Monday, March 30, 2009

Mixed up

It's one thing when you know that your pregnancy is high risk. It's quite another discovering that a friend is in trouble. For one, you feel so completely helpless. At least, if it's me, I know what the situation is minute by minute. With a friend, you've got to wait for them to sms you (since their phone will mostly be off while in hospital) or call you and let you know progress.

A dear friend has been having problems with her pregnancy just lately - blood pressure stuff. She went into hospital again this past weekend because she was having difficulty breathing & her blood pressure was doing really weird things. After a battery of tests, pre-eclampsia has been ruled out. So has the possibility of an embolism and pregnancy diabetes. Baby is doing absolutely fine. So far so good.

However, they still haven't been able to figure out why her blood pressure is all over the place. She's had to basically cancel her holiday plans (she will still go away, but to a place just over an hour away, rather than the original exotic holiday planned) and now is worried that they will have to induce early. She's about a week ahead of me in terms of gestation.

Praying for her, and worrying about her, over the weekend it struck me afresh how Zoe's death has affected me. I sometimes still struggle to hold other people's babies, and to get excited about them. With this dear friend, my heart was completely in my throat all weekend at the thought that she might have to suffer as I did. Last week, when our deputy head's wife gave birth, I was over the moon about it. Yet, I still struggle to hold family babies... and there are several of them around. Graeme's cousin is also currently pregnant, and I'm finding it really difficult to feel excited for her, yet I'm really excited for my colleague at work (who is 2 weeks ahead of me).

I'm thoroughly mixed up. I can't explain why with friends and colleagues I'm fine, but with family I'm not. It's just so weird. I wish I could though, it would make it a lot easier to deal with.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Extreme sheep art

Sometimes adverts can be so boring. So mundane. So run of the mill. Clearly, the advertising agents were having not just an off day, or week, but an off year.

But then, sometimes, you come across an artist. Someone (or several some ones) who really has the creative genius. Someone who tackles a topic from a completely left field perspective.

AND they manage to produce something incredible. They pull it off.

This is one such ad. It's well worth watching, even though it's nearly 3 mins long. In fact, when it's over you'll wish they'd made it 10 minutes.

UCT RAG floats

As a UCT alumnus, I'm quite attached to the institution. As a first year student there are certain traditions one enters into. Firstly, you simply have to go and sell the RAG magazine. RAG is the student-run fundraising arm of SHAWCO, the student-run charity organisation. You get to dress up weirdly, stand at traffic lights and sell a magazine put together by students. All money raised goes to SHAWCO.

The other more exclusive event is the RAG float parade. This event is exclusively for students of the various hostels. Each hostel designs its own float. These are then paraded down one of the streets in the CBD, collecting money as they go. Again, all money raised goes to SHAWCO. One of the photo blogs I follow is Cape Town Daily Photo. They have a great photo album of this year's parade, which took place yesterday.

SHAWCO runs a variety of projects, both in the health and education sector. As a student, I got involved in one of the educational projects. At the time, I wasn't terribly impressed with their organisation (even back then I was not very tolerant of people who couldn't organise themselves properly), but I figured that at least I was doing SOMETHING.

This year, the RAG magazine event created a lot of controversy because of a comic strip that was very anti-Christianity. So much so that it has even been debated on national television and news. I wasn't surprised by it, as even when I was at university, the institution as a whole was very anti-Christianity, and over the years that I was there the magazine got more and more smutty in its content.

During a discussion in the staff room though, I learnt that one of my colleagues had (recently) been on SHAWCO's executive board. She resigned when she discovered how poorly run the organisation is. Being such a large organisation, they receive tons of funding from all over the world. This money is, apparently, not put to good use. It isn't mis-managed as such, just not utilised properly. For example, SHAWCO received a lump sum of several hundred thousand Rand to be used for one of their educational projects. Instead of buying equipment for underprivileged schools (even low tech stuff like stationery - many kids can't afford to buy paper or pens or textbooks), money was spent buying digital cameras and having T-shirts printed to be able to take photos of UCT students interacting with the kids at a few schools.

In addition, I was told that the RAG magazine, which bears UCT's logo and name, is not seen or approved by anyone in UCT's official management. SHAWCO operates entirely independently. To my mind, if you are a large organisation, such as UCT, and something carries your name and logo on it, you'd want to make sure that the quality of the that product meets a required standard, so that your name doesn't become associated with smut and discrimination based on religion. Apparently not though.

Hearing this, coupled with my own poor experience of SHAWCO when I was a student has put me off the organisation as a whole. As a result, I decided to boycott the parade. I've also decided to boycott the RAG magazine in future, and all things SHAWCO related. Pity, because when I make my millions, I might have given some to them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Only fools and horses...

I'm not a perfect driver. Some days, I'll admit, I'm not even a good driver (yeah, you heard it here first). I get far too many speeding fines... I think I've had 4 since New Year. BUT! I like to think that I'm sensible and a pretty good driver (on the whole). I've yet to be in an accident - caused by me, that is. (I've had someone reverse into the side of my car in a fit of road rage, in order to reach the car behind me - the target - more quickly!!)

When there is lots of traffic, I've learnt to chill and just accept that I'm going to be stuck in it for a while, so I slow down, follow proper following distances, etc, etc. In general, I'm a stickler for using the correct signals, and (unlike my husband) I stop at red lights and go at green ones. I don't take unnecessary risks when I have passengers (although because my spatial awareness is damn good it may appear to be so to someone who doesn't have quite the same level of awareness).

