Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a day!

This morning, at breakfast, Nellie had a bowl with lots of animals around the edge. As we ate, in between mouthfuls, we had to sing a nursery rhyme for each animal. Needless to say, we got stuck on the tortoise and the squirrel, and needless to say, Nellie got upset that we didn't know any for them.

But things improved when I bashed my head into the car boot door after shopping... nice sore blue-ish lump to show for it.

And then got even better when, at my mom's, I stood on a dead bee and got a sting in the foot.

At least the things that happened in between were great - laughing with my daughter, sleeping, eating cake, swimming.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some time before Christmas a friend posted this list of things (obtained via someone else's blog) of things you could do. The idea is that you enbolden things you have done, and add comments, if you want to, in another colour. So I thought it would be an interesting activity to do - to see what I've done with my life. Feel free to copy and amend your own copy.

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

Worship team at Church (piano, percussion, vocals)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower (but I have seen several shooting stars... just not all on the same evening)

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/World

8. Climbed a mountain
Table Mountain in Cape Town, and down one in Leysin (Switzerland) while I was skiing

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo (I held a principal part in a junior school operatta)

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris where I had my portrait sketched (now hanging above our fireplace) and ate chocoate pancakes... YUM!!

13. Watched a lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child (but I do support one financially)

16. Had food poisoning on our way home from visiting a friend in Bosnia... ate seafood in a sea port, so I thought it would be fresh. One way to learn a hard lesson!!

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (supply teaching in the UK is not an easy job, neither is working in a tough, inner city London school... so I took a 'Mental Health Day')

24. Built a snow fort in Switzerland when I was all of 4... with a lot of help from my brothers. Got cystitis and a boil on my bum for my troubles!

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping and lost my bikini in the process... no comment!

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise (only a day trip, but I think that counts!)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (this seems like an oxymoron)

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing (well - abseiling. I think that counts?!)

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke (at a friend's party, and then only under duress and with other victims)

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa (Although I live here, I have visited 5 of our neighbouring countries.)

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling Snorkeling at Lake Malawi

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved my favorite childhood toy. (My all-time favourite was thrown away by my mother, but I got to keep several of my second favourites.)

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar (and I don't see the attraction or fuss... it's not really all that much nicer than fish paste.)

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous (if only in the Christian world)

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one (for some reason this one doesn't want to be enboldened, but it still applies)

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

So go out and multiply this on your blogs!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And so it begins...

I had a naked little Christmas elf help me this year. "Mommy, can I do the decorations?" Except, it came out more like, Mommy, can I do de de-cray-tions? We were all very pleased with the final product. (There is actually a star on the top of the tree, and not a bow, but as it's silver it doesn't stand out against the background.)

Of course, this time of the year makes me realise that this time last year I hadn't done our scrapbook for MONTHS... and I still haven't. So this year, I'm going to take it with us on holiday, as a holiday project. It HAS to get done. 2 years is a long time not to do something, and if I leave it for any longer, it will become too huge a task and will never get done. Just yesterday Nellie was asking to look at her birth scrapbook, so there's definitely value in it. Actually, in our new home I'm going to make sure there are enough shelves to display all our scrapbooks (at the moment, half of them are packed out of sight and mind), so that looking at them doesn't become a chore to first have to go and FIND them.

And of course, with putting up the stockings, came the inevitable question about Father Christmas... do we or don't we tell her? Mommy took a unilateral decision to tell her. She already knows that Father Christmas brought her a present at nursery, so we may as well go the whole hog. I told her that the stocking is from Father Christmas, who only brings presents to good children. Later, when she was starting to misbehave, I told her to stop being rude, and her immediate response was - "I'm being good now Mommy. Father Christmas will bring me presents." Yippee! Mommy is vindicated! There is value in this myth - it makes children behave!!!

