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  I have been absent, isolated, withdrawn, a little depressed and have not engaged very much.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


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.   

Friday, October 12, 2018

Dazed & Confused: Bible study with no bible?

As you know I have moved to a new town and have found it somewhat lonely.  Friendships circles here are closed and long since established when kids were little and families grew.  Some of my previous friendships have proved to be less deep and permanent than I had believed them to be.  I guess they were born of proximity, circumstance and convenience and being out of sight equates to being out of mind.  I have my core girls who I love and appreciate but the daily interaction of mixing with girlfriends is something I miss living here.

So, when a girl I am friendly with invited me to her bible study months ago I was tempted but just too reluctant and it also clashed with other commitments.  Then this semester I happened to be free and decided to join.  My main motivation is more about friends than Jesus but I know He is good with that.   I was incredibly anxious but they were pretty cool and normal.  I used to go to bible study years ago but that was when I still attended church and considered myself a Christian.  Now I don't.  I am not a particular anything.  Not only do I not belong to any denomination, I don't belong at all.  My faith is called Just Jesus, and Just Love.  It has been simplified and purified and personalized. 

The bible is a book written by 40 authors long long ago.  We have learned only 1 human was perfect and that was Jesus.  Now we are saying that 40 people wrote this book and it is absolute fact and truth and the word of God.  Which means 40 people had it 100% right with non of their personal opinion and bias?  In my analytical mind this is simply not possible even without some of the stories which make absolute no sense to me.  I believe the earth has evolved over millions of years and God and science have partnered in creation.  I do not believe it is 6000 years old, or a guy built a massive boat and animals were kept in pairs in this boat while everything and everyone else drowned.  We have so many different species of each animal and it is simply not possible.  The guy in the whale?  The raining bread and all those other stories we learned as kids.  I believe in parables and the bible is full of history and wisdom but it is not the rule book by which I live my life or use to justify my actions.  Like any book, I take out what speaks to me and my truth.  And now I am at a bible study?  Mmmh, this is a tad confusing.

The other issue is when I moved house I packed my bible somewhere and I can't remember where.  And then the little snag of not having a church.  I can't see myself ever going back.  It would feel disrespectful to the people who do believe the bible 100% and follow all it's laws.  I have the utmost respect for those who believe in total faith that the bible is 100% true and God's word and it must make their life a lot simpler.  I don't believe homosexuality is a choice or a sin.  I don't believe many things that I should as a Christian.  So where does that put me then?  Someone who really loves Jesus, believes in the Holy Spirit and tries to live a life following every prompt/gut feel/nudge I get and being true to that and true to myself.  100% honest and sincere and the same.

So no bible, no church, total respect and inclusivity of all religions and cultures and differences and a critical thinker who believes we all have our own ever changing truth.  At a bible study.  I FB stalked the author of the study to see if she was a Trump supporter but I couldn't see anything.  The right wing American support and defense of Trump has left me seriously confused too.  I have no issue with republicans and I can understand how their belief in the bible and not pro choice would mean they are not democrats.  But Trumpsters?  No, I don't get it at all and I don't understand why they think he is a man of God, a man worthy of respect or support?  I read the FB threads and while the libtards/snowflakes (who I identify with) can be really over PC and lose their sense of hunour, they don't hate.  The Trump Christians on the other they can spew hate like toxic vomit.  Where does it all come from?  That extreme hatred and intolerance and disregard for anyone not like them?  Where is the kindness and Jesus love?  How can the church defend him and his cronies?  When do they hold him accountable? 

But back to my bible study.  I really liked the ladies and appreciated how they made me feel.  God can do all sorts of things with all sorts of people so I will stay open and see where it takes me.  Worse case scenario I make a few new friends.  Best, new friends and my faith grows and I find a place where I belong and can still keep my value system and stay true to my beliefs.   Can I get a Hallelujah and Amen?!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Everything comes at a price

My dad had many little quotes and sayings and this was one of them.  This has felt especially true for my mother after his passing.  She has the freedom to go anywhere whenever with whomever and come home at any time but the price of him not being there is just too great a cost.

I moved to Stellenbosch at the end of April.  It is literally the neighboring town and 20kms away.  I underestimated the impact of this move on my life.  When you first move to a new town and have a young, growing family, you make a ton of ‘mom’ friends.  It’s ante-natal classes and baby swimming and moms & tots and then its playschool and kindergarten and junior school.  You are intricately involved in the busy lives of your offspring, which is all consuming.  You engage with your community and roll up your sleeves getting stuck in.  Every time you go to the store you bump into someone you know and have a yak.  You fit and you belong and you are part of the puzzle with your piece fitting in seamlessly.  It’s comfortable and safe and familiar.  And a little stagnant too.

