Friday, March 6, 2020

The unofficial launch of Say With Play

So I am one week in and it’s been rollercoaster with this constant dialogue in my head as my over thinking attempts to sabotage Ultra Mel.  Melancholy Mel is being a royal pain in the arse trying to undermine Ultra Mel but I am one determined woman and I don’t give up, ever!

I can’t believe it’s only been 1 week since I have resigned.  I don’t miss the work but I really miss Isabel.   I am going to go over next week so she can tell me to calm the farm and I can tell her straight back.  She might need to slap me around a little.

So what have I achieved?  Well I have bought and made some cool stuff for my practice.  The temptation to buy everything in sight is hard but unfortunately/fortunately I don’t have the money so just starting small.  I literally had the most awesome stuff to use from my own kids but everything has been given away over the years or sold at their garage sales for a pittance.   I am still hoping friends have kids books and little figurines, dolls, musical instruments or anything really they want to pass on I can use in my practice.  Lexi is making my felt superhero cut outs and Claire is hopefully helping me to sew the capes. 



I washed all the lego which smelt of cat wee which is disturbing considering I have no such pet!  I sorted out my study and have my toys and art supplies in boxes.   Sofes and I made a cool feelings game that I am looking forward to trying.  You actually don't need much to get started.

I met with an experienced play therapist who was incredibly helpful and generous with her knowledge.  I made a google form for the parents to fill out.  It also needs some tweaking!   I had my 1st 2 sessions at Bright Lights.  The space is far from ideal and having a mobile practice requires a lot of thinking and planning.    One kid left mid session but that in itself is a breakthrough as things got a little real for him.

Most importantly I visited a wonderful small school that would love to have me 2 days a week working with their kids.  Some pro bono and hopefully some paying clients.    I do need to earn an income at the end of the day but I also have another idea for something on the side and met with a good mate this week to see if we can partner together to make some magic happen.

I fluctuate being terrified and overwhelmed filled with doubt and then excited and driven and knowing my very best self is when I work with children.  14 years ago I started Bosom Buddies which was meant to be my new mothers support group re breastfeeding advice, weighing etc. of babes.  I spent all my money and all my brave and it failed.  But…as most of you know the charity side of it flew and I founded and grew this incredible NPO which still thrives today as Mama Themba so it’s a reminder.  Reminder success is not always what we originally planned.  I not only made nothing from Bosom Buddies, I spent thousands keeping it going.   This time around I have been more careful with the name and bought saywithplay.com and saywithplay.co.za


So what will happen with Say With Play?  Will I grow it and have my own premises and feel equipped and confident and be able to register with medical aid and earn a decent income?  Because that is what I really want.  Or will it become another non profit where I train other volunteers and we start a free therapy NPO for the thousands of traumatized children in our country?   Both are big and scary and both fit my criteria of what I categorize as success.   Fulfilling my potential, stretching myself to learn and grow, and making a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children dealing with trauma.   Gary has only just started his business and Daniel is a fresh one year in so if it’s the NPO then they will need to make a truck load of cash so money is not an issue.  Although having my own money was awesome so option 1 please!  I want this business to be successful.   I will get there.  Maybe not in 1 week but I will get there.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

So long, farewell, auf wiederseh’n, goodbye….


I leave you with an earworm from The Sound of Music as you read this post

After 14 amazing months of hard work and plenty of laughter, the time has come for me to leave Limina and finally start my own career as a social worker specializing in play therapy.  Today is my last official day and it's rather bittersweet.  At 48 year’s old it’s high time to follow my calling and passion!


I leave my work and my colleague/boss/darling friend with all the love in the world knowing we are both ready to part ways after building the base of our business together.  I say ‘our’ because I will always have a vested interest in Limina and in Isabel’s journey. 

I read an article recently written about the late Kobe Bryant.  For those who do not know who he was, he was a basketball player in the NBA playing for the LA Lakers and father to 4 daughters.   He was also a man of excellence who worked incredibly hard.  He speaks about his 4:00am.   The American public got to watch his games and his brilliance and talent.  But every day they slept soundly while he was up at 4:00am training hard and complimenting his talent with hard work and dedication.   His death was a big loss to so many.

Our courses are amazing.  Just next level excellence and super engaging and exciting.  I cannot imagine a single teacher who would complete one of our edtech courses and not be crazy inspired which their pupils will ultimately benefit from being crazy inspired too!   And guess who is up at 4:00am working insanely hard to make sure they are excellent and deadlines are met? No, not me!  Isabel, of course!

