Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Villa Vals

I'm a fan of technology, especially technology that allows us to live with as little imposition on the land as possible. Today I found this site about a company that has helped to build houses into the Swiss Alp mountains that doesn't stand out, but still allows you to take advantage of the beautiful views. You can see the floor plans here, which should give you some idea of just how incredible this architectural design is. I WANT ONE!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 05: something you hope to do in your life

Hope is so important in life. It sustains us through many trials and tribulations. It gives us something to work towards. It reminds us that the future is not set in stone, but is determined by us to a large extent.

What do I hope to do?

I hope I'll go skiing again
I hope I'll be a good (and present) mother to my kids
I hope I'll have fun this week
I hope I'll develop sufficiently as a person to be a brilliant leader
I hope I'll make a difference in people's lives
I hope to take my kids to show them all the places in the world that I love
I hope to buy the house that is perfect for us (so I never get the wander lust again)
I hope to read lots of books and enjoy the sunshine and the rain
I hope to watch my children have children of their own
I hope to be useful to God, and to become more like Christ

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 04: Something to forgive someone for

I'm not sure whether these meme themes are meant to be for things one currently has to do, or whether telling about a situation in the past is sufficient. I'm assuming that it's meant to be current, which is much harder to do, I think.

There's a man I need to forgive. I don't want to go into details because I know that some of those who read this blog know him, and I don't want to embarrass him. Suffice to say, that his actions forced me to break a promise to a child, and embarrassed me in front of my friends.

Of course, I reacted badly, so I need to be forgiven too. Still, I need to forgive him or else I'll continue to lie awake at night replaying the scenario in my head, alternately "killing" him with the perfect retort, or else finding the perfect way to have handled it in that moment, and by far preferring the former to the latter.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 03: Something to forgive yourself for

From easy to impossible in one easy step. Remember back on Day 01's post I told you that I couldn't really talk about the thing I hate about myself. Well, that's a thing I need to forgive myself for too... Not the fact that I hate myself, but the actual thing I hate. It's a character flaw (and I just hate having to reveal my flaws...) and while I'm trying to work on it (and believe me, I have to!) I often still get it wrong. And I have to forgive myself for it. I'm not sure that others do, but that's not really my problem (except that it makes life VERY difficult for all concerned). I somehow need to be able to accept myself, flaws and all, and forgive myself for being human.

Some days, when I consider how I have messed up (in my head, that was a MUCH stronger word...), yet again (I go through phases when it feels like every other week or day I'm messing up), I feel physically ill. I can't sleep. I feel nauseous. I have mild (and thankfully, they are only mild) panic attacks. I am overwhelmed by a desire to run away. Not even crying about it helps - it only makes me feel more desperate. I feel trapped in my own skin with nowhere to run or hide. I feel exposed. I feel guilty and remorseful for the pain I've caused. I feel wretched, actually.

But life goes on, and if I am to go on with it, I have to forgive myself.

"How many times should I forgive my [self]? Seven times or seventy?"

"Seven times seventy."

But how? When I keep making the same errors, when my character fails to show the light of Christ in this area, how do I forgive myself? Surely my continued sin in this area makes a mockery of Jesus' death?

I keep reminding myself that Jesus knew all about my repeating sins, my character flaws and my pathetic attempts to walk in the narrow way, and that his death covers it all. I just need to continue to try.

So - try I will. And pray that at some point my character flaw will become imbued with the character of Christ.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello lurkers

I just wanted to say hi to some special lurkers... Dan & Sarah - I know that you check in here periodically (I love the various blog stats applications that allow me to track back to find who's been visiting the site) and I just wanted to let you know that it means a lot to me that you're still doing so. I know that friendship across 6000 miles is hard to maintain, especially with small kids. That's why I really appreciate that you still take the time to at least try to keep tabs on what's going on in our lives. I can't begin to tell you how much I have missed your friendship over the past 3 years.... you will always have a special place in my heart.

Day 02: Something I love about myself

Oh this one is easy. I love how passionate I am about the things I love. I love that I get so excited I start to bounce, and wave my hands around. I positively BEAM when I talk about the things I love. I love that as I've aged I haven't lost that enthusiasm for life and become jaded. I love that I still have the capacity to be passionate.

There are lots of other things that I love about myself, but I'm only allowed to tell you one, so there it is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shopping is SUCH hard work

I can feed myself now!

Poor child

My poor baby has been very ill. He has had a herpes virus - the one that causes cold sores. However, the first time you get this virus it is VERY, VERY sore. It causes ulcers in the mouth and throat. The poor mite has been in such pain that he's been unable to eat or drink. Today it finally seems like he's getting better as he's been able to eat or drink something without crying or screaming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 01 of the meme

Day 1 is entitled: something you hate about yourself.

