Thoughts on life choices

I was chatting to an old school friend the other day and he asked me when I planned on completing my degree, it got me thinking; there really is no reason why I can’t start studying again, but the fact is I simply don’t want to.

Growing up, the expectation (to me it felt like pressure) was always there that I would study further and “do something with my life”. I did quite well at school and I was always rather studious, so I suppose it was a natural expectation. Funny thing is, I have never been even slightly ambitious. I truly have never had any desire whatsoever to have a career as opposed to a job.

Much to my mother’s disgust, my dream was always to be a teacher. She had far loftier plans for me, I was to study to become a chartered accountant and take over my father’s business when he retired. She was bitterly, bitterly disappointed when, having headed off to follow her dream, I dropped out of ‘varsity after 9 months and went to work as a bank clerk. I think it was the bitterest pill she had ever had to swallow and I don’t think she has ever quite finished swallowing it.

Once I became a mom, all I ever wanted to do was be a mother. If finances had permitted I would have become a housewife in a heartbeat. If I had the choice I would still give up my job in an instant. Now that my girls are big, I would probably need to find something to keep my brain occupied, but I could quite easily find that something at home.

I wonder what it is that makes some people career-oriented and others not? I know that for me the fact that my parents were both fully immersed in their careers probably had something to do with my determination to be a hands-on type of mom, to have family as my priority rather than work. I have nothing against career-woman-type-moms, if that’s what floats your boat, go for it. But I never had any intention of being one.

I want to be the one who hears all about my child’s day at school the moment they come out of the school gate. I want to be the one taking care of them if they are ill and unable to go to school. I want to spend the afternoon helping them with homework and school projects, ferrying them to swimming lessons and the library. That’s just who I am and those are my priorities. Although we have suffered financially because of this life-style, I’ve never regretted my decision for a single minute. My girls and I have had so much quality time together over the years and to me that is worth far more than any power suit or fancy sports car. I’d choose a sandwich and coffee with my daughters over a business lunch any day!

37 Things Meme

I stole this meme from Charlotte's Web . The original had 40 questions, but as three of them were quite weird, most people have dropped them and it has become the 37 Things meme. If you want to see the full 40 questions, have a look at Open Book, the weird ones are No.13, No.26 and No. 31.

1. My uncle once: made me the most beautiful grandfather clock, which I love dearly
2. Never in my life: have I done drugs
3. When I was five: I was a funny, pathetic little thing
4. High school was: a roller-coaster ride that I wouldn’t want to repeat
5. I will never forget: the moment I became a mom
6. Once I met: a guy whose ambition in life was to be a criminal!
7. There’s this girl I know: who lacks confidence and I really don’t know why, because she is beautiful, friendly, outgoing and so, so special.
8. Once, at a bar: a whole bunch of people refused to speak to me because they had seen me hugging an Indian co-worker (he was gorgeous, it was in the apartheid years……)
9. By noon, I’m usually: ready for some lunch
10. Last night: I was woken up in the middle of the night by a daughter with sore ankles!
11. If only I had: enough money, I would pay off my mortgage
12. Next time I go to church: I will give thanks for my many blessings
13. What worries me most: is the security situation in my beloved country
14. When I turn my head left I see: a calendar
15. When I turn my head right I see: a window and through it I see the blue, blue sky of a South African Winter, it's beautiful.
16. You know I’m lying when: I try hard not to smile
17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: the adrenalin rush!!
18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Ophelia
19. By this time next year: I hope to be thinner and fitter (yeah right!!)
20. A better name for me would be: Piglet
21. I have a hard time understanding: racism
22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: study harder and smile more, gawd I was a pain in the butt!
23. You know I like you if: I invite you around for a meal
24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: my husband
25. Take my advice, never: put on weight that you are going to have to lose oneday (do you get the impression that I am not enjoying the diet I am on??)
26. My ideal breakfast is: muesli and yoghurt
27. A song I love but do not have is: “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker
28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: take a drive to Lake Merthley (don't tell a soul, but I have skinny dipped in Lake Merthley!)
29. Why won’t people: accept that chocolate is a food group?
30. If you spend a night at my house: you may just wake up with a dog in the bed
31. I’d stop my wedding for: Hugh Grant…..maybe LOL!
32. The world could do without: pollution
33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: eat another oyster
34. My favourite blonde is: my daughter Paula
35. Paper clips are more useful than: drawing pins
36. If I do anything well it’s: because I am in the mood to do it, if I am not in the mood it just aint gonna happen!
37. And by the way: I am supposed to be working…..see No. 36

Paranoid? Moi?

