Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mawwage.... that bwessed awwangement....

Over the past few months I've had friends who have separated and then divorced, or separated and then reconciled, or whose spouses have died. It feels weird to be at that stage of life. This kind of thing always used to happen to "adults" - to a generation of people who were older than me. Now it's happening to my friends, to MY generation. It's brought marriage into focus for me in a way that hasn't happened in a while.

As I've been contemplating the ultimate cause of marriage break-down, and the sequence of events that has lead to the breakdown of various marriages I know, I realised afresh that I can never sit back and assume that my marriage is risk-free, or divorce-proof. There are things that could lead to my marriage breaking down, not because I stopped loving my hubbie, or because he stopped loving me, but because we simply 'grew apart'. 

G and I have been through hell with losing Zoe. We've grieved differently, and have tried to give each other space to grieve in whatever way we felt personally appropriate. We've tried hard not to impose our own way of dealing with our grief on the other. The result has been that we haven't been communicating as well as we used to - partly because it's just been too hard to share the depth of grief, and partly because we've been afraid of what the conversation might do to the other.

Add to that the fact that we have both struggled with our faith. I came close to losing mine, and G is still struggling. It's hard talking about something this important with the person you love the most, because of what it might do to them. As I've been rediscovering my faith, I've tried hard not to put any pressure on him to feel the same way. It's been hard, and I don't know how successful I've been. Still, he is getting counselling now, which is an important step in his grief journey. As much as I want him to be where I am in the journey, I know that he still has a long road ahead of him, and I don't know where his journey will take him, or where he will end up.

A question that I've pondered is what would happen to us, to our marriage if he decided that he wasn't a Christian anymore, or didn't believe anymore. Faith has been a central pillar of our relationship since the beginning, so what would happen if he wound up on the other side of the fence, if losing Zoe ultimately caused him to lose his faith? I know that I wouldn't choose to leave him if he were to make that decision. He's an awesome husband and father, an incredibly moral person who loves me and the kids. I don't think that would change if he lost his faith.


If we no longer shared the same core values, I pondered how that might affect us. Aside from the obvious issues of how to handle Sundays and the inevitable questions from the kids about why they and I were all going to church and Daddy wasn't, I realised that I would no longer feel comfortable sharing any of my reflections or emotions with him as far as my faith was concerned.

If he were to stop believing that God existed, I would worry that when I talked about my faith he would be secretly thinking that I was being ridiculous, or superstitious - although that wouldn't be in character for him. Never the less, the fear that he would be thinking less of me would remain. If he shared his reflections and emotions with me, about deep stuff, I would want to bring God into the equation, which would be out of the question, and he would know that, which would leave us both feeling awkward. This would ultimately result in us both withdrawing and no longer sharing with each other, because we're both conflict averse and don't want to put the other person in a corner.

I realised that if I stopped sharing with him, or vice versa, we would stop communicating at a heart level. Currently, when our lives get on top of us, that's exactly what we do. We stop communicating. The result is that we start to misunderstand each other, pre-judge each other, misjudge each other. We become defensive and snappish. We start living past each other. It's HORRIBLE. It struck me that while we might both love each other, if we stopped sharing, if we stopped communicating, that would be the death knell for our marriage, although it might take years or a decade or two to actually die.

So, while I wouldn't choose to leave him, if he were to say he no longer believed, I don't see how our marriage could ultimately survive. That means that I have a lot vested in the outcome of this journey he's on. Yet, I can't put any pressure on him, because whatever happens, he needs to know that the journey he's on is his own. He needs to work it through himself, he needs to find the solutions without feeling that I've pushed him in a particular direction. But how he can't feel pressured after we've discussed this...? I have no idea.

About 8 months after G and I were first married I was ready to get out. I wasn't sure that our marriage was going to work, and I wanted out, before we brought kids into it. My folks got divorced in the most amicable way possible, and it still messed me up. I didn't want to do that to my kids. We went for counselling though, and we're still together, 13 years later.

But losing Zoe was not something I ever thought would happen to us. Losing a child often causes a marriage to break up, for exactly the reasons I've outlined above. I always assumed that we would make it. I never had reason to doubt.

It scares me being the one who has to stand on the sidelines, watching, waiting, hoping, praying, but all the while knowing that I have limited power to help him, or to protect my marriage. The possibility that he will come down on the other side of the fence scares me, but I can't make that choice for him, and I can't pressure him into making the safe choice. I have to leave him in God's hands, to walk the path he has to walk, to struggle through as I have had to struggle through, to battle his own fears and doubts and questions, until he comes out on the other side - wherever that may be.

And even if he finds himself on the other side, I will still love him, and honour him. I will still cherish him. I will still  continue to commit my all to him, to making this marriage work, because that's the vow I took - 'everything I am, and all I have, I share with you... for better and for worse'. He's my man, and I love him.

'Faith is being sure of what he hope for, and certain of what we do not see.' Heb 11:1

"The final cut"

If you like SF movies at all, or philosophical ones, then this is an interesting movie to watch. It revolves around the concept of a brain implant before birth that records all your memories, everything you see and hear, which can be recovered when you die so that your life can be edited into a "rememory" for your family - to be able to remember all your best/ favourite memories. It initially took me aback that the software implant was called a 'Zoe'... but I managed to get beyond that.