So after 16 years we made the move and found a house to rent close to the girls’ school and in the town where Daniel lives.  Stellies is a university town so an eclectic mix of students and families and old Afrikaans families that have lived there forever.  We own our previous home which has been renovated a few times to fit us perfectly.  This new home is a rental and for Gary, not his home.  He understands the need for convenience of being close to the schools but it is just not his home.  The girls and I are more flexible and we are happy to live in this house that has this fantasy beautiful enormous garden and pool.  It will be spectacular in the summer that creeps around in a few months time.   When your kids are teens you are less involved and mothers have long since got their groups of established friends.  I get it, I do and I try not to take it personally.

I drive up and down all afternoon fetching and carrying and being 5 minutes from school stays an amazing novelty.  In summer they can walk down although this is probably an unrealistic fantasy.   I have found a doctor and a dentist and I am building up my infrastructure network.    Just not my personal network.  I pretend to be cool and not needy so casually ask if anyone can help me out with a ride for my girls.  After no response I find one…it’s uber.  When I go down to the store I bump into no one for a random chat in the pasta aisle.  One would think this is great, being anonymous but it’s not.   But…I have running.  And not just regular running, I have the trails.  More forest and mountains than I could ever hope to cover.  I walk out my house up the road and I am in the mountains.  I have found such a fun trail group I run with on a Wednesday and Friday morning.  Another social group on a Thursday morning.  I also have a friend, a real life friend who is my Tuesday partner and we yak all the way.  When my marathon is done I will join the walking moms once a week as we head for the mountains with an assortment of over excited dogs.

Human contact and interaction and belonging with the added gift of my mountain and forest.  It is not the close network of friends who I had.  No one will randomly pop in for tea or a glass of wine and somehow my old friends don’t seem to make the 20km drive out to Stellies to hook up.  It’s the price I pay for living in this beauty.  The loss of a close spontaneous friendship circle and support.  The loss of my familiar home with its cozy fireplace and a non grumbly husband because he was happy there.   It is good practice and a reality check if I ever relocate to another country.  The lonely non belonging will be even worse. It HAS to be somewhere exquisite be it mountains, lakes, forest or oceans and I will always run and run and run.  Everything comes at a price.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The shame of my shame

I had a non stellar parenting moment the other day which I now need to try and take back.  I am finding age 16 extremely challenging.  Like hiking a mountain in heels without wearing a bra challenging.  Boy child was relatively easy back then although his then girlfriend was 16 and she was forking terrifying!  She has since grown up so light is way up ahead of teen girl tunnel.  My beautiful, smart, intelligent daughter is incredibly self-critical and sees only her flaws.  Nothing I say is taken into account as she believes my bias prevents me from seeing her how she actually is.  So I should lead by example right?   No self criticism or self sabotage.

The completion of my degree has that inevitable anti-climatic feeling.  I worked very hard for very long and felt a sense of achievement and purpose.  I love learning and the expansion of my mind and world views.  Now it is done and dusted and I want to find some kind of flexi or part time job, which so far, I have been unable to find.  If I add my 2 degrees together I have studied for 9 years.  NINE!  And I have no job or career with an income?  What even??

So we driving in the car and I say to Rebeka I am so ashamed of myself for being totally 100% financially dependent.  I feel like I have squandered my gifts and talents.  How on earth did I get to this age and not have built up a career and a respectable income?   I was smart and ambitious and hard working.  I AM smart and ambitious and hard working.   Do I sound vain?  Probably bi-polar as half of me feels unemployable and incapable, and the other half of me thinks how did I land up like this knowing I have much to offer and how fab I am?

