Friday, October 15, 2021

The 15 month Marathon

15 months is not a very long to spend in a job.  In fact, on a CV, I could look like a job hopper.   In my intense job, 15 months is a marathon, an ultra marathon.

I have recently engaged with an organization who does outpatient rehab and have put together a program for my tweens and teens age 10 to 16.  When I told him I was leaving he said, “well your job has been like the comrades so now anything you do will feel like a marathon!”

So what made it so tough?  And how did I personally make it even tougher for myself?   I always go through these reflective moments when I have big changes in my life.   At drinks the other night we were talking about what drives us?  Why do I feel the need to work so hard?  What am I trying to prove and to whom?  I don’t think I crave the approval of others so it’s some issue I have proving something to myself?  What precisely, who knows??

I need to figure this out before I start my next job and I have 2 weeks off to think about it.  I have decided to do one of those psychometric tests to get some insight so I can be more balanced and have better boundaries.

Today was my last day.  I am done.  My section of the relay has been run and I am handing over.  It feels rather anti-climatic.  When I look back at my work I have so many emotions.  So many gifts and lessons and pearls of wisdom I am taking away and tucking into my toolbox.

When my 3rd child was born I fell head over heels in love.  Although I was totally convinced the baby was a boy and had bonded with a little son, this surprise little daughter just left me breathless.  I absolutely adored her.  I was 33 and married (I thought I would try the baby in wedlock thing for a change) and secure in my home and I just stopped running and immersed myself in this Mama space with every part of my being.   I never put her down.  We co-slept and I fed on demand and when the other 2 kids got too loud and Sofia got colicky, we sat in my dark room in my chair and I just breathed her in.  I LOVED her.  I remember telling my mom this breathless love and delight I had for my daughter, this was how God loved me.  How did I know she asked?  I just did.

Fast forward 16 years to working at the shelter and I am the sole social worker for the only family shelter in the Western Cape.  Most of the clients are addicted to tik and mandrax.  Their kids live with them in all their dysfunction and our child protection services are like all government services: inefficient, under staffed, lacking resources and just broken.  Trying to get kids removed is a long and frustrating process and breaks our hearts into a thousand pieces.  And where do they go?  Babies go to babies’ homes and foster moms and get adopted.  While it’s super sad we ultimately know the child gets a brand new start and escapes a life on the street.  Older kids?  Who wants a 7 year old child whose formative years were full of trauma starting right off the bat with conception?  A ten year old who smokes dagga and has seen and heard what we can’t begin to imagine?  No one, that’s who.  

And children’s homes?   No where near enough homes and many of them are not what they should be.  We need so many more, we need aftercare in poorer neighborhoods.   We need to get kids off the street.  We need 12 year olds to play and not be responsible for a bunch of siblings while their mother works 12 hour shifts and earns R4500 at a security company.  

But I am going off topic.  I survived last year and it was largely because Jo and I worked so closely together.  At that point I did not have an office so we essentially worked side by side overlapping into each other’s roles but somehow organically running our weekly marathon together till we would get to every Friday and shrug our shoulders with our mantra: “You can’t make this shit up!”  

The one thing I did get to experience was supernatural Godly love. Once again like when Sofia was born I had the revelation of how much God loves us.  I loved them right where they were at.  Most of them smelly, many addicts, many of them surly and ungrateful and entitled, I just loved them.  They stole and lied and manipulated and we simply loved them.  Not because we are these angelic people, just because we had the gift of supernatural love where judgment is suspended and nothing is expected in return.

Fortunately we have a very different type of client than when I first started.  I definitely feel like that kid at school that raises funds for the school pool and then leaves as it’s been built.  We have better systems and private offices and a long awaited landline and a great network in place.  But it’s all good and I am glad I was able to help lay some good foundations and build up our network.  I suck at boundaries but I am really good at building relationships.

My race is done.  I am not sure how I feel.  It was an anti climatic day and I did the last slow ride around the block with a kid on each side of my car.  They gave me a squeeze and a kiss and off I went.  Goodbye Family Shelter, Auntie Mel is now on a 2 week very needed vaycay!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Double Birthday message to my youngest & oldest

Dearest Daniel & Sofia.  

So I know writing one letter for the both of you is cheating, especially when Rebeka got her own deep & meaningful letter on her birthday.  In fact Sofes I am a few days late for yours but it gets kinda crazy with all 3 of you having birthdays in the same 2 week period.   