The story revolves around a cutter (the person who edits the footage of your life) who is asked to do a particularly difficult job, and how what he sees in that person's memories sparks a series of events. The great philosophical debate of the movie is whether or not the implant (which is entirely voluntary, but is decided upon by parents on behalf their children, so is it really voluntary??) is an enfringement of a person's human rights, or not.

One of the questions arising out of the idea of such an implant is to what extent memories are personal things, only to be shared between the people involved. Cutters are not allowed to have the implant, because then everything they would see while cutting someone else's memories would be recorded in their own Zoe implant. One of the characters, whose ex-boyfriend had an implant that was recovered after his death, went crazy when she realised that a particular cutter, who was in an on-again/ off-again relationship with her, had seen the footage from her ex. Think about it - your most intimate moments with someone, seen by someone else... I'd be rather uncomfortable about that to say the least!

Something that wasn't touched on in the movie, but which I thought about, was whether the footage in such an implant could ethically have been used for criminal prosecution or not (post-humously, of course, but at least to solve crimes that would otherwise remain unsolved). It reminded me of 'Minority Report'.

The thing that really struck me though, was when a cutter commented about a girl who had behaved atriciously until such time as her parents told her about her implant. Overnight, she changed into a well-behaved, well-mannered person, but later went on to commit suicide, because she couldn't cope with the pressure of being perfect. The cutter then commented that it wasn't fair to anyone to know that every moment of their life would be open to anyone to view after they were dead.

It got me thinking. According to Christian theology, on Judgement Day, both the known deeds and the secret deeds, as well as the motives of the heart, for every person, will be made known, and judged. Essentially, this is a bit like the 'Zoe' implant of this movie, just even further reaching. There will come a day when EVERYTHING I've done and thought will be laid open and bare for all to see, and I will be judged accordingly.

While I know that those who have trusted in Jesus will be saved, we will still be judged. Our reward in heaven will be based upon our deeds and thoughts, so we can't act without impunity just because we are already a forgiven people.

That is both a scary and a comforting thought. I'm not looking forward to having everyone else know all my deep, dark, secret thoughts and motives. That's the truly terrifying bit. Every horrid thought I've ever had towards or about someone else, every moment of jealousy or hatred that has filled my heart, every sin of omission, every sin of commission - all my dirtiest laundry will be hung up for everyone to see. That's a pretty terrifying thought.

The comforting bit is that everyone else will be just as terrified, and (hopefully) so concerned with their own sins and failings that they won't care too much about the revelations from my my life. The other comforting thing about it is that EVERYONE will be judged.

While some get away (literally and figuratively) with murder in this life, there will be a day where they will be called to account for their actions - and there will be no plea bargaining on that day. Not only will they be named, they will be shamed. (Of course - this just goes to show you how skewed my practical beliefs about sin are. God views murder in the same light as telling a lie - but I don't - not in practice. Murder is a far worse crime, in my book.)

The protesters in 'The Final Cut' were protesting against exactly this sort of exposure. They were protesting the possibility of having one's most private actions (not thoughts, since the implant couldn't record those) being made public. My self-preservation instinct also protests against Judgement Day. I don't want everyone knowing everything about me - particularly because I have so many unholy moments.

Yet, it is only when we face ourselves at our worst that we can really begin to grasp how truly incredible the gift of friendship with God through Jesus' death on the cross is.

'How great the Father's love for me
how vast beyond all measure
that He would give his only son
to make a wretch his treasure...'

And this, dear friends, is the scandalous mystery that is at the heart of Christianity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaching the teachers

So many people at work think that I know everything about IT, when the truth is that I just know more than them. (As long as I'm one step ahead of them, I'll be okay, right?) Today I had the pleasure and privilege of helping several staff members in various IT related queries or problems. It was awesome.

Then I came home and had a complete role reversal. I've been using Twitter far longer than my dear husband, yet in the past 24hrs he has taught me two new things about improving my use of it:

SelectiveTweet - an app that allows you to select which tweets are published to Facebook, so that you don't overwhelm FB with all the chatter on Twitter. Great stuff!

SplitTweet - an app that allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts from one screen. I've tried using TweetDeck in the past, but because it was desktop based, found it a pain. Then, with the onset of Chrome, I've been using two browsers - Chrome to view one account, and IE (yeuch!) to view the other in. That was a pain, but was easier than using a desktop app. There are things I don't like about SplitTweet, but maybe that's just a familiarity thing and once I'm more familiar with it I'll figure out how to make it work for me. Still, it's nice to be able to tweet to either or both accounts from one place, and to view all the traffic from one place.

I guess that goes to show - just because you're the teacher doesn't mean you stay the teacher. Isn't that what 21st century education is all about - a sharing of knowledge, rather than a top-down impartation of knowledge? If we can do that between colleagues, why can't we do the same with the kids we teach? Why do we assume that because we're the official teachers, we hold all the knowledge?