I loved raising my children and the time I got to spend with them.  I loved working in non profit and still do.  But, I am not a career girl.  The only wheeling and dealing I do is driving to school and constantly negotiating with my daughters.   I want more and I don’t know how to get there.  I want the best of both worlds.  I still want to be that soccer mom in the afternoons and train early mornings but I also want to work and build a career and some confidence.  I should not be defined by what I do.  Yet somehow I am and I feel shame at doing nothing.  Being nothing.  Contributing nothing.  And then the shame of that shame as surely I have gained enough wisdom to know what I do is not who I am?  I am 47.  Is this some kind of mid life crises?    Do I need a Porsche or a 27 year old boyfriend?   I don’t want either.  I want a challenging exciting stimulating flexible job where I work with people and earn some money and make a difference and still have time for my kids and my training.  Hear that God?  Can you please give me some direction and leads and a little favour here to make this all happen?   Please!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Inside Out

Do you ever feel inside out?  Like all your emotions and heart and soul are on the outside totally exposed to the elements.  This is me at times, sensitive to everything both beautiful and ugly.

I would be such a good candidate for an anti-depressant.  I would feel normal whatever that is.  In the middle.  But ironically this month marks 6 years of living with dystonia which flares up when I am in this over sensitive place.  I hate, hate, hate my dystonia.  I hate the relentlessness and the hopelessness.  I am not sure if I have real toothache or if the nerves are just inflamed from clenching and pulsing.  The irony of taking something to get you out of a bleak place only to be left with something far worse.  Oh if I could turn back the clock and coax myself out of that place without meds.  But how many people wish they could go back with far worse situations than mine?  People who have lost loved ones.  Sorry, I am digressing here stuck in my pity party.

You know how you cry at everything after you have just had a baby?  That is me lately.  I can't even blame hormones as menopause has fortunately not made an appearance yet.  I don't know how to get out of this place.  Where is the exit?  Regular people will be advised to try exercise, breathing, visualization, journaling.  Ticking all the boxes there.  Gratitude, mindfulness and all the other granola therapies are also present in my life.  This extreme inside-outness means I really do see and appreciate all the beauty too.  But seeing and reading beautiful things makes me want to weep as well.  I am having an emotional acid trip and the intensity of everything is overloading my system.

It has been a crazy week, one of those where you cannot believe how much has happened in just 7 days.  People I care about are going through heartache, I wish I could make it better.  I want to make everything better for everyone.  I don't want anyone to hurt.  I know their is sweetness in sorrow, I know it sharpens us so we do see the beauty and love in all things.  But less please.  Give me a little beige, a little grey, a happy medium.  Where is the exit?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Planet Grief

Nothing much in life is certain other than the fact we are all going to die one day.  After this guaranteed fact we have various ideas of what this means and where we go if anywhere at all.  Many of us believe in some kind of after life because 'nothing' is just too bleak.   We need to believe the people we love whose souls were intertwined with ours, are somewhere and if we think about them we can feel them, we sense them and we search for proof those souls we miss, are somewhere.

Planet grief feels a lot like planet depro.  At times I have wondered if I am depressed and could quite easily tick the boxes.  But then I allow myself to look up at the vastness and mystery of this planet I now live on and I know, it is grief in all its complexities and I live here now.

Sometimes I forget and I have moments of respite and of course, many moments of joy and happiness.   If I keep busy enough and swim till my lungs burst and run and run and run I can leave it behind for a while.  Biking is different.   It is a soothing lovely side of grief where I am outside in the sun and ever constantly thinking of my father searching the sky for an eagle hoping he will visit.  I feel protected despite the constant attacks on cyclists we face in my country.  I always pray and ask God and my dad to keep me safe.  They are a team now and I listen out for their voice and wonder what they would say.  About my kids and home and future career and life in general.  My protectors.  I searched so for that eagle yesterday but nothing.  And then Sofia tells me how they were driving and one swooped right down and landed on a lamp post as she drove past.   The relief.  Because gone is simply not possible and I can't do gone.  Thanks Dad, for checking up on Sofia.  She is better as you can see.  Her spirit is lighter.  Mine, mine feels heavy.

I have all the rules in my head and recipes of how I should do this but nothing makes sense.  Those 16 months of fucking horrendous cancer trying to use up as much sad as I could, well it just multiplied.  I wanted to use it up so only relief would remain.  We are 7 months in.  Life goes on and we go on but nothing will be the same ever again.  I suppose I was lucky to have lived so long without a significant loss.  The first was Natey.  The loss of him launched me onto planet Grief like no one else in my life ever has.  Not even Bee or Aidan really took me there.  Where even breathing hurts.   Once again the rules are out the window.  Who am I to grieve this little boy who I never met?  What right do I have?  It makes no sense but it just is.  And my dad.  We were not super close.  I did not have the same connection as Tertia.  So why am I so damn sad?  Am I making it up?  Is it the melancholy side of me?   Is it real?  Do I grieve for what wasn't but should have been?  The tease of closeness of the last 6 months and easy affection I craved all my life.  My sweet, kind, accessible brave father who I got to really see when he was dying.  I don't know.  I just know I miss him and think of him every day.  I miss the unit of my parents.  I miss us being a 6 person family.  Mom, Dad, Tertia, me, Nina and Paul.  Us.  Now it is the 4 of us and Mom.  And I can't quite wrap my head around it.  We live alone on our planets.  Our different relationships and dynamics and personalities means no one grieves the same even when we lose the same person.  It is lonely on planet Grief. 

