Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Suckier and suckier

Today saw two unpleasant pieces of news....

Firstly, that my cousin and her husband are getting divorced. How sucky is that? She has two small kids - one turning 4 and the other just a few months. So now she will have to get a proper job (she's been working part-time from home) and put her eldest into after care every day of the week and find a day care place for the youngest. The news came to her as a big shock, because she didn't think things were that bad yet.

The other sucky piece of news is that my colleague, who's got leukemia, was rushed back into hospital this morning after being home for less than 24 hrs. She'd finished her current round of chaemo last week, but wasn't allowed home because she suddenly had to have 3 blood transfusions. She also has two young kids (8 and 12), neither of whom really understand what's going on.

What a sucky end to an otherwise lovely day. If you are the praying type, please pray for both of them, and their kids, and their families.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Long term effects

Divorce sucks. It isn't just horrible while you go through it. It isn't just horrible while you're a child. No, the consequences are with you for the rest of your life. Every time you think that, finally, you've figured out a way to live around the awful fact, something happens to make you realise that things in your life will always be broken and fractured. Relationships never heal fully after a divorce. Family life will never be whole again. Ever. No matter how much you wish it, or pray for it, or work towards it. The fact of the matter is that a broken family is broken forever.

Blended families are just as bad. In a blended family, you're still part of another broken one. No matter how great your blended family is (and some never work), that broken family you're part of will continually impact upon you, whether you like it or not. Whatever limited happiness you may have found is continually on the brink of destruction.

(I guess it's much the same for those who lose a parent while they're a child, and then their other parent remarries - particularly if the person they're marrying already has kids or a family of their own.)

One would think that, at 33, I'd gotten over my folks' divorce. In many respects, I have. Similar to losing Zoe though, the impact of that divorce continues to ricochet through my life. It doesn't take much to make me remember that I'm always going to be an outsider in my own family because I don't belong anywhere. My half-brothers have each other. My step-siblings have each other. I belong nowhere. I have no-one. And it will always be like that, until the day I die. It doesn't matter that I know my brothers love me. It doesn't matter that I get on really well with several of my step-siblings and consider them my blood family. It doesn't matter that I love my parents. This THING will always come between us and tear us apart. Always.

Edited to add: The thing that really set me off last night is that now the whole divorce and blended family saga is starting to affect Janel. I could be okay with it if it was just me, but now she is starting to suffer with it too. She's too young to understand why she's not welcome at certain family gatherings. Actually, I don't understand that either, how it is that we can't all be one big happy family, but at least I can understand what divorce is. It's so unfair that she has been thrust into the midst of all this &%$£, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I can try to shield her from it as much as I can, but I know that's actually not enough. So that's why I got so completely mad about it last night, why it really got to me. Normally, I would niggle at it, but it wouldn't get me so upset. Because Janel was upset about it though, it really got to me, because it's just so unfair & there's nothing I can do to fix it or make it better or heal the situation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mutant happy doors

After all the fuss about choosing a happy door for our front door, we eventually decided not to have one. Instead, my darling father made us (with his own hands) a beautiful pivot door. I'm so thrilled with it! I think it's gorgeous, so you're not allowed to think differently.

We have still got a set of happy doors though - in our bedroom. They look lovely too. I'll post the pics once the glass is in though.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Baby Doppler

Having lost Zoe at 37 weeks, you can understand that I was bound to be rather paranoid during this pregnancy. In discussion with my gynae, we decided that a good route to giving myself peace of mind would be to buy a baby Doppler machine. These machines allow you to hear the baby's heartbeat from about 12 weeks onwards, but in the comfort of your own home.

We looked into it, but they are frightfully expensive in SA, particularly if it's only going to be used for one pregnancy. A very kind friend then offered to buy one for us in the USA, as they were quite cheap there. We were thrilled. Unfortunately, the one she bought can only be used in the 3rd trimester (from week 30 onwards) and despite trying several times, I haven't been able to get it to work at all.

I then had the scare around 22 weeks where I was convinced the baby had died. I didn't rush off to the hospital, as everyone would have assumed I would, because I am (surprisingly) a bit of a pragmatist. Even if the baby was in trouble, they would not have induced or given me a caesar, because a baby that young has little chance of survival outside the uterus. My attitude was - either he will live, or he won't; medically, there is very little that can be done. So I kept my mouth shut, suffered in silence (I didn't even tell Graeme for the first 24 hours) and waited for our scan on the Monday.

At that appointment the sonographer told me that I will find it difficult to feel him move, since my placenta is in the way. It covers most of the front of my uterus, which is where the nerves are that allow you to feel movement. (There are relatively few nerves inside the abdomen in general, most of which are not involved in pain reception, but in innervating digestive muscles, which is often why people can develop tumours and not feel them.) That gave me a lot of peace of mind, because I could calm myself with the knowledge that, this time around, it's okay not to feel a lot of movement.