Today I nearly lost my rag with a COMPLETE IDIOT. Those who know my local shopping centre will know that on a Saturday morning it is heaving. In order to deal with the traffic problem, one of the adjacent streets has been made a one way. This does make life harder in general, because to get the petrol garage you have to go ALL the way around the shopping centre, or all the way around the adjacent block.

Well, some clever twit decided that, at 11am, it would be fine to go the wrong way down the one way, because it was quicker and shorter. He had a fridge to deliver, and could obviously not be bothered to go all the way round.

Normally, I would have hooted, and then pulled over to let the idiot pass. But today, something in me just had had enough. I don't care that it's longer to go around. I don't care that there is lots of traffic. It's not safe going the wrong way down the road - especially when your kids are in the car, and NOT STRAPPED IN.

So I refused to pull over. I gesticulated to this idiot that he had to reverse. But no, he tried to pull over to let me pass. I refused to move. So then he tried to manoeuvre around me, but my car was in such a position that he couldn't get around without scratching the parked vehicles, his vehicle or mine. Graeme then got out to go and talk to him. Maybe, just maybe, he hadn't understood my gesticulations. But no, he had. He just thought that he was more important and so the rules could be broken for him.

Of course, by this time, a string of cars had pulled up behind me. I was starting to feel the pressure to just give in, when the gentleman in the car behind me, and the car behind him, also got out and came to talk to this idiot. Thus, with extreme reluctance, he started to reverse. He tried to pull up behind a delivery truck that was parked in the road, to make space for me to go around him, but I simply refused.

I pulled up close enough to him to prevent him from travelling the wrong way back down the one way, but with enough space to manoeuvre around the truck. Graeme spoke to him again. Apparently, he told Graeme to call the police because he wasn't moving. So Graeme got back in the car and I started to dial. As luck would have it though, just then, not one, not two but THREE police vehicles arrived (at the end of the road to which we were heading).

I flashed my lights and pointed to this idiot, and within a few seconds, I'd attracted their attention. With sirens blaring, one of the police vans drove down the road towards us. At long last, and with a look that would have killed he did a U-turn and left.

Of course, by this stage my blood pressure was sky high, but I was elated. A triumph for law & justice! A triumph for the local citizens refusing to give in to skollies who think they can do whatever the hell they like. Yay for us!!

The capacity for evil

The other day, I was busy combing our rescue dog, Alyssa, when I discovered something horrible. She has always been averse to having her head and neck combed. Now I know why. As I was searching for fleas, and combing her hair the wrong way, I discovered a thick band of scar tissue (about 1cm wide) on which no hair was growing. Poor Alyssa has either been strangled, or tied up to such an extent that she developed a deep cut around her throat.

How can any person harm someone or something else like that? I can understand losing your temper... I've come very close to throttling Baggins when he's dug yet another hole or chewed even more of the irrigation system.

But the sort of wounds Alyssa has speak of a deliberate, long-term action that has scarred her both physically and mentally. While I may smack Baggins, I do so with a rolled up newspaper on his rump. While I may smack Janel, it's a sharp pat on the hand, or on her bum. These are actions designed more to shock than harm. If I were ever to cause serious harm to either man or beast... well, I wouldn't. That's the point.

I don't understand how people would allow themselves to lose control to that extent. I mean, I understand how it happens, even in normal, rational human beings. You just get pushed beyond the limit, and i recognise that that can happen to anyone in extreme circumstances, that no-one is immune. What I don't understand is how you can allow yourself to be put in that situation, (particularly on a regular basis), how you can fail to develop the self-discipline needed not to remove yourself from the situation, or change the situation. What I don't understand is the lack of compassion for other lives.

When I was teaching in the UK I realised for the first time that children who behave irresponsibly and immaturely don't grow up. They don't miraculously become functional adults who can take a responsible place in society. They become irresponsible and immature adults, who procreate irresponsibly and then raise more irresponsible and immature children. These individuals are totally 'me' orientated and have no ability to sympathise or empathise with others. It was a real eye opener for me. These kids saw nothing wrong with vandalism, taking drugs, physical violence against both friend and foe, and, what was worse, neither did their parents.

While I can understand it at a cognitive level, at an emotional level I really don't. The kids I've described would have no problems with beating a dog to death. I understand that because they have no capacity for real love, because they've grown up in a world where real love has not been demonstrated to them. At an emotional level I just don't get it. How can anyone lose touch with their own humanity to that extent?

I know that we aren't the perfect dog owners. We don't have enough time to pay them the attention they deserve/ walk them/ play with them/ keep them as mentally healthy as they should be. I know that. Yet, I also know that the home we provide for our pets is a safe and happy one. They are loved, fed, given shelter, and cared for. I know that Alyssa is happy with us and feels mostly secure (every now and again, her emotional scars come peeking through and she wets herself). It makes me feel good to know that we are giving her a new chance at life, in the manner that it should be lived. I am astounded though by the human capacity for cruelty and violence. Within each of us there is a tremendous capacity for evil, and I am astounded at how easily we allow that capacity to become a reality.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Say what?!

Kids! Who really understands what goes on in their heads?

Take my tutor group, for example. I found out that some of the kids in the class have been cutting off the clips on other class mates' bags, making them utterly useless (since they can't be closed). Why? Well, no real reason. Some of them like to make chains out of the clips they cut off. Others like to try to sell the clips back to the person who's bag they were originally cut off of. When you try to explain to them that that's like someone stealing your TV and then trying to sell it back to you, they just don't see the connection.