I miss my dad.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What goes up, must come down.

I pretty much have 2 settings.  Super excited and stoked, positive and ready to take on the world or gutted, disappointed and sad.  I don't think I am bi-polar but just somewhat extreme.  It's pretty tiring for poor Gary and it's really tiring for poor me.

If I wasn't a HSP (highly sensitive person) I would be on an anti-dep or mood stabilizer to even out my emotions and highs and lows.  I would be somewhere in the middle, chilled and tra lah lah.  The last time I hit a massive, massive low and went on an anti-dep I landed up with my life long dystonia.  That was 6 years ago.  So now I have to manage them, the extreme euphoria and the deep sadness and melancholy.  That's a cool name for a band actually.  If I had a friend called Collie...Mel and Collie.  But I digress.

So this year has been super intense.   January 1st I watched my father die after a torturous long battle.  Massive relief, massive loss and later massive sadness.  It just happened to be on the same day I found out about Natey and they then shared a memorial date of January 5th.   Then it was a really fun weekend away for a triathlon on the West Coast with my trichicks.  In between all this I packed and packed and sorted my life of 16 years as we prepared to move.  I had Two Oceans half marathon and Argus cycle tour and then the wonderful trip to Holland. 

I knew I had to look for a job but with 3 trips and my race in June, the job hunt was put on hold.  Truth be told I was also afraid to get a job.  It has been a long time since I had to write a CV and apply for a job and have an interview.  !7 years in fact.

My trip to Holland with my mom to see my funky crazy aunt and her family was divine.  Holland in Spring time is an absolute treat and the flowers beyond description.  On the day I flew back Natey's brother Benjamin was born.  Perfect and healthy and beautiful.  After I got home I had 3 days to pack up the rest of the house and we moved on the 28th of April.  Stress way beyond my worst nightmare.  Day 1 the mattress catches fire and fortunately the mover saw it and chucked it down the stairs and outside.  No bed, burn holes in the carpet and a blackened wall.  Day 2 the dogs eat leftover rattex.  They get rushed to the vet.  She said they would have been dead in 48 hours and they had to vomit up all the poison. 

Eventually I settle in the house and I love it and I love the area.  I do some last minute training for my Ironman 70.3 in Durban.  I race it unprepared and its insanely hard but I do it for my dad and I do it for Natey and I finish.  Broken but finished.  On a high.

As the high of the race wears off I have my graduation 2 weeks later.  A massive heart racey high and big sense of achievement.   I had wanted to quit so many times over those 6 years.  I had also wanted to give up my cum laude goal but I pushed on and pushed hard.  And then I was there in the cap and gown and they called my name managing to pronounce my surname.   Daniel shouts Go Mom just I shouted the previous year at his: Go Daniel!

I fly 11 days later on our dream holiday and it's yet another high.  The packing and planning and excitement, the break from the cold weather and the planning of our vow renewal which I have wanted to do for many many years now.  Athens was awesome, vibey and dirty and real and interesting and organic.  I don't know why people hate it as it is what it is and we found it really fascinating.  After 2 full days we get to beautiful Skiathos.  Exactly the same as 17 years before.  Our holiday is divine, not having small whiney needy kids is divine.  The girls are fully into this vow renewal.  They want a priest and a photographer and dresses.  I want Gary, my girls and the beach.  I think about my father every day but especially that evening.  We had this big family trip planned for Dec 2018 for the 50th of my sister, the 70th of both parents and then the 50th wedding anniversary.  But then he gets sick and dies and he never gets to turn 69 never mind 70.  So we didn't wait till we were married 20 years, we just booked the trip.  15 years is special enough.  Our little service is perfect as we re promise our lives together now older and wiser and having gone through all the seasons in our marriage.  We are resilient, stubborn and committed and that's what it takes to keep a marriage solid.  I have no doubt we will still go through stormy times but quitting is just not an option.  We like each other, we fit, we make each other laugh.  Opposites in everything, right and left.  This somehow works.  Both girls speak and then we do and Sofia gets all teary and it confirms all that hard work and fight to keep my marriage healthy is worth it.  A gift to my children.  The rest of the holiday is full of sun and books and swims in exquisite turquoise sea.  Greek food and tourists and Mama Mia songs and scenes.

