Monday, July 28, 2008

Baba Indaba

We survived!!

More than that, we survived despite some last minute disasters... which include the fact that this week I will be revamping the patterns, because we discovered a few serious design flaws! Nothing like a few hundred demos to show you the weaknesses in a product.

But we had a great show, and handed out roughly 340 brochures!! Most of those were to couples, or couples plus grandparents. Of those, I figure we spoke to about 300 couples and gave them a demo, answered questions, etc. So... I think we can safely say that we have been officially launched! If even 10% of those turn into real customers, then I will be very happy.

I have to say that I could not have done this without the incredible support of my darling husband, who came along and took turns at handling customers, and my wonderful parents and in-laws, who babysat Nellie for us all weekend. I also need to thank all the staff and children at Nellie's nursery for their hard work in creating my backdrop... (Nellie's footprints are the leaves on the tree.)
We even had our first sale (despite me trying to discourage it because of the design flaws - which I didn't want to mention at the time). This bodes very well for the future.

Thanks to those who sent sms/ text messages of encouragement and to those who came along to the show to support us. Great to see you there!

I was surprised to discover that two other Old Girls from my matric year were also at the show - in the same area as I was, so we spent a lot of time catching up and nattering. One of the things we were chatting about was opening a baby boutique together, because we're all offering different products, but have no actual shop.... which is the question everyone was asking us (Where are you based? Where can we come to see the products? Where can we buy this stuff?) and we had to keep saying: only online. So that's another exciting step to be thinking about in the near future.

But for now I am shattered, exhausted, done in. My voice is returning, but my throat is still very swollen and sore. Lots of rest today, if I can get my mind to stop whirling with ideas for new products and solutions to existing problems!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Myers Briggs

For those who know what this means...

I am SOOOO an ENFJ. Really.

And now I'm off to start sewing... last night was actually early this morning, so I'm hoping tonight won't be another one.

Tomorrow is build-up day for Baba Indaba. Friday is THE SHOW..... EEEEEK!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Say what?

Did you know that less than 50% of the current Grade 10s achieved the required standards for numeracy and about 30% of them achieved the required standards for literacy when they were in Grade 3?

I have to say, it comes as no shock to me when I see how the kids I teach write!

And did you know that of the 2.5million Gd 9s currently in the system, only 0.5million are projected to actually finish matric? And of those, 50 000 will leave with no certification at all.

I am galled by the fact that, in the light of these and other facts, the Education Dept spokesperson was quoted in the Cape Times a few days ago as saying that if the current matrics fail, it's their own fault because the 'Dept has done everything in its power to help them'.

I think not!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


It feels like ages since I've done a post about something in depth... mainly that's because of time constraints. A new member of staff asked me in amazement how I manage to find time to blog with everything else that goes on in my life. I just laughed. I'm not sure how I do it... but Graeme is just wonderful at giving me time to do it.

Journalling (which is essentially what this has become for me in many respects) is an important part of my life. It's the time I take for me, in which I can stop and reflect on life, the universe and everything. It's the time when I think about who I am, where I'm going, things that have happened around or to me, and try to make sense of it all.

Of course, blogging is more than that too - it's like a scrapbook of my life too.

So in addition to the meaty stuff I want to discuss this evening, I feel compelled to tell you that I got caught in THE MOST MASSIVE downpour on Tuesday afternoon. It went from light drizzle to Biblical Flood Proportions in 3 seconds flat, and then proceeded to blizzard rain for a further 15 minutes. Of course, that would just be the time I was walking back to the car with my shopping (not in a trolley, I might add).... which just happened to contain some poster paper I'd bought to paint a backdrop on for my stand next weekend!!

Fortunately, the paper stayed mostly dry (just the edges got wet). Fortunately I was wearing a raincoat. However, everything from my thighs down was soaked. When I got home, I stood on the back porch and stripped because I wasn't going to trail water through the house. I hope the neighbours weren't looking! (Given that you could barely see through the rain, I doubt they'd have seen much anyway.) Graeme thought the whole thing was hilarious. I'm just glad he didn't think to take photos!