Since then though, it seems baby boy has decided to co-operate in the grand scheme to keep me sane. He has been steadily kicking his way through my bladder and lungs - the only other places where pain can be easily felt. On the one hand, I've been so grateful - at least I know he's alive; on the other, I've been annoyed - it's not fun having your lung capacity decreased to such an extent that you can't stand and talk at the same time, or feeling like you're about to wet yourself.

There have still been moments though when I've had anxiety. I won't call them panic attacks, because they've never got that bad. I've usually been able to distract myself and calm myself down, and a short while later he has kicked again. However, as the danger period (from now onwards) these anxiety spells have been increasing. Most often, they occur when I wake up at night, and I can't remember when last I felt him move.

So I decided that, since I've not been able to get the other machine to work, it was time for us to fork out and buy a proper Doppler. In conversation with our home group members about my anxiety, they generously (and spontaneously) clubbed together and gave us some money to buy the machine. Last weekend, we found a second-hand one that was (while still expensive) in good nick and less than the full amount for a new one.

Since then, I have learnt a lot about my little man. For example, he REALLY does not appreciate the eavesdropping. No sooner do I put the machine on, and find his heartbeat, than he will determinedly turn away so that I can no longer hear it. Very annoying! Also, I discovered just how much he is actually moving. Even when I can't find his heartbeat (and yes, that does have tremendous potential to freak me out) I can clearly hear him moving around in the amniotic fluid, practicing his kicking and punching. What amazes me is that even while I can hear him, I honestly can't feel it. That has been a great source of peace to me - that even when I can't feel him, the likelihood is that he is still moving around.

The Doppler also has the function to allow you to record the sounds you hear on the computer. I haven't tried it out yet, but I will. When I do, I'll post the recording here, so you can hear him too.

Other than that, I guess we're doing well. I'm feeling more and more certain that he's going to make an appearance before the induction date (which will be 10 June), and that's already early. I say that because I'm already feeling as uncomfortable as I was with Janel (she appeared of her own accord at 33 weeks) and with both girls I went into labour at 33 weeks (Zoe's stopped spontaneously after prayer). I'm 29 weeks now, so if my 'magic' number is 33, then I've got 4 weeks to go! There's a scary thought!

Not just a pretty face

We have a flea problem. A serious flea problem. Despite dipping, flea collars, and spot treatment, our dogs have fleas in their hundreds. Last night I took about 50 fleas off each. The night before that was the same. I've been combing the dogs every 2nd night or so, to help kill as many as I can manually. As a result, the dogs have learnt what to expect when I pick up the flea comb.

Last night, Alyssa was either fast asleep or out of ear shot when I called them for their combing. Baggins rushed to me and we started the combing routine. A few minutes later Alyssa became aware of the fact that Baggins was getting a combing. Normally, Alyssa goes first, then Baggins, and then Alyssa again (because she always has more fleas than him). Needless to say, she was frantic to get in on the action.

Initially, she tried to lie on top of Baggins. When I pushed her off, she then ran outside and started barking at the gate, in the vain hopes that Baggins would come out to see what all the fuss was about. I had a good chuckle over that. Then she went and found his hoof and brought that inside. She put it down just outside of his reach, so that he would have to get up to retrieve it. Again, all this to no avail, but I was amazed at her ingenuity. In desperation, she finally resorted to going to Graeme in the hopes that he might intervene and re-establish the natural order of things. Of course, that didn't work either, so she went off to sulk on her bed.

Whatever else you may say about our beautiful, small dog, she is not just a pretty face, I've discovered. Underneath her fear of humans, there lurks a very intelligent problem-solving brain. Now, the question is just: how do we tap into that brain and train her properly? (It would be great if she could pick up her own poop, for example!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Britain's got Talent 2009

If you haven't yet seen or heard of Susan Boyle, then you really need to get with it. Her story is a modern fairy tale, a dream come true. It also is a story that makes one realise just how cynical and materialistic our world is. Her video, on YouTube, is the most downloaded video EVER. Embedding it in other sites has been disabled. So, you will just have to follow the link and watch it on YouTube for yourself.

Today, I saw another video from the same programme: Stavros Flatly. This one is just as unusual, but for a completely different reason. Again, embedding it has also been disabled. Again, it's worth clicking on the link, going to YouTube and watching it for yourself. Amazing!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meme time again

Imagine you've been told you have less than a year to live. What would you do with the remaining time allotted to you?

I ask because tonight G and I watched 'Bucket List'. It's the story of two old guys who wind up in the same cancer ward, and are given the same diagnosis - you have less than a year to live. One starts a 'Bucket List' - a list of things to do before he dies. The other then starts adding to the list. They then embark upon this crazy tour of the world, ticking off their items. The movie is generally very funny, with moments of real poignancy. I think I'll add it to my list of favourites.

