Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's such a perfect day...

I'm glad I spent it with you... 
Oh, Such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on...

You're going to reap just what you sow
(Reap, reap, reap) you're going to reap just what you sow...

I'm always amazed at how as I think about a title for a blog post, it often winds up being a line from a song. Lou Reed's Perfect Day seems the perfect song for today.

It's not often that I see a dream realised! What a perfect day this has been. 

Yes, the kids fought, and whined, and sulked and had tantrums at various points during the day. The adults too, if truth be told. And yes, I still seem to be battling some low grade viral infection. And yes, our hayfever has been horrendous and the wind today was not helpful. It wasn't perfect in that sense. However, it was the perfect day, because I saw the best of what this family is. Today, we had fun together and loved each other and enjoyed each other and were kind to each other.

Today...
~ Nellie offered, and Nathan accepted, her help to get him dressed
~ Nathan willingly shared his carrots with both Graeme and I
~ Nathan willingly helped Graeme do the dishes
~ Janel did her chores without moaning, immediately, and with such grace
~ neither of the kids moaned about being hungry (although they were ravenous) while we were out shopping
~ Graeme and I got some 'date night' (alone) time this afternoon
~ the kids rode their bikes together in the Close in such a way that neither got frustrated with the other (Nathan sans training wheels!!!)
~ I spent qualiy time with the kids (sadly, a rarity at this time of year)
~ we had pancakes for supper!!!
~ both kids washed themselves in the bath without an argument first
~ we all snuggled up on the bed watching nature programmes on TV together

But best of all, I saw a dream realised. Today, we went riding on our bikes, as a family, with the dogs - Graeme included! - along the canal. This is a moment I have been dreaming of for more than 4 years! And today it became reality.

More than that though. Today I saw a partial answer to an ongoing prayer. I long for my kids to grow up to be people who love God and each other, who will be there to pray with, pray for, support and care for each other when Graeme and I are gone. Today I witnessed a glimpse of how the kids will relate to each other as adults, of who they will be as adults, and it was good! Today I received a fresh energy to keep on keeping on; to persevere, because I have seen how they are growing as children of God. 

I have seen my family love today, and laugh today, and learn today, and grow today. What an amazing day! What an amazing family. I have been mightily blessed! 

Monday, November 04, 2013

The measure of success

In conversation with someone tonight, I found myself commenting that while this has been a hard year, it's been a good one too. I was surprised as those words left my mouth. Why? Because I'm a complainer. I love any excuse to bemoan my fate. Yet, here I was saying I've had a good year. What's more, I didn't realise that was true till I said it.

Yes, this year has been tough. Not as tough as 2007/8, granted, but still tough. I've had several people I love suffer depression. I lost a friend to the Nairobi mall shooting. Financially it's been incredibly tough. Both my mother and mother-in-law had serious ops. My father and step-mother have also had frail health this year. We lost a house we had an offer accepted on, very last minute, which broke my heart. Work has been... extremely pressured. It's been a difficult year. I'm looking forward to the holidays.

Yet, it's been a good year.

As I reflected on where that truth sprang from, it struck me afresh that it's been a good year despite the difficult circumstances. Circumstances don't dictate success, or lack thereof. Rather, it's our attitude that does.

This year has held significant break-through for me, in my faith and my relationship with God. It's because of that, and the changed attitudes of my heart, that my perceptions of reality have changed. My reality is now less focused on the circumstances that surround me, and more focused on the God who loves me, and sustains me. 

My measure of success is becoming His perception of my life, rather than how much money I have in the bank, how many compliments I've received, whether I meet all my deadlines, or whatever. This is not to say I have this waxed! Far from it! Yet, I can look back over the year and see significant strides forward in this, and so I know that I have made progress. Because there is progress, though my circumstances have not changed, I feel the flush of success. 

This has been a good year, not because my God has walked alongside me, but because I am learning, once again, to walk alongside Him, and that feels so good! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How do I say goodbye to yesterday (Boyz II Men)

How do I say goodbye to what we had? 
The good times that made us laugh 
Outweigh the bad. 

I thought we'd get to see forever 
But forever's gone away 
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. 

I don't know where this road 
Is going to lead 
All I know is where we've been 
And what we've been through. 

If we get to see tomorrow 
I hope it's worth all the wait 
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. 

And I'll take with me the memories 
To be my sunshine after the rain 
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. 

And I'll take with me the memories 
To be my sunshine after the rain 
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.


Farewell, James Thomas. This is not the end, this is not goodbye forever. This is just goodbye for now. I know we will meet again, in the hereafter. But till then, my heart aches. 