Limina is committed to being part of the change in education in South Africa working closely with the Department of Education.   Our courses are CAPS aligned and language and literacy is woven into subject matter like hidden veggies in a kids’ pasta.   They learn in all areas, the content of the subject, in the utilization of the incredible free edtech tools out there and they advance the crucial element of language and reading in every single subject.     

Limina courses are currently mostly in the Western Cape but not for long.  Isabel is off to Gauteng soon and the other departments around South Africa are hearing rumblings of how great our courses are and we will cover province by province transforming the way teachers teach and engage with their pupils.  In 2019 we had less than half of the grade ones passing matric 12 years after they started school in 2008.  This is going to change and it has been amazing to be part of that change.   Part of the solution.

Limina is going to continue to grow and thrive and I will always be proud of my time as one of the Limina rock stars.    I am going to use my social work degree I worked so hard at for 6 long years.  I have found my own 4:00am and I will do all it takes to get my play therapy practice going continuing to work on the same principles Isabel and I shared in the fairly brief time we worked together.  Excellence, fun, passion, hard work and lots of laughter.



So long, farewell, auf wiederseh’n, goodbye 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Sushi Moments


Sometime last year my mom and I had a conversation about this random special little moment she had.   It’s been a long journey for her, for us, nursing my father through his cancer and then working through the inevitable grief and PTSD you experience after the trauma.  When you meet someone at age 14 your lives and love and self become so intertwined you need to re invent yourself, and that is what she has done and is still doing.

So Mimi had this moment.  It was 4:00 in the afternoon and she had a glass of wine and a platter of sushi and was watching something on Netflix.  She paused and took a little step back and so appreciated the simple joy of that moment.   The next day I had run a half marathon in town and went to Clifton beach afterwards.  I was totally alone and the sun came out and I had my book and delicious snacks and I felt pure simple bliss.  I messaged her to tell her I was having a sushi moment and the term stuck.



She decided just before Christmas she would write down a sushi moment everyday and put it in a tin and read her moments at the end of the year.  I started the same thing on January 1st and I hope I can keep it up for the whole year.  Some days are rough days and it’s harder to find a sushi moment.   But it can be the simplest thing.  A perfect juicy peach while you are sitting in the sun is enough.  And then I have big sushi moments like my day at the river that Saturday.  It was a helluva trek down there.  Especially when you have a bag in your hand and your balance is off.  I knew I would probably struggle to do this in 10 years time and I appreciated my health.  We got down to the water and it was ridiculously beautiful.  Rivers and mountains, my thing! I looked at these 3 people and had such a wow feeling.  I made these people.  I made my own best friends.  They are all unique with their own value and belief systems but Gary and I had a big part to play in the formation of their character.   My children, so much older now at 15, 17 and 23.  Smart free thinking open minded gorgeous young people.  My kids?   It was like I was back in the past but I looked at them from the outside and it was so cool that this is what life gave me.   Really?   Mel you grew up and you had 3 children and by trial and error you raised them and here you all are enjoying each other’s company.   They made me jump off this kak high rock and I was SO not keen but they were having none of it.  Mom had to jump!



You know how gender fluid is a thing?  Well age fluid is too.  Some days I feel my age and others 20 years forward or 20 back.    I am very aware that my body will eventually give up on me and it already has it’s aches and pains.  My damn eyesight is not great and my 1.5 reading glasses a staple in my life and mofo huge text on my phone.    Life is damn hard being grown up.  The past 6 months have kicked me in the balls a few times but I am not going to sink into negativity and declare this the worst time ever or those usual labels.  It’s life and it’s challenging at present but every day has a sushi moment and I will keep writing them down.  Pausing when they happen and being grateful for them.  They are enough to keep me going.  They are enough.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Gifts from my Pops


It’s my Dad’s 70th birthday today.  I have felt a little heartsore all week but I know it is a culmination of the house move as well as the approaching big birthday that is finally here.

Before he got sick we decided on this big plan to celebrate the ‘rents both turning 70, their 50th wedding anniversary and Tertia aka ou sus turning 50.  We would all go to Mauritius on a grand family holiday.  Paul & Lisa would come down and Nina and her Paul and the Bisson critters and Tertia & Marko and their lot and my own family to join the fogles for this island holiday.  And then he got sick and we did 16 months of cancer which was f*cking brutal and he was gone.