Like, uh... DUH! That's a TV and this is just a clip, Miss. There's no similarity at all.

When you explain that not only is that vandalism (huh?), but that they will be expected to replace the bag entirely at their own cost, their response is... but why? I only cut off the clips! If I give them back can't they just, like, stick them back on or something?!?!

I am definitely of another generation. Not only would I never have considered doing something like that (my mother would have ... I don't know what - it would have been too terrible to contemplate ever doing something so ridiculous, that's for sure!) but if I'd been stupid enough to get caught, I would never have responded like that. I mean, anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see how ludicrous an activity it is.

Of course, the fact that the other kids are stupid enough to BUY BACK their clips... well! I can only hope they're doing it because they don't want to get into trouble with their parents ('how on earth could you let something like that happen to your stuff?') and are trying to make amends BEFORE they get into trouble.

Then again, kids are dumb enough to try drugs, to binge drink, to try to steal their parents' cars... maybe this is just the latest trick in the book. But really, if you're going to get into the lifestyle of being a petty criminal, at least do something intelligent, something that requires some brain cells, like becoming a hacker.

...speaking of which, we've had a virus on the server at work for the past week. It's been worse than being in the dark ages! Having no technology is incredibly annoying - particularly for a techno-geek like me. I can't teach without my Smartboard, or at least without a data projector and PowerPoint. But having access to the technology when it's chugging over at a pace so slow even snails could crawl faster... well, that's been indigestion & ulcer-causing. (I think I've gone through a bottle of Gaviscon in 3 days as a result.) I'd rather do without! (Fortunately, it's all fixed now, so next week should be better.)

But all this sloth-like behaviour from the computers has meant that I've had to get my news the old fashioned way - by getting up off my stool and wandering over to the deputy head's office and actually, like, TALKING to the man, in PERSON. That's been a shock to the system - not least because in my current state I try to do as little walking as possible. (I've had 2 days of excruciating pain during which a sloth would have beaten me in a race.) It's also been a shock as the deputy head is so seldom seen during the day - he's either in his office putting out fires, or trying to teach these blasted juniors to THINK. We all know it's a losing battle. This clip-cutting incident is all the evidence one needs.

I mean, really, we all know that a teenager's brain - no, let's be specific here. We all know that a teenage boy's brain is completely disconnected from the rest of his body. Rational thought is not something a teenage boy is capable of.

OMG!! I'm incubating one of those right now! Help, help! In a few years' time it's going to be MY idiot teenage son telling me he's in DT yet again for... I don't know - trying to set a girl's hair alight, or something equally stupid. HELP! I'm not cut out for dealing with other people's moronic children; how on EARTH am I going to cope with my own??????

Oh no, but wait - my son will be different. I mean, after all, he has me as his mother. Phew! OK then, we'll be alright. No child of mine would ever DARE do something so stupid, because he knows that I will skin him alive for displaying any, even vague, moronic tendencies. There will be no fools in my household - or at least, no living ones.


Well, I'll keep telling myself that. I'm sure that in a few years' time one of you will be loving enough to pass me the blindfold and earplugs so that I can continue to live in my delusional world of perfection. And I will love you all the more for it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ring the bell for change

I love watching the news. I could watch news all day. I don't read the paper, or listen to the radio much, but I do love the news. Having said that, I don't often get to watch, and when I do, I'm frequently disappointed by the SABC's version of the news. (I'm really starting to appreciate Al Jazeera, and the BBC news is always worth watching.)

I love hearing stories about what's going on in the world around me - from other countries to my local area. What I don't enjoy is seeing the same old thing coming up time and time again. For example, I'm really tired of hearing about the 2010 World Cup preparations. I am tiring of hearing about the recession we're about to go into, and I am definitely OVER hearing about how rubbish the ANC politicians are.

Our general elections aren't far away now (next month). As a result, all and sundry are trying to convince the public that they are the party to vote for, but the promises are all the same, and we all know that they're empty promises. No politician ever means what he/ she says. If they did, if it were possible to keep the promises they make, then this world would already be a very different place to live in, because those who were elected to power last time around (or the time before that, or the time before that) would have already made good on those promises.

The latest example of failure to deliver is that the government has refused a visa to the Dalai Lama to SA to attend a conference for Nobel peace laureates, to discuss how the 2010 World Cup (and soccer in general) can be used to promote tolerance, and to fight racism and xenophobia. Effectively, they have banned him from SA, indefinitely. As a result, the conference has been indefinitely postponed.

Now why, I ask you, would a government who should truly understand the fight for freedom, refuse to permit an international icon of peace, an international icon of the fight for human rights & in a similar league to our venerated ex-president Nelson Mandela, to a conference? Many people are speculating that it's because the ANC are in bed with the Chinese, who kicked up a huge fuss when our South African Nobel peace laureates extended the invitation to him. My opinion is that it's obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the ANC is no longer really interested in human rights. Now all they are interested in is power - getting it, having it, keeping it. SA's relationship with China is more important to the ANC than the human rights of either its people or the Tibetans.

Quite frankly, I find this disgraceful and despicable, but not at all surprising. The fact that the ANC is only interested in furthering its own aims, and no longer appears interested in the human rights it struggled so desperately for, for so many years, is old news. We know this. We're bored of hearing this. Move on.

The only good that might come of this, is, I hope, that more people will wake up and choose to vote for another party. While I'm not interested in listening to political debates (a negative campaign is boring to all concerned), I am very interested in seeing the outcome of this general election. I hope and pray that the ANC does not get its majority, and I hope and pray that COPE doesn't choose to sign an agreement with the ANC.