You were a gentle giant, with a giant-sized heart. You loved deeply, and passionately. You pursued your dreams, actively hunted them down, and made them reality. You touched lives all over Cape Town, and abroad. Your hugs are legendary. Your smile was infectious.

Thank you for everything you did, for being who you were. Our lives will never be the same now that you are gone.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We're all human in the end

With the anniversary of 9/11 occurring yesterday, I think many people's hearts have been, or are, in a reflective state, possibly even a sad state. I know mine is. I've been thinking a lot about 9/11 recently - not just about my reaction to the events, but about those who lost loved ones, about those who died.

I heard an interesting interview on Smile 90.4 FM yesterday, with a man who has put together a collection of interviews with those bereaved by 9/11 - telling their stories of trying to carry on with their lives. He shared one story, of a photographer (or possibly the gallery owner, I can't remember now) who had an exhibition of photographs from 9/11 as a memorial event. One photo was of a person jumping from the tower, one leg still in the window and one out. A woman came to view the exhibition.

When she stood before this particular photo, she started screaming so hysterically that the photographer/ gallery owner closed the gallery and went to her aid. He apologised, saying that he never intended the photo to cause such extreme pain in the viewers. Once she was able to speak, she informed him that the man in the photo was her husband, and that she had never known how he died.

Now, every year, this woman comes to stand outside the gallery when this particular photo is exhibited as part of the memorial events. She won't actually step inside and view the exhibition, but she's always there. When I heard that story, I burst into tears. Can you imagine... never knowing, and then finding out like that? The truth might not have been easier to deal with....

Over the weekend I finished reading a book that was a thought experiment - a (fictional) account of a person killed in 9/11. It's the story of a father who took his two young sons for breakfast in the restaurant at the top of one of the towers. They get trapped, so cannot escape down the tower. The younger child dies from burns, while the father and the older child die by jumping from the tower.

I didn't particularly enjoy the style of the book (and not just because of the horrific nature of the subject material), but it got me thinking, once again, about what it must be like to be faced with such a dilemma - to choose the manner of one's death. I can only imagine how terrible and terrifying it must be to have to choose between burning to death or jumping to your death, especially to have to make that choice for one's children....

I've been thinking about the bombers too, especially in the wake of the US rumblings about a strike on Syria and the way that has raised the issue again of the recent wars by the US. While I do not condone what the bombers did, in any way (and I want to make that blatantly clear), I do have to wonder at the reaction of the western public to them. I did not lose anyone in that tragedy, and I was far removed from it, and maybe that's why I did not feel the tremendous anger that others in the US did. If I had lost a mother, father, sibling, relation, friend, or child to the World Trade Centre collapse, maybe I too would have felt anger.

But anger enough to want to kill another human being?

While I fundamentally disagree with the teachings of Islam on many points, I am amazed by the passion, belief and desperation that was demonstrated by the bombers. How angry? hate-filled? desperate? must those bombers have been to hijack and fly those planes into the towers? What was going through their heads?

Whatever their beliefs, and however atrocious their actions, they were human beings too. Of course, I can afford to show mercy because I lost no-one in that tragedy. How we react to the bombers though should be the same way we react when we talk about the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity during the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, or the Salem witch hunt. Here were people, supposedly good, Christian people, who got swept up in the emotion of something, brain-washed by a few (greedy? misdirected? power-hungry? truly evil?) individuals. Maybe most of them went along with it out of fear for what might happen to them, or those they loved, if they refused, or if they were to speak out against it. In the same way, during WW2 many Germans were not really Nazis: they went along with the tide because it was too dangerous to swim against it.

People are all human. While the actions of some may be heinous, is it not the responsibility of every human to respond with compassion? I'm not saying we let anyone get away with anything - we must suffer the consequences of our actions after all. Yet, is there not a way to show compassion while ensuring that justice is done? Is hatred really the only, or the right, response in such circumstances?

I don't know whether you've been following the news recently, but there was an horrific crash in the Pinetown area. A truck, travelling along a notorious stretch of road, plowed into 4 minibus taxis and a car (killing 22 people), when its brakes failed coming down the hill. The driver is a young man from Swaziland.

It's an horrific story, and my heart breaks for those bereaved in this accident. As one family member said - whatever happens to the truck driver, it will not bring his father back. And he's right. The natural route for grief is to find someone, or something, to blame. I did exactly that when Zoe died, and because there was no-one to blame, I got even more angry with God than I was initially. Yet, that anger only served to isolate me further.