So I guess let me start with YOU Sofia.

Happy, HAPPY 17th birthday for Tuesday.  Yes I know it was COVID and poured with rain and actually a blah day but you being you took it in your stride and did not lament against the world for the shitty day.  We trust next year when you hit 18 life is more normal and we can celebrate you as you deserve to be celebrated.

You have always fascinated me because you are this amazing blend of so many characteristics and quirkytraits that make you unique and unable to neatly package or label.   At your age, your peers and friends and expectations so often define one.  Not you, as you say…I just does.  You just do, you just are.  I don’t know many girls who wake up at 3:00am to watch a UFC fight or formula one but also watch make up tutorials and endless TikToks. 

You walk out the door with your gorgeous thick dark blonde hair and fab fake lashes dressed up to the nines and you turn heads with your quiet confidence and swag.  And then the very next day you are rolling on the mat in jujitsu or catching a crazy monster fish in the dark or sewing a pair of pants from scratch.   You shoot like a boss when I am way too scared to even pick up the gun.  You can fight with your body and you can fight with your intellect.    You do not shout but you quietly take on anyone who treats others unfairly.  I think your career path will definitely be something involving social justice and advocacy for those who need it.  You will have to google what this means!

You have this mysterious energy about you and elusive vibe.  Even I as your mother can only grab you for brief moments.  It’s hard to explain but you have always marched to the beat of your own drum.  Few are allowed to get close but those that do have your fierce loyalty and precious trust.  You literally have their back and they know it. 

You cook, you dance, you braai, you fight, you bead, you sew, you shoot, you fish, you camp, you paint, you do.   You do everything, ok you don’t read and can’t spell but you are so capable and bright I look forward to watching you take off and fly one day. 
I told you how absolutely crazy in love I was with you when you were born and how I never put you down.  Maybe I knew you were the girl with big big dreams in a big big world and I had to hold onto you while I could.   The world is your oyster my Sofes.   Just a little while longer till you are done with school then I imagine a swoosh of light and glitter and you are off to chase dreams in your pimped up van or whatever your magic carpet ride entails.  I am proud to be your Mom and we love you very much.  

So it’s your ACTUAL birthday today but unfortunately we are not with you.  I guess at age 25 you don’t always spend the day with your Mama.  I used to wonder what it would be like when I was 50 and you were 25.  Both of us adults and you half my age.  And here we are, a whole lifetime has passed.  I was so young and I was so fiercely crazy about you.   When you have your first child it’s the birth of the baby but it is also the birth of the mother.  Daniel’s mom.  I loved saying that.  I loved making an appointment and saying “hi this is Daniel’s mom.”   

Holy moly it’s been one crazy ride for us.   I was so shit scared taking you home from the hospital. It was a night like tonight, stormy and rainy.   And I was tasked with raising this infant and preparing him for life.   And I did.  
I was so deliberate and serious about parenting back then.  The responsibility of knowing what you do and don't do has this long lasting impact on someone forever, is hectic.

After a while we found our rhythm and we had the best time together just the 2 of us.   And then we met Dad and had your sisters and got the dogs and somehow life raced by and we navigated all the stages and ages of being a kid and a teen and a student and now you are a real life adult.

Can I just say you were forking naughty and hard work and always in trouble and I 100% have earned that beach house.  Plett not Hermanus please!!  Getting you through school was like running in thick sand in the dark with heels.
But we did it, got you to matric and then uni and then you and Jacques started Specno and it’s flying and you are 100% living your absolute best life.   Sadly that baby cot I have kept seems to be staying in storage for many more years and my grandbaby now replaced by your company you put your heart and soul into.

I love you Daniel.  You are the WORST at replying to my whatsapps but our bond is unbreakable and Dad and I are always here when you need us for absolutely anything.  It has been our privilege to provide you with the solid foundation to build your life upon.

Happy birthday Daniel, we love you always and forever.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy 19th birthday Rebeka Scarlett

So it's the eve before your birthday and the solstice.  In keeping with tradition I am writing your annual birthday letter.  One day I will go back and find all the old ones and print for you.  I wish I could find your baby book with my preggie letter but it's in storage somewhere in this house.  Everything I do is with Holland in mind and our potential move. 