I hope and pray that this election will be a truly democratic affair in which the best party for South African wins - even if that's not the one I vote for - and I really hope and pray that that party is not the ANC. I'm tired of their empty promises, bored of their rhetoric, disgusted by their corruption. Time for change! Let's ring that bell and get some REAL news for a change.


Today, 2 years ago, I gave birth to my second daughter, who had died in utero the day before. While time doesn't heal the pain, it does make it easier to deal with. If Zoe had lived, I wouldn't be pregnant now. Instead, I would have two gorgeous little girls - one with white blonde hair and one with strawberry blonde hair. They would both be at nursery by now, and Zoe would be potty training. Instead, I have one beautiful daughter and a son on the way.

If I could, would I go back and change things? Before I fell pregnant, that would have been a very easy question to answer: yes. But if Zoe had lived, we would not have tried to fall pregnant again, and this little boy would not be here. So now, trying to answer that question is like trying to decide which of my children would live and which would die, and that's an impossible choice to make.

Similarly, if Zoe had not died, then G & I wouldn't have started Born Sleeping, we wouldn't have met the people we have, or made some of the friends we have. While I miss Zoe, sometimes almost more than I can bear, I know that her death was not in vain.

Goodnight sweet darling. I look forward to the day we meet again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scan baby 2

At long last I'm getting around to loading the video footage we got from our last scan onto the computer. I was really hoping to be able to upload some clips here on the blog.

However, I've run into a massive hitch: the video format is IFO, and Windows Movie Maker doesn't support IFO. I then downloaded a freebie DVD ripper, which coverted a portion of the video to mpeg. Great!, I thought, until I tried to then load the mpeg into WMM, only to have it still come up with an error message to say that there were too many something or other points to make it possible to import the video. Blast!

So tomorrow I'm going to check with a mate of mine who has a DVD ripper, to see whether I can either pop over to use his, or whether he will loan me his software so I can do it at home.

I'm gutted though! I was really looking forward to sharing the video with you all tonight. He's so cute: he was hiccoughing during the video. While I hope you all get to see it, I'm afraid you will have to wait a while longer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just when you think you should give up...

I know I'm crazy. On returning home to SA in 2007 I started two new jobs (he second one was a promotion post), started a new business, started a support group, did a 6 month course, moved house, and last year - I fell pregnant.

The support group is ticking along slowly. The second new job is going fantastically well - I LOVE my job! I'm moving house again in a short while. The pregnancy is going well (or as well as can be expected). So that just leaves the business. This is the one that seems to be falling off the list. There just is not the time to devote to it. It needs marketing, and I don't have the time or money to do what is necessary.

As I've been thinking about how crazy I was to do all this stuff, I've been thinking that maybe the thing that has to go is the business. I originally started it because I didn't want to stay in teaching. Now I'm in such a great job, I want to stay in teaching for the foreseeable future, so the need for the business has fallen away. While I'm reluctant to chalk it up to a VERY expensive mistake, I've been thinking that maybe that's what I need to do.

So, last weekend, I prayed and told God that I've realised the folly of my ways, and I'm going to give up the business.

And this week I've had 3 different people contact me regarding it. Two want to come for a nappucino, and one has placed a huge order.

I really don't know what to make of it. Is that God saying that I shouldn't give up on it, but should let it tick over quietly? Or is that just coincidence - the inevitable small fry one gets from having a website?

When I did the business course, they talked about a time (or several times) where you are faced with the decision about whether to continue with your venture, or pull out. I had one of those moments while I was on the course. I'm having another one now. I chatted to G about it, and we've decided that I will use my maternity leave time to try and do some marketing. Then, early in 2010, we will re-evaluate and see where we're at. Now is one of those times when I really wish God would do some sign-writing in the sky... Should I continue, or not? I just wish I knew for sure which one was the right option - not just for me, but for my family too.

We're going to lose

This is my perennial response to any sport that SA play in. Why? Well, because we usually do. I can't bear to lose. I'm extremely competitive, but I hide from it by simply avoiding situations in which I might lose, or else by pretending that I really don't care about it.

Watching/ listening to the cricket this afternoon was a perfect example. At the start of the 2nd innings, Australia were doing fantastically. Extrapolating from our previous 2 losses in this series, and their performance at that point in time, I was convinced we would lose.

G gets incredibly frustrated with me when I make my pronouncements of impending doom. He is the perennial optimist. I think he also finds my lack of support and loyalty to our teams frustrating. I'm not one of those types who will support a team through thick and thin, simply because I'm not one of those types who is fanatical about sport. I'm very fickle that way. I'm very excited to support our teams when they're doing well, and winning (which is almost never), but I have no patience or energy to support them when they're losing - especially if they've proven they have the ability to win.

Needless to say, the last hour or so of the cricket this afternoon was very exciting. Winning was within our grasp, so I happily stood and watched as we bowled (and caught out) our way to victory. I oohed and aahed along with everyone else as the Aussies suddenly started hitting 6s and 4s, and I cheered along with everyone else when the final wicket fell.

As much as I enjoyed it though, I'm not the type to drive along the road hooting. I guess that if you haven't invested your heart and soul in something, while you can take pleasure in it, that pleasure isn't intense enough to make any real difference to your life.

So what are the things I'm passionate about? Well, I'm not sure anymore. I've been reflecting on this for a while. Since Zoe's death, while I've experienced pleasure, and while I have my hobby horses that make steam come out of my ears, I don't really feel that I am positively passionate about anything anymore, and that really saddens me.

