peace with being the captain of my ship.

A trip on the love boat is ideally for families or couples. They work well for single parent families. It’s just the people who work there or who go on these trips have difficulty understanding the concept. All tables and activities are geared for four or two people. People have no problems asking “where is your husband?”/ ” will you be waiting for your husband to join you?” In the beginning I tried to explain gracefully that it was “just” the three of us. On day two, I resorted to ” I’m not quite sure he left a while ago…”/ ” I’m afraid it may take a few years before I find a husband, so no you may go ahead and take our order..” The expression on their faces were priceless!!! Sometimes the babies died of horror and other times they laughed with me. I’m used to being one of few  females when travelling for work. But just enjoying the water with your child and still being approached made me feel more vulnerable or exposed. Anyhoo….#moving#on#swiftly…

So after five 12 hour days of lazing, reading, eating and sleeping we are back home. It’s good to be home and we are ready to get back to business. But first I need to stop at the hardware store. Something’s up with pool pump, I need an extension cord for the lawn mower and I’m thinking about getting a chainsaw… Have  a lovely weekend!! Xxx

Happy 2014….

I started a new page on the blog last night. It seemed like only the right thing to do on the first day of the New Year. I struggled a bit even though words gush out my mouth like Victoria Falls. I had so waited for 2014 and was so happy she was here. But the excitement end of anticipation was no where to be found yesterday. I had a quiet day which was the only option after my New Years celebration. A lovely brunch with my lifesaver and her family. And then a lazy quiet day of just existing. Laid in the sun and admired the pool. She needed some attention after my holiday but was all clear and glistening by the time I got to wade (read waddle) in her. I thought of my sheer sense of failure when turn it started turning green earlier in the year. I had no idea how to fix her and maintain her. But necessity is the mother of invention and I learned through trial and error.

The garden needs serious professional intervention. It turns out that although one of my biggest dreams is to own a small farm in the Karoo and just write and cook all day, I realise I will need a zillion rands to afford staff who come with their own green fingers and help me play Nigella meets Mother GoOse….

After a nap in the sun, my mind started running and I made my first to do list. Aargghhhh!!! It’s all fine bursting with positive energy and embràcing the new, but right there and then the first pressure point iS created. So I got up to make a slow start to my resolutions and new beginnings. I started clearing out some of the cupboards. I’m a hoarder by nature but for the last little while all my “stuff” has been bothering me. I’m tired of some of the clutter behind closed doors taking up space rent free and leaving no room for  new things, memories or treasures. Being Ellen I did this in the most unorganized fashion and ended up with stacks of chaos and an even grater sense of unrest. I left those stacks unturned and fled to my sanctuary. The pink kitchen….the cupboards are empty and all I could find was a butternut squash and two red onions. So I started with making a pastry. Nothing like some dough in your hands to roll out all the thoughts in your mind. Chopped the butternut and roasted it with some herbs from the garden and a healthy serving of fresh garlic. Thinly sliced the red onions, added some brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and left that to stew in the oven. It seemed a bit crazy making a butternut feta quiche with caramalised onions and the  babies aren’t even home. But creating something from nothing always helps settle me and affirms my ability.

It was then that I realized what the sense of unrest was within me. I am so eager to start this new year. i have been so desperate to leave behind the old. I made several pacts with the universe that I’d get things right if I got a new chance. That I wouldn’t fail and be hopeless. But new plans come along with new pressures. Expectations lead to disappointment. What if it turns out that there is no new me, that I cannot master new skills, that I will always be this chaotic, bossy, lazy pink person??

i know myself well enough to know that I’m not a New Years resolution kinda gal. That I hardly have a backbone and battle with discipline  and structure. I’m never gonna run a marathon, not because I couldn’t but I simply don’t aspire to. Im never gonna get my money’s worth from my gym subscription or have killer abs. So could it be that my goals for 2014 are not to have goals? Except for maybe aspiring to accept me? To continue helping my clients achieve their goals cos that makes me happy. To have coffee in my garden and greet the canine babies every morning? To accept that  cooking meals for my babies and friends is what makes me happy? That its ok to be almost 40 and still have a pink kitchen. That I will always be chaotic and plan NOT to plan? That the only plan for 2014 is to laugh more, love daringly, give the babies more sloppy hugs and kisses, spend more time with friends, be kinder to me and spend more time in my kitchen??

Just be happy, that’s my plan for 2014!! Wishing all of you the same….xx

For Sam…

Like most people I guess I also have mixed feelings about Christmas. It’s the one day a year (except Valentine’s) where you either bursting with happiness cause you fit the Christmas joy criteria or filled with contempt towards the whole idea off collective happiness and love.

The biggest turning points in my life always seems to have happened around Christmas. Our family fleeing SA 30 years ago, returning to Holland in the late eighties, major family drama, losing my best friend, soulmate and sister and then my little family falling apart last year Christmas. Everything bad that has nothing to do with the festivities happens around Christmas. But despite all of this, I still always have enjoyed the sentiment of Christmas. The idea that its the one day you spend with loved ones, can be merry and eat all sorts of yummy food that broadens the hips but warms the soul.

i knew this year would be different. Different family composition, different discussions and celebrations. For a moment I wondered if Christmas could be celebrated if I wasnt complete. Wasn’t it time to let go of my obsession of making everything whole, trying to be a normal family and fitting in?