They say what a difference a year makes.  Last year on this very day we had your 18th party and wow it was HECTIC but so much fun.   After such a long lockdown everyone was ready to let their hair down and party like rock stars.  Daniel, Brandon and Jaques aka Miss 'Rona made it extra fun even if they did drink most of the booze.  And you looked so beautiful too.   I never imagined a year later COVID would still be around but more than that, you would be living on the other side of the globe.  So we have the longest night of the year and you have the longest day. 

It's weird for me not to follow our tradition of waking everyone up with tea and bringing your gifts as you all sit bleary eyed while I am perky and excited.  Praying for you and then watching you open your prezzies and LOVING them as I am such a winner gift giver.   Breakfast with your dad and then off to school.  Cupcakes for the class when you were smaller.  Now you are there and I am here but in 41 sleeps time I will be there for our vacay!   How fortunate are we?!

I know your love language is someone taking the time to make you feel special and appreciated so I hope the gift Dad & I put together makes you feel just that.  I also hope you like the practical gift.  I know you will!

A year ago you were navigating your way through messy life trying to get through matric during COVID, learning to drive a car, figuring out who you were and how to deal with shit and all the curve balls that 2020 threw our way.  And you did Scarlett!   You finally learned to drive even if I aged a few years.   You had your dance looking SO exquisite and it was actually better with no partners. Once again apologies for overdoing it at pre's.  I still say it was the parma ham in the hot sun that did it after a 10 year pork abstinence and not too many G&Ts.  Oh well, I had fun and so did you girls!

Your finals were tough and you obviously studied way too hard Rebeka-Style but you are definitely the only Novitzkas or Loebenberg to matriculate with 6 As and a 79% for Afrikaans.  (That one is a mystery considering how kak your Afrikaans is!)  I am glad you got to go away for a little bit with your girls even if it meant we all got frikkin' 'rona!! 

I am still in awe of you and how you jumped on a plane last minute and flew off to Holland to live with strangers and take care of such young kiddies.  I am grateful Sarah has been so sweet to you and it's comforting to know she is around.  You going to miss those little people even if they gave you a literal run for your money.

Dad & I are also so happy you have Veronia and Derrick to act as surro 'rents to you.  I am beyond excited for you to start your degree at Maastricht. What a life changing experience to study at a foreign university.  And yes how I wish it was me and I was 19 and studying in Holland.  You are living my dream life!

For a social loud extrovert going off to Holland is easy.  For an introvert very young Saffa like you it's huge and you have figured it all out.  This is your butterfly year Rebeka.  This is your time to literally shine and sparkle.  You have done the hard grind, you have been the caterpillar and you have spent all this time in your cocoon and now it's 2021 and your birthday and I know you are going to fly.  I just do.  And yes you will have hard days and days of doubt and lonely days but your resilience is so much more and you have grown up so much in the past 6 months. 

I love your loud laugh, I love your keen bright mind.  I love your nerdy goofiness.  I love all the millions of memories we have made over the last 19 years.  I love your dog, I love your odd friends, especially Emma & Tash.  I know I meddle and sometimes I am a lawnmower parent and I would like to tell you I will stop but we both know that's a lie.  I will trust you to know what you need and what you don't need though.  But I will still be that meddling FB mom because there is nothing more beautiful to me than seeing you happy.  I hope you have a magical birthday and I wish I was there with you but at least I will be there for your 21st when we are living there.  I have realised I can't not live in the same country as you.  Just no way!
Happy Happy Birthday Rebeka Scarlett!

From your Ma x

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Work: does it make me happy?

So on the 15th of July last year I started working as the social worker at the family shelter.   Although I have many years of working at various NGOs and starting and running one myself, this was my first job as a registered social worker.

In hindsight I think it was a good thing I had no experience as a social worker as I have realized SW is so much about systems and admin and procedures.  The shelter is a unique environment.  It is not neat and tidy and easy to package or label.  We don't have ABC, 123.  We have: are you actually forking kidding me right now?    The level of dysfunction among our clients is enormous.

Trauma and homelessness, chicken or the egg.  Does trauma have the knock on effect of landing up homeless or is it the homelessness that causes the trauma?   It's both of course.   I can't explain my work environment to you.   It's incredibly intense and demanding.  It simultaneously breaks me down and builds me up at the same time.  A friend came to visit the other day and asked me if my job makes me happy.