When your heart has been broken, I guess it's hard to invest that level of passion and commitment to something, because in so doing you risk having your heart broken again. I'm not just talking about breaking up with your boyfriend; I'm talking about really having your heart broken - broken in such a way that part of it never recovers. My heart has been very severely broken several times in my life: my parents' divorce, being in an abusive relationship, having and then losing Malcolm (and not being able to share that loss, or the manner of the loss, with my family & friends at the time), not being selected for ordination, and losing Zoe.

No-one ever said that life would be easy, although that's the promise that Hollywood and our materialistic society holds out to us. Yet, quite frankly, I think I've had enough of heart break and sorrow. So I hope you can forgive me when I don't feel inspired to support our boys and girls in green - their success or failure is just 'something' that happens around me. I'm happy for them (and me) if they succeed. I feel annoyed if they fail. But neither emotion changes my life. If that makes me unpatriotic and less of a South African, then so be it.

Congrats to our boys today - at least they were spared the ignominy of losing all 3 matches when they're supposed to be the best in the world. And well done on playing such a superb game today. Thanks for the few short hours of pleasure they gave me - I appreciate the distraction.

Drug addicts

A member of the extended family is an alcoholic. At this stage, while s/he has been through one full round of rehab (primary and started secondary), s/he is still not really at the point of accepting the reality. Thus, there have been further lies, resulting in her/ him being chucked out of the rehab centre. This individual has no job, no assets, and has already run up huge debts in the time leading up to and including rehab.

At family lunch today, we were discussing how, as a family, we should handle both the situation and the person. We had some American family visiting, and they've also got a child who is a recovering alcoholic (been clean for 20 years now). They were giving us words of wisdom from their accumulated time of trying to deal with their child.

I honestly don't know how to respond. On the one hand, I have no problem being 'hard-@ssed' about it. Being a teacher means you have to learn how to be a bitch sometimes, to disconnect from the person in front of you, and just let the consequences take their toll. On the other hand, watching the rest of the family in such obvious angst about it and being so hurt by the lies and deceit, by the words spoken in anger, and by them watching this person they love destroying him/herself... it's very hard to disconnect from that.

Thinking back over the interactions I've had with this person over the years, I can't help but feel like an idiot. The signs were there to see, if I'd had eyes to see them. Way back in 2000... but instead, I chose to be naive, to believe the best. I failed to consider alternatives. At the time, that was because I still felt I didn't really know this person, so shouldn't judge. I didn't feel qualified to say anything, because I was still new to the family. If I had said anything though, I doubt that it would have made any difference... addicts being what they are. But still...

I know the coming months (and maybe years) are going to be hard on the family. Watching this person's journey (possibly to getting clean, possibly just walking further down this road of self-destruction) will be filled with both ups and downs, and it's the downs that will be hard to deal with. As a parent I know that nothing is harder than watching from the sidelines, unable to do anything to help or make things better. I guess, at the end of the day, all I can really do is pray, but since I'm still having problems in that department... well, enough said.

I'm fairly sure this person won't be contacting me, or asking for help, and won't come knocking on my door - but stranger things have happened. So I feel the need to be prepared, it's just that I'm not sure how to really prepare for this.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood

The tale of Little Red Riding Hood, but in a modern context...

Slagsmålsklubben - Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

Staff vs pupil basketball

OH so close... I think the final score was 52:46 (to them, of course). We didn't cheat. Never. Just used some unorthodox tactics... not that it got us what we wanted. Sigh!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mysteries from Isaiah

A few years back now, I investigated a call to ordained ministry that I have felt pretty much all my life. I can remember, even back in primary school, feeling that all I really wanted to do with my life was preach and teach. However, since in those days women were not allowed to be ministers, I gave up on the idea and pursued a career in teaching.

With the emancipation of women though, it was really only a matter of time before the church recognised that women are able to be ordained ministers too. (I don't want to debate whether there should be male headship right now - that's a WHOLE other issue.) As sentiments changed, and as the Church recognised that God created men and women equal, women have continued their fight for emancipation within the formal structures of the various denominations.

So as I said, a few years back, I felt God prompt me to take this most precious and secret desire of my heart, and lay it on the altar. At the time, I was surrounded by several very wise people, who all supported me in my voyage of discovery. Obviously, I was unsuccessful. That blow knocked my faith in a way that only Zoe's death has surpassed, and that is part of the reason that I have struggled so deeply with my faith.

Anyway, I share all of that as background information, really. The passage that has been so dear to my heart, for more years than I can remember, and that I believe God has used as his call on my life is Isaiah 61:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

As Graeme and I have been searching for a church family to join, I have been reflecting on this call, because if the call is still valid, then we would have to join a church that recognises women's ministry in the pulpit (not as an adjunct to her husband's, but in its own right). My heart's desire is still to preach, although I recognise that I'm not in the best position to do so right at the moment, nor will I be for a while yet I suspect. I have been reflecting on this passage again, wondering whether I misunderstood it, or whether I merely got the timing/ place wrong.

Last night, G and I shared our story about this journey, and about Zoe, and everything in between, with our new home group. With Tues being Zoe's 2nd anniversary, (can it really have been so long ago already? It still feels like only recently that she was here and gone...) and with only 11 weeks to go till induction, these next few weeks have the potential to be quite a bumpy ride for us, and for me in particular. We know that we are going to need their support and prayers in this time, and in order for them to pray effectively, knowing our story is a massive help.