But now onto the serious stuff I wanted to reflect on.

I've been doing this intro to business management course through the Louis Group and Stellenbosch University on Wednesday nights. Because Louis Group is a Christian business, the course is run on Christian principles. The first few weeks have therefore been all about personal leadership - the theory being that you can't ever hope to lead a company if you can't lead yourself. They've been plugging people like Bill Hybels and John Maxwell.

Now, the really interesting thing for me is that I was learning all this exact same stuff in the year or two before Janel was born. I've been to Bill Hybels' church in the USA. I've read just about all of the books that he and his staff have written. I've read much of the John Maxwell stuff the course lecturers are promoting. It's been a serious case of déjavú.

While it's been exciting, because I've felt that God is encouraging me to remember where I was and what I was learning (ie, that the material was good and it's important stuff, and I should continue in that direction), last night's course unnerved me and I wound up in tears. (It's not enough that I cry in church all the time... now I'm crying just about everywhere! ;-Q)

Last night, they started teaching Eric Delve stuff. Of course, they didn't know they were teaching Eric Delve stuff, because they've probably never heard of Eric Delve (have you?), but they were. Now, in and of itself, that is not a problem. The problem is that it was Eric Delve's teaching that made me step out of my comfort zone and start down a particular path that wound up breaking my heart. The bigger problem, is that they were asking all the same BIG questions Eric Delve asked on that fateful night back in 2004. And the even bigger problem is that my answer to these big questions was just the same... word for word.

But last time round, I got very badly hurt and I feel like I'm only just really recovering, because in a matter of weeks of having my heart broken, my heart's dream torn up and stomped upon, we found out that we were pregnant with Janel. Initially, it felt like a slap in the face, second prize. (Of course, I don't feel that now - she is definitely first prize!) But in between coping with the problems with the pregnancy, followed by her prem birth, followed by falling pregnant with Zoe, then all the problems with her pregnancy, and then losing her and moving home.... I was trying to make sense of that first heartbreak. It's been a hell of a 3 years! And I only just feel like I'm finding my feet again, spiritually speaking.

And now, it seems, God has decided it's time to put that same question before me once again. I don't know what he intends, because my answer hasn't changed, and I know that the reasons my heart got broken haven't changed, so I can only foresee one outcome from this path - my heart getting broken again.

I don't think I can do it. I don't think I can walk down this road again. I don't think I can put myself out there again, the way I did, knowing that (as things look now) the outcome will be the same. The real definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again in the same way, but expecting different results. Since I know that the methods and means are the same, I don't see how the outcome can be different. And I just can't go there again.

So now I don't know what to do. I know that I have to trust God. I know that it's no coincidence that over the past three weeks God has made me re-walk all the teaching I'd received about leadership before Nellie was born. I know it's no coincidence that, at the end of that trip down memory lane, He has brought me back to the same final questions. I just don't know what He intends by it. He knows that my answer hasn't changed. He knows that I am frail and mortal. He knows that I don't think I could handle another rejection like that. So what is He up to?????

Actually, thinking about it - there are 3 things that are different between now and then.

1) I am a mother now. That's HUGE.
2) I live in SA now.
3) I LOVE my job and I WANT to be where I am for at least 5 years. (I hated my job back then.)

But none of that resolves the issue. I'm still the same me, with all the same character flaws and weaknesses. And those flaws and weaknesses are the reason I was rejected last time around.

My homework this week is to write my personal mission statement. I really don't want to do this. Not because I don't want to, but because I know (or at least I have a very strong suspicion) where this is going to lead, and I really, really, REALLY don't want to go there. I can only see more heartache that way. Right now, I'd rather live with an excellent second choice that makes me happy and gives me the challenge and sense of accomplishment and purpose I desire, than a heart-wrenching-heart-breaking first choice.