The truck driver is only human. He didn't deliberately make the brakes fail. He didn't deliberately set-out to take the lives of 22 others. His life has been destroyed by this event as much as those who lost family members and loved ones.

He probably needs to go to jail, to serve a sentence for killing 22 people, yet I am so pleased so say that if he does, he will be surrounded by compassion as he does. The actions of one woman have resulted in a support group for him on Facebook with about 3000 members at the time of writing this post. Members of the public have donated clothes and food and other items to him while he's awaiting trial. The messages of support on the group (which are being printed out for him to read) have already begun a healing work in his life, as he realises that many people have compassion towards him, rather than hatred and anger.

We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all mess up. More - we are all so broken, in so many ways, that we wind up doing things that cause hurt to others. We sin, and because we sin, we actually all deserve the same punishment - death. It is because of that I dare not stand and point a finger at another. I am in the same boat as that truck driver. I am no better or worse than the 9/11 bombers. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Everyone needs compassion...


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Storms

I often find that when I'm low, physically, I feel low emotionally too. When I'm stressed, or tired, or sick, I wind up saying and doing things I wouldn't otherwise do - things that often hurt others. It's like the filter in my brain gets switched off, and instead of really thinking about what I'm doing, I react immediately to things - and often, my first reaction is the wrong one.

Given how stressed and sick I've been recently, I'm sure you can imagine some of the stuff ups I've made. I'm still fairly sure that with one of the colossal mistakes I've made in recent weeks I've burnt bridges which will never be fully restored.

Which brings me to Paul's reflections in Romans 7:15. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Every fibre of my being resonates with Paul's sentiments. I hate what I do. I hate that I can't do the good that I want to do. I don't understand why I can't just do what Jesus teaches, why I often do the EXACT opposite. I don't understand why, when I know how to be pure, good, loving, faithful, kind, generous, peaceful, lovely, and all the other holy attributes, the core from which my emotions overflow continues to be selfish, angry, hate-filled, arrogant, mean-spirited, jealous, and all the other evil attributes.

As I reflect on my actions, I find myself turning to self-loathing. In the very core of my being there is rottenness, evil, horrible filth. I wonder afresh at how anyone could really love me, when inside of me lurks this horrid monster that apparently cannot be tamed, that apparently has not been changed by the love of God, that rears its head when I am most vulnerable, hurting those around me (and myself). I wonder afresh at whether the world would not be a better place if I were no longer in it*. I find myself thinking, once again, that I would be better off if I were not in this world - because by dying, I would no longer have to struggle with this resident evil. Hopelessness surrounds me, because I cannot see how things will EVER be different, how this fundamental portion of my being can EVER be fixed, changed, redeemed, set free.

We're doing a series in church at the moment, looking at the different religions that are followed in Cape Town. It's called "Coexist", and if you're interested in that kind of thing, then I'd recommend you check out these talks... very powerful while being respectful. There are several things about Christianity that I believe make it unique. One of those things is grace.

Grace is something VERY hard to grasp, let alone to appropriate. Grace is the unmerited favour of God. It is completely scandalous; it's offensive to the core. If some part of you doesn't find it offensive, then you probably haven't understood it properly. (For an explanation of why it is scandalous and offensive, you might want to read this blog post.) 

Back in 2004 the movie 'The Passion of the Christ' (directed by Mel Gibson) was released. I went to see it with a girlfriend. When I came out, I had gouged my palms with my nails in the (unsuccessful) attempt to control my emotions. I walked out of that movie with one lasting, overarching impression: How could I be worth the price that God was willing to pay? I can't comprehend why God was willing to pay such an extravagant price for me, when I am clearly so unworthy. In comparison to his glory, even the very best parts of me, the person I most strive to be - even THIS part of me is like excrement-covered rags next to him.

I particularly wonder about this incredible love at times like this, when I have messed up YET again. Why does God put up with me, when time and time again, I fail to learn the lessons, when I repeat the mistakes of the past, and let Him, myself and everyone around me down again? I am completely perplexed by his long-suffering patience with me, by his deep, abiding passion for me. What on earth does he see in me? I marvel at how a perfect God could love such an imperfect creation as myself, and not just love me, but love me enough to be willing to suffer ALL THAT. 

Grace.

In times like this, when I'm feeling incredibly low, and hopeless, it is the grace of God I cling to. I have stuffed up, and done a pretty good job of that too. Yet, as I turn to him and confess how wretched I am, I hear his voice speaking words of comfort to me. "I did this all for YOU because I love YOU and YOU are worth this price to me. Your sin is not the end of the story. You sin is not what defines you. I am what defines you. I am the end of your story."

Grace.