So, no easing into this slowly, then.

What do I hate about myself? .......

No. You know what? I'm not ready to tell you the truth right now. So, I think I'm going to go with a lesser evil; something that's not quite so painful to discuss right now.

Let me tell you about my knees. I know, weird, huh? Usually it's bums, tums or breasts. (I'm not saying I don't have issues with any of those, cos I do, but that's old news.)

Because of my blood condition (at least, that's what I think caused it) I have permanent bruise marks on my knees that I think look very ugly. I've thought seriously about going for laser surgery to have them dealt with, or doing some home skin bleaching.... But between being too much of a coward to try the bleaching, too busy to make the time to go and see a plastic surgeon, and not having the money to cover something this inessential for life, I've done nothing about it.

But doing nothing about it is par for the course for me. Somehow, despite being as self-absorbed as I am, the time I spend on myself is seldom spent on my appearance.

So I continue to hate my knees. Which is rather a bummer when it's summer because I feel self conscious about wearing shorts or skirts that end above the knee.

Isn't it odd to think that EVERY woman, every girl, even the confident ones, have an intense dislike about some part of themselves? I know that this hate of mine affects the way I dress, the activities I take part in (as a result of the way I feel comfortable dressing), where I choose to sit in a room, etc, etc, etc. Even though this is such a minor thing, it really does affect me.

Some days are better than others, and I'm able to accept myself as I am, or (even better in my mind) I am completely unaware of how my knees look. Others are terrible and I don't want to get out of the shower and face the world.

Wouldn't it be nice if nobody spent time and energy noticing what others look like?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


WARNING: do not read this post if you are a sensitive reader.

Special Assignment, the SABC3 programme, looked at the topic of war and violence during war tonight. Their focus seems to be on rape as a technique of torture during war and telling the stories of women, children and men who have been affected. However, there were other stories shared about other types of torture and violence.

One of the stories told was of a young boy, a teenager, who was forced to rape his mother.


Another was of a young soldier who, upon capture, was force-fed human excrement. When he refused to eat it, he was beaten severely and then starved. Rather than give in, he was starved to death.


Why do I share these two stories with you? Because it shocks me to the core. I am outraged at the treatment dished out to these people.

I share them, too, because I grieve, not just for the victims, but for the perpetrators, who have become less than human.

Having read several spy stories (yes, yes, I know they're hardly reliable sources of information) I know that spies can be trained to withstand torture, but the process requires them to learn to disconnect from themselves, to separate themselves from their bodies completely.

Similarly, having read post-apartheid books by people who were torturers, one learns that in order to torture another human being, you have to be able to disconnect from your own humanity - to compartmentalise your life.

Torture and violence dehumanise not only the victim but also the perpetrator. Both become victims. Both are damaged.

But how does one get there? How does one person allow themselves to slide into becoming a perpetrator of such inhumane violence?

More importantly, how does one get back from there? Apart from the grace of God, how does one get back from that place of ... darkness?

But still I grieve for those people - both victims and perpetrators - who are still currently living in that hell.
*'Selah' is a Hebrew word that means "Stop, and contemplate".

30 day blogging meme

A cyber-friend recently started doing a 30day blogging meme, and I thought that I'd copy her. Apparently, I'm in good company, because she's copying others who are copying yet more others. Seems that everyone who is anyone has either already done it, or is busy doing it. Can't be left out, now can I??

While I can't actually promise to stick to this over 30 exact days (I do have a life and on weekends I don't often get to my laptop), I will cover all the topics. They may also be interspersed with other stuff that catches my thoughts. So, to keep you all abreast, I will try to remember to link back here, so that from this one place you can link to all the posts that are listed here.

Here is the list:
Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you badly.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Outliers - book review

Yup - I've been reading a lot just recently. That's what happens when the matrics are writing exams, my classes have all finished their syllabi (syllabuses??) and I therefore have lots of time at work to do my prep for next year (so don't have to take work home with me).

I've just finished a book recommended to me back in 2008 or 2009 (I can't remember). 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell (author of 'Blink' and 'Tipping Point'), takes a good long, hard, look at what makes some people outliers - that is, so exceptional they stand well beyond the rest of us. What he discovers is shocking. Being an outlier has very little to do with talent, aptitude or genetic giftedness. Very, very little.

If Gladwell is correct in his conclusion (which you'll have to read cos I'm not going to spoil it for the rest of you) then it has MASSIVE implications for the way we do education and school sport. (That means it also has implications for the way G and I raise Janel - not necessarily to turn her into an outlier, but just to help her reach her potential.) It also has implications for the way that government needs to intervene in societal structures.