The group immediately offered to pray for us, which we accepted. During that prayer time, the Is. passage came up. I hadn't shared about how precious this passage is to me, so I know it wasn't because of that. It's not the first time in the past month that this passage has come up either. While I know that it's a popular passage, it does rather seem that God is gently bringing this passage back into focus for me.

Why? I'm not sure. Maybe the ultimate reason that ordination didn't happen in the UK is because it was meant to happen here. Maybe it's because God's calling, while a call to preach, is not to ordained ministry, but to a lay preaching ministry. All I know for sure is that God's got plans for me - that much I can sense. Quite how those plans will come together remains a mystery to me.

One the one hand, that mystery excites me, because it feels a bit like going on a treasure hunt. On the other hand, it terrifies me, because I'm not sure I really want to walk in the dark, and hand over this heart's desire once again, just to see it destroyed again.

But then I read through the passage again... wouldn't it be so exciting if I really got to DO all that stuff?!?!?! Oh, I hope it happens... I really hope it does! I want my epitaph to say that I made a difference; that the world is a better place not just because I was in it, but because through me, God's shalom was realised on this small piece of earth I inhabit.

Fires on Table Mountain

Yes, yes, I know it's old news to everyone by now. Sorry. I'm just catching up with myself. For those who don't know, Table Mountain experienced the worst fires in a decade (I think I read that stat somewhere) during this past week. I gathered some photos from The Telegraph and 9News.What struck me is that the last time Table Mountain burnt this badly, Graeme and I were about to move to the UK. We had a few friends over for dinner and drinks, and were standing on the balcony of our flat, sipping after dinner drinks, watching the blaze. Even from where we lived (about 10km away) you could actually see the flames. I remember how scary it was then, at such a distance. For those who had to be evacuated this time around, I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been.

Sunset concert

Just some pics of some of the kids in my tutor class in their first ever high school performances (choir and various bands). Probably won't interest most of you, but I was so very proud of them. One performed despite having both an ear and kidney infection!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On a lighter note...

As petrol prices went up, I finally acquiesced and agreed that Graeme could get a scooter. Having lived with several people who rode motorbikes and all wound up in hospital (either seriously hurt or dead), I have a real fear of someone I love winding up dead in a motorbike accident. However, in the Broster clan, not having one is becoming a faux pas. Of course, I stipulated conditions... and colour. It's bright yellow, because yellow is the most visible colour on the road (or so says the AA).

Since then though, the idea has been growing on me. I can also foresee the day when Graeme and I have to swap vehicles to fetch Nellie (we only have one car seat), and there isn't time for him to first go home to swap the scooter for the other car. In that case, I will need to be able to drive the scooter home. As I've contemplated this, and as I've seen other parents drop their kids off at nursery in the morning on the back of a motorbike (sheesh! they're really too little to go on a bike like that!), I've found myself wondering at what age I would be happy for Graeme to take Nellie on the scooter. My brother takes his middle daughter to school on his bike and she's only just turned 13 (granted, he has one of those BMW versions with the full hood that covers the motorcyclist and passenger but leaves the sides completely exposed.) I've also wondered what happens when we have two sprogs... how would that work, logistically, on a scooter.

Well, today my brother and his wife sent me a fantastic PowerPoint slide show of people doing seemingly impossible logistical feats of transport. (Email me if you want a copy.) One slide really caught my attention, because it answers that very question.

Of course, while people like me have a baby seat on the back of their bicycles, other people prefer to use their bikes to carry other things....

As I said - if you want to see the rest (and they are more fantastical than these ones!) email me.

'The Last Supper'

Being sick only has one advantage - one has to lie still in bed for hours on end. This means that, in order to avoid complete boredom, one must either read a book, watch TV or listen to radio. My preference is reading.

I haven't read a book cover to cover like I did today for far too long. It was glorious, and a wonderfully guilty pleasure. Of course, I have piles of marking to do, and should probably have done it, but I think the break from routine has been delicious.

What did I read? An interesting book. There has been a lot of speculation about Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'The Last Supper', not least because of the way that Dan Brown has used it in his book 'The Da Vinci Code'. The novel I read today, 'The Secret Supper' by Javier Sierra, is another in the same line. It seeks to pin Leonardo as a Catharist.

Catharism, I learnt today, is an heretical Christian cult of the 11th and 12th centuries. Very similar to Gnosticism, the followers of this cult mostly believed in a dualism of nature - that the earth was created by an evil god (the God of the Old Testament) and that real enlightenment comes by believing in the true God, who is a being of light, of whom Jesus was a messenger. They rejected the crucifixion, and abhorred anything to do with copulation (as it was seen to trap you in the earthly, evil world). As a result, they were celibate (the 'priests' were the only ones who had to abide by this - no doubt because otherwise their cult would have died out in one generation!), and ate nothing that was the product of copulation - no eggs, no dairy, no meat. Fish was tolerated only because fish were thought not to copulate to produce offspring. They also refused to take any vows (including marriage) and lived lives of humility. All possessions were given to the community, so that they would not be enslaved in this world by material things.

They also held some rather odd beliefs about Mary Magdalene (e.g. that she hid Jesus' body after he revealed himself to her in his body of light following his burial), and the church in general. Consequently, they believed that the only sacrament possible was a 'consolamentum' in which some say the Gospel of John was placed upon the head, and the spirit/ content thereof baptised, absolved & ordained all those who received it.