And you want to know the worst part about it? When I was rejected, this is exactly what the panel said about me. They were rejecting me because they felt I couldn't deal with rejection and in the position of responsibility that I would have been placed in would have put me in line for LOADS of rejection. I know they made the right choice - I see that now. But it doesn't change the fact that my heart's deepest desire is the thing that most terrifies me, because it has the greatest potential to break me.

Oh boy! I really hope God knows what he's up to... cos he's clearly up to something, but it all smells a bit fishy to me!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Technology is SOOO cool

Today we went test-driving cars. We want to buy a people carrier, you see. We found the make and model we like (although I'm not sure we can afford it). But while that's very cool, we experienced something even MORE cool.

We went to the Cavendish Square parking garage at one point, to see how one of the cars handled in tight turns and in a parking situation. We were blown away by a simple use of technology to make the lives of drivers much easier.

Above every parking space, there is a sensor and a light. The sensor detects the presence of a vehicle below it. If there is a vehicle, the light turns red. If there is no vehicle, the light turns green. So, at a glance, drivers can look across the entire parking garage floor, and identify where the available parking bays are.

Now I ask you - HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cape Town

Sunset over Table Bay, 17 May
Milnerton Beach, 16 June
Muizenberg beach, 29 June (notice the kite surfers in the background - that should tell you something about the wind!)

These are in complete contrast to the weather of the past week. Today it rained CONSTANTLY. I kid you not. Dark grey imposing clouds. It was raining so hard at several points that as I drove to Ceres to see the snow, I could barely see 100m in front of the car. Not ideal driving conditions by any stretch of the imagination. I have a lovely photo of how dark it was, but Blogger is loading it sideways, which kind of spoils the whole thing, so you'll just have to take my word for it!

Circle of life... take 2

Here she is - Ariana and Mommy. Apart from being the name of a Tunisian city and a brand of Bulgarian beer, Ariana is Greek for 'most holy' and Welsh for 'silver'.

In reading last night's post, I was struck by how bitter I sounded about Ariana's birth. It's so hard to explain to people how two completely different emotions can war in your heart simultaneously. On the one hand, I'm absolutely thrilled at her birth and I can't wait to meet her. On the other, I'm left feeling bereft again. Ariana isn't Zoe, so I can rejoice at her birth and her life. Yet, her very presence reminds me of what I have lost.

A while back, I believed that it got easier with time - dealing with the birth of any baby. I struggled not to be offhand with women on the baby loss forums I'm part of who were 5-10 years down the line who still struggled in this way. I just thought they were deliberately holding onto their grief, or something. I'm learning that nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm realising that every birth will be bitter-sweet for me, and learning that I'm just going to have to find a way of dealing with that. I don't want any new mother feeling she has to pussy-foot around me to spare my feelings, or that she needs to be less excited or less joyful around me because I've lost Zoe. On the contrary! The more joy, the more excitement, the better. I'm just going to have to remember to make time to cry and release my sadness so that it doesn't wind up souring the joy I, and they, feel.

And now for the other part of the circle...death. Tonight I discovered that the guy leading my Louis Group business course (Bruce) lost his daughter last year. She was 25, and had 2 small kids. Bruce & I chatted very briefly this evening about the pain of losing a child. His loss is compounded by the fact that his grandchildren are now motherless. We also talked about how grief like that really complicates matters in terms of faith - how both of us are really struggling to make sense of our loss.

And now back to life... Before my life fell apart, I was really trying to develop my leadership skills. I even managed to attend a course (back in 2003) in the USA, at which Bill Hybels spoke. (If you don't know who he is, it's worth Googling him and doing some reading.) I also read as much as I could get my eyes on, including a book by John Maxwell called 'Courageous Leadership'. That's a really inspiring book.

Last week, one of the first things Bruce said to us was that it was not an accident that we were on the course. My ears pricked up at that, because I hadn't expected to encounter God at a place like that. It made me wonder what God had in store for me.