After a long flight home with 3 legs, Daniel collects us and we chat about his next trip.  His ticket which costs R5000.  Surely that's impossible??  No, no. it's a one way remember.  He is going.  He is starting a new life in a different country and I get this massive lump in my throat.  No impromptu visits for free dinner.  No joining the family with Sam on our camping trips, or Christmas or his birthday or mine.  He is really going, forever.  I have always known this but the reality kicks me in my gut.  I am not going to be the granny I always imagined.  I will live across the world and won't be at every single school recital or special event.  I have 3 children and I will have to choose one day where we live.  I want to call my dad as he would get it but I can't.  My youngest is having a tough time.  She won't open up so I can only love her and wait to catch her if she falls.  My middle is 16.  Intense and demanding.  Pushing me away and pulling me close.  Wanting independence yet keeping me at a distance so I am not too far.  Somehow I am in that next phase of parenting and it's hard.  I have no job yet, no studies and no real sense of purpose or achievement.   It's the end of all the crazy highs and reality kicks in.  I am in this rented house in a town that is hard to break into.  I feel really really lonely and isolated. I feel low.

Tuesday, I will crawl back up on Tuesday.  School starts and I will find a job and volunteer so long.  I will continue trying to break into this tight town.  I will carry on training for my marathon.  I need to swim again, it is always my healer, being in the water and breathing and counting my strokes.  I miss my dad.  So much more than I imagined.  I will find my mojo and my direction and a self that is less reliant on the role and purpose of being a mother.  It is time for Mel & Collie to leave the building and UltraMel to step up.  Just not today.  Tuesday.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sweet 16...To our Rebeka

My dear Rebeka

21st of June, the longest night of the year being the winter solstice and your 16th birthday.  SIXTEEN?  I am shooketh.  Ok fine, I know it's cringe when Moms use teen slang.  Like high key bad.  Sorry, that was the last one.  For real!

So you know how I write you a letter every year on your birthday?  Well last year I can only find Sofe's so that's why I am putting it here on my blog.  Years from now you can come back and read all these letters and get a glimpse of how we both were.   We are both so sentimental, similar in many ways but I am really enjoying watching you become your own person.

This year I have decided I will write down 16 of some of my fave memories of you and us. Next year I will give you 17 pieces of wisdom you are likely to discard and later find out for yourself.

So, out of the thousands of memories to get you to this milestone birthday, here are a few that make me smile.