However, Graeme had a BRILLIANT idea: teach her that Christmas is not just about receiving, but also about giving. We're each going to take her out and let her choose a present to give to Mommy/ Daddy, which she will help to wrap, and then give to us. If we were in Cape Town for Christmas, then I think we'd extend it even further and take her with us to deliver food parcels & toys to folks working on Christmas (police, garage attendants, hospital staff, etc) and/ or to children in hospital (if they'll let her in).

On a side track, I realised the other day that I'm already bored. Only been on holiday a week and I'm bored. Yup. Read about 6 books and seen 2 movies already, and I'm bored. Part of the problem is that my afternoons and evenings are a wipe out because of nausea, which means that whatever I do, I'm not able to enjoy it fully. That means that I have no energy to play, no energy to garden, no energy to go to the park, or to do anything else even vaguely interesting. However, part of the problem is simply that I've forgotten how to slow down and do nothing. Hmm... I will have to work on that this holiday - sitting around doing nothing. I'm sure I can manage that?!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Miracles and wonders

For those who know Cape Town, you will never believe what is currently happening here!

For those who don't... a little background. There is, across the bottom part of the CBD, an unfinished flyover highway. The highway was built back in the year dot, and intended to be like the M25 (or similar) in that it circled the majority of the city. However, there was a little stretch that never got completed.

Initially, the reason was that the land underneath was owned by a guy with a little store (corner cafe type of thing) who simply refused to sell or relocate. At least, that's the urban legend. As a result, that highway has been incomplete since I can remember... it wouldn't surprise me if it's been like since before I was born.

Well, miracles and wonders never cease. The council has FINALLY decided to complete the flyover. No more having to drive down into the city and then out again. Soon, if you want to go to Seapoint, you will be able to simply stay on the highway and drive there direct. Isn't that incredible? I never would have believed that in my life time it would get finished, but I guess the 2010 World Cup is having a more massive impact on the city than I first thought it would.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

V for Vendetta

You can tell holidays have started - not only have I read a book, but I've watched a movie too!

V for Vendetta is a very interesting movie, posing very interesting questions. The story is set in the UK in the future, when a Hitler style regime (Conservative party, wouldn't you know it?!!) is in power. One man, known only as V, and always masked, seeks to overthrow the government of the day, and takes as his model Guy Fawkes and the events around the 5th November.

V makes several very intriguing comments - about the nature of ideas and freedom, and about whose responsibility it is to protect freedom. Maybe because I'd just finished reading 'The Shack', which also deals with the nature of freedom, I was viewing it in a very different light, I'm not sure.

During the course of the story, V, who is initially portrayed as a hero, perpetrates several atrocities, some as a form of justice for atrocities perpetrated against the innocent, some in the name of creating freedom for others.

For me, given the current political climate in SA (where the president has sacked the national director of public prosecutions for very dubious reasons... and the speculation is that the actual reasons include being able to appoint someone who will not continue to prosecute Jacob Zuma, thereby smoothing his way into the presidential office), there were a lot of similarities between V's actions and those of the ANC in the Apartheid era. Yet, this in turn raises the question of whether violence is ever justified. Yes, the ANC did push the SA government of the day to the point where democracy became the only option. But at what cost?

The Hitler-esque party leaders are assassinated, which enables the general populace to experience a peaceful end to their nightmare. The similarities to the situation in Zim were inescapable. Would it be right for someone to assassinate Mugabe and his cronies, in the name of protecting the freedom and peace of the nation? Again, is there ever a situation in which violent means to a peaceful solution are justified?

Despite my portrayal of it, this is not a 'heavy' movie. It has its moments, but it's actually a very human movie, with your usual love stories and humour thrown in for good measure. But the dialogue is fast-paced and deep, so not a movie to watch when you're tired, or you'll miss a great deal! Definitely to be recommended.

The Shack

A few months back, our minister highly recommended a book to us, called 'The Shack', by William P Young. He said he was sure that it would be as important to our generation as 'Pilgrim's Progress' was to its generation. Well, I finally bought a copy, and amidst many tears, read it in one sitting. What a book!