If this country is going to go from good to great, then the govt needs to hear what Gladwell is saying and implement it. There firstly needs to be an understanding of where we are as a nation - what apartheid has done to the national psyche - without any pandering to political correctness. Then it needs to change the educational structures that prevent children from reaching their potential. It doesn't mean more money needs to be ploughed into the system - it means that the MANNER in which money is spent needs to change.

If you want your worldview challenged, if you want to know how to raise your kids to give them the best chance of succeeding in life, if you want to know how to help change society for the better, then this is definitely the book for you!

The Butterfly Effect - BookSneeze review

A friend (thanks Bee) recently introduced me to BookSneeze. This is a site that allows you to download ebooks for free (or will post them to you if you're in the US), on the proviso that you have to review them. Once reviewed, and you've sent them the link, they will then allow you to download the next book.

So, since I'm hopefully going to be getting a kindle this Christmas, I thought this site would be a great source of free books. Of course, finding the time to read is always a problem. That's one of the reasons I really liked the first book I read from the site. It's called 'The Butterfly Effect', by Andy Andrews.

This short book (more like a novella than a novel in length) documents a few well-known events in American history and goes into detail about which moment in the event was the key. If that one key moment had not happened then the event would have taken a very different path. Some of those key moments were very ordinary, very simple - in fact, complete non-events. Some of those key moments took place generations before the actual event.

It is quite incredible to think the butterfly effect is a real phenomenon and that EVERY action I take has meaning, because it sets in motion a series of other actions and events that could, quite easily, lead to some incredibly massive events that affect hundreds or thousands or even millions of people across the globe.

If you're looking for an inspirational (or terrifying, depending on how you want to look at it) read, but something you can read in a jiffy, then this is the book for you.

Cute child

I recently took the dogs and Nathan for a walk in the Arboretum below Kirstenbosch (Nellie was having some time with Daddy in Kirstenbosch...). It's the first time I've actually explored the Arboretum - I know, I know. I've lived in Cape Town all my life but never really been there. Sad, but true.

Anyway, while we were there, Nathan had a WHALE of a time... wait for it... falling down.

Yup. The grass is incredibly long at the moment and because Nathan's not all that tall, the grass was about as tall as he is. He would run into the grass and deliberately fall over, laugh hysterically, then ask to be picked up. What fun, Mum!
I recently took the dogs and Nathan for a walk in the Arboretum below Kirstenbosch (Nellie was having some time with Daddy in Kirstenbosch...). It's the first time I've actually explored the Arboretum - I know, I know. I've lived in Cape Town all my life but never really been there. Sad, but true.

Anyway, while we were there, Nathan had a WHALE of a time... wait for it... falling down.

Yup. The grass is incredibly long at the moment and because Nathan's not all that tall, the grass was about as tall as he is. He would run into the grass and deliberately fall over, laugh hysterically, then ask to be picked up. What fun, Mum!

Friday, November 12, 2010

NIMBY - Not in my back yard.

People are very happy for laws to be changed and enforced, as long as it doesn't affect them. We all agree that speeding kills, but we still speed, because ... oh because of a hundred little lies we tell ourselves. "I'm going to be late", which actually means "I'm so much more important than anyone else that it doesn't matter if I speed and kill someone, because they're not important and I am."

We all agree that in order to respect people's humanity, we should treat others with the same dignity and respect we would wish to be treated ourselves. We cluck over the behaviour of residents who react violently when a convicted paedophile moves into their neighbourhood. Yet, if a convicted paedophile should move into OUR neighbourhood, then suddenly our fears would allow us to justify our own aggressive, and possibly even violent, reactions to that person's presence.


Today I read this article about a first year teacher who was physically assaulted by a pupil, and has just won her court proceedings against the principal and education department, for failing to protect her from the pupil.

I was shocked as I read it. I wondered where this horrendous incident occurred. As I read further I got my answer: in my backyard. The school in question is in the next suburb to me. Suddenly, I can no longer stand and cluck at a distance. If it had happened in a school on the Cape Flats, or in a township, it would have been far enough away from me that I could just shake my head and wonder "How could the principal be so reckless?" But now that it's in my backyard, I'm forced to take a long hard look at my own school, at my own actions, at whether I might have made the same error in judgement as that principal.

Suddenly, I am confronted with my own hypocrisy. And that, too, is shocking.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A quick pic

A while back I promised you a pic of our new fence. Sorry it took so long...
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reign of terror

The other night I was in the bathroom with the kids, who were both in the bath, when I noticed something. While I initially thought it was funny, my second thought on the matter was "oh boy! here it begins...." I'm referring, of course, to the reign of terror that brothers have over their sisters.