This is a scary thought, even for me. Especially for me. I'm a control freak. Yet, this truth is essential to grapple with. How do I go about creating an environment in which the kids I teach are empowered to teach me in return, to create a truthful sharing of knowledge and not just a one-way impartation?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Reflections on the "Passion of the Christ"

You may well remember the hoo-ha a few years back about the movie 'The Passion of the Christ' when it debuted. We were in London at the time, and there was a lot of debate in our community about whether it was something we should see, or support, or invite friends to.

I eventually went to see it with a friend who was interested in seeing what it was all about. It was, without doubt, the most gruesome, violent and horrendous movie I have ever seen (and, please God, will ever see). It was also, without a doubt, the most emotionally disturbing film I've ever seen. I sobbed all the way through. I cut my palms from digging my nails in. I ripped the skin on the tips of my fingers from chewing them. I left feeling utterly devastated. While I am glad that I know what the visual content of the movie is, part of me wishes I'd never exposed myself to it.

On Sunday, at church, the preacher spoke about Abraham's faith being tested. He spoke about how God asked him to sacrifice his son on an altar - the son of the promise God had given him. He then talked us through the practical things that one easily glosses over when reading the story in Scripture, especially if you've read the story a gazillion times before.

Having lost Zoe, and knowing personally what losing a child means, the story had a deeper meaning for me than it had in the past. What really got me though, was the connection he highlighted between what Abraham was doing in this story and what God himself would do through Christ on the cross. It took me instantly back to the movie and my response to it.

My only comment, the whole way through the movie, was directed at God, to the effect that I didn't think I was worth the suffering he had gone through, and that I didn't understand why he had done all that for me, why he had such a high regard for someone as worthless as myself. I didn't mean to be arrogant, or put myself up as being greater than God. I was just overwhelmed by the visuals, by SEEING what God went through to deal with my sin. It was more than I could comprehend, more than I could process. Why would anyone choose to do that - for ME?

As I was listening to the sermon on Sunday, I put myself into Abraham's shoes. What would I have done if God asked me to sacrifice Nathan, or Janel? Could I be as faithful as Abraham was? Then I found myself pondering the love Abraham had for Isaac, and his love for God, and then the movie and my question to God. Once again I started sobbing. I still don't feel worthy. I still can't comprehend that the God of the ENTIRE universe would love me enough to allow his one and only son to go through that sort of torture and hell, that he would willingly give up his child (his CHILD) - and all for me, to make it possible for me to be his child.

Think about it - would I be willing to allow that sort of thing happen to Janel, or Nathan, in order to win the love of a child who doesn't know me yet and to make it possible for us to have a relationship?

In the past, I've had a really close relationship with God. I've heard him speak to me - not in an audible voice, but in my mind. I've heard words in my head that definitely were NOT my own thoughts. I used to hear him regularly. Then I went through a very deep valley, and I could no longer hear him. On Sunday, I heard him again. I could feel his presence, right inside my body, like a ball of heat. It was almost over before I realised what had happened. It was like it used to be, in the old days - me and God, talking together like old friends. It was shocking because it's been so long since I last heard God like that.

I know that for non-Christians, I sound like I've just been on some massive trip, like I need my head read. I hear you. There are no words to really describe it. Like any good addict, the only thing I can tell you is that you need to experience it for yourself. Being touched by God... it's the most incredible 'drug' there is. But bear with me - whether you believe that all of that was just in my over-active imagination, or not, try not to dismiss what I heard.

So what did God say to me? That I AM worth all that. I don't have to understand it. I don't have to comprehend it. All I have to do is accept it, and let it change my life.

I don't understand it. I don't understand how God could love me that much. I'm a liar, a thief, a murderer, an idolater, an adulterer, a Sabbath-breaker. I have taken God's name in vain and failed to honour my parents. I regularly covet my neighbour's stuff. I have broken all 10 of the commandments. I have been faithless to him and betrayed him.#


He continues to love me. He continues to be faithful to me. He continues to see me restored to himself.

I don't understand love like that. But I'm beginning to accept that God really does love me like that. And if he loves me THAT much, then I must be worth something, right?

And as I was talking to God about all this, and pondering the great love God has for me, it struck me again (I've known this for years) that Satan's greatest achievement is to make Christians think the way I've been thinking. Why? Because a Christian who doesn't really accept how loved he or she is by God is an ineffective Christian, given to self-doubt, given to doubting God, given to giving up - which is where I've been for a long time now... years.

I know this isn't rocket science. I know I used to know this stuff, I used to believe it. Somewhere along the line, I lost my way. But God is bringing me back, bit by bit. One of the most important things I need to accept is not just the head knowledge that God loves me, but the HEART knowledge - the acceptance of the immense love that God has for me - a love so vast that he would allow his ONLY son to be tortured in the most gruesome way, murdered by slow and agonizing suffocation, abandoned and betrayed by his best friends, and then isolated from God himself. He did all that because he loves me and he wanted to make it possible for ME* to be his child.

I still don't understand it, but I'm accepting at a heart level that this is true, and that I am of infinite worth. Baby steps. Baby steps.
#I'm not just making this stuff up because it sounds good. I really have broken ALL of the commandments. And no, I don't want to tell you about how, or when, or what, or why - mostly because I'm ashamed of what I've done and I worry about what you will think of me if you knew the full truth, and partly because I don't want to shame my family in public. They've been through enough in private.
*Of course, the corollary is that EVERYONE is of the same worth, because Jesus didn't just die for me, but for every single person who has ever or will ever live. But I'll deal with that another day.