My dad never really got old although he sometimes acted like an old fart.  It’s not fair though.  I am jealous of people with their old dads.  Of golden wedding anniversaries and 70ths and 80ths.  But I have my mother which is huge and I am beyond grateful for that.  Many have no parents.  Adult orphans, it’s just too sad and I am so sorry if that’s you.

So no party for my dad or phone call or presents to mark this major birthday.  But he did leave us some gifts so I honour him by remembering them and being mindful of them. 

Thanks for connecting all of us Dad.  You only ever wanted us to be close to each other, to mom, to have everyone around.  When you got sick we drew even closer in and made this little bubble.  Old wounds were healed, forgiveness granted and accepted and a new gentle kindness we still keep and practice today. 

Thanks for leaving Mom well taken care of.  It was always your intention to ensure she would never have to worry and we as her kids are very grateful to know she is sorted.  To know she has her lovely home and can travel and live a good life.   Don’t worry about dodgy men!  We will make sure no one steals her bucks.

Thanks for your presence I feel much more than I could have dreamt of.  For never being too far away.  For continued guidance as we hear the words you spoke so often.  Those words that were sometimes so damn annoying yet I would love to hear them again.  You gave us a good foundation.

Thanks for Daniel.  For what you put in to help me to parent him.  He had you right until 21 and I wish your other grandkids could have had that too.  Geez I hope you know how he is doing.  Totally fulfilling his destiny and all we wished for him.  He says you have been so on his mind lately and every night when he lies in bed and thinks about business and their vision going forward, he thinks of you too.  That is 100% the thing I miss the most, having you be as proud of him as I am.  Calling you to brag a little.

I miss you and Mom.  I miss Mimi&Pops.  I miss watching you interact with the grandkids.  I miss you walking around my garden and showing me your own gorgeous garden.  Mom and Hans have done you proud and it’s looking amazing btw!  I miss your stories of your camper van fokermobile adventures.  I miss the mundane every day things about having both my parents around.  Sleeping over and chatting to you about my races and my plans and old friends you always ask about.   I miss you and Uncle B and how you laughed and joked and teased your whole lives.  I miss you Dad, a lot.  Happy happy birthday!

Monday, April 8, 2019

My 47th year in review

I like to reflect on the year gone by at the end of a previous year and then the day before my birthday.  Tomorrow I turn 48 years old which seems absolutely impossible of course.   Legally I have been an adult for 30 years already yet somehow I don't feel quite grown up or having my shit together.  Fortunately the secret is out and no one else does either.   We are all merely pretending to one degree or another.

So what did I achieve in my 47th year?  Actually why am I still achievement driven?   So goal orientated and always pushing?  You know what, I am not going to worry too much or over think it, I just am.  I like new challenges, I like putting myself out there even if my anxiety and dystonia really hate it.  I like the rush and I like having a sense of purpose.  I am living my best life.

I lived a whole year without my dad.  I related to my family with a big chunk of it missing and we supported and loved each other and found a way to live full lives without our Pops in it.  He remains part of all we are and all we do but the missing feels more normal now.  Like an achey body part that gets triggered by certain things and soothed by others but is as healed as it will ever be.  It's part of who I am now and it's familiar and it's OK.

I went to Holland with my mom.  We had yet another amazing time together and I loved seeing my aunt Veronica and her family too.  I feel Dutch, I look Dutch, I love the food and the country side and riding the big old bicycle Myrtle and the whole vibe.  It was a very special trip and we make the best travel companions.

I moved house after 16 long years.  I tried to make friends in Stellenbosch but I could never quite break in and after a while it was just fine.  I had acquaintances but no real deep friendships so I took to the mountains and I loved the solo healing time there.  I found groups to run with and I savoured every second of living in this beautiful place.  I am very sad to leave it but I have accepted it and will be back in Somerset West shortly.  Nothing is forever and I will do my time there for the next few years and be happy again before we head out to the next home be that city bowl or overseas. 

I attended my graduation and wore that gown and sash and had the moment I had pictured for the 6 long years it took me to earn my degree.  The previous time I attended a graduation was around 25 years ago.   I haven't use my degree and I am not practicing as a social worker but I am finally ok with that.  Nothing is wasted and I am forever changed in a good way.  One day Daniel will make an absolute fortune and we will set up a NPO together which I will run.  He has always known he will need to give back when he is really successful and I have the time to wait.