I finally acknowledge that I am a paranoid mother....and proud of it!

On Saturday night Rox went out with her boyfriend and a couple of friends. As she is generally acknowledged to be the most holy and well-behaved among them, Rox is usually (very willingly) selected as the designated driver on these sort of occasions. So on Saturday night she set off in her car and picked up the boy-friend. I had no problem with this arrangement until my head hit the pillow at about 10pm - OMG I realised that this would entail Rox dropping the BF off a slightly dodgy area to be honest... really late at night.... and driving home.... in the dark...... all alone. Before you could blink I was smsing her, telling her to phone home from her BFs house, no matter what the hour, and her Dad would be along to drive home behind her, no arguments. I then had to go and break this happy news to her (TV watching) Dad, who was probably less than delighted at the prospect, but gave in quietly - he knows me well. At 1:15am we were woken from our slumber (ha, ha, ha there is no way I sleep when my babe is out on the town) and the long-suffering Dad got in the car and headed off to Margate to fetch his little girl.

Call me crazy, but rather this than have my babe hi-jacked or worse.

Ups and Downs

I've come to the conclusion that this parenting game is one of those things that you just can't get your head around, no matter how many years of practice you've had at it. It's weirdly cyclical in nature, a bit like going to the doctor; you know how for a couple of months you practically live in the doctors rooms, and then for months at a time you won't need to go to the doctor at all? Well parenting is exactly like that, there will be a lovely, calm, blissful spell and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, things will become fraught, non-stop fighting, bickering and bitching. Take a guess which stage we are at now?!

Living in my home for the last week has been like inhabiting a mine-field. One wrong word, one wrong look, one unintentional omission and all hell breaks loose. Fun, NOT! I am beginning to understand why some animals eat their off-spring...... I think I may have to have a love affair with a bottle of red wine tonight.

Misplaced adverts

Pop over and have a look at this post on iMod - it put a smile on my dial and that's saying something today!

Interview with Impi

My second interview is with my "sort of son" Thokazani (a.k.a Impi and who nowadays prefers to be called TK) As with Rox's interview, I was quite surprised by some of the answers I got from Imps (No. 9 takes the cake LOL... forgive him, he is a teenage boy, this too shall pass!)

1. What is your full name and age?
Thokozani Lindokhuhle Ngcobo

2. List a few things that make you happy
Sports, friends and being at home

3. Are you proud to be South African and do you like living in South Africa?
No, I wouldn't say I am proud, but yes I love living in this country

4. You have quite a strange family situation, in that you have two families, your real family and then "us". Do you find that difficult? What are your thoughts on that subject?
Difficult? How can it be difficult, the advantages are endless, it's great. I don't mind talking about it if the subject comes up, but I don't go boasting about it.

5. You go to boarding school (Imps won a scholarship to Glenwood High School and has been there for nearly 4 years now), have you enjoyed the experience up to now? What have you learnt from being a boarder?
Yea, I love it, wouldn't trade it for the world, it's great there! You learn what true friendship is all about and you learn the feeling of being independent etc.

6. What do you hope to achieve as an adult one day?
I don't know really, but whatever path I choose I'll work hard at it and enjoy it.

7. Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know
I'm secretly mad about soccer, it's my favourite sport.

8. Name one of your role models and tell me why this person is a good role model
Thierry Henry. He's the most humble person ever, and he grew up in poverty, in the outskirts of France. He's just an amazing soccer player and human being.

9. What qualities will you look for when you choose a life-partner one day? What qualities do you think your wife should have?
I dunno, saying a nice personality would be half the truth, the truth is she obviously has to be good looking and if she can have a great personality that would be a bonus!

10. If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
At the Affies High School Craven Week, playing KZN U18 rugby, other than that I'm happy right here!

Thanks so much for doing this interview Imps! I love you so much and you are an inspiration to us. You make us so proud :-) And thanks my Eunicie for sharing your boy with us, we love you!

Happy 90th Birthday Madiba!

Happy 90th birthday to Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation and the man who makes me proud to be South African.

Cat fight!

You may remember that I introduced my handsome little tom-cat, Zip, a couple of weeks back? Well we are having a rather unexpected problem with my Zippity-boo!