Nathan, at all of 17 months, was deliberately terrorizing his sister, and laughing hysterically over it. In his hand he had a facecloth. Said facecloth was being dipped in the water, then held up and offered to his sister. Of course, dripping wet, my precious little girl was not terribly interested in this present. In fact, rather than be dripped on, she was shrinking to the edge of the bath - as far away from said present as possible.

The fact that Nathan got such an incredible and predictable reaction from someone was a source of endless delight to him, and he proceeded to repeat the gesture dozens of times over, laughing manically every time Nellie shrank away, until I stepped in and forcibly removed the facecloth from his hands (to great howls of despair and frustration - any neighbour listening would surely have thought I was murdering the child...). As I said, at first it was very entertaining to watch Nathan as he realised that he had a source of power and the realisation dawned on him that this power brought about predictable results. Then, as I realised what I was watching, a certain dread crept into my heart. He's found one of Nellie's "buttons", the first of many, I'm sure.

I had hoped that my kids would never deliberately torment each other. I hoped that my kids would be different to every other set of siblings. I had hoped that my kids would have this deep abiding love for each other and joy in each other. After all, they're MY kids....

Get REAL!! Wake up and smell the coffee!!

Nope - my son is a boy, and, like millions of boys down the ages, he will take GREAT pleasure in tormenting his sister. Sigh!

To what extent do I jump in and rescue Nellie? To what extent do I let her fight her own battles? Although my brother's kids were older when I saw him implement his strategy, his strategy was simple: if there's no blood, let the kids sort themselves out. I'm not sure I could put up with the whining and screaming and shouting that goes along with such a strategy though. On the other hand, I know that I can't jump in every time (which is my natural inclination, given my inability to deal with the noise of the alternative) - Nellie has to learn to toughen up if she's not going to suffer in the real world where not everyone is nice. Rather that happens under my roof than in the real world, right?

Those of you who have walked this road before me of mitigating sibling warfare (forget rivalry!), what advice can you spare me on dealing with creatures such as this?

The same sun...

I heard a really interesting quote this evening:

The same sun that makes the ice melt hardens the clay.

It's a Puritan saying that is pretty applicable to all kinds of things.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What will others read?

"If your life today is a letter, what will others read? If your life today is a sermon, what will others hear? Will it be good news?"

These lines jumped out and hit me as I read this blog recently. Yes, my life is a letter that others read. But what will they read?

This past weekend, G and I went away for a wonderful weekend on our own (sans kids). More on that later. However, while we were away, we picked up a very challenging and stimulating book - Irresistible Revolution by Shane Clainborne. It's hard to summarise the central theme of the book, suffice to say that it really challenges one to return to the truth of the Scriptures and LIVE them, not just study them or learn them. The book documents bits and pieces of a life-long experiment that Shane and his co-conspirators have been undertaking to really live the Christian faith.

The book got me thinking about issues like money & poverty, war and non-violence, guilt and grace. The fundamental question it has left me with is, yet again, to what extent my faith is expressed in my life - in fact, the fact that I could even contemplate such a question shows that I still have a long road to walk. Faith should be so integrated into life that it shouldn't be distinguishable - in fact, it shouldn't even be possible to contemplate a faith that isn't integrated.

What was exciting to realise though is that I've seen a glimpse of a way to make Christianity exciting again. My heart keeps saying that there must be more to life than this - and there is! I'm going to try to allow God to transform my life and my heart sufficiently that my life becomes exciting again as I observe God working through me and in me. I hope that will be a book worth reading!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Dawkins may be getting faith, just maybe.

I read a very interesting blog post today about a recent debate that Richard Dawkins took part in. According to the blogger, it seems that Dawkins might be on the cusp of developing faith. Incredible, I know! Who would have thunk it?

While Dawkins may be a genius in some respects, I have been completely uninterested in reading his work because he seems, to my humble mind, so unscientific when it comes to analysing his own thoughts and beliefs. Since integrity is a value I hold highly, those who fail to show it inevitably slide down my list of people to regard.

It struck me as odd though, that I read this blog today, given that just 2 nights ago a friend shared with me a book he is currently reading, which looks at how the study of the human genome provides evidence for there being a God. There are plenty of books about recording how hardened atheists went in search of proof that they were right, and many looked to science, only to have their beliefs blown out of the water and finding themselves becoming Christians.

Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but maybe the world's faith pendulum is about to start swinging the other way again. Maybe revival is in the air. Now wouldn't that be an awesome thing? Bring it on!!