I ran my 1st marathon.  I literally said I would never ever run one.  I only started running at 42.  All those years I could have been sporty and active but I reckon this body of mine has many years left of being physically active.  I really intend living a long time and I am trusting both God and science for good health and longevity.  If I hit 88 I get another 40 years.  That's super exciting because I can do so much in 40 years and go to so many places!!

We renewed our wedding vows in Skiathos where we had our first romantic holiday 17 years prior.  Marriage is damn hard work, a constant organism that needs to be nurtured and fed and looked after.  Sometimes we wilt a little and things aren't so perky and then we get back on track and do life together.  We have more and more evenings alone and in 3 and half years time, our youngest is done with high school.

I job hunted.  I made my CV and I put myself out there and I faced rejection and I then I did it some more.  And then I met Isabel who offered me a job and we clicked and Frances & Tertia said why not.  Say yes, you have nothing to lose.  No it's not your area of expertise and yes you are sucky at admin but just say yes and figure it out.  So I did and I do love my job and I am still figuring it out but it is what I am most proud of in my 47th year.  I got a real job and I earn a salary.  A small one but a salary non the less after a very very long time of earning nothing.  I am really proud of myself. 

I continued to raise my kids and have my friendship with them deepen and develop as they get older.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be close to all 3 of my kids.  I am well aware it is beyond priceless.  One of the things I really want to work on in my 48th year, is becoming closer to Sofia.  I have to stop calling her Sofie.  She asks me often and I guess I was hanging onto her junior school self.  I need to get to know her all over again.  She is such a closed book and I want that connection.   I love her.  I love my Rebeka and I love my Daniel.

We had our dream trip to the UK to surprise my brother Paulie.  His fave Mama and his 3 sisters.  We loved our week together and the opportunity to get to know Lisa a little better too.  Knowing how absolutely thrilled my dad would have been, made it extra special.

All in all I would say I had a pretty damn fine 47th year.  My forties have been the best time ever.  I am grateful I have 2 more years in my forties.  I really dread turning FIFTY but maybe I hit fifty and I love that decade too.  A new town, grown up kids studying and working and a grandbaby or 2 should make that decade incredible.  But right now I have my 48th year with my new exciting job, my move back to the house, a trip to Italy in June and the every day little bits of happy I am very grateful for.  Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My 2018: A year of leaning into the suck.


With Christmas around the proverbial corner I have my usual moment of reflection of the current year and thoughts, hopes and dreams for the New Year.  I always maintain no year is good or bad in its entirety.  People often say it was the worst year ever and they look forward to the next one like somehow all the hard and painful times are past, and the new year promises to be better, happier, easier.

The secret to a better, happier year lies in our ability to deal with the challenges, our mindfulness and gratitude for the good sweet bits in between and our reaction to events, which is all we have control of.   Shit happens, it just does.

One of the things I learned this year is instead of saying I am sorry all the time, we say thank you.  Like if a running group has to wait because you can’t keep up you don’t apologize for being slow, you thank them for waiting.  It is very hard to do and remember and I was habitually about to apologize right now, but instead I will say thank you.

Last New Years Eve I was not at a party drinking champagne and counting down and being festive.   I sat at the dining room table with my mother and 2 sisters playing rummikub waiting and willing for my father to die.  At that point he was no longer conscious or aware.  I have never felt more desperate begging God to take him.  Angry at everyone and everything for the extent of his suffering and by default, ours too.   On the 1st I woke up and he was still here.   He told us January and the stubborn old bugger, being a man of his word, departed on the memorable day of January 1st at 6:10 that evening.   He was 68 years old and he had believed he would beat his cancer and live till he was a very old man.   As most of you know, on January the 1st the previous year was the day I heard Natey had drowned.   (I was out of cell phone reception the evening he died)   On the 5th of January 2017 I attended Natey’s beautiful memorial service and on the 5th of January 2018, I attended my fathers’.  It is the day Mia drowned over 10 years ago.  It is the day I was supposed to get married 22 years ago.   The 1st and the 5th will forever be significant days for me.