Anyway, when my life fell apart, I forgot a lot of the basic principles I had learnt. It's very hard, for example, to get balance in your life when you're struggling to make the decision to live. In tonight's lectures, Bruce referred to both Bill Hybels and John Maxwell, and the influence they had had on his own leadership journey. Everything Bruce taught was straight from what Bill and John had written about or taught. It was all VERY familiar to me!

Hearing all that good stuff again made me realise a few things. Firstly, just how much I have to relearn. Secondly, just how badly I am leading myself at the moment (let alone leading my department or my family... or my business in time to come). Thirdly, that it really isn't an accident that I'm on this course. For whatever reason, God intends to meet me in that conference room, in those discussions about balance sheets and business plans. God has a plan for my life, and he wants me to be an effective leader. Since I'm not in church much, and since I don't really have the time to read books of any nature at the moment, this is the only way God is going to get me back on track.

As I was chatting to Graeme about it this evening, it also struck me that having my life fall apart was not a diversion. It was not a side-track, or an alternative route from A to B, nor was it an accident that should not have happened.

Rather, God deliberately led us down this path - not to harm us, but to develop us. God blessed us with Zoe, and then blessed us by taking her away. It's not the kind of blessing that results in spontaneous joy and laughter - quite the opposite. However, it was a blessing, none the less. Of that I have become certain tonight.

I can't tell you what it was that made me see that, and I can't explain how I know, but I know. Losing Zoe is an integral part of God's plan for us. Without her, God's plans for our lives will not be fulfilled. We will not become the people God intends us to be, nor will we be able to fulfil the roles he has picked out for us. And I will never become the leader God has designed me to be.

As I continue to learn the lessons of grief, God has started building back into my life the lessons of leadership that I thought I'd learnt before. The question now is: what will I do differently tomorrow because of what I have learnt (been reminded of) today?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The circle of life

Birth and death... the one inevitably follows the other.

This afternoon my latest niece was born. She's the first niece from Graeme's family - Nellie has 13 other cousins from my side of the family! She was born in Hungary, by water birth, at 4.30pm (approximately) and weighed 3.05kg. As yet, she has no name, but her parents are working hard on one. Needless to say, we are all thrilled at her birth, and thrilled that both she and mother are doing so well.

But I have to admit to pangs of intense jealousy and grief. Because of my APS, I am forever denied a water birth... which I so desperately want. I should also already have 2 little girls under foot, not one. It seems to unfair that some women are denied easy labours and births, while others are forever doomed to have difficult and traumatic ones. (Did I mention here that my friends who had come to SA for an IUI lost their baby just before the weekend? My heart breaks for them!) It also seems so unfair that my dear sister-in-law should be having sleepless nights now because she has a gorgeous baby to look after... it should have been me. And it's so unfair that I can't seem to let go of this grief and that it should spoil what would otherwise be a perfect piece of ecstasy.

Which isn't to say that I'm not happy for my sister-in-law, or my in-laws, who now have a real grandchild of their own (everyone knows that only your daughter's children are really your grandchildren!) ... sorry. That was bitchy and completely uncalled for.

OK - let's move onto death then, since I can't seem to deal with the birth part of life too well this evening.

Death. Here in SA we have this lovely culture of rites of passage. Our traditional cultures all have a tradition of sending their boys off into the bush to be circumcised, followed by a 9 day fast, to undergo a spiritual awakening of some sort, and to then return as 'men'. It's not the age of the boys that makes the difference between being a boy or a man - it's whether you have participated in such a ritual.

Tonight I learnt about one 'boy' in particular. He was 25. He went to one of the most prestigious boys' high schools in Cape Town, if not in the country. He had a BSc degree from UCT. He had a fantastic job with a very good company in Cape Town. His name was Buntu Majalo. (I hope I got his surname correct!)