Anyway, poor Leonardo is once again roped in to provide a background for telling a story of one poor inquisitor monk's role in rooting out an evil and finding a murderer. The story itself is gripping - full of little puzzles and riddles to tempt anyone with more brain power than poor, sick me - and the conclusion is certainly a fitting one for the way the story has been woven together. Certainly, there is a plausibility to the story - the author has done his research (although I wish the same could be said for Dan Brown) - and the author has worked very hard at making it so. As with all conspiracy theory stories, one is left feeling a bit deflated by the whole thing. However, one thing the blurb does get right - you will never look at 'The Last Supper' in the same light again. It is impossible now to look at the painting and not think about Catharism, whether or not Leonardo was secretly a member of the cult or not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Blue Train

Nellie & Georgia watching the Blue Train. Georgia has become a very girly girl. She was, at all of age 4, wearing make-up, much to her father's disgust! If he's lost that battle already, then one wonders what the future holds for them. Still, no point pointing fingers. We've lost tons of battles with Nellie already. I guess each parent has to pick which battles are really worth fighting for, in their unique situation.

Blue Train

Nellie loves trains. She's very excited that the 'new' house is near a railway line. She therefore had a blast at Georgia's party, where she got 2 ride the Blue Train.

Mouille Point

Gotta love Cape Town on a beautiful windless day. This is where Georgia's party was. (See Nellie's blog)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Delayed inevitability

I guess it was bound to happen... I tried hard to avoid it, but I feel myself succumbing...

After the heat of the past few weeks, and the manic busy-ness, I'm surprised I've survived this long. I guess I should be grateful.

All day today I've had a really sore throat. I feel run down and tired, and with the number of sick kids around me at school at the moment (they're dropping like flies) I've been exposed to lots of bugs. Janel has also been coughing for the past day or two, so she's also got something. Maybe I've caught something from her.

And it seems that today, whatever bugs I've caught have reached critical mass. Bummer. So tomorrow I hope I can lie in bed and mark. Only 7 more projects to go. Then I want to try sleeping for a bit. Tomorrow evening though, I have to try and get through a class test. I have 4 to mark by Thursday, and the sooner I get started, the better.

I'm going to be good, and not try to feel sorry for myself. Instead, I'm going to remain positive. So let's list the positive things to focus on:

  • the blessing of friends - we've just had a great evening with a missionary friend from Bosnia who's home visiting her supporters. Dinner and then playing Wii games.. lots of laughs all round.
  • the blessing of weekends - some people work 6 days a week, others work 7, either because they live in a country where that's normal, or because they have to have 2 jobs (or more) to support their families. While I had to work this morning, I have the blessing of time off to spend with my family, to go to church, to be with friends.
  • the blessing of children - this afternoon Janel came to sit on my lap, and was so concerned about not wanting to hurt me or the baby but still wanting to lean against me; then during bath time she gave me a huge hug & called me her 'sweetheart'.
  • the blessing of an amazing husband - who let me lie down after the party, made delicious supper, entertained Nellie, fed the dogs, cleaned out the blocked sewer, and even came to check on whether there was anything I needed.
I have a lot to be thankful and joyful for. But right now I'm going to give in to the inevitable. I'm tired, and my throat is on fire (as is my tummy... indigestion is a constant companion at the moment, despite the blessing of Gaviscon), and I think bed is probably the best place to be. Let's hope this bug doesn't hang around for too long.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Plans plans

At LONG last, our plans have been approved. Yup, after we were initially promised them in the 2nd week of January, nearly 2 months later, we have them. Jubilation!!

So on Monday we officially begin building legally. Hooray!

6 weeks from then we should be moving in to our 'new' house (if building goes according to plan) - so that's the end of April, just in time for the stress of exams. Hmm... maybe we'll wait till after the baby is born in that case.

But in the mean time we're very excited. (Left of the picture is the street side, and our new front door. Right side is our back garden.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Enough already!

I must be tired. Even I said to Graeme last night that I need to slow down. You gotta know how bad things get for me to admit that it's too much.

But I don't want to complain. I feel like I've been doing a lot of that lately. I'm determined to be positive. So... the positive things happening in my life right now are:

Gd 10 field trip tomorrow - sun, sea... oh yes, and 134 15-yr olds. Hmm... I know what you're thinking, but this really is a positive thing. Firstly, although it took me a lot of schlep I got all but one of the reply slips in today. (We've got this great system in place so that parents can sms their permission in, rather than have to fill in forms.... except it broke down and hasn't worked properly for the last month or so.) That was a major achievement and I'm very proud of myself. Secondly, I love this field trip (even though it's exhausting beyond words) because the kids actually enjoy themselves on it. There are lots of light bulb moments. Most of these kids will never have played in a rock pool before, let alone realised the incredible diversity of life right there under their shoes. And of course, someone always get completely drenched by the waves or falls in a rock pool - which the others love.

Science Fair has ended and was a huge success. I've basically finished up all the remaining admin for it - got one last task to sort out next week, and then it's just filing the stuff ready for next year. I'm really pleased by how well it went, considering this was the first time I've run one in SA.

Nellie is being such a joy at the moment - we're still in a 'Mommy is flavour of the month' stage, but although her clingyness is exhausting, I'm revelling in the love and attention!

Baby boy suddenly seems to have realised that to keep Mommy from panicking he needs to kick vigorously, and is doing so. OK, so it's right into my bladder and is incredibly uncomfortable, but it's another thing I'm relishing because at least I have no concerns that he's healthy and alive. (Only 12 weeks to go tomorrow!!)