So to my friends and family, thank you for excusing me this year and extending grace.  I have been absent, isolated, withdrawn, a little depressed and have not engaged very much.  Thank you to my friends who have not ignored me for the whole year and loved me anyway.  For not giving up on me even though I took some of your energy and did not always return it.  I am well aware my introverted nature means I will never be the life and soul of any party.  The fact I hardly drink alcohol means I will not be dancing on your table or be loud or that fun party animal.  My usual reserved self was especially quiet this year and I lived on planet grief thinking, thinking, thinking all the time.   As I approach the 1st anniversary of my father’s death I take note of the new me, the new normal of our family.

Not working or studying this year exacerbated the sense of isolation.  Moving to a new tightly knit town even more so.  I cannot NOT work.  It is just too depressing and demotivating.  I crave that sense of purpose and meaning.  I am excited to start my new job on January 7th.  I have no idea where it will go and what it will develop into but I am keeping an open mind and taking a leap of faith. 
So what have I actually achieved in 2018?
I spoke at my father’s service and stayed strong and worthy of our name.  We did him proud.
I did the Warm Water Weekend triathlon with my mates.
I cycled The Argus 109km cycle race along with 30 000 other people and hit my goal time.
I ran two oceans half marathon and many other races
I went back to Holland on holiday with my mother to see my fab aunt and her family
I moved house after 16 years in the same home
I tried very hard to integrate into my new town
I raced Ironman 70.3 very untrained and not very fit.  It was damn hard.
I graduated my degree cum laude after 6 years of studying.  (Not practicing as a social worker is a bummer but I still hope to do that some day.)
I went back to Skiathos in Greece after 17 years with Gary and my daughters and renewed my vows.  We had an incredible holiday.
I ran my very first marathon after swearing I would never do more than a half.
I found a job which I am excited about.
I grieved for my father and the family structure that was no longer.  I was able to talk and share and feel and ‘embrace the suck’ as Sheryl Sandberg so eloquently puts it.
I mothered my 3 kids helping them navigate their individual challenges.
Unfortunately an injury means I haven’t run for months which is a big deal for me but I hope to get strong and get back to running and training.
I survived 2018 even if I did not exactly thrive. 

And next year?   I will start the year camping in Beaverlac where I will honour my father on the 1st of January in a place he loved.  I will plan and document my hopes and dreams for 2019 and get myself together ready to face the challenges a new year brings.  I will be a working woman earning a salary and learning a whole new skill set.  My word for 2018 was SYNCHRONICITY.  My phrase for 2019 is LEAP OF FAITH.   Ready, Steady, GO!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Melliecopter?


Someone said something about my kids and then about my parenting last week that got me thinking.  The comment re my kids was clearly untrue so that fell away but the comment about my parenting was like a toothache that throbbed every now and again.   If a comment offends or upsets me I know there is an element of truth in it.  Growing and self-actualizing means I want to be better, do better, know more.  

Years ago pre my Gary I was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic.  I don’t talk about it much or even think about it but it is relevant to the topic at hand.  When he got drunk he would become a real arsehole.  He would shout at me just inches from my face: “You think you are so beautiful.  You think you are such a model.  You are just a bitch.”   His words failed to penetrate because they were simply not true.   It was his own extreme jealousy and insecurity.   So re the comment about my parenting:   The statement was about me being super over involved in my children’s lives.  Am I?  Do I need to change this?  I genuinely try and not be the lawnmower or helicopter parent so I said this wasn’t true which evoked much mirth from said person who said I interfered all the time.  Daniel said I didn’t actually and pretty much left him to his own devices.

But then the past few weeks or even month I have been super involved with 2 of my 3 kids.   They say we are only as happy as our unhappiest child and it is so true.   They need to handle the nitty gritty day to day stuff but the biggies, this is where I step in.   I feel our kids will make plenty of their own mistakes and learn plenty painful lessons and the resilience they need for life.   But, if they are really unhappy or I can see them making some really poor choices that have long term consequences, I will step in.  I will interfere, get involved and try and help them.   I have made so many of my own mistakes, which along with my 47 years of life, have given me some wisdom to impart.

So right now I am smack bang in the thick of things trying to love, support, advise, steer and soften the blows.  We all parent the best way we know how and I would imagine many see me as way too involved.   But, I see the future picture and I see the present struggle and I know they will get there.   But not alone, their Mama will walk a few paces behind and a few paces ahead and I will probably do this all their lives when times are tough.   I have made peace with this side of me.  It’s who I am and what I do.   It’s who we are as a family and what we do.  It’s all good.