It's a really tough book to read in many respects. The author is a ghost writer. He writes about one of his best friends and his pain of losing his daughter. It's a true story - or at least, it purports to be so.

This friend takes 3 of his 5 kids camping. Just before returning home after a fantastic trip, 2 go for a canoe. They get into trouble, and one nearly drowns. While he wades in to save them (he's trained as a life saver), the 3rd (his youngest daughter) is left on the shore. After several minutes, when the father returns to shore, with his half-drowned son, he discovers that his daughter is missing. After a search of several hours, involving all the local law enforcement and camping site staff, he discovers, to his horror, that she has been kidnapped by a serial child murderer. This serial killer has already killed 4 children. Thus far, the police have never found the bodies of the little girls taken, but the killer uses the same MO every time. All they find of this little girl is her dress, covered in blood.

You can imagine the father's pain, and the pain the whole family goes through. For me, as a parent, and particularly as a parent who has lost a child, it was incredibly difficult to read. It brought back so many memories for me... not least that first moment when you realise that no matter what you do, your child will never, ever be coming back. But for him there was the added pain of knowing that his child suffered, and was probably terrified throughout her last moments. But this tragedy is only the first third of the book. What follows is his journey through grief to healing. Essentially, this story addresses the question of pain - where is God when bad things happen to good people? Why does he allow it? Can God be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time?

The man describes how 'The Great Sadness' settled over his life. His faith took a severe downward turn as his anger towards God surfaced. His other daughter became increasingly withdrawn. His family started to fall apart. Then he receives an unusual letter in the post, with a very unusual request. This letter represents a major turning point in his life. I won't spoil it for you. You need to read it. It's an incredible story.

All I will say is that, for someone like me, who's faith has taken a very difficult turn as a result of several major losses in a row, this book has given me hope in a way that nothing else has. I don't know how true it is, although it claims to be a true story. It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility when you're dealing with God... I want it to be true, because if it is, then that means all kinds of possibilities exist for me, for Graeme, for our family, for our lives together. Whether it is or not, though, I think it's still well worth a read. If nothing else, the question it addresses and the answers it gives are things that every person in the world needs to hear.

I still have a lot of processing to do, and then a lifetime of trying to put the stuff I've learnt into practice. But I think this book has made a huge difference to me. I highly recommend it to you, and I hope it has as profound an effect on your life.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nearly there... or so I thought

This week has been MANIC. In between trying to finalise the reporting process (which is a lot more complicated than you would think), I've also been sorting out the sets/ classes for LS for next year, finalising the spreadsheets for next year, and doing other admin stuff for Gd 11 (which is the grade I'm a tutor in). Most days, I've left school closer to 4pm than lunch time.

Of course, none of this has been helped by the fact that now that my flu/ cold is gone, my nausea has returned with a vengeance. Unfortunately, I don't get morning sickness, I get afternoon and evening sickness. It starts around lunch time and gets progressively worse as the day progresses, until I rush to bed to escape it.

Well, that was, until last night. Last night saw a change in my pattern. Because last night, I actually hurled. My first proper one of the pregnancy. I don't know whether that's a good or bad sign. It could be good, in that it's later in the pregnancy than it was with Zoe. However, it could be a bad sign, indicating that the nausea is getting worse, rather than better. So I really don't know what to make of it. The up side (yes, there is one), is that I felt WORLDS better afterwards, so was able to go out and enjoy a lovely meal with G and some of his colleagues. (DELICIOUS food at an up-market Italian joint in Greenpoint. Calamari and chocolate crepes to DIE for!!)

I'm looking forward to not having to be at school anymore (one more day and then our end of year breakfast). I'm looking forward to having some time to sort out the last few chores around the house that need doing, and a few business things. So, by the end of next week (I hope) I will really be able to relax and be on holiday - for the WHOLE holiday. Won't that be nice?