On Monday night we were woken up by horrific shrieks emanating from the kitchen (very heart-stopping I tell ya!) On investigation we discovered that a large, smelly stray cat had come into the house (the cheek of it!) and was attacking my "little boy". Zip was beside himself, as was his mother. After all, he is still quite little and this was a full-grown "man of the streets" attacking him. We chased the invader out and I took Zip into bed with me and calmed him down. Not 1/2 hour later we heard noises in the kitchen and the invader was back, eating Zip's food. Grant dispatched him again and peace was restored.

Last night we had a repeat performance! This is not doing our sleep patterns any good and it is turning my poor Zippity into a nervous wreck. Does anyone have any advice for me?

The cat is getting in through an open window, but the thing is we need to have the windows open as we live in a very warm climate, I can't imagine us sleeping with all the windows shut, we would asphyxiate! Quite why our watch-dogs are allowing this to happen I don't know, shows what a lot of good they are ;-)

Any thoughts, help or sympathy would be greatly appreciated...

R.I.P. Nkululeko

It's sad and rather ironic that a hippo whose name means "Freedom" has been shot because it was wandering free.

Nkululeko ambled into the news a few weeks ago, when it was spotted playing in the sea north of Durban. The surf-loving hippo became quite the celebrity overnight. A local newspaper ran a competition to find a name for the hippo and the winner was taken on a flight to view the newly named "Nkululeko".

Locals flocked to see the hippo and to take photos of it, amid warnings from animal experts to stay far away from the animal, as hippos are not as docile as they look. Unfortunately people did not heed this advice and although an autopsy has still to be done to confirm the cause of death, it appears that Nkululeko may be responsible for the death of a man. Nkululeko was shot by authorities in the early hours of this morning.

My hair stylist, my shrink...

I went to the hairdresser (is that the PC word to use nowadays, or should I be saying hair stylist?) the other day. I don’t know why, but the minute my butt hits that chair, I seem to become someone else, someone who talks and laughs and is not evenly slightly the introverted Gill I usually am. It’s weird because it is so not me!

Yet, not all that long ago, a visit to the hairdresser made me feel the same way a trip to the gynaecologist did. (Lucy if you are reading this, please don’t laugh at me, I’m a sensitive soul!) I’d get all nervous and uptight, sweaty palmed and somewhat panic stricken. Personally, I think this strange reaction might have something to do with the invasion of my personal space, particularly by someone brandishing a pair of sharp, silver scissors. Maybe I do need to see a shrink ;-)

Then a good few years ago I found P. P was a marvellous hairdresser; he could wield a pair of scissors like a pro, he was awfully good looking in rather a grungy, bad-boy, Johnny Depp kind of way and we had this silly, harmless flirty thing going on, which was a lot of fun. P quickly became my favourite hairdresser/confidant/agony uuh Uncle? He was suitably aghast at the arrival of Rox 7 ½ weeks early, he commiserated with me over my first and then my second ectopic pregnancy and he had the exceedingly good sense to tell me I was gorgeous when I was 8 months pregnant with Paula. In short, he was a gem.

In return I was suitably aghast when P’s girl-friend discovered she was pregnant, I congratulated him on his wedding when he married her in haste, I rejoiced with him over the birth of his son and I shed bitter tears with him when his son died of a cot death at 3 months. I listened to his lamentations when he was caught in a tug of love between his wife and his Rottweiler and I made what I hope were the right noises when he subsequently chose the Rottweiler and divorced the wife. When P left to go and pack fish in Iceland I was more than a little devastated.

For a couple of years after the departure of P I was back to the “going to the gynaecologist” syndrome. It was horrible. I came to dread my 6 weekly trip to be shorn.

And then I found T. Now T and I don’t socialise outside of her salon, but if you were to peek into the salon during my 6 weekly visit you would be quite certain that we were bosom buddies. She is a marvel. She can talk 90 to the dozen, sing along to Dido, cut hair and give parenting advice all at the same time. She has reconciled herself to the fact that she will never convince me to blow dry my hair or spend more than a minute “styling” it in the morning. And she has a never ending supply of Jodi Piccoult novels which she lends to me each time I visit. Going to the hairdresser is a great deal of fun! I just hope T doesn’t decide to go and pack fish in Iceland anytime soon!

Interview with Rox

My blogging friend Marsha has graciously given me permission to (shamelessly!) steal her brilliant idea of doing interviews with family members. Hop over to her blog here to see the charming interview she did with her sweet granddaughter Sarah (and the beautiful photos she took of her!)