The underlying question of the movie though is about how we choose to spend the time we have left, since most of us have no idea how long we have left to live. Of course, the thought of me dying, and leaving Nellie to grow up without her mommy is enough to have me balling my eyes out and leaving snot trails bigger than a slug - so let's not go there. (Graeme's a big boy; I know he'd cope without me. I hope he'd find someone else to love.)

But it got me thinking - what would I do with my life if I knew I only had a year or less left? I've been pondering some of the things on the main characters' bucket list - like to kiss the most beautiful girl in the world (I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen the movie... how they go about achieving this one is a beautiful miracle! What I will say is that I have already done that one, and I'm not vain enough to think that kissing my own reflection in the mirror as a child qualifies!), see something majestic, skydive.

So I'm going to create my own list... although it will probably take me a few days. When I'm done, I'll post it for you, probably, if I have the guts.

I challenge you to do the same - come up with your list and post it somewhere. Really think about your life & what you would do if you had a year or less left. I don't want pie in the sky stuff - like becoming the first woman president - nor do I want dreams you know will never be fulfilled (like getting to walk your daughter down the aisle - if you were to die in the next year, that probably wouldn't happen unless your daughter is already dating her one true love). I want real stuff, achievable stuff, but stuff that also has real meaning to it. OK, I know we all have to work to earn a living, and that does rather put a damper on the amount of time and resources we would have available to really make the most of the fictional year we have left. Still, give it your best shot. What would be on your list?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Perception is reality

While crime can be quantitatively measured, it is very difficult to gauge the reality of crime because many crimes are not reported. Having lived in London for some many years, I can honestly say that I personally experienced more crime living there, than in my entire life living in SA. If you were to ask me whether SA or the UK had more crime, I would say the UK.

However, that is just my perception. My perception is my reality.

While living in the UK, several tourists died as a result of crime in SA, mostly in Cape Town. In reading through news reports, it became obvious that these foreign white people were in areas that no local white person would ever visit, because we knew they were unsafe. Similarly, we realised that we had come to identify the areas of London that were unsafe. How did we identify these areas? From information gleaned from friends & newspapers, & in some cases from a gut feeling we picked up while visiting those areas. In other words, our perceptions were formed from the information we gathered, and those perceptions became our reality.

This weekend we helped our maid (domestic worker) to move furniture into her new shack in one of Cape Town's very large black suburbs (I use that word quite loosely). There are several of these suburbs around, so I asked her which she thought was safest. She commented that she thought her area was getting safer, because she now felt she could walk around at night without too much risk. However, she said her brother was still so scared of her area that he wouldn't venture there in public transport. Similarly, she said, she was so scared of the area her brother lived in, she wouldn't visit him very often either.

When we offered to help her move, she was taken aback that we would venture into this suburb, because we're white. She asked whether we weren't scared. Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me to be scared. We were moving during daylight hours. We would be travelling in a beat up old van, not a vehicle likely to be hijacked. We would also be travelling with her and her partner. Yet, after she asked the question, I found myself pondering it frequently. Should I be scared? Was my perception correct? Would we be safe? Or was she still living with the old Apartheid perceptions of her own suburb (i.e. that any white person entering would immediately be attacked)?

As it happened, we were perfectly safe. However, we did attract a large crowd, and complete strangers would wave at me and greet me as I drove past. (Graeme and I were in separate vehicles.) I think it was such a novelty for these black locals to see a whitie around.

The only time I felt a bit nervous was on entering the squatter camp section of this suburb where our maid's shack was. The dirt roads are so narrow you can't turn a car around easily in them. I was aware that if someone did want to hijack us, this would be a good place to do it, because you have to drive slowly as a result of the poor condition of the road, and because the shacks are so close to the road you wouldn't have time to see someone stepping out from between them with a gun. If you did see them, you wouldn't be able to react in any way.

I was struck afresh by the lack of sanitation, the open sewers, the mangy dogs and the children playing in amongst all this. As I'd dewormed the dogs (and us) only that morning (Baggins brought up a lovely 10cm roundworm on the carpet during the previous night), I was very aware of parasites. It struck me, watching these kids playing in the street with the mangy dogs and around the filthy water running openly in the street, that they must all be infected with parasites of one sort or another.

When I was chatting to my maid later about the coming election, she commented that the ANC has done nothing for them (meaning the poor black communities of Cape Town). As COPE is made up of ANC people, she said it's pointless voting for them either, as they'll do nothing differently. As a result, she hasn't registered to vote. (Clearly, she doesn't think any of the other parties are worth voting for either.) I was very surprised to hear her say this. My perception had been that all poor blacks loved the ANC, and I realise now what a ridiculous generalisation and stereotype that is.