Of course, as long as this blasted nausea continues, I really don't know how much I will get to enjoy it. And I've realised that I can no longer wear my costume in public, because the bruises from my daily injections are just too horrible to look at. So I'm going to have to go shopping at Jakes Surf Shop and get some boarders and a bikini top, me thinks. I'm still really struggling with the injections... I still have to psyche myself up for them - and although I know it's probably entirely psychological, I always feel closest to throwing up just before I do one.

But, the sunshine seems to be here to stay. My daughter is wonderful. My husband is a star. (And my business course is FINISHED! Graduation week after next) What more could I ask for??

I was reading a friend's blog this evening. She's in the hospital up the road from us where we'll deliver. She has cancer and will probably never have children - she's only been married a year. Her tumours are making her nauseous and making her vomit. While I have sympathy, because I know how horrible I feel, at the same time I am aware that what I have to endure will end. Hers may not. She's on morphine now to alleviate the pain.

Another friend's blog I read this evening stated that 'whatever else we may be going through, God is good'. Once again I wonder at this. I don't doubt that God is good, or that he is good all the time, but I do wonder at a God who, being good, allows suffering to continue. Why doesn't God DO something? I know the stock answer is that he walks through the dark times with us, never leaving us; that he carries us through; that the suffering helps to develop character, trust and dependence on God. But sometimes, those stock answers aren't enough for me.

I look at the self-inflicted bruises on my thighs, and although I know why I'm doing it, and although I wouldn't choose to stop the treatment, I do question whether the pain (and the other things I suffer in pregnancy) are worth it. Is it really worth it, when I don't have any sort of guarantee that this child will be born alive? What if we go through this whole thing, only to lose this one too? I keep finding myself becoming careless - I've had more peanuts, raw egg, alcohol, caffeine and other banned items in this pregnancy than the other two combined!

And yet, what price do you put on a life? I know my friend with cancer would give her right arm to be in my shoes right now. To even have the OPTION of having a child... I know she would say that any price is worth it. Is what she's going through worth it? She has no guarantee of life, and with every check-up her prognosis gets worse. Is it worth fighting when it seems the chance of success is so slim? I guess she thinks it is, or she wouldn't keep fighting. But I wonder where God is in all this. Every time she's told that a particular treatment hasn't worked, every time she has a round of chemo that leaves her so weak she can't eat, every time she goes to hospital (knowing that this time she may never leave) - where is God in that? The Bible teaches that he's there, and I believe he is, but where? Where is the shalom of God for her?

Where is the shalom of God for me? I knew that at some point in this pregnancy the paranoia would strike, and it seems that these past few weeks it's been slowly creeping in on me. Last night I caught myself thinking quite seriously that I'm not sure I want to continue with these injections. After all, if God wants this child born alive it will be - despite anything I do or don't do. And if he doesn't, these injections won't help one bit, and will only serve to make me feel awful. So why bother?

When I read the packaging insert, it's terrifying. This stuff can do SERIOUS harm to adults, let alone fetuses. It specifically says that this stuff is 'not tested as safe to administer during pregnancy'. My gynae assures me that the pros outweigh the cons. But do they? And if this child is born disabled because of these drugs, how will I ever live with my guilt? Would I rather bring a disabled child into the world than run the risk of having another stillbirth? Would I rather cause my child's death in infancy through organ failure, or run the risk of another stillbirth?

I know it's a bit late to be asking these questions - I should have done that BEFORE we started on them... because the damage will already be done. So maybe I just keep on with it, in the hopes that, however my child develops, it at least has a chance at life? I really don't know.

When I was younger, I thought I had the answers to everything. Now all I have is questions - questions that no-one can really answer for me.

Then again, maybe I'm just being overly melodramatic and all I really need is a blimming good holiday??? Thank God that is an easy problem to solve. Just one more week and we can find out.