So I am starting my series of interviews with Rox. I printed out the questions for Rox and she then emailed me her answers (yes, we do actually live together but we are really hi-tech like that LOL!) I have to say at the outset that this process has been a huge eye-opener for me! I had no idea that Rox had some of these thoughts milling around in her head. But before I begin to waffle, here is the interview:

1. What is your full name and age?
Roxanne Inez Richardson. 18 years, 6 months and 27 days

2. List a few things that make you happy
Listening to music, seeing my friends, going on holiday, playing with my dog, making others happy, doing something new

3. Are you proud to be South African and do you like living in South Africa?
Yes I am proud to be South African, even though our country is going through a bad time, I am still proud!!! What a nation – black, white, coloured, Indian, we are all one! We have such a beautiful country – why be ashamed!! Yes things are sometimes dealt with in an incorrect manner BUT we are by far the best country! Do I like living here – yes and no, I love a multicultural place, I love the characteristics of South Africa BUT the fear of getting raped or mudered scares the daylights out of me!! But if you love this place you can always try and make a difference!

4. Do you have a boy-friend? What qualities do you look for in a boy-friend?
Yes I do. Um he must be reliable, trustworthy and he must respect me for who I am and for what I believe in! He must be loyal and must get on with my family and friends! He must be willing to have ups and downs and to help me when things get low! RESPECT is huge! Faith is also important.

5. What challenges you?
I sit here right now with a full belly and knowing there are people out there starving and fighting for their lives! That challenges me to get up and make a difference! Another huge one is rights – stand up for yourself and help others who can't help or fight for themselves!!

6. What do you want to achieve in your life?
I want to be able to say I tried my best at finding my purpose and to discover who I am!! I want to have achieved living in God’s name and discovering his purpose for me!!
I want to have a degree and at least have touched a few peoples lives!

7. Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know
I sometimes battle with “I am not good enough” I would prefer to make others happy before I make myself happy!! I sometimes don’t see the wrong in others!

8. Tell me about an occasion when you had to face one of your fears
Losing the person I loved – Paul, yes I loved him and wanted to marry him but the relationship was forced to end and I thought I wouldn’t cope!!

9. Name one of your role models and tell me why this person is a good role model
Role model…….um...havent thought about it BUT all I know is I want to live my life and to find my purpose, I want to get up and think what can I do today to help, it is not all about ME! I want to be able to love others even if they have hurt me, I want to be able to find the good out of everything as my motto goes make every obstacle an opportunity to shine for God!!

10. If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I would be somewhere in the berg going for an awesome hike and then I’d go bungee jumping!!

Thanks Rox for allowing me to use you as blog fodder and for taking the time to answer the questions (even though you are on holiday and have SO much else you want to do!) and for answering so honestly. Love ya babe :-)

Guess who's got a boyfriend.....

To work or not to work, that is the question!

Why are women plagued by guilt? And why is it that men don’t seem to suffer from this affliction?

Why is it that even though I am on holiday, every time I catch myself being slothful and completely self-indulgent, my conscience pops up and reminds me that I am not being very productive and cheekily suggests that I find something constructive to do? I earned this rest dammit! I deserve to lay about reading and resting. So why the hell can’t I do it without feeling slovenly and slightly embarrassed?

The birds and the bees....

After I had posted about Paula being so different to Rox, in my previous post, it got me thinking and I now realise I was actually talking a load of nonsense when I said that bringing up Paula has been very similar to bringing up Rox until now. Paula has, in many ways, always being very different to Rox. For instance in the matter of learning about “the facts of life” Paula was waaaay different!

A long time ago I had decided that my approach to “awkward subjects” would be to volunteer unasked for information only if I felt it was necessary at any given time, but otherwise to wait until my children asked questions. And when they did, I planned to be scrupulously honest and matter of fact, no ducking and diving and definitely no ridiculous talk of storks or birds and bees. Bear in mind that I came to this decision prior to the arrival of Paula!

Rox never asked any questions about the facts of life, ever! I eventually sat her down and had “a talk” when I felt it was important that she knew this stuff and I’ve had the odd chat with her since, as and when I felt it was necessary. She obviously found these “chats” quite interesting, but has never pursued the subject or asked any further questions. Simple. Easy. Then came Paula!

There was a period in my life when I actually had the time and the inclination to watch “The Bold and the Beautiful” and my girls would often be hanging around in the room while I watched. Big mistake, huge! One day, while I was innocently watching the soap, 6 year old Paula asked me how come Rick and Amber were having a baby when they weren’t married. I explained that you didn’t actually have to be married to have a baby and pointed out that her Uncle Geoff had a baby and he wasn’t married.