Happy?  When I think of happy I think about swimming and ice-cream and lunch with my friends and picnics and my kayak and walking on the beach and camping and family.  My colleagues and our banter makes me laugh and happy but no, my work is too hard to make me happy.  Challenged, fulfilled, stimulated, affirmed maybe, happy no.  Some stuff is so painful I can't share it with anyone except Jo.  We are similar in our work approach and she is the only one who truly gets it.  Wayne & Cardo too to a point.

In the early days I felt the pressure of the people I love waiting for me to crumble.  They all said no, this is too much for you.  You are too soft, you have no boundaries, it is not sustainable.  So they are right in part.  Yes I am soft but a job like this needs soft.  Things that are hard or brittle crack under pressure.  I am flexible and adaptable.  Every person is unique, every family is unique.  My age and experience means I can adapt and I trust my gut and intuition.  Boundaries?  These are vulnerable people.  Of course I care deeply for them.  And I can't switch that off every day at 4:00 and on a Friday go home and park all that for the weekend.  I am getting better at saying no.  At putting systems in place.  At discerning the lies and bullshit that comes with working with addicts.  This is where I have gained wisdom and I am way harder than I used to be.  I love them.  Like really love them.  The adults and the children.  Many of the adults are Daniel's age and younger despite having a few kids.  I feel like their mother.  And the older ones crave mothering too.  Boundaries and affirmation and accountability.  I am not a church goer despite having gone several years ago for a long time.  I cannot reconcile my worlds but this does not mean I don't feel and experience God's love, grace and favour in my life and work.  He is crucial to my work.  

I used to have many a fight over what was good and evil in my churchy days.  Some books, other religions, halloween, sexuality not in the confines of a hetero marriage, even some kids TV shows.  And while I respect these are considered evil for many, my world is more extreme.  The addiction to substances and resultant behaviour, now there the devil has a field day.  Broken people and families and poverty and ravaged bodies.  Children removed from their biological parents which shatters our hearts.  Addicts are trapped and held captive and their children deal with the fallout.  The trauma the kids experience means they want to escape, want out for a little while.  So many start smoking dagga at 10 years old and so it begins all over again.  Trauma-poverty-drugs-homelesness-trauma-poverty-drugs-homelessness.   

BUT, it's not all hopeless.  The culture has changed and half our people are not active users.  This means I can help them to get back on their feet.  And the kids, ah now that's where my heart lies.   They are the hope, the chance to try and break the cycle.  If we can get them in school and keep them there so they are educated, we have a chance of breaking that cycle.  I have a new office which is more private than the previous space.   My shelf is filled with toys for junior school kids and it has morphed into this space where I allow one or two in to sit on Mimi's quilt and play quietly while I work.  The interesting thing is it is the 'naughty' ones who seek this space.  And they sit quietly and play and when they are done they pack up and calmly walk out the office.  They know the toys stay in the office.  It is passive play therapy so while I don't have time to practice, it's enough for now and effective.

I can't do this work for years but I am not ready to leave.   I have too much I still want to do.  As chaotic as it is that week at home after my op was so boring.  The relief of being back and the stream of Hello Auntie Mel as I walk to my office makes my day.  I usually have people telling me all the drama before I have even sat down but it's ok.  It's just how it is.  I am so grateful for my job.  For the opportunity to learn.  For the freedom to run with whatever project or idea I think will benefit the shelter.  I can't be micro managed and work in a little box so I am not sure how I would adapt to a regular sane job.  Jo, I appreciate the opportunity and trusting me to be your fellow parent, and the permission to leave when I can't anymore.  Right now this is where I need to be, loving on our homies.  I am grateful. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Farewell to my forties

Some events in our lives really give us pause for thought and we stop the world and get off for a while to reflect and re calibrate.  Babies born, parents passing, moving house, kids fleeing the next, and….big birthdays. In 2 days I turn 50.  FIFTY!

I have been very introspective about this massive milestone birthday and what it means.  If I am really fortunate, I will live another 40 years.  The last 10 of them no doubt rather frail when I am in my 80s living in my beach house with my handsome young companion who is employed to cook delicious dinners and put up my brollie & beach chair and drive me around.

So in reality I have 10 really active years when I can continue to hike and run and bike and swim and kayak and do all the things that brings me joy.  Then I hit 60 and I imagine I would do less jumpy shots and potentially wind down.  At 70 I am unlikely to ride the Argus or run a marathon or do a triathlon.   Basically time is running out!