Another truth I was confronted with is just how rich G & I are. Our maid has bought a 2nd hand shack on the edge of a squatter camp where she will have no running water and no private toilet. She does have electricity though. Her shack already smells of damp, and the winter rains haven't yet begun. (Granted, that may be because the place is seldom aired properly for security reasons, and not because the place actually leaks.) While I'm thrilled that working for us has enabled her to purchase this shack and move out of her mother's house (where she, her kids, her sister, her sister's kids, her brother and her mother were all living together), I was horrified to see the conditions in which she has moved.

They have 3 rooms - her bedroom, a bedroom for her daughter, and the living room cum kitchen. Her son will be sleeping in the living room. The house is still a shell - bare concrete floors (newly laid though, so hopefully will prevent water leaking in from the ground) and no ceiling (just corrugated sheeting for the roof). She plans to buy carpets and put in a ceiling. Her entire house could fit into my bedroom & Nellie's bedroom, maybe less. Even our 'new' house (which I consider to be as small as I'm prepared to go) is easily triple the size.

I suppose one of the positive things to come out of this trip is a realignment of my perceptions about my relative wealth. The entire day I kept thinking about her little boy, who is now 5, living in that dank home, amidst the dirt. I can foresee him, and the rest of them, getting seriously ill this winter. I can also foresee him becoming infected with parasites, assuming (possibly falsely) that he isn't already. I kept comparing him to Nellie, and thinking about how I would feel about Nellie in those conditions. I can't afford to give them enough money to buy a proper house (i.e. one with brick walls, a tiled roof, and proper sanitation), or to move out of the squatter camp. Never the less, I feel desperate for them, and I worry for them in the coming winter. Will they be okay? Will the winter rains wash them away? Will they all get bronchitis or pneumonia from the damp in their shack? Will there be a fire (as there always are in winter in the squatter camps) that will burn down their shack and leave them with nothing? Will they be attacked one night (as she fears) and have all their valuables stolen?

I guess I always knew this was the way she was living, yet because I was not faced with the cold, hard truth, I could conveniently ignore it. Now, my perception has changed, and with it, my reality. No longer can I fool myself into being a bystander. Now, I have to be an active participant in helping this woman and her family survive, because if I fail to help, I am actively participating in enabling her poverty to continue.

Her experience of crime is different to mine. While I feel perfectly safe in my house, alone, with all the doors and windows open, and often with the security gates open too, I know that I only feel safe because my perception is that I am safe. This is because the house has never been burgled since the perimeter walls were raised, and because even the guards from the security company won't jump our front fence to check on the house if the alarm goes off. My perception is that if they won't, then criminals are unlikely to try. Her perception is completely different. When she's on her own, the slightest noise makes her anxious, and she has to go and check it out. I know this, because she's told me so. Her perception is based on her experiences in her own home in the squatter camp.

In our new house, I know I will feel less safe, because I know that house has been burgled 3 times in the time we've owned it. I know that means I will probably feel more anxious being at home on my own. I'm hoping that by beefing up the security on the weak points of the property (following the renovations, there will be a few new vulnerable spots), I can allay those potential fears, but my perception is that the houses in that area are more vulnerable to crime, and like it or not, that will be my reality.

But is any of this reality? What is reality? Reality is that you can live in the most crime-ridden area and be safe because of God's protection. Reality is also that you may live in the safest of areas, and still experience crime. Reality is that people who don't want children, or who aren't fit to have children, pop them out like microwave popcorn. Reality is that the people who are desperate for kids never have them. Reality is that good stuff happens to good and bad people alike - and that bad stuff happens to good and bad people alike.

So how do I respond? How do I live in this world in such a way that my perceptions are based on eternal truths? Christians are constantly berated for living in a dream world, a world in which it's supposedly obvious that Jesus was a fraud or a hoaxers, or even a mythical being. The events of Easter are vilified. Every way you turn, Christianity has apparently been debunked. Perception is reality.

And yet... the reality is that not only is there a God, but that he came to earth as a baby, that he died on a cross and that he rose to life again. This should change my perceptions of the world, the reality in which I live. Does it? This Easter has been the least Easter-like I've had a in a long time. Our new church isn't a traditional one, so there are no Holy Week services. Friday's service was not the traditional Stations of the Cross. Rather, it was a celebration of the work Jesus accomplished on the cross.

The Easter service itself was a disappointment in many respects. Although they made good use of media, to me it felt like an anti-climax. I guess that I'm so used to having the build-up throughout Holy Week that I was expecting more. (Of course, nearly passing out during the service did rather put a damper on the whole thing!) Having said that, it was still a moving service and it still impacted on my life. This weekend, despite all its faults, has definitely left its mark on me. What remains to be seen is whether that mark is enough to change not just my perceptions, but my reality. Will I be more open to the Spirit? Will I read my Bible with more fervour? Will I pray 'constantly'? Will I allow the reality of God to permeate my reality more deeply? Time will tell, I guess.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

28.5 weeks

Not quite side on, so you don't get the full effect, but it gives you the idea.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Holiday? What holiday?