We have an incredible family - just had dinner with American family out here for a visit. Great family party on Sat night, another family party coming up this weekend, grandparents are taking Nellie for Friday night so we can rest a bit (although not much as I have a school function on Sat starting at 9.30am) & get a night off. What a blessing they are!

And I have an incredible husband who buys me chocolate treats and makes me profuse numbers of cups of tea... not to mention the way he is taking up the slack with Nellie while I'm so incredibly busy.

So, while I'm swamped with work, can't quite see the silver lining, don't quite know how I'm going to physically do all the things that have to happen by next Thursday, and am ready to call quits on work in general, there is actually a lot to be really grateful for, and that's what I'm going to focus on. Enough complaining already!

That said, let me head off now to start my marking for today (at 9.20pm), because otherwise I will get even further behind and become even more stressed.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bad taste 80s party

Blame Graeme's cousin... she had a 'bad taste 80s' party for her 30th. If we hadn't been heading off to the Argus the next morning we would have stayed late and partied till late - the 80s had some AMAZING music!! However, despite the fact that Nellie was at Oupa and Ouma's for the night, we headed home around 10pm to be up at the crack of dawn again.

What doesn't show up here so well is my frizzy big hair... and purple eye make-up! Still, we had fun while we were there. Thanks, Trish! Hope you had fun too!

Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour

Whew! What a name!

For those individuals who don't know what the Argus is... it's a 108km cycle race around the Cape Peninsula. Every year it gets more and more popular, with South Africans and international types alike. This year, there were about 35,000 entrants of which just over 11,000 were first timers. This year, there was also the worst wind possible. In fact, in the early hours of the morning the organisers were contemplating cancelling because the wind was gusting at hurricane levels. At least the riders couldn't complain it was hot!

Graeme's brother and father were riding a tandem. Rob has done the race several times already. (Last time he did it, he did it twice in one day... for charity, granted, but still!) It was his dad's first time though, so the family rallied to support at various places. First us was us and G's mom, further down the track was Phil and his wife, yet further was Rob's financeé, and at the finish was Cath and her hubbie. Despite the wind, their time was pretty good - about 5 1/2 hrs.

While waiting to see them (the starts were delayed to increase safety and spread the groups out because of the wind), I was playing with my phone to learn how to take better pics with it - and got some nice ones. (Needless to say I also got a lot of crud!) I thought I may as well share some of them with you. Enjoy.

Friday, March 06, 2009

...and today he just wouldn't let up!

Do I still have a bladder left? Hmm... not sure. From zero to a million miles an hour. Yup, for whatever reason, the little man decided that TODAY was the day to discover how to do tumble turns in Mommy's tummy - best make use of the space while he has it, or something.

I can honestly say that not an hour went by, probably not even half an hour, that it didn't feel like he was deliberately trying to kick the living daylights out of my bladder.

At least I can say that he is alive and well. So while I may have no bladder left, I count that blessing!

Monday, March 02, 2009

This weekend I hardly felt the baby move at all, and recently he's been incredibly active. The last time there was a slow down in fetal movements, it's because Zoe was busying dying. Yesterday I felt no movements at all from lunch onwards.

I have a baby monitor (more of a glorified stethescope than a proper Doppler machine) and I've been trying to use it to listen to the baby (to keep sane and keep dead baby thoughts at bay). While I've yet to hear the heartbeat on it, sometimes I'm able to pick up the sounds of the baby kicking. However, when I used it last night, I heard nothing at all.

I tried very hard not to panic, but didn't manage it. Then I started to feel what might have been mild contractions (for me they always start as lower back ache). By this morning, I'd still felt no movement (and usually I get a few kicks through the night). I didn't sleep very well last night, worrying about it all, and I cried so much this morning (out of fear) I threw up (sorry if that's too much info). Needless to say, I became convinced that the baby had died and I was already in first stage labour. As far as I was concerned, it was just a matter of confirming my suspicions.

Fortunately, today was my 22 week scan, so I didn't need to book an emergency appointment or rush off to the hospital. Waiting till 10.30am was a trial though - especially trying to teach my matrics about implantation and embryo development for their Human Reproduction chapters!

I raised my concerns with the sonographer as soon as I could, who immediately checked the heart - and I promptly burst into tears because his heart was pumping strongly. What a beautiful sight and sound! She did a full APS check (which focusses on the placental health) as well as the usual anatomy checks, and we got the all clear.

Of course, this is exactly what happened with Zoe (almost to a T), and 24hrs later she was dead. I have peace though, that he's not going to be dead tomorrow. I talked to the sonographer about why I couldn't feel him move. My placenta is on the front wall of the uterus, and covers pretty much the entire front of my tummy. This means that unless he kicks really hard, and in the direction of my bladder or lungs, I probably won't feel it. Also, she reminded me that boys are less active in utero than girls are. Since I've had 2 girls, I'm expecting there to be more movement, and there won't be. She also mentioned that because of the placenta being where it is, it will be difficult to hear anything in utero unless I have a proper Doppler machine, hence why I was struggling to hear his movements. Her words reassured me and I feel a lot calmer about everything now.

Of course, I'm sure I'll have another panic attack between now and the induction date, but I am grateful to be past this one. Thanks to everyone who saw my FB/ Twitter status and either sms'd or posted a comment in their concern - I really appreciate it.

The other news is that our due date has been moved forward again. I'm now due on the 1st July, so induction will probably be on Wed 3 June. I will post photos of today's scan soon, and some clips from the video.