My best moments

Tonight in the bath, the kids were playing so nicely together. They were fooling around, egging each other on, and laughing hysterically with each other - no hitting, or fighting or yelling, or tears. The two of them together, in a happy mood, had me in stitches. I couldn't help but laugh with them. The joy in their faces, their pleasure in the water and bubbles and a friend to share it all with, their shared exhilaration of doing things right at the edge of what was permissible - it was all a rather heady concoction, for all of us.

It was one of those moments when part of me wished I had my camera to record it for posterity. I was too busy enjoying my kids to get the camera, though. It was my best moment of the day! Some things are too precious to waste a moment of, even to get a camera*.

I'm glad that I chose to revel in the moment, to be with my kids, to enjoy them, and to let them see how much I was enjoying them and being with them. I know it filled up their love tanks a bit. It definitely filled mine.
* A friend once mentioned to me that we shouldn't need photos to remember places, or people, or events - we should rather spend the time we would have used to take the photo to memorise the scene in our minds. That way, no-one could ever steal or destroy the images. While I get what she was saying, I don't always agree with her sentiments. However, it has made me more aware of trying to remember to be present in every moment I would want to record.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What would you do?

A Twitter friend of mine (I won't mention who for ethical reasons) recently tweeted about the content she found on her son's phone while browsing his inbox. Apparently some of her son's girl-friends (as opposed to 'girlfriends') have been sending him photos of their boobs and bums... He's 15 and they must be 14 or so.

I have no problems with her browsing her son's inbox. In fact, I applaud it. Parents need to be hands on with their kids. They need to know their kids' friends and families. They need to know what their kids are watching on TV, playing online, and saying on Mxit and their phones. They have a responsibility to ensure their kids are safe and that their kids learn how to conduct themselves out there in the ether.

What I want to know is - what would you do if you found inappropriate (particularly sexual) content on your kid's phone?

Or, from the other side, what would you do if you found out your kid was SENDING inappropriate (particularly sexual) content to another kid?

As a child, I once (very nearly) sent a very inappropriate letter to my boyfriend. The night after I wrote it I had left it in my room, intending to post it the next afternoon. When I got home from school, it was gone. I asked my mom about it, and she mentioned that she had read it, and then destroyed it because there was no way she would allow me to send that sort of letter to anyone.

I was LIVID. How DARE she read my mail! How DARE she read something that was private!

I was also highly embarrassed. I knew, inherently, that what I'd written was inappropriate. I knew, in my heart, that I had pushed beyond the boundaries, and I was furious that I'd been caught out.

As the years passed though, and having kids of my own, I realised my mother's actions were wise. She'd saved me from myself, and from harming myself. (Of course, I went and harmed myself in other ways later... I seemed rather hell bent on doing that... but that's another story for another day, another post.)

When I read my friend's tweet, my instant reaction was that I wouldn't just talk to my son, I would contact the other parents and tell them what their kids were sending out. Why? Because if I were the mother of those girls, I would want to know. I would want to know that my daughter was putting herself at risk.

Because, let's face it, if you're 14 and sending that kind of photo around, the boys are going to think you're easy, or a slut, and they're going to try and get in your pants. Let's face it, if boys think you're easy, and decide to try and get in your pants, you could be in a LOT of trouble. You could be raped, or worse - you could wind up dead.

What would you do though? Would you just leave it? Would you talk to your son? Would you confiscate his phone, or restrict his usage of it? Would you talk to the girls? Would you talk to their parents? Would you show their parents what the girls sent?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

At least 'A' is still 'Apple'

Sticking with the theme of kids' stuff, I thought I'd share an email I received with you. I don't know who started the email chain, or whether it started out as someone sharing a blog they had seen, so I decided to do a little detective work. I found the images on a blog called Witness This. Never the less, I thought it worth sharing with you again.

What to do when you lose a tooth

Tertia recently blogged about the tooth fairy. At cell group last night it came up again and we shared stories about how to deal with the inevitable issues that crop up.

There was so much wisdom shared in the group that I thought I would put it all togethere here, as a quick guide, for all parents:

1) When a tooth is lost in the ocean or the river: write to the Tooth Mouse's cousin - The Water Rat. He will help out in an emergency.

2) When a tooth is lost down the drain: write to the Sewer Rat, another of Tooth Mouse's cousins.

3) When someone else's child gets more money from the Tooth Mouse than your child: teach them the lesson of 'Supply and Demand'. The Tooth Mouse is building his castle with teeth. All teeth are different sizes, which means that gaps develop in the wall. The Tooth Mouse therefore has to find a tooth of the perfect size to fit the hole. When he finds it, he will pay more for it because he's so thrilled to finally get one that fits the hole perfectly. If that's too complex a concept, then simply remind them that the Tooth Mouse pays more for teeth that are presented beautifully - cleaned and in a pretty box.

4) When your child starts to doubt the existence of the Tooth Mouse, and suspects that Dad or Mom switches the tooth for cash, you can teach them the lesson of 'Logistics'. The Tooth Mouse may have a VERY busy schedule, and be unable to get to every house in time for that day. In those circumstances, he approaches parents to ask them to help him out, by putting the money out and hanging onto the tooth for him, till he has time to get around to that part of town.