My forties have been phenomenal and I have squeezed the life and love and joy out of every moment.  My thirties were largely dedicated to raising my children and at that age, their demands left little time for me to do too much else.  I learned to surf and I founded my NGO Bosom Buddies now Mama Themba but mostly I mothered 3 young kids.

Then I hit 40 and Daniel was 15, Rebeka was 9 and Sofia was 7.  I had more time.   At 41 the shit hit the proverbial fan when Singapore got cancelled 21 days before our big move and depression kicked in.  After almost drowning for several months I went to see a psychologist and psychiatrist and went on meds and ironically fucked up my life further after a motor neurological reaction to my anti-depressant.   I now had Dystonia along with the depression   I still battle my dystonia and the painful speech that accompanies it but the depression was left behind.

After my craniotomy in 2013 and 100% recovery I was ready to grab life by the balls.  I landed up pushing hard and everything was full on.  I did an open water swim.  I started running.  And then I decided to do a triathlon.  And a longer one.  And eventually a few Ironman70.3s.  I cycles the Argus, very slowly but I finished.  I ran my 1st marathon.  We started camping and I LOVED it.  I went back to uni and finished my degree 6 years later.  I travelled and mothered my kids.  Natey died and broke my heart.  Pops died and it broke a little more.   I started working.  I got my brave on and started my career.  Two of my 3 kids moved out of home.  I sold my house and moved.  A LOT happened in my forties and I put masses of pressure on myself.

I have somehow got myself in a position where I am doing very little exercise.  I was doing a short 5km run in the vineyards and thinking about my forties and being ultrafit and what my 50s held for me.  And then I decided, NO MORE PRESSURE.  I am giving myself a break.  I don’t have to train 6 days a week.  I don’t have to cycle 100kms or run till I hurt.  I have loved my forties but I placed insane amounts of pressure on myself.  I am not sure why?  What was I trying to prove and to whom?  Was it my ego?  I wanted to graduate cum laude.  I had to work so hard to do that while still raising my kids.  And for what really?   Ironman 70.3?   Yes it was fun but all those brick sessions and hours training?  Being so skinny and exhausted half the time.  I am done trying so hard and pushing myself continuously.   I am backing off.  I think having dystonia was incredibly tough so training so hard meant pain I could control.   The pain from my dystonia is forever.   It is better on some days and really awful on others.  But running a tough race that hurts?  I knew it would stop soon and I would have my medal and the pain would be over.  

I know my work is my new arena of pressure.  That is staying.  The stakes are too high.  Getting the kids into school became all   And just when I think it’s all done new kids arrive and schools are full and they don’t have paperwork and I have to push again.  The intensity of my work is extreme and I haven’t figured out the balance yet.  Darn, I think I might have replaced my exercise addiction with work?  My medals have been replaced with a client using less drugs or getting clean.  Having kids who were once on the street in schools.  Hugs and love from the kids every day.  Connecting with and loving on my clients.  It’s draining but it’s very rewarding too.



                                                                    My latest passion.

This is a rambly post and in writing it I have realized maybe I haven’t morphed into the new chilled me I want to be.   Damn!  Ok so my fifties are bound to be action packed too.  Just different action I guess and a smaller ego. Bring it on, I am ready and excited!

Friday, March 5, 2021

7 months later. Life in 2021, a catch up.

The last time I blogged was 2 weeks after I started my job.  7 months later and I am now on leave recharging.   Actually I am pretty much at the end of my leave and definitely recharged. So what has happened since last year August?  This is probably boring for you to read but my blog used to be my dairy so I can look back one day and remember when.  When I was a SAHM many moons ago I blogged daily but I am now a working woman!  One that actually works AND earns a salary.

Well firstly who expected us to still be living with COVID?  We are definitely fortunate in our country in that we can eat out and exercise and see friends and go to the shops.  The beach ban in December and January was a huge bummer and I personally think they should have closed on the 24-26 & 31st December and 1st & 2nd of January.  We had to cancel our Plett holiday but we were fortunate our hosts gave us a full refund.  I look at my sister & brother & bestie in the UK and really feel for them.  Crazy strict laws with many making no sense.  Holland as well and my poor girl.