I’ve been back in Holland this past week with the babies and all I can say is that Christmas started the moment we descended. A world full of people happy to see us and so ready to ensure we felt whole, welcome, needed and especially loved.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that I should never stop being a dreamer. Cos only dreamers can vision the seemingly impossible and make it happen. I’ve learned that Christmas is not only about family but specifically about love. That we may not share the same blood lines, but it doesn’t mean we are loved less or there is a lesser sense of belonging. That distance or time doesn’t change anything between true friends. That Christmas is all about new beginnings, even if they are unwanted or seem hopeless. That everyone of us has the opportunity to be  reborn and start all over again at any given time. 

So even this year I’m so happy to see Christmas again. I will not shy away from her. I welcome her and am eager to introduce her to my new family. I’ll be merry and I’ll continue to love Christmas…..:) xxxxx

New Year..

It’s been the craziest week. Madiba’s death brought the world to a stand still. Although we knew he would not live forever; I suppose most of us could not imagine life without his presence. Most of us would not know the freedom in life we have because of him…

Remembering him and all he stood for has made us take stock of our lives. What do we stand for? What have we done with our precious lives? What have we accomplished?

I represent nothing in the greater scheme of things. I am but a soul amongst billions. But yet I look back at 2013 and take stock.

It has to have been the most difficult and painful of years. Life as I knew it disappeared and so many people along with it. Dreams, aspirations all gone. Just me and a million broken pieces. Nothing I would have chosen. None of it I wanted. But I suppose certain things we just cannot choose or decide differently on. I unwillingly became the biggest failure I could have imagined. The earth broke open under my feet and there was nothing I could do to keep it whole.

I listened to stories of my inadequacy, tales of my shortcomings, ALL that I was NOT. And  those words have lingered for the longest time. But as much as I have to admit to some of those failures, I dare say that they do not define me. They are a small part of me. Definitely not the sum of me.

I look back at 2013 with a great sense of overcoming and achievement. I have two beautiful babies who love me, ADD and all. Two little people who shone in their own manner and continued to grow despite the challenges. I think of the 25 people I coached throughout the year and whom I gave a sense of worth and significance. I remember being the only African speaker at an international conference, I remember travelling to three continents, being  recognised by my peers, watching my garden grow, tiling a bathroom, painting all the hurt away, creating new spaces for growth , prosperity, love and hope. I cherish the meals I have shared with dear friends and who never ever forsake me and keep on coming back to this pink kitchen. I remember selling a car, negotiating motorbike sales for my eldest baby, making fires and providing comfort and stability to our little family when all was gone.

I look forward to the next three weeks of holiday and adventure myself and the babies are about to embark on. The time we will spend together and the new memories we shall make. I peacefully say goodbye to all I thought I wanted and open my arms to the future. I am done with 2013 and grateful for all her lessons. Dear 2014….I am ready…xxx


Tata Madiba

The loss of the father of our nation has left me wondering around the house directionless as I’m sure it has millions of other people around the world. His passing has been the topic of so many discussions none of us quite knowing what we would do when he left. Experiencing the expected does not make it easier to process.

To see my father in tears and filled with sadness is a situation most children find hard to deal with. We look to our parents for wisdom, strength and direction. If they lose that confidence and show their emotions where does that leave us?  Tata Madiba was the father of our Nation. He led and directed this country and managed to keep us unified despite all the challenges we faced as an extended family. Will we continue to honour all he stood for and sacrificed his life for?

My father’s  emotional state evoked all sorts of stories about life in South Africa prior democracy. Some of the stories he has never told before and I am amazed by the amount of secrets families carry. Death tends to bring them out. The good and the bad…

It sparked my own childhood memories of the illegal ANC posters in our home.  Of  the visitors to our home that was combined with a great sense of secrecy and whispered conversations. The serious words spoken to us as children making us promise never to talk to anyone about the uncles that just visited the home. The anxiety we experienced seeing our father and mother arrested or the scary big policemen at our home, speaking to our parents in a tone that made them go pale.

The rallies I attended as a little girl and my mother sewing flags of green, yellow and black until late at night. Our parents tears we did not understand, when my father left the country in silence and we later followed in silence, with no time for goodbyes to family.

The greatness of the lesson our parents instilled in us that we were privileged to live and grow up in freedom. The never ending urge from my father to remind us that one day we were to return to South Africa and give back to our country. In 2004 I visited my father alone and discussed my doubts about returning to South Africa. Leaving the comfort and life as I had known it for the uncertainity of Africa. His only words were “ Africa is your home. It has always been. You have every opportunity in Africa to become anything you want. Tata Madiba became our President when for decades it was deemed impossible that we would ever even become 2nd rate citizens. Nothing is impossible my angel when you are at home.” I came on a two year trial and 8 years later I finally know I am home.

I hope that more of us will see not only the greatness of Tata Madiba but more specifically his humility. That his greatness was based on his deep respect for all mankind and that no-one is insignificant. That all of us, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant have the potential for greatness, the ability to overcome any challenge and the responsibility and ability to make a difference in the lives of people around us.