Thank God for grace.

____________________________________________________________
*I should point out that I was suicidal years before. There is a vast difference between how desperate I felt then and how I feel now. I can assure you that I'm nowhere near that level now, and I'm not about to try to kill myself.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pinelands canal breaks its banks

In the 34 years I have lived here, I have NEVER seen this before...

In order from the top of the river, near the Freemason's Lodge, down to the back of Pinelands High School.


Video links on YouTube:
1) http://youtu.be/e97ez1CVaGw
2) http://youtu.be/ZeGHqsVjbeM

The standing waves below Howard Drive bridge are amazing, but don't show up well in the photos, and I didn't capture them in the videos! Imagine what this will look like after another few days of rain.

Working prisoners - a multi-faceted solution for our city?

Today I read the following post by Terri Noskov on Facebook:

WE NEED THIS GUY IN OUR PRISON SYSTEMS 

You all remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona , who painted the jail cells pink and made the inmates wear pink prison garb. Well.............

SHERIFF JOE IS AT IT AGAIN!

Oh, there's MUCH more to know about Sheriff Joe!

Maricopa County was spending approx.$18 million dollars a year on stray animals, like cats and dogs. Sheriff Joe offered to take the department over, and the County Supervisors said okay.

The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. They feed and care for the strays. Every animal in his care is taken out and walked twice daily. He now has prisoners who are experts in animal nutrition and behavior. They give great classes for anyone who'd like to adopt an animal. He has literally taken stray dogs off the street, given them to the care of prisoners, and had them place in dog shows.

The best part? His budget for the entire department is now under $3 million. Teresa and I adopted a Weimaraner from a Maricopa County shelter two years ago. He was neutered, and current on all shots, in great health, and even had a microchip inserted the day we got him.. Cost us $78.

The prisoners get the benefit of about $0..28 an hour for working, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day. Most of his budget is for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals..

I have long wondered when the rest of the country would take a look at the way he runs the jail system, and copy some of his ideas. He has a huge farm, donated to the county years ago, where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand.

He has a pretty good sized hog farm, which provides meat, and fertilizer. It fertilizes the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and you can buy a living Christmas tree for $6 - $8 for the Holidays, and plant it later.... We have six trees in our yard from the Prison.

Yup, he was reelected last year with 83% of the vote. Now he's in trouble with the ACLU again. He painted all his buses and
vehicles with a mural, that has a special hotline phone number painted on it, where you can call and report suspected illegal aliens. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement wasn't doing enough in his eyes, so he had 40 deputies trained specifically for enforcing immigration laws, started up his hotline, and bought 4 new buses just for hauling folks back to the
border. He's kind of a 'Git-R Dun' kind of Sheriff.

TO THOSE OF YOU NOT FAMILIAR WITH JOE ARPAIO

HE IS THE MARICOPA ARIZONA COUNTY SHERIFF

AND HE KEEPS GETTING ELECTED OVER AND OVER
THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio (In Arizona ) who created the ' Tent City Jail':

He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.

He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights Cut off all but 'G' movies.

He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then He Started Chain Gangs For Women So He Wouldn't Get Sued For Discrimination.

He took away cable TV Until he found out there was A Federal Court Order that Required Cable TV For Jails So He Hooked Up The Cable TV Again Only Let In The Disney Channel And The Weather Channel. When asked why the weather channel He Replied, So They Will Know How Hot It's Gonna Be While They Are Working ON My Chain Gangs.

He Cut Off Coffee Since It Has Zero Nutritional Value. When the inmates complained, he told them, 'This Isn't The Ritz/Carlton......If You Don't Like It, Don't Come Back.'

More On The Arizona Sheriff:

With Temperatures Being Even Hotter Than Usual In Phoenix (116 Degrees Just Set A New Record), the Associated Press Reports:
About 2,000 Inmates Living In A Barbed-Wire-Surrounded Tent Encampment At The Maricopa County Jail Have Been Given Permission To Strip Down To Their Government-Issued Pink Boxer Shorts.

On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached
138 Degrees Inside The Week Before. Many Were Also Swathed In Wet, Pink Towels As Sweat Collected On Their
Chests And Dripped Down To Their PINK SOCKS. 'It Feels Like We Are In A Furnace,' Said James Zanzot, An Inmate Who Has
Lived In The TENTS for 1 year. 'It's Inhumane.'

Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: 'It's 120 Degrees In Iraq And Our Soldiers Are Living In Tents Too, And They Have To Wear Full Battle Gear, But They Didn't Commit Any Crimes, So Shut Your Mouths!'