This was supposed to be my last chance to REST before the baby arrives. Certainly, once he's here, there will be no rest. Once school is back next week there will be no rest either - too manic to get exams prepared, and then marked, before I go off on maternity leave. Sigh!

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. We've managed to choose the tiles for the bathroom and kitchen, the cupboard finishes for the kitchen and bedroom, buy all the bathroom and kitchen bits and pieces (sinks, basins, taps, mixers, shower doors, etc), meet up with contractors to get quotes for under carpet heating, meet with the cupboard man to discuss our plans for the kitchen (with the result that we're going to gut it completely... which was not part of the original plan!), and source some out of date tiles to fix part of the other bathroom.

In between this, we've also managed to do some gift & grocery shopping, meet with friends/ family for lunch, sort Graeme's scooter's service out, visit the vet, have an anniversary breakfast at Kirstenbosch, and get some reading in after Nellie's in bed. I'm shattered.

Tomorrow we're going to church, and then we have a friend's birthday party tea in the afternoon (yay!). Saturday we're helping our maid move into her new shack. Sunday is church, then family lunch, then other family tea. Monday we're taking the day off as a family and going to a kiddy petting farm near by (that also has a chocolate factory) (double yay!). Tuesday will be more house chores (meeting more contractors, etc) and some nappy business stuff. Then Wed it's back to work, and I already have a long list of things to do when I get there, not to mention 4 classes worth of work to mark or the exams I need to set, or all the PTA meetings that will take place in the following 5 school days. In addition, we're hoping to move house before I go on maternity leave. Hmm... I'm a lunatic, right?

So, with all that in mind, I think I'm going to head off to bed now.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though - if all goes according to plan, then I will have 10 days of rest between finishing school and the induction. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Who will you vote for?

There are about 40 parties currently registered with the IEC for the elections in 2 weeks' time. The Mail & Guardian has put together a voter prediction site. There are about 10 or 15 questions you have to answer (all of them MCQ), after which the site tells you which party's policies you are most similar to, but only from the most well-known parties (about 10, I think).

I was pleased to see that the party they think I should vote for is the one I have voted for in the past. That at least tells me that I've been voting for the party most closely aligned to my own sentiments. I was interested to see them suggest another party though, that I hadn't considered, which was an equally good choice based on the few questions I had answered.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Progress on the house

After waiting months for the plans to be approved, the remodelling of the house is moving apace. We're hoping to start decorating in about 3 weeks or so, meaning that we should be able to move in before the baby is born!

For those who didn't get our newsletter, the plans for the house are to extend all 3 bedrooms, create a new en suite bathroom and make the current en suite a family bathroom, build on a scullery and a new lounge.

I'm really sorry now that I didn't take photos before we started building, and now I can't seem to find the photos we took when we bought the house. Sigh. Anyway, here are some photos taken about a week apart, to show the progress. (Left photos were taken at the end of March, right photos are the same shots, a week later.)

This is the rear of the house - two bedrooms are extending into the garden, with the new en suite on the far left.

This is the new lounge.

It's still smaller than I'd like - it will be like moving back to the UK and their poky little houses, but it's a cheaper option than buying the size house we would like in the area we want. Isn't life always about compromises? Still, I am getting excited about it. It will be lovely to finally live in our own house!

And for those who would like to see where we are... There's a major road (A road for the UK types, M road for the SA types) just to the right of that grass, and then a railway line. Not too quiet, but I guess we'll get used to it pretty quickly. It's in the back of beyond though, as far as the suburb is concerned - really the most awkward spot to get to. The upside of that is that Nellie will able to ride in the street without too much worrying about getting knocked down.

This is how we are situated with respect to the Mountain. Unfortunately, the house is just at the wrong angle to make the most of the view of the Mountain. Long term plans include making a deck on top of the garage to take advantage of it. (Ha ha, long term as in - when we have money again... like never!!)

Lessons from Nixon's administration

At the moment, it seems like I get most of my news via Twitter, since I can't recall when last I watched the news (let alone the news headlines) or listened to the news on the radio. (I very, very seldom have the time to read a paper.) Today's headlines are rather depressing - firstly that poor Tsvangirai has lost his grandson a few mere weeks after losing his wife, and that it looks like the charges against Zuma will be dropped. My heart is downcast for Tsavangirai. I can't imagine his grief. My prayers are with him and his entire family.

This whole Zuma business is also rather depressing. On the one hand, I believe the courts to be fair and just, particularly the Constitutional Court. That means that, if Zuma is not charged, I have to believe there are good reasons for it - like the fact that maybe he's not guilty. On the other hand, I believe that most of SA's leadership is corrupt and not above accepting bribes or putting their own personal interests above that of the nation. If I'm right, that means that there is a HUGE possibility that the 'damning' evidence Zuma may have on Mbeki and others would prove so embarrassing for the government that the prosecutors have been ordered not to see justice prevail in the 'interests of national security' or something.