And, from the comments on Tertia's post, another instruction to add to the help manual...

5) When the Tooth Mouse forgets to exchange the tooth for cash, you can always remind them that maybe there is a cut-off time each day for the tooth to fall out. If it happens after that time, then you have to wait till the following day. On the other hand, maybe he was simply too busy to get around to you, and maybe he was so busy he didn't have time to call the parents to ask them to help him out logistically.

This little guide could easily be adapted for dealing with Father Christmas, or the Easter Bunny, if needed.

Happy tooth hunting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yet another reason why I love Twitter

Having spent a very busy day at work (which included yet another tragic tale... more on that in a bit), I returned home to have a quick browse through Twitter. Of course, you can forget trying to catch up on a full day's worth of tweets. I don't even try that. I merely browse through the last hour's tweets (or thereabouts, depending on volume).

Today's quick browse brought me a few laughs, including:

This apparent blindness of newspaper editors at least explains why Perry White has never realised that Clark Kent is secretly Superman. via @MrJayLewis and RT by @JeannineOrz

Heard of Kellogs and polony? RT : Who eats peanut butter & melrose? What the feck. from @allyphint

You've been playing the web for a quite a while now. Isn't it time you settled down with a nice domain and started a website? from @SteveBinos

I love that I get my news headlines from Twitter, incredibly useful work-related links, local traffic info (to know which routes to avoid), etc, etc... all the serious stuff... but that I can also get these little gems. It reminds me that people are multi-dimensional beings, that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and that while my soul-mate is sitting right beside me I can still find plenty of other mates out there in the ether - and all from the comfort of my bed, while wearing my pj's. I just LOVE technology (when it works!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 1 down... only 43 more to go

That was the jist of my status earlier this evening. 43 days till what, you well may ask. Why, 43 schools days till the next holiday, of course!

This is the first time in a long time that I've started the term feeling so rubbish. And by long time, I mean, LOOOOONG time. Years. I'm not talking about my grief levels (they were obviously bad in 2007 when I started the 3rd term). I'm talking about just generally feeling rubbish. I'm sick. I'm tired. I need a holiday.

I know - you're thinking it, I know. Those blimming teachers, forever on holiday, and here she is whining about needing yet another one. (On a tangent, I once calculated that if I add in all the 'extra' unpaid hours I put in - which I feel are necessary to just get the job done properly - I actually only get about 21 days holiday in a year, and teaching is a HANG of a lot more energy demanding than most jobs.)

The fact is though, that I am seriously sleep deprived and my body is starting to pay the price. I'm sleep deprived, not because of lots of canoodelling, sadly. (In fact, I think I'm too tired to even want to canoodle at this point.) I'm sleep deprived because my son keeps waking us up at all hours. The little terror (he isn't really - he's an adorable angel most of the time and I love him to bits) doesn't suffer, because he gets to have a midday nap. But for those of us monkeys who actually have to work, there are no such pleasures.

I lost my voice today, not because I'm unaccustomed to teaching again (although that is true after 3 weeks of not using my voice in the same way). I lost my voice because I'm sick. And I'm sick because I'm tired. And I'm tired because I have a small child who doesn't sleep well.

And before you say that I should have slept on my holiday, let me ask you this - do YOU have small children? Do you KNOW what it's like being on "holiday" with small kids? You don't get to lie around in the sun for hours, reading books. Nor do you get to lie in front of the TV for hours, watching your favourite series that you just ripped off your friend's illegal copy bought. Look, I'm not saying that I didn't have fun on my holiday. I did. I'm not saying I didn't get to read books. I did. I'm just saying that being on holiday with small kids is exhausting because they need constant or frequent input from parents, and that unless you want to go to bed at 8pm every night, you're going to get tired. And in my case, sick.

Both of which I am.

Of course, I have no-one to blame but myself. I shouldn't have walked the kids to nursery in the mist. I know better. My lungs don't do mist at the best of times. I should have worn a face mask. I didn't. I was stupid, and now I'm paying for it. I KNOW all that. But self-blame isn't going to rectify this problem. So let's just move on, shall we?

What I need is just 5 days with no kids and no pets. 5 days to sleep late. 5 days to stay in bed and not have to get up for ANYTHING I don't want to. 5 days to live in my pj's if I want to, or walk around starkers if I want to, or even just walk on the beach without having to constantly be on my guard against the waves, strange dogs, or the kids throwing sand into each other's eyes or hitting each other with sticks. 5 days to recharge and heal.

What has me particularly worried at this stage is that when I lie down at night, my lungs bubble. That's not a good sign. The last time that happened to me, I wound up with bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy (and yes, pretty much all at the same time) and so sick that my doc warned me I would be dead in a matter of weeks if I didn't get some proper bed rest. (And that's not an exaggeration - he really did say that.) For weeks, I had to sleep sitting up because of the amount of fluid in my lungs. My lungs have never fully recovered from that episode of illness. It caused my asthma to recur, and it took me MONTHS to heal. I can't go through that again.

I need rest. Not just sleep. Proper. Rest.