In Dec 2007 he went off to the bush because the people in Gugulethu (the township where he grew up) still viewed him as a boy, because he hadn't participated in the initiation. He died in hospital, reportedly from a botched circumcision and some torture that he experienced.

According to the report I watched, during these June/ July school holidays (2-3 weeks), 20 boys have died during initiation ceremonies.

While I have no problem, in theory, with initiation rites, it blows me away that the death toll is so high. It's not that the ritual is bad - marking the move from childhood to adulthood is important to every culture. It's the manner in which that ritual is played out that shocks me. For 20 boys to have lost their lives over the past 2-3 weeks to the same mindless abuse is simply not okay.

Although the other provinces in SA have laws to ensure that the "surgeons" and "nurses" involved are properly trained and registered, our province (Western Cape) does not. However, despite this, the death toll in other provinces is as high as it is here in the Cape. Obviously, even legislating to prevent corruption is not achieving the desired outcomes.

Apparently, some of these "surgeons" are raking in R4000 per boy they circumcise. To put that in context - our tenant is paying us R4000 per month in rent for a 3 bedroomed townhouse next to a major highway. A visit to a medical doctor for a circumcision at a state hospital will cost you about R400.

Those boys who slink off to the hospital if they suspect something has gone wrong with the circumcision are ostracised when they return. They are not considered 'real' men, because they are seen to be weak. Yet, many of them lose not just part of their penis, but the entire thing, when proper medical care is not given to these boys and either gangrene or sepsis sets in.

If this were happening to girls, the world would be up in arms, demanding that the government put a stop to this inhumane treatment. Yet, because it is boys, the world averts its eyes.

Buntu was the only child to a single mother. Having lost my baby, I can tell you that her grief knows no bounds. I don't know what I can do, as one individual from the white community, but I know in my heart that to stand by and do nothing is to say that Buntu's life was worth nothing. If I count his life to have had any value, then I cannot sit idly by and allow this atrocious abuse of an otherwise useful ceremony and ritual to continue.

But what do I do? I don't even know where to begin. I feel helpless and frustrated, and very very sad for the families of these poor boys.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

You know that guy who dances...? No - not Ricky Gervais. The one who dances on the web? No? OK, well, neither did I. His name is Matt Harding, and he quit his job in Auz so another company could sponsor him to travel the world while recording his very bad dancing. Now, he's semi-famous, and lots of people want to dance with him in his little videos.

I found out about him through Bron's blog. She found his dancing inspirational because it made the world seem a bit smaller for her, which is important when your family is spread out all over it!

Anyway, so I went to his site to check it out. And although I found his videos funny, and uplifting in an odd kind of way, I found the out-takes video even better. I particularly like the very last clip of him with the two little girls... but you've got to watch past the credits, and it might seem funnier if you've seen the other videos first, I don't know. Maybe I'm just in a really weird mood this morning because I'm sick and it's STILL raining... (Dontcha just love Cape Town winters?)

Friday, July 04, 2008


Several of our friends around the world are currently undergoing fertility treatment of one sort or another in an effort to conceive.

Tonight we heard that one couple, who were 9.5 weeks pregnant, have lost their baby. It just breaks my heart. They so badly want a baby.... and everything seemed to be going so well for them....

There are no words, really. Losing a child... Well, nothing compares.

Guys, I know you read the blog regularly, so in addition to our email and FB message, I wanted you to know again just how much you are in our thoughts and prayers at the moment. Thinking of you on Monday in particular. You know where we are if you need to talk.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

On the other side of the desk

My Head (principal) goes on and on about how we teachers are first and foremost academics, and that therefore we need to be continually seeking to learn new stuff. He's right, in many respects, although I disagree that we are all academics - many teachers get into teaching because they enjoy teaching, not because they're of an academic mind-set. But I know why he says that. I understand why he encourages us to keep learning.