Zuma was acquitted 3 years ago of rape charges. I still believe he's guilty. Why? Because proving a rape is nigh on impossible in the current legal system. In this area, I have no faith in our justice system. I believe that Zuma is a crook, as well as a rapist, but I'm facing the facts that he will probably be SA's next president. Since I believe that most of SA's leadership are also crooks, that means I don't think much will change for us. We'll still be ruled by men (mostly) who are egocentric. Those few women in power are just as corrupt, in my books. There are a few notable exceptions in both camps. I wish these few stalwarts strength in the coming days and pray that more honorable men and women are voted into power. I'm afraid I don't hold much hope of that happening though - we live in a corrupt and fallen world; having corrupt leaders is par for the course.

As I've been contemplating this debacle though, I've been put in mind of US politics, and the Watergate scandal of Nixon's era (1974). I read the autobiography of Chuck Colson, Nixon's chief counsel, a long while back. During his prosecution and imprisonment, Colson became a Christian, and now heads up Prison Fellowship (amongst other massive achievements). His description of the time has similarities with the current situation with Zuma. Colson confessed that he was guilty - maybe not of the crimes that the rest of the administration was, but certainly he had committed various other crimes. Instead of avoiding a prison sentence, he took the honourable route of accepting a prison sentence, if the judge saw fit to hand one down, which he did.

Some people have argued that if you were falsely charged with some crime, you would do everything in your power to have those charges dropped. Surely going to court and presenting your evidence there is the best route to proving your innocence? Or am I misguided on this? Most guilty people will avoid court, because they know that once inside the courtroom the evidence against them will cause them to be convicted. Only guilty people seek to hide from the light of justice. Those who are innocent know they can withstand the scrutiny. Ergo, I must conclude that Zuma is guilty.

To my mind, we have here two examples of character: a guilty man who was prepared to take his punishment (Colson), and a man who is doing everything in his power to avoid going to court (Zuma). Who would you trust? Personally, I'd trust Colson. Personally, I don't trust Zuma at all. If he was as innocent as he claims, why not prove it in court? If Mbeki is as guilty as Zuma claims, the this country needs to know about it, and what better place to do so than in court?

I think the reason that Zuma is avoiding court is that, as I've said on this blog before, the ANC leadership has lost all perspective. They appear to have lost touch with their roots, their heritage, their raison d'etre. Once, they were concerned with human rights and justice for all. Now, it would seem they are merely concerned with power - retaining the power they have and getting more of it. That makes them no different to the NP of old.

The NP used physical violence to maintain their hold on SA society and to subjugate the majority of this population. The ANC today is using bribery, corruption and denial of the truth to attempt to hoodwink the uneducated populace into voting them into power again. Both routes would ultimately result in the ruin of this country. Abusing democracy, whether to have a secret army that goes around imprisoning & torturing people or to retain power in order to have access to personal wealth creation tools (e.g. bribes), while trying to appear as if you uphold it is treachery of the worst kind in my book. For this reason, I am supremely grateful that COPE has been established, and I hope that it wreaks havoc on the ANC's campaigning. I won't be voting for COPE, but I hope they garner a tremendous amount of support.

What this country needs most though, is for Christians across the political divide to get together and pray. I believe the future of this country is approaching a knife edge, or a cross-roads, and the path we take will either lead to our eventual success, or our eventual downfall (think Zimbabwe). I can see a future in which the ANC leads us into becoming another Zimbabwe. I can also see a future in which we become an even stronger nation. In our first democratic election, widespread bloodshed and rioting was predicted. It did not come to pass. I believe the reason was that the People of God got on their knees and beseeched God to intervene - and I believe he did just that. It seems to me that such a time is on hand again. "IF my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, AND turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear them from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land."* Isn't it time we corporately confessed again, that this nation might be saved from further corruption and ruin?

The lesson from Nixon's administration is that when corrupt people genuinely admit (and repent of) their corruption and seek God's forgiveness, he raises them up again to become incredibly powerful individuals. So here's a gauntlet for Mr. Zuma: will you bow your knee to the Eternal God, forgo the power you so desperately seek to attain, and allow God to determine your future? For should you choose to do so, you may be surprised at what He gives back to you. If you choose not to though, be warned: 'This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."** As a child of this nation, I hope and pray you make the right choice, Mr Zuma, because, potentially, the fate of this nations rests on your shoulders. To those who much is given, much is required. When you are called to give an account of the role you played in South African politics, and the leadership you have given this country, I hope you will be able to withstand the scrutiny - for your sake as much as for ours.

*2 Chronicles 7:14
** Deuteronomy 30:19

Friday, April 03, 2009

About 10 weeks

I went for another scan earlier this week. The little man was sleeping, using a thickened portion of my uterus as a pillow, and honestly looked like he was snoring - mouth slightly open and 'breathing' through it! So cute!

