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.

 

Modern family

The tears rolled down our faces today as colleagues and I discussed the child rearing skills of our parents (read: African parents). The crazy logic that crept through their minds and the absolute lack of any kind of developmental approach. Children were to be seen and not heard! Statements like these when you played outside all day and came home after the street lights had gone on.

“ don’t tell me you are hungry. You should have eaten where you chose to be all day…” or “who do you think is gonna turn on the lights and close the curtains??!” I can only imagine myself trying to say something like that to my babies.

And the hidings with whatever they had in their hand. One colleague noted that his mother had a special skill of managing to get her slipper to turn corners if you ducked away from the flying slipper. Or the smack received with every word they shouted. You’d hope it was just a “stop it!” as this equalled 2 thrashings. But you feared the long sentences, as they meant a thrashing for each word spoken.

Last night was tough one as the youngest baby had her year end recital. I rushed from work to pick up a totally unprepared and panic stricken child. It took everything in me not to start yelling at her for not having prepared her things when we had discussed that the evening before and having to deal with her hyperventilation for not knowing the moves and last minute shopping to get the accessories. But mothers having magical, anti-psychotic powers, we marched in to the venue on time for the sound check, with a fully kitted prima donna. And needless to say she shone like a diamond.

In between all of this we had a telephonic argument with the eldest baby who driving around town on his motorbike and wanted to sleep out when I was laying down the law for not having done his chores for the day. He chose the typical modern day 14 year old option and decided to rather go to his father. Housework undone and mother in a state.

This evening a young man with a shaky little voice phoned me, wanting to come home. The plans for the sleep out this evening had been cancelled somehow and he was stuck with his friend in the dark not knowing where to go. I picked them up and drove back home in silence. After a shower and a meal, my little big man came to sit in the kitchen by me and shared his grief. I could have resorted to the “I told you so”. I could have started the customary, traditional  half an hour lecture. But I was so honoured and proud of the fact that he felt safe enough to share his grief and uncertainties with me. I listened and comforted and told him how much he is loved. That there is nothing in the world he could do that would ever turn him away from our home and stop me from loving him. We hugged and I saw the worry in his eyes melt away. Beautiful! But being the African momma that I am, I had to throw in a little lecture and make it known that despite the challenges we face in life and as hard as things may be. We never may forget our responsibilities, the consequences of our actions and  respect for our elders. And therefore the dishes were all his…

 

Housekeeping

It’s been two weeks that I’ve had a bit of a housekeeping situation. My shared housekeeper has been directed to graze where the grass is greener and all I know is that my grass is very tall at the moment…Yes, also the gardening service will not be returning.

I was on my way to bake a chocolate cake for no particular reason this evening with only flour, cocoa, coffee, oil and sugar when I got distracted. A Skype call from a beautiful friend in a far away Arab country. It was so good to speak to her and the distance and time has not changed a thing about our friendship. I had one of those two weeks ago with another far away friend. History and memories go a long way if they are nurtured and valued…..We are not grounded when we can only thrive or find happiness in temporary adventures.

After the call I remembered the cake that didn’t happen and the pile of washing that needed ironing. I HATE ironing with a passion, but after two weeks of washing we are starting to run out of fashionable clothes here. This past week has been strange as the kids are on their summer holiday and all routine is gone. The eldest baby seems to be a shadow that sometimes falls on the couch or in the fridge. All I hear are the sounds of motorbikes entering the yard and leaving. I have been quite good at refraining from the whole “this is not a hotel” speech. I’d like to try and postpone that one as long as possible. It would however confirm the fact that I am a statistic and actually normal in every sense of the word. Me..normal..I like the sound of that…

The final departure of the roses has left this dandelion with her seeds sunken far into her roots. I sat in a difficult conversation last week with strangers who calculated my worth and perceived value. It wasn’t worth much. I don’t seem to be worth much.  Had all been lost? Would her seeds ever soar again and be the centre of delight and wishes? Would roses ever grow in this garden again?

But being a pink scattered dandelion does not mean that the ever present other flowers are not there to whisper words of encouragement to her. And not only are these words of support spoken but they are actioned too. On Saturday morning my army of beautiful voices stood ready to fill all the holes in the garden and rake the fallen leaves. They filled the holes and planted new seedlings. New framed memories were hung on the empty walls and in laughter and silence we painted the braai area. Part of the pink kitchen has spread through the house and into the yard. It’s not pink but the need to claim my place has gone. We painted until late into the night. New shades of colour, light, hope and love.

And as this year of incredible struggle comes to an end, I take stock of all that has been achieved. And there is so much to be grateful for and proud of.

I am filled with hope for this dandelion. I am honoured to still be standing amongst such beautiful flowers and so very, very grateful. Thank you!! xxx