Firstly, once you're in the classroom as the teacher, it's easy to forget what hard work learning can be, or how boring it can get if you're going over something you already know for the umpteenth time. If we do lose touch with the reality of learning, the pace of our lessons will be wrong.

Secondly, continuing to learn things stops you from getting bored, and as everyone knows - a bored teacher is a boring teacher, and boring teachers give rise to behaviour problems. If you want to avoid poor behaviour in the classroom, don't teach a boring lesson.

Thirdly, it's important to model what you want the kids to become - life-long learners. OBE is supposed to be teaching the kids that learning isn't limited to the classroom, that learning continues beyond the classroom, and equip them to make the most of that. So we need to model that on-going process of learning. That's a principle of good leadership.

When I took on my current post, I realised that I'm one of the least qualified members of my department. Most of the others have at least an Hons degree, if not their Masters, or their Doctorates! It's a little intimidating, actually, but they're great people, and I have a wealth of other experience which helps.

But I decided that I ought to do something about that. I don't want to be studying full time - for one thing, it's too expensive, for another it's too time-consuming and I have other priorities. So, I started hunting around for other part-time, cheap or free courses I could do. Nothing in the education field really. (No surprises there.)

I've started my own company on the side (teachers aren't paid a lot and I've got to be thinking of my retirement one day), but I also have plans to climb the educational leadership/ management ladder. Eventually I managed to find a course that has applications for both jobs. It's a certificate course in business management, run jointly by the Louis Group and the University of Stellenbosch's Graduate School of Business (USB-ED), and us also accredited by Cambridge University in the UK.

This course is pretty unique in that the Louis Group are overtly Christian and the course is run on overtly Christian principles, but more amazingly, the course is entirely free. The Louis Group foot the bill (which is about R25,000 per student), and the only catch is that you pay forward the skills you gain from the course. You can find out more about them and the course here

Last night was the first night of the course. While it was an exciting night, and I'm looking forward to the things we're going to be learning, I found it very odd being on the other side of the desk. While I've been involved in learning environments as a student since leaving university, this will be the first time I've been assessed on my learning in a very long time. I was amazed at how nerve-wracking I find the thought of being assessed. It's given me a fresh compassion for my students, for how nerve-wracking they find being assessed. While I have time pressures that my kids don't have (in that I have a day job, and a family to raise, plus my business to run), there are no real consequences for me if I don't pass the course, whereas for them, they may fail the year and have to repeat the year. (This is not to say that I'm not going to take the assessments as seriously as I can and aim to pass with the highest mark I can!)

I think being on the other side of the desk is going to be a very good experience for me as a teacher. I really hope it improves my teaching techniques, and that it continues to increase my compassion for my kids. I'm also looking forward to having to use my brain in a new way, to grapple with new information, to form new links and synapses. I'd forgotten how much FUN learning can be!

Famous nobodies

I personally know Tom Jones. I also know his wife and kids. We went to church together for many years. He's a great guy, but he can't really sing. He lives in London, but isn't Welsh. Yup - he's not THE Tom Jones. He's an ordinary bloke who just happens to have the same name as the famous singer.

A local shopping centre in London has decided to use this fact to start a unique advertising campaign. They interview people with the same name as famous people, and then link them to the shopping centre. You can see the viral campaign on YouTube.

Tom is ordinary shopper No 1 (how cool is it to be No 1?). They've also got Robbie Williams and Julia Roberts, amongst a host of others. The interviews are pretty arb (although they are funny in parts), but I think the idea is really innovative and quirky. It's definitely worth having a look at one or two.

Apologies YouTube!

So, after all my ranting and raving about how useless YouTube was, I have to confess that it turns out they're not so useless after all. No, instead, it's our anti-virus software that is causing the problem. Yup, our anti-virus stuff is blocking YouTube. How annoying is that? So everytime I want to use YouTube, I have to first turn off the virus checker. Sigh! I guess we could just find another anti-virus software, but this one is free and otherwise does the job properly.

So - YouTube, I apologise. You aren't useless after all.