And so I'm counting the school days until I can be on holiday again. Because next holiday I'm going to send the kids away. They're going to have sleepovers with any family member or friend I can organise to take them. It's only 43 school days. 9 weeks. I can make it till then, right? I hope so. (If my lungs get any worse, I might have to take some time off work if I even want to make it to the end of term.)

I hate feeling this way. I love my job. I love the kids I teach. I love the people I work with. It's one of the best jobs in the world.

But today, I'm feeling the need to count, because right at this point in time, all I want - all I need - is a proper holiday. Only 43 days to go.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The end of the road

Well, not really - just the end of the holidays, but it definitely feels like the end of a journey, and I feel travel weary! As my dear hubby keeps reminding me though - quality time with family is more important than ticking off items on my to-do list. He's right, but I'm a list kinda gal... so I'll make myself happy by creating a list of stuff we've done. :)

1) Bought a new (used) car (YAY!!!!!)
2) Sold my old car. (YAY!! We were worried that it wouldn't sell at all because it's an import.)
3) Nellie finally became confident riding her bike, so we rode around the neighbourhood a lot - the first time we've ever had Nellie riding on her bike while I read mine.
4) G put up some shelves in the office.
5) Nellie went to her first holiday club.
6) Nathan started at nursery 3 mornings a week.
7) We went to the Aquarium.
8) Nellie had a sleepover at Oupa's.
9) We cleaned up the garden a bit.
10) We went to see Kung Fu Panda 2.
11) We went to Kirstenbosch.
12) We put up some pictures on the wall.
13) We tidied up a few electrical items that were in the way.
14) We went to Simons Town for the day and saw penguins and baboons.
15) We had several playdates (Matt, Johari, Granny).
16) We went to the Baxter to see the 3 Little Pigs.
17) We went to two kiddies parties.
18) We went horse-riding.
19) Nellie has started to learn how to play the piano. (I'm teaching her, which is surprisingly good!)
20) G gave a few adult classes on Excel.
21) I worked on the family photo album.
22) We had a few people over for coffee/ supper.
23) We helped out at KidZone at church.
24) We helped with the church's clothing sorting project.
25) G started counselling.
26) G went to an Apple conference.
27) We read LOTS of books.
28) Nathan and I jumped on the trampoline a lot - he learnt to 'boingy, boingy' then ask Mommy to pick him up so he could watch the trucks and trains over the wall.
29) I've started doing Powerplate at gym regularly with a gym buddy. (Those 5.30am starts are a killer, but I'm loving the exercise!)
30) I prepped the majority of the course work for a professional growth course I'm delivering over the next few weeks.
31) I made a cargo mat for my new car so that my dogs & my kids bikes don't make my car filthy.
32) I bought a bike rack and new roof racks for my new car.

It was a good holiday. The best bit was NOT getting sick, which is the usual teacher's curse. Of course, since having walked the kids to nursery one cold misty morning this past week, my chest has been tight, a bit phlemy and it definitely feels like I'm incubating a cold. (Just in time for school. Oh joy!)

But it was a good holiday! And I thank God that we have the jobs we have so that we can have the time with our kids and at home that we have.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A grief remembered

I've just returned from attending Trevor's funeral. I deliberately chose not to attend the viewing of the body in his home because I knew I wouldn't manage it very well. I was feeling fine as I sat in the pew, until the casket was wheeled in. Then the grief hit me full force.

My first thought was 'my God, he's in that box'. My second thought was 'just like Zoe was in hers', upon which I started crying.

I remember carrying her tiny coffin into the church. I was so blinded by tears I could barely see where to walk.

I stood in the pew and watched Trevor's mother enter behind his casket, supported by her mother (I presume) and sister (again, I presume). I watched this poor, broken woman and my heart broke afresh. I know her pain. I know the hell she is in now. I also know that there is nothing I can say or do that will make it any better for her.

It struck me that his little sister won't remember him - she's only about 3yrs old. While I know that Nellie doesn't remember Zoe actively, I know that she understands, and we still talk about her often - how we wish she were still with us, how we miss her, how we know we'll see her again one day. But Nathan doesn't know any of that yet. I know he doesn't understand. I don't know how to tell him, or when. I guess I'm hoping that as Nellie and I talk about it he will just imbibe the knowledge by diffusion.

I remember sitting in the church, listening to Stephen preaching. I don't remember a word he said. I remember thinking that his words were beautiful, and comforting, but I don't remember a word. I hope Thelma can remember the sermon today - it was perfect. It said all the things that needed to be said, without minimising the tragedy or the grief, but equally without softening the truth in any way.

This grief never leaves you. The pain and suffering never end. You just learn to live around it, or to ignore it for a while. But it never leaves. Give it half a chance, dwell on it for a moment too long, and it's almost as fresh as the day it first entered your life.

I don't know whether I was crying for Trevor, for Thelma, or for myself and Zoe, or both. There were times when I wanted to moan - I know those were mostly for myself and Zoe, but I also know that part of what I was experiencing was a sharing in Thelma's grief. I know her heart continues to break, and I know both the feel and the sound of that tearing of the soul.