So on December 22nd I tested positive for the dreaded 'rona.  Rebeka went to a party on the day she finished exams and caught it from one of the guys.  She then handed it over to me and I handed it to Sofia.  Gary was either negative or asymptomatic which was a massive blessing as I was worried about him being an ex smoker who often gets upper respiratory infections.  We were lucky we did not get very ill.  I had the fever, headache, fatigue and extreme light sensitivity but I kept my taste and smell.  And nothing in my chest.  I have taken zinc, D & C since March and being fairly fit and healthy all potentially helped.

So some biggies since I last wrote:
We sold our house we have been living in for 18 years.  This is a big relief as we are considering a move to Holland for several years as our girls plan on attending uni there.  Our Dutch passports means we are fortunate to have a soft landing and the fees are very affordable.   It was a great opportunity to sell stuff, give stuff away and chuck stuff.  We knew the new home would be way smaller.  I see half my wardrobe worn by the people at the shelter every day.  Sometimes I wanna say 'hey, those are PJs not a tracksuit!'
I have days when I think no ways can I leave this country, the summers and beauty and my friends.  But oh I miss my daughter.  And having all my kids out the nest and far away?  No I am not ready for that just yet.

So some sad news...Paulie my beautiful rottie got cancer and passed away just before his 5th birthday.  Gary remains devastated and still questions if we did the right thing.  Paulie would cry at night and I would find Gary in the morning sleeping on the cold tiles to keep him company.  He wasn't walking properly and couldn't crouch to poo.  My baby.  I had to make the decision and Sofia and I stayed with him when he crossed the rainbow bridge.   My views are too clouded by the trauma of losing my father to cancer and being unable to help him pass.   So I don't know if I should have done another MRI or more physio but I couldn't deal with the suffering.

Rebeka had her matric dance despite COVID and she looks exquisite in a black satin ballgown.  There was no handsome date and an it was an all girls dance but it was perfect and they all looked so very young and lovely. 

The infamous matrics of 2020 wrote their exams.  The Rhenish teachers have been phenomenal in their support of their girls.  Rebeka studied insanely hard for prelims and almost burnt out for the main exams.
Then just when we thought we were done we were told they had to rewrite physics and one of the main maths papers.  She fell apart and all the kids were just done.  She had given 100% and had nothing left to give.  Fortunately the matter went legal and the court ruled in the favour of the scholars and the rewrites were cancelled.  But it was shit as we still went through that stress and she never had her last day as she didn't know it was the real last day.  I am so sentimental I would have given her flowers and taken her to lunch.  She would have left her shoes as per tradition and walked out in her socks.  Anyway, it was done.
A few months later and she got her results and all that hard work has paid off.  6 distinctions, 1 78% for Afrikaans and a 85% aggregate.  I got 2Bs, 2Cs and 2Ds in matric.  Gary was in the E & F range.  Oh well, nature and nurture and all that!

Christmas was a little crappy as I felt so ill and had to cook this big lunch.  Daniel's housemate helped thank goodness but my mom couldn't come due to the 'rona.  New years eve was just as blah and Gary, Sofia, the dogs and myself lay on my bed chilling till 12:00 and went to bed.  NYE is an anti-climax anyway.

We moved house the end of January.  Geez it's exhausting and never ending.  We packed every weekend for 6 weeks and it was still this crazy rush at the end with the last stuff just chucked in boxes.   The moving company were great, found and chosen by myself of course!   We stay in this very fancy estate in the vineyards on the way to Stellenbosch.  Fortunately we are renting as the houses are crazy expensive here.  It's way smaller and has no pool but it's perfect for us and we have a view from every single window.  We are right at the end of the estate close to this big lake and the vineyards.  For an outdoor junkie like myself it is pure heaven.  Gary bought me this super cool kayak I have called Eddie and we adopted another one at the lake called Stanley.  There is also a SUP called Helga that no one seems to own.  Sofes and I try and row every day.  They say no swimming but do they really mean that?  Surely not.  We swim along the bank and the white clay squelches between our toes.  I love the feeling.   The dogs go for long walks every evening on the golf course on perfect green grass.  For us Cape Town folk who suffered through that drought, green grass will never be taken for granted!

Daniel and the boys finally moved out of Paarl!   They have a new boethouse and it's so fun.  Fussball, a pool table, ping pong, really cool braai area, dart board and all the toys.  They also moved offices and have created this funky space google style.  Everyone in the company is 25 and younger and Specno is flying.  They work hard and they play hard.