1. Your birth.
I can take myself right back there, walking down the passage and having this crazy moment where I looked at Daddy and I said to myself:  I am having Gary Novitzkas's baby.  Like really??   We had known each other for years and didn't like each other way back.  I was a tree hugger hippie, Dad was ex military.  Maybe we are still kind of the same?   Your labour, me walking and rocking and focused.  Dad watching the football on TV.  Him hogging the loo and me yelling at him to hurry up.  Shit!  Nothing has changed.  How funny is that??  The pain at the end and using that power to push you out.  Putting you on my chest, exhausted and triumphant and powerful.   Geez you were red and cross and massive.  And you yelled so we were sweating trying to dress you.   Daddy fell in love instantly.  I loved you and calmed you and we connected forever.  Nothing has changed there too.
2. Your first pair of shoes
Little pink suede Woolies sandals.  Not the most glam compared to those plastic clippy clop shoes you became obsessed over later, but good for your tiny little fat feet.   You marched up and down the aisle at the store and everyone just stopped to look at you loving your new shoes.
3. How you loved your Mimi.
And still do.  You were crazy about her and not just because she brainwashed you saying "You love your Mimi" from the time all her grandkids were born.  You would only sleep on her chest and fetching you to bring you home was a total mare as you screamed all the way home.  You were pretty scary!
4. Your response to your sister
You were only 2 years and 8 days when Sofia arrived.  You looked at my still round belly and said: "Baba in tummy Mama?"  No!  Just my post baby belly.  You had started potty training and every time I would feed the baby you would decide you needed a wee and off we rushed to the loo with sister stuck in the boob only to find out it was a false alarm.  Fifi & Becks, you guys were so cute together.
5. Your kindness at Happy Days with the bitchy girl
She was pretty awful to you so naturally I secretly wanted to punch her spiteful little face but you stayed kind.  You made her a gift and I asked her why you want to bless her when she makes you sad and you said you just did.  You wanted to make her happy.  So you gave her the gift and took the wind right out her sails.  You came in the opposite spirit.
6.  Your school concerts, especially the last one
With Daniel, it was just me for 6 years so having Dad with to watch you through the years and share in my joy and pride has been divine.  Your grade 7 year in your pink dress on the stage all alone being Molly.  I wanted to bawl!
7. The Belle dress
No one loved to dress up more than you.  You were a princess and life was a fairy tale with a closet full of sparkly bling ball gowns and tiaras and shoes.  Then one Christmas you asked Father Christmas for a Belle dress.  It had to be gold and shiny with a hooped skirt.  Dad and I went shopping and there it was, the perfect dress at Woolies.  A real Belle ballgown.  You wore it to church and you walked like a little queen and charmed the entire congregation. 
8. Our Mauritius holiday
It was the first time on a plane.  You cried when you said goodbye to Lucy and Zara but once we were on our way, you were beside yourself.  Watching you waterski, your shrieking under water when we snorkeled, you with Daniel and Sofie on that tube.  My real best was one evening when Dad and I watched you with your sister in your sega dresses dancing.   You girls and Dani loved those outfits.
9. That kitesurf day
Do you remember?  It was late afternoon and we went down to the beach even though it was super windy.  We decided to be brave and swim anyway and this kitesurfer gave you each a ride on his board.  You were flying along.  In hindsight I should have probably said no when some strange dude offered to take my daughter off in the ocean but oh my word it was exciting.
10. The big swing
Walking down with Goose while you girls were on the scooters and then taking turns for 20 swings each.  Again and again while my arm almost fell off.  I can see your hair flying and your big smile and loud laugh.  We should go down again, just for old times sake.
11.  Night swims
Those awesome summer nights when I would allow you to skip going to bed and we would swim till our skins turned wrinkly.  And days when you girls jumped in with your school clothes on.  Mimi allowed us to do that too.  Imagine how divine this pool will be in the summer?
12. Greys 
That darn spoiler alert when you watched an episode before me and you cried so much so I just knew someone big died and then it was our Mac Dreamy.  Derrick!  That was so uncool Shonda. Lexi and O'Mally and Izzy's boyfriend and Teddy's husband and Mark.  I love watching Greys and Survivor with you.
13.  When you got your dress for your 13th.
We went to the dressmaker and didn't have too much time till the party.  She looked at you and said: You don't want a ballgown do you?  And you said: Actually I do please Auntie Jenny.  Well of course she couldn't resist and you looked so pretty in that dress.  Mimi loves the picture of Helena doing your lipstick.  It was a lovely birthday. 
14.  Christmas
All of them.  Choosing our tree, getting Dad to help us put it up and hanging all the decorations.  Feeling the stockings to feel whose is fullest.  Later when you girls finally no longer believed in Father Christmas we could put all the gifts under the tree.  Every year you wake up a little later but it stays our favourite holiday.  Remember when we had Christmas in Singapore and Nina made Yorkshire pudding and you ate so many?  And our best one before Pops got very very sick and we were all together. 
15.  Orange River
I wish I could have gone too but I knew you were having such a good time.  Trying to pack everything in 2 buckets when you are the WORST packer.  You getting so upset because you lost your sunblock and you thought I would be so cross.  It's weird when you do that.  Over estimate how mad I will get about something and work yourself up into such a state.  It was the longest that we haven't spoken, 5 long days of not hearing your voice. 
16. Mmmh.  I need to end with my fave but I have too many.  Gordon's Bay?
Our 24 hours away staying in the guest house.  I fetched you from school in the middle of the day and when Miss Liezel asked where we were going, I said bunking and you were all nervous and giggly.  We drove for a while and you looked at the back of the car and suddenly knew we were going away.  Its weird how just 1 day together can be so special when we just picked up shells and went to the bookshop and ate dinner in our beds.  You were 10 years old.

I am incredibly blessed to have had you for these past 16 years and we have so many more years to make so many more memories.  If all goes as hoped, I am around for another 40 plus years and we have the rest of school and university and travels and weddings and babies and then the ordinary little days in between. 