In that regard, the preacher was also spot on. He didn't offer platitudes. (Thank God for small mercies! I think I might have had to leave the church to throw up if he had!) He didn't offer false comfort. What he did say, though, is that NOTHING can ever snatch us out of God's hands. That doesn't mean God makes us immune to suffering. Instead, it means that we are never alone, we never die alone, and that God is with us through and in our suffering.

In all likelihood, Trevor died in pain - both from his stab wounds and possibly from being suffocated as he lay bleeding to death. Yet, he did not die alone. He was held in God's hand through it all, and God took him away to a place where there is no more pain, or suffering, or crying. I was oddly comforted by that.

It struck me that although I wasn't aware of exactly when Zoe died, she didn't die unnoticed. God was with her, and God knows the exact moment she crossed over from this life into the next. My baby girl has never known loneliness, because she has always been surrounded by God's hands and his love.

As horrible as Trevor's death was, we do not grieve as those with no hope. He is in a better place now, and we will see him again. I will see my precious Zoe again. Till that day, I know that they are both in a place of peace and love and joy. That is the comfort that God brings.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Do ya LOVE me?

(with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel and The Hollies)

I'm sitting at my laptop working,
got a song that's playing through my he-he-head... (hmmmm)
On a tour of blogs and feeds
My tea and biscuits in my hand
And every stop is neatly planned
By the Reader and the time on hand....

"Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me?
Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me?
Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me -
Now that I can dance, dance, dance!
WATCH me now, OH!"

Bed-ward bound
I wish I wa-aas...
bed-ward bound!
Bed - where my thoughts escaping
Bed - where my dreams await me
Bed - where the warmth awaits me
under my duvet....

"Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me?
Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me - 
Do ya LOVE me?
Do ya love me?
Now that I can dance, dance, dance!
WATCH me now, OH!
(push, push) Shake it up, baby!
(push push) Why you're driving me crazy!
(push push) C'mon a little closer..." 

Look, Ma, no hands!

This video is about a week late. It should have posted last weekend, but there was a problem with my Pixelpipe (lovely little site that allows you to upload a video just once and it then posts it to multiple sites for you). Anyway, here it is finally...

I should point out that we had two screaming fits beforehand - the first because he didn't want to get dressed to get in the car, the second because he didn't want to get undressed to go swimming. Oh the joys of parenting a two-yr old!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What a buzz!!

And no - I'm not talking about Google Buzz at all! (Although... I have recently joined up on Google+ - the verdict is still out on that one.)

The buzz I'm referring to the one I get when I learn new stuff. I'm delivering a professional growth course for some of our staff, starting next week Wed, and for the following 4 Wed mornings. In my head, I'm calling it "Whizz Bang!" It looks at the basics of how to use animations in PPT, and how to find and download images, videos and music. Then, if there's time, I'll teach them how to create their own animations using Automatoon - or maybe teach them how to create a Prezi.

Anyway, as part of this whole thing, I had to be sure that I know how to do all those things. I wanted to create a fun way for people to learn at their own pace, so I decided that for the animations in PPT thing (which is something that others will no doubt want to learn) I would create my own training video, which I can save onto the server, so people can access it themselves.

Only one problem with this. I had no idea how to do it. So I set about learning how. And I did, in fact, manage to do just that. Unfortunately, since it's nearly 100Mb (yup... I guess I used the wrong video codec...) I'm not going to upload it onto the web (that will take about 2.5hrs!). Instead, I'll simply transfer it directly to the school server. That means that I can't show you what I did.

But I'm still very proud of myself for having learnt how to use a new piece of software while designing something that any of our staff can use in their own time to learn a skill that will definitely improve their PPTs. (Some of our staff only learnt how to use PPT at the beginning of this year, and that was the most basic info only.)

So herewith, a HUGE pat on my back.

Now, of course, I still need to finish my Prezi, and there's still a pile of marking to do. I'm hoping the buzz will last long enough through tomorrow that I'll be able to get through the boring stuff...

Farewell, Trevor

Last week I was half-listening to the news on the radio while trying to drive and simultaneously hold a conversation with my 5yr old. On came a news item about a boy found stabbed in his bed in a suburb on the Cape Flats. I didn't listen too closely, except to note the basics of the story.

Two days later, I got a phone call (during school holidays and on a Sunday!) from a colleague to ask whether I'd heard the news about Trevor, one of the boys in my tutor group. What news, I asked? The news that he had died 3 days previously. I was shocked! As she started to tell me the sketchy details she had, I realised that the brief news item I had heard on the radio had been about this boy.

I immediately ran to the trusty internet to see what other details I could find, because there seemed to be rather a lot of confusion surrounding the event. When I did, I discovered that one of the other girls in my class had messaged me on Facebook, asking whether I had heard and could confirm any details. The details I did manage to find weren't pleasant. No signs of forced entry, yet the house had been turned upside down and the boy's body had been stabbed repeatedly, then left hidden under a duvet and pillow on his bed. He had just turned 16 two weeks prior to his death. Fortunately, his 3yr old sister had been staying with their grandmother, but he had been at home alone. When his mother couldn't get into the house on her return from work, she called the police, who broke in and discovered his body.