He's lying breech at the moment, but as we have several weeks to go, that really is not a problem. Everything else was fine. He's been kicking up a storm recently, so I'm quite at peace that all is well in there. He's also been lying with his head right under my belly-button, and then rubbing his head against the nerves in that area - OWW!! I've been so uncomfortable and sore as a result that I've had to hold my belly up with my hands, to try to relieve the pressure of him pushing against that area. Not too pleasant.

Apart from checking vital stats, I also discussed induction dates and general labour stuff with our gynae. I was very relieved to learn that the system here is pretty much identical to the system in the UK. While I've done this twice before, doing it in a 'foreign' place and system was starting to stress me out - I don't deal too well with the unknown when my life and the life of my child are at potentially at stake.

Anyway, I will be admitted as an in-patient 2 days before the induction, so that I can have several steroid injections to help his lungs develop properly and have several different scans. Then, on the 3rd day (currently set for Wed 10th June, assuming we get that far), we'll induce. (The poor boy will never have the pool or other outdoor parties that Nellie will be able to have!) Initially, we'll use the gel, but if that doesn't work, we'll go for the oxytocin drip. My gynae was pleased to hear that I respond very well to oxytocin - 2 hours from the initial injection and the baby is out. However, she agreed that starting with it leads to a very vicious labour, so I'm all for starting gently with the gel instead, even though it means I'll probably be in labour for much longer than I was with either Nellie or Zoe. Shame - she nearly lost a baby this week to complications in induction, so I think she's had a big scare and is being overly cautious with me as a result.

Although both Nellie and Zoe's births were induced, they were both positioned correctly for labour (i.e. not breech). That bodes well for this pregnancy. With any early birth, and particularly with inductions, there is always the possibility that there will be complications. I'm hopeful that there will be none with this one.

So - about 10 weeks to go. On the one hand, that feels like a million years from now. On the other, it feels like just the blink of an eye. One thing I am grateful for is that it means I will have about 10 days after finishing work before he arrives. That will give me a small breathing space to sleep (unless of course we're still moving house around then!) and rest and prepare myself mentally.

In some ways, I really don't feel ready for this. I don't feel ready for the sleepless nights, leaking sore boobs, dirty nappies, and the MESS. I don't feel ready for dealing with Nellie's inevitable jealousy. I don't feel ready for any of this baby stuff again. But then I remember that right now I'm looking at it from the outside. When he's here (please God, let him BE here!), I will have my love for him, and my hormones, to get me through. This time around, I will have Priscilla to help during the day, and BOTH grandmothers only a phone call away.

I'm really starting to get excited about the birth now. I've been so nervous about forming a bond with this child, just in case. Now that he's moving so much though, it's impossible to ignore him, or the developing bond I feel for him. And now that I feel that bond, I am getting excited about meeting him. Of course, we're only just entering the danger period now, and so the likelihood of losing him increases with each passing day. In many respects, it feels so ironic. I'm trying not to think about it though. I'm trying hard to be positive and to think that he's going to make it just fine. I pray he does, because I'm not sure how I would cope if I lost another one. But he's definitely not going anywhere just yet - that much is clear: as I write he has decided to wake up and is dancing and kicking. How I love being able to feel him move!

(Tertia - you are so amazing, my friend, to have survived the loss of your babies as you have.... you are an inspiration to me on a daily basis! Thanks for your honesty and your 'bare it all' approach to blogging.)

Some steel please

Tomorrow G & I will have been married for 11 years. Sjoe! We've actually been together since April 1994 (bar the 6 months we broke up), making it 15 years.... While I can obviously remember a time BG (before G), it's difficult to imagine that life again. It's also not a life I would choose for myself.

As I reflect on the past 11 (or 15 years, depending on how far back I want to go), I can recall the heady feeling of being utterly in love. I can also recall the months when I was convinced the marriage was over & just wanted out. I recall the highs of falling pregnant, and giving birth to Nellie, and the low of losing Zoe. I recall the terror of moving to London, and the joy of moving back home. I recall how our marriage, our love, our relationship has been through such ups and downs.

There is no-one, with the possible exception of my parents, who knows me better. Not only does this man know all my faults and weaknesses, but he loves me anyway. We both know I'm high maintenance, yet he faithfully and lovingly continues to "maintain" me. We both know I can be a grouchy, hormonal, self-absorbed cow, yet he lovingly continues to serve me.

This man, while he has his faults, continues to be towards me as Christ is towards his Church. He is an incredible husband and father, and my bestest friend in the whole wide world. (And friends are really important in a woman's life.) While I have no doubt that I would eventually cope should anything happen to him, I honestly hope I never, ever have to face life without him by my side.

This year, we've decided not to celebrate our anniversary on the day. Rather, we're going to take a day next week, while Nellie is at nursery, and have a whole day just by ourselves to indulge each other - starting with breakfast at Kirstenbosch. I can't wait! A whole day, just him and me - no kids or pets to worry about, no work to interrupt, and no computer to tempt us away from each other.