Way To Go, Sheriff!

Maybe if all prisons were like this one there would be a lot less crime and/or repeat offenders. Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves.


Obviously, our system of justice is different. Our prison system is different. However, wouldn't it be amazing to have the same kind of practical, levelheadedness when it comes to the running of our cities?

Can you imagine, in Cape Town, if we could use chain gangs to create infrastructure for townships? Our prisons are overflowing, yet sitting in them is the man (and woman) power to literally dig and lay thousands of trenches for all the water & sewage pipes, and electrical cabling, needed to provide flush toilets for all the townships. (Yes, we would need to rehouse many people to be able to put this infrastructure in place, and getting that planning permission to create new suburbs, and getting people to agree to move, is difficult.)

Imagine if we used prisoners to grow and harvest their own food. Not only would they be learning valuable skills, but they would be saving taxpayers oodles of money.

Imagine if we used prisoners to care for all the stray pets? 

Not only does work give a person a sense of self-worth, which is VITAL, but working the soil, working with animals, it does something to a person. There is something to be said for working with living things that can't talk back to you. Research shows that the elderly and the young benefit from living with pets. Surely working with pets will also be beneficial to the souls of prisoners? And farming... I know that not everyone is stimulated by working in the garden, or planting things, but working the soil brings peace and restores the soul. There is some mystical connection between us and the earth - we are all, after all, created things.

What if we trained prison gangs to remove alien vegetation and plant fynbos - as part of the Working on Water, or Working on Wetlands projects? Imagine the amount of water that we could save! (Imagine the money we could save too, not having to employ people to do this.)

What about sorting rubbish? If we used prisoners to sort rubbish into recyclable materials, not only would we be saving the earth, but they could then use the very recyclable materials they sorted to generate income. There is already an arts programme in several prisons, teaching prisoners how to be artists. They could use the recyclable materials in their art work. Or they could make useful items and sell those. (Or, worst case, they could simply send the stuff to the city's recycling plants.)

What if we used our prisoners to build better prisons? I would imagine that on the site of current prisons there is space to put up additional buildings.

Or what about getting them to build houses for those on the city's waiting list for RDP houses?

Or what about getting them to cook food for the homeless?

Or what about getting them to make park benches and clean up parks?

Or what about teaching them how to sew and knit, and getting them to make blankets and clothing for those who are affected by the flooding on the Cape Flats every year, and prepare disaster relief packages in advance?

And that's just thinking about things to do here in this city. I don't know what needs other cities might have, but I'm sure there's a lot prisoners could be doing, to give back to the city that is paying for their upkeep, to give back to the communities they have robbed, threatened, destroyed, killed members of...

The devil makes work for idle hands. By teaching our prisoners skills, by giving them work, by helping them to be useful we give them a sense of self-worth, a vision for the future, hope for what might happen when they have served their time. In the same way that we need programmes for our teens, to keep them off the streets and off drugs, we need programmes in our prisons to help those who seem beyond help.

Or am I just being a hopeless romantic? If it can be done by one sheriff in the USA, then why can't it happen here in Cape Town?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Say WHAT?

will smith's reaction to miley cyrus on stage vma awards

I was as gobsmacked as they were.

If you missed the news this morning, you didn't miss anything, really. Miley Cyrus strutted her stuff on stage, in a nude-coloured bikini - while being totally sexually explicit.

I was horrified though, for several reasons. Let me count them for you.

  1. Her antics were broadcast while my kids were with me, watching breakfast TV. (Now is not the time to have the discussion about whether kids should be a) watching TV at all, b) watching TV while eating, c) watching the news.) I usually screen what my kids watch - I don't even like them watching violent cartoons. Yet, here - WITH NO WARNING about adult content beforehand, my kids got a serious dose of sexually explicit content. I am not impressed, SABC.
  2. What message is she sending to career women? To me, it says that the only way to be taken seriously as a professional, as a woman, is to take off all your clothes in public, and behave like a slut.
  3. What message is it sending to all the millions of young girls who idolise her? It's like the whole '50 Shades of Grey' thing all over again. This sexually explicit behaviour is not normal. Yet, our teens are being fed a constant diet of acceptance of aberrant behaviour. If you want to behave like that, fine, but do it in the privacy of your home. I still believe that sex is beautiful, but private. It's not something we splash across the front page of the news.
  4. More people (myself included) are talking about this, rather than... oh I don't know - a million other issues. I mean, we could be talking about the troubles in Syria right now, where a country stands poised on the brink of a serious ethnic cleansing. We could be talking about Marikana and Lonmin. We could be talking about the impact