Rebeka moved to Holland!  This has been huge for our family.  Moving abroad during covid is very tough, especially to a country that is so very strict.  She was due to fly the 15th and we had her last evening and day all planned.  We were super relieved her covid test was negative and her forex was due the next day.  On the 14th at 4:00pm we were still in the pool when we heard her flight was cancelled.   And the rules with KLM were changing.  What to do?  Rush and throw everything in her bag and race to the airport or try and fly out later in the week.  Helena was on the same flight so in the same predicament.  Both girls crying and panicking we packed her bag and headed to the airport.  No time to stop for dinner and all the airport restaurants and take outs were closed.  Gary and Helena's dad stood in the one queue to change flights and the moms in the other.  And it was done.  Booked.  Bags through although repacked as 1.7kg over.  Lots of hugs and tears and off they went.  Just like that.  

It's been tough.  I miss her, I worry about her.  We did not use an agency and her family is South African so she has to try and navigate all the logistics like residency and bank accounts and medical aid and travel cards.  Thank the LAWD for my aunt and uncle who live in Holland and can help her.  Unfortunately they don't live close by but close enough if it's a crises.   She has done her varsity applications and Gary spent hours researching and helping her.  She has also completed and submitted her entry tests so now we wait.  It's either Maastricht or Leiden, both excellent universities.    
Rebeka takes care of a little girl who has just turned 4 and a 22 month old toddler boy.  It's hard work but the family is lovely.  I think she has new respect for her Mom!

And I think that's pretty much it.  My leave was very needed and appreciated.  I am looking forward to going back on Monday as we employed a second social worker who was a friend from UNISA and I just know we will work well together. Work get's a whole post on it's own though.  Now that's been one helluva ride! 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A whole new world

So I am half a month into my new job and what a huge eye opener it has been.   The very nature of social work is demanding and intense and then you add the element of homelessness and addiction the time of a world wide pandemic and it’s a mindf*ck of note.

I have realized there is so much I don’t know and need to learn but I am also reminded I am good with people.  I like people!  I am good at building trust and relationship and being sincere and non judgmental.  Apart from the obvious stuff I need to learn like SASSA grants and acts & laws I need to learn the nature and culture of homelessness and addiction.  They seem to go hand in hand.  I also need to learn to be less trusting and use my head more and my heart less.  Jo & I just want to love people and help so we don’t always listen to our gut.  She is better than me at discerning but her heart too directs her hands and feet.  We want to believe them, we want to trust.  Nicolene the previous social worker has a super sharp BS detector, mine needs a great deal of work. 

                                            (pic not of an actual client as we respect their privacy)


I am learning everyone’s names and stories and love walking in and greeting everyone in our extended family.  I am so proud of the steps they take as they try to get back on their feet, and then saddened when they self sabotage.  I have so many ideas I want to implement but I need to take it slow and get familiar with each family and their story.  Everyone has strengths and talents and I want to help them find out what those are and develop them.  I want to try and teach them to be cycle breakers so all these gorgeous little kids we have staying there choose a different path one day.  I feel privileged and grateful to meet people whose lives are so very different from mine.  My problems and stress are big and real to me as theirs are to them.  I do not compare and although I am grateful, I do not feel guilty for all I have.  We are connected by our humanity and this time and place.


My work is all consuming.  I think about them at night and when I wake up in the morning.  Yes I know I need boundaries, I will get there.  I will learn to balance my personal life and my work life.   I will make mistakes and errors of judgment for sure but I will never be cynical.  I will work hard and I will love hard.  The day before I started work I was so incredibly nervous I wanted to vomit.  I was walking outside in my potted garden in my courtyard and I went to my Pops plant for a chat.  It’s this beautiful jasmine plant I asked him to buy me for Christmas when he had cancer.  He was diagnosed in that August and every time I prayed for him or thought about him I would smell jasmine and there would be a bush somewhere close by.  So there I am talking to my late father in the form of this beautiful plant just starting to blossom as one generally does.  “Dad what would you say to me right now?” 

“Just do your best my girl, that is all you can do.”

Very Pops right?   Simple and true words that made me feel calmer.

So now I go to work and it’s busy and messy and intense and hard and my dystonia is pretty bad from stress but I just do my best, because that is all I can really do.