After 11 years, we're supposed to give each other the gift of steel. I'd love to buy him a proper sword, but haven't the money to buy the quality of sword I'd consider. So... what else? He's not much into wearing rings, and he's already got a beautiful watch... oh wait! I've just thought of the perfect gift! Practical, hopefully not to expensive, and VERY significant for our relationship. Now, how am I going to get it in time without him finding out????

He's a nutcase

It's official. My husband is a nutcase. I love him dearly, don't dream of wanting anyone else in my life, adore him; but he's still a nutcase.

You heard it here first: Darling dearest is going to swim the Robben Island to the mainland race next year. You know - the race in some of the strongest ocean currents in the world, in icy water (gotta love that old Benguela current!) with swells and sharks...?? Yes, that one!

Who was his inspiration for this minor feat of madness? The human polar bear - Lewis Gordon Pugh (the guy who swam 1km in nothing but a speedo & some duck fat at the North Pole - his aim was to raise awareness about climate change) . Lewis spoke at G's school this week. Now, he's inspired at least 4 of the male staff there to take on this smaller-scale challenge. They had originally planned to swim it this year, then discovered that the race is in a few weeks time - 27th April.

OK, granted, my darling dearest needs a goal and some people to keep him accountable if he's ever going to get serious about exercise. I love him all the more because he's actually serious about getting some exercise, and has found a challenge that not only excites him enough to make the effort to get the exercise, but he's found a challenge that is actually achievable for him. (He's not much of a cyclist, and forget running!). And granted, they will be wearing wetsuits, which they're allowed to do because they'll only be doing it as a relay (so he's not actually swimming the whole way.... on this occasion.

So I say, what the heck! He's mad as a hatter, but that only makes him more lovable and more my hero. I'll support him all the way - so much so I'll even swallow some anti-nausea tablets, hop on a boat and follow him as he swims to encourage him!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Creepy crawlies

Everyone has at least one "animal" that gives them the creeps. A few days back now, Baggins chased & caught a huge grasshopper in our garden. Watching the grasshopper gave G the grils (Afrikaans word meaning 'shivers' or the creeps). (Hey, did you know that all locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts?) I wouldn't want to pick one up, mind you - the spines on the legs don't make for comfortable insect contact.

G's reaction got me thinking about creepy crawlies, and why we react the way we do to them. My grillerige 'animal' is the cockroach. Ugh! Even just thinking about them makes me get goosebumps and shiver. Since our kitchen has been infested though, I'm getting better at dealing with them. I can now squish the baby ones with my fingers with no adverse emotional reaction. It's still the large American cockroaches that bother me.

Then today, 6000 miles had a post about the coconut crab. Crabs, like grasshoppers, are not 'animals' I'd readily pick up - too easy to be nipped by their claws, but I like crabs. For one thing, they taste really yummy on a braai. The photo of the coconut crab gave me the grils though. If you've been to the Two Oceans Aquarium and seen the spider crabs there (which stand about 1m tall and have a leg span of about 2m), then you will already know that a crab is not a crab is not a crab. The coconut crab is so-called because it can slice a coconut in half with its pincers.

Just think about that for a moment. How huge does a crab's pincers have to be to be able to achieve that feat? Pretty big. How big is the crab that has these pretty big pincers? Huge. It's body is about 40cm in length. It's leg span is about 1m - that's longer than my arm!

Don't believe me?

This is not a photo-shopped photo. OK, the bin may be on the small side, but you get the idea. I wouldn't want to come across this creature in the dark... or even in the light, for that matter, unless I had a long stick and a big rock to hand.

But why is it that we find some organisms terrifying, when actually, we are the bigger and stronger of the two? Like spiders. Why are so many people scared of them? Most spiders, even the venomous ones, are too tiny to bite you (or if they can bite you, you get such a small amount of poison that it won't do anything to you). Take the Daddy Long-legs spider. Probably one of the most venomous spiders in the world, but it's little mouth is so small as to render it harmless to humans. Good thing too, as you'll find them all over the house/ garage.

Or caterpillars. Wriggly little worm-like creature that can do you no harm. Yet get one on your clothes and you'll probably jump or shriek, or something. Why? Why are big old humans so afraid of teeny tiny creatures? Are we just complete woeses, or is there an evolutionary advantage to being afraid of something smaller than you? If so, what is it, because I'd dearly love to understand this phenomenon.

That said, I'm not going to spend more time trying to figure this out. I'm going to bed, to sleep, perchance to dream... and spuriously swallow my requisite number of spiders. (Yup, that myth that we apparently swallow 8 spiders in our sleep per year is exactly that - a myth. It was made up as evidence of the stuff gullible people believe simply because they read something online.) Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite, or the monster under the bed.