“Then how do they get the baby?” she asked. “Well, they love each other very much and then the baby comes” I explained (much to Rox’s obvious amusement). “But how does it get there?” she asked, completely fascinated, Barbie dangling, forgotten from her hand.

I was beginning to squirm a little at this point! “Well, the mom and dad go to bed together and love each other and the dad plants a seed in the mommy and then the baby grows” I explained, really hoping that this would be enough satisfy her curiosity (while Rox writhed about on the couch in spasms of hilarity, not helping my stress levels in the slightest.) No such luck!

“A seed!” she exclaimed incredulously, “What kind of a seed? How does he put it in the mommy’s tummy?” Barbie was unceremoniously flung on the floor and Paula was on my lap in a flash for a full and detailed explanation. And when I say detailed, I mean detailed! She wasn’t satisfied until she had been given a blow by blow account of the act in all its glory.

Oh my soul! And her at the ripe old age of six! I was SO wishing I had rather conjured up a couple of storks!

The bliss that is an hormonal teenager

Something that really baffles me is how two girls can grow up in the same family, with the same parents, experiencing pretty much the same things and yet end up completely different. Roxy and Paula could not be more different if they were totally unrelated. Now this isn’t entirely a bad thing, I mean I wouldn’t want a couple of clones in my family, but right now it would help a lot if they were more similar.

When Paula was little, dealing with the particular issues that each stage in her development brought with it seemed quite easy because I had travelled that road before. Babyhood honestly didn’t hold too many surprises for me second time round, as I had “been there and done that” with Rox. I had all the background information and I was cruising, with only the odd little bump in the road here and there. Toddlerhood was a breeze, I had faced the same issues with Rox and this time round all the answers seemed to be right there at my fingertips. I naively assumed that this would be the case through all the stages of Paula’s life.

Oh boy, was I wrong! Up until now it has all gone according to plan, but as Paula hurtles into teenagedom, I am fast realising that I haven’t got a cooking clue what I am doing!
What worked for Rox when she was 13, doesn’t even come close to working for Paula! This teenager is a completely different animal to the teenager that was Rox. Brace yourselves people, we are in for a rough ride!

Dogs and Cats

As you may know, a little cat called "Zip" has recently joined our family. The result is that we are all on a Zip-induced, steep learning curve. We are were very much a doggie household, but Zip definitely has other plans for us and is occupied with reforming us, dogs included!

In light of the above, I found this the other day (can't remember where!) and thought it was very cute.

Dogs and Cats
Author Unknown

There should never be any doubt as to which is the superior species . . .

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary:
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary
Day 983 of my captivity.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...

A fun, fluffy post........NOT!

I had intended to post something fun and light-hearted today. But sometimes I read a post on one of my favourite blogs and I find that it colours the rest of my day. This happened today when I read this post. Somehow, when I have read something like that, funny and fluffy just doesn't do it for me anymore.

It's indeed a mad, mad world

I then had a browse on Rethabile's blog and found this poem, also relating to the situation in Zim. It struck a chord with me. It made me realise that while I am messing about with my daily life, people in Zimbabwe are in excrutiating pain.

For Charity and Francis Matyaka
Unable to move, she watch them drag him
from the house into a donga
and beat him, one goon opening his body
to pour blood into the off-colour ditch,
like wine seeking the whiteness of cloth
that cover the brains of boys
and redden their eyes.Everyone try not to look
but go their way into the dim June dusk
to their families.
Even God don’t interfere
when they beat people like this
with sjambok and machete.
They killed him, killed him as I watched, she say,
speaking to no one in particular.
He wailed, but they kept on beating him quietly.
The women shake their heads and speak
in subdued dialect
of herd boy who find a half-clothed body,
half-eaten by hyenas. She wail some more,
as harpooned whale do.
Her hands hold her head
like she want to unscrew it
and give it back to God.
The women tut-tut and shake their heads
to see her wail like that.
Night come, and soon it is
the lighting of lamps, and everyone shout
to call daughter or son to table
for a bit of pap and soup, after
the ritual of water and soap.

© Rethabile Masilo
NOTE: This poem was "inspired" by the story of the Matyaka family.
Printed with permission

The world has to stop and take notice, because our leaders don't seem to be getting it right.

Why do I live in this country?

According to this report, 40 families are attacked in their homes by robbers every day. There has been a sharp increase in armed robberies in homes in South Africa, with the sharpest increase in Kwa-Zulu Natal. And I wonder why I am suffering from insomnia???