I love you Rebeka Scarlett.  Happy HAPPY birthday my Becks.

Mom aka Maaaaa.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Sentimental on 'roids

I am hopelessly sentimental, idealistic and a lover of romance and love itself.  This means I remember all sorts of dates which hold value to me.  Today was a huge day, today is the 27th of April.

Today is my parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  He wanted to take my mother to the Serengeti to see the migration of the animals.  Last year we all went out for lunch and I gave them pretend medals for putting up with each other.  He looks relatively healthy and normal in the photographs.  It is a bittersweet day having them stay married for this lifetime and him passing just 4 months before.  He should have had another decade at least.  He was only 18 when he got married, just a boy.  They had their ups and downs and drove each other batshit crazy like couples everywhere but my father loved my mother with that once in a lifetime great love.  We came second, she was his number 1.  My brave mom who misses him and is living out a whole new life, I just know he is super proud of his wife.

Freedom day in South Africa and a public holiday.  We finally had our first post apartheid democratic election.  We were hopeful and optimistic about change in our country.  Sadly massive corruption, greed and inefficiency means poverty, violence and crime is worse than ever.  Services are lacking in all spheres and the gift of freedom lacked the partner of responsibility it should have co-existed with.  But, it is our rainbow nation and where we live and I love my dysfunctional crazy beautiful country.

The last night in my home.  What a happy home this has been for all of us.  We raised our children in this home and enjoyed them and and their many friends.  We did so many alterations spending far too much money but it was perfect for us for a long time.  I am sad to leave my home but excited for a fresh start.  I so wish it was sold rather than rented out as I cannot have the closure I wanted but such is life.  The thought of having to move again in a year's time is also a ballache but that's next year's problem.   It is already nighttime and in 12 hours the movers arrive and it is chaotic.  I worked so hard before I left but the 10 days I was away were not ideal and the girls did nothing so now it's rush, rush, rush.  Even the painters are working through the night tonight as I had thought they were booked to do the job while I was away.

The date of my 1st kiss with Gary.  17 years ago in my driveway of my parent's house.  A fleeting kiss due to my dad hovering at the top of the stairs.  I felt 16 instead of 30.  Who knew we would be together and parents of our beautiful girls and Daniel and our 4 dogs.  We are partners in this life.   

Koningsdag in Holland.  The entire country dress up in orange and they have these festivals everywhere to celebrate their king Willem-Alexander's birthday.  I am glad my mom gets to have the entire country celebrate her anniversary with her and the mood looks so fun.  I am also so relieved my brother and his wife Lisa are spending the day with her as well as her sister and Derrick which would make my dad happy.  He would have loved the crazy festivities of the day.  It is a total bummer I had to fly back on the 24th but the move meant I had no other option.

So much emotion today and gratitude for the marriage of my parents and my beautiful home.   I am crazy stressed and my jaw and mouth a 9.5 right now but it is what it is and I just have to wear my big panties for the week and do this big move.  Next time I write will be in my new home in my new study looking out at my exquisite garden.   I am also going to start a new blog...Singapore fling never ever happened.  Six years have passed and so many things have changed.  Right, time to carry on shoving shit in boxes.  The careful sorting and packing is over now, it's crunch time!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The last day of my 46th year

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I usually love my birthday and arrange something to celebrate the day but I am not really in the birthday mood this year.  I think it's a combination of factors that have squashed my birthday mojo. 

Firstly I am moving house which is massively stressful.  It takes up all my physical and mental energy and causes my anxiety to spike.  I am also super stoked to move and have a fresh start and this massive clearout of 16 years of possessions.  I really wish we had sold our home and bought a new home to have proper closure and a real new beginning but it wasn't to be.  So I trust my tenants will look after my home and I trust we will be happy in our rented home even though it's only for one year.

Then in just a few days I fly to Holland with my mom for 10 days.  Our last trip was the day after my 40th birthday when we went to Singapore and Thailand and had such an amazing time.  We are excellent travel partners and spend most of the time laughing and looking for bargains and adventures.  We said we would go every second year but time passes and life happens and now its seven years on.  My aunt lives there and is a total hoot so we will have a fabulous time.  I can only stay for 10 days due to family and life plus the big move is on the 28th so I will have just 3 days for the last pack up.  But, I will try and not worry about that when I am there.

And lastly, my old dad who won't be calling me tomorrow to wish me happy birthday.  Its been a hard 3 months since he passed, it was a hard 16 months before that.  We miss him.  We miss our family unit intact with everyone in their places and roles.  One person is no longer there and the remaining family members are left trying to adjust to a new normal.   

My 46th year was a good one even with the losses and grief and mourning.  I finally finished my degree after 6 years.  My graduation is in June and I hope to start work in July or August.  I have treasured and enjoyed my friendships so much.  I have a tribe of incredible women in my life who I love and who love me.  I am very grateful I enjoy good health and a fit body at this age.   Healthier and fitter than I was 20 years ago, happier too.  Last month I cycled the 109km Argus, I did an olympic distance tri, a mile open water swim and ended the month with a half marathon.  All these things were totally impossible for me just 5 years ago.  The cliche of mid life crises and life beginning at 40 rings true.  It will always stay hard for me and my mind and body do not match re my goals and ambitions but it keeps me humble and keeps me pushing.

Big kids...I love having older children.  Pregnancy and babies and toddlers and little people were a fun and crazy time in our family and the role of mother was bigger than any other.  I embraced the season in my life and mothered 100% full on.  Now at age 13, 15 and 21 I get to step back and guide and protect and advise but it's less full on.  The other bits of me have more space.  It is time for my career now which is kak scary.  I question my capabilities, if I have it.  Can I do it?  I have massive imposter syndrome after my studies.  I aced my studies but now its real life and I feel insecure re if I can actually do this.  And what the 'is this' actually is???  What exactly do I want to do with my degree?  Where do I fit in?    Its like I am 18 years old and I need a career counselor to direct my path.

So 46 is done.  Another year of my life.  A big one with big scary grown up stuff.   Losing my father.  Life is a series of lost and found.  47 arrives tomorrow.  New house, exciting travels, my ironman 70.3 in June, my career.  I can't believe I am this old?  More than half of my life has been lived.  Many never get to 47 so I thank God for my life past and thank Him for my future.  I go forward with trepidation and excitement and expectation and I feel the presence of my father keeping me safe and still guiding my choices.  I am incredibly blessed and profoundly grateful for another birthday and this 47th year with all the possibilities it has to offer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Owning the red high heels

Last weekend my youngest daughter went to a formal school dance.  It was the annual Daddy Daughter Dance at Rhenish High and we decided she would get an alone night with her dad, and her sister and her could share him the following year.

For once we were actually prepared and went shopping 2 weeks prior to the dance.   By some wonderful miracle we found the dress in the first 30 minutes at the first shop.  I hate shopping even more than I hate cleaning up vomit which gives you an idea of how not fun it is for me.  And...the dress was under budget and so pretty and not at all sexy which is the look Mom was going for and fortunately daughter liked it too.  Daughter is one of those people that are born sexy.  She just can't help it and has had a swag and star factor since she arrived 13 years ago.  Fortunately she is still pretty unaware and innocent which I hope to keep for as long as possible.

Next stop we hit the dreaded mall and I steer her to the sale section but Madame is like her Mimi and her eye falls on the most pricey pair they have.  They are red and very high and rather sexy.  She puts them on and sashays down the aisle like she has been wearing heels all her life.  Most kids her age would be awkward and fall around like a drunken Bambi but she doesn't.  She rocks the heels which match the dress perfectly.  My first instinct is no.  What will people think when they look at such a young girl in such high shoes?   But what do I think?  And what does she think?

So then I start thinking about how much we parent because we want to avoid the disapproval and judgement of other parents.  "Ooh I would NEVER let Suzie wear that, say that, go there, eat that blah blah frikking blah."  So I think haters gonna hate and we love the shoes and she looks stunning and I know who she is and so does she so Madame CAN get the shoes.   We book the leg wax and the hair appointment and she gets all ready.  She does her make-up way better than I do which is not saying much at all.  She walks out the door with her head held high looking absolutely breath taking and poised and lovely.  Of course she soon took them off and wore her adidas trainers on the dance floor but she made her entrance.

So what's the point of my story?   We are so deliberate in how we parent coming off a base where our parents did the bare minimum and we still thrived after being burnt in the sun, eating shit, driving in the car while they smoked and only had to be home when it got dark.  Our under parenting has made us over parent and the complexity of social media makes it that much harder.  Go with your gut.  You know your own kid.  Your family values.  You are their mom and that means its you, the other parental figure and the kid that get to decide.
  Here is my girl in her heels.  Feeling and looking beautiful.