Later that morning, as I took my family out for a morning at Kirstenbosch, listening to their happy chatter, I couldn't help but feel shell-shocked. How does the world continue to turn, how do other people's live go on, when tragedies such as this occur? I remember feeling that way for a VERY long time after Zoe died. How could others just go on? Why didn't the entire world stop? I can only imagine the grief that his mother feels right now.

The real tragedy of it all is that Trevor was just starting to get his life back on track after losing his own father 2 years ago. He had gone through a troubled patch, academically at least, but was starting to turn things around. He had such potential, and the world is the poorer because he is no longer in it.

The funeral is this coming weekend. I really don't know how I'm gong to handle Monday when we return to school after the holidays - I'm sure there will be a special assembly. What I'm concerned about though is how to help the tutor class. Of course, not everyone in the class was a good friend of his, or knew him very well, but as a class they've been together since they started at the school.

For all the violence I experienced in UK schools, I've never had to deal with a death of this nature, or one for a child in my class. At times like this I wish I was a trained counsellor, so that I would have some clue about how to manage the situation.

The person I feel most sympathy for though is his mother. She has lost two people she loved in two years, and not just any two people, but her husband and now her son. There are no words. Life sucks sometimes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We've come full circle

Last week I took Nellie and one of her best friends to the Baxter theatre to see 3 Little Pigs. The show was lovely (although it started nearly 20 mins late!) and even I enjoyed it (which is saying something). However, the best moment of the outing for me was on the drive home. I'd put on a CD of ABBA covers, when 'Dancing Queen' came on. There we were, with the windows down, and all 3 of us girls were singing along at the top of our lungs.

Can you picture it?

As I was singing, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I'd done the EXACT same thing when I was a little girl, with my folks, while driving along in our old Chevy. Back then, of course, ABBA were relatively new on the scene, whereas now, they're classics. But I was struck by the moment, by the full turning of the wheel, from child to adult, but without the music changing.

I nearly wept at the sentimentality of it all, and the precious nature of children, at the thought that my childhood wasn't all pain and misery, and the thought that maybe one day Nellie will do the same thing with HER kids - as long as I continue to create moments for her that will fill her memory banks with good memories, with memories that will jump out at her at unsuspecting moments, and fill her with the same sense of joy as I experienced in that moment.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A new era

Today marked the dawning of a new era in our lives: the era in which both our kids are at school. It has finally happened - my baby boy is no longer a baby. He started at playschool/ creche/ nursery school today. He'll only be going for 3 mornings a week, but it still feels like a significant step for us.

He's at the same place that Nellie went. It's a bit of a drive from where we live, but we love the place and staff and other kids there, so we're prepared to make the drive, for the moment at least. (By comparison, there's another place around the corner from us in the next street... we've put his name down on the waiting list for next year, but if he gets in, I don't know how we'll choose between them.)

Since we're on holiday, Nellie is going with him for those 3 mornings. We're hoping that having her around with him will help him to settle in. Also, because they're not as structured during the holidays, I'm hopeful that he will settle more easily. We've got 2 weeks until we're back at school (and then things will become INCREDIBLY manic - but I'm not going to think about that now). Nellie took 6 months to settle and stop crying when I left. Will 2 weeks be enough for the boy, or is he also going to cry for 6 months?

I really hope not. Please God, not! I hope he learns to love it really soon.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Confessions of an over-worked blogger

People who know me often ask how I manage my life and my time. How do I fit everything in? How do I manage to do all the things that I do? I usually giggle nervously, because I don't really have an answer - or at least, the answer I have is not the one they want to hear.

The answer is that I don't. I've just (please forgive me, everyone) deleted about 60 blog post notifications from Google Reader. Most of them are work related ones (stuff on education, IT, etc) or else photo blogs. Right now, I just don't have the energy to read them, and if I let them pile up, I know I won't be inspired to read them when I get back to work. There's nothing worse than opening Reader and seeing that I have over 200 posts to read.

I recently read 'Getting Things Done' by David Allen, and then some blog posts by 43folders. They both advocate having an inbox that has zero emails sitting in it. I've started adhering to that policy (there's a whole methodology that goes with it; read the book/ blog posts if you're interested, or ask me for details), and it really works. I've not only been more productive, but I no longer dread opening my inbox, because there are all these hundreds of emails just SITTING there.

About 6 weeks ago I decided to take the same approach to my Reader. If I hadn't made time to read it during the week, I was honest with myself that I probably wouldn't read it, and so would just delete the whole stack, unread. I figured that if there was something really incredible, or a real WOW factor to it, I'd hear about it via Twitter, or some other source, soon enough, or I could probably research it myself if it was something I was particularly interested in. Thus, I reckoned, deleting something I hadn't read wasn't actually going to impoverish my life dramatically. It would simply remove the stress I had been feeling about not being able to keep up with the pace of information streaming itself to me.

The result is that I now feel able to spend time really reading the posts that are by people I love, friends, or anything else that really piques my interest. By using Reader, if I run out of things to read, I know that I can also go back and read the stuff I didn't get a chance to read previously, even if I've "marked it as read", which is nice - as it's never really lost to me.

And that, my friends, is one of the ways in which I manage. I set aside a predefined amount of time per week to read work-related blogs, and anything I don't read in that time is deleted. Poof! No more stress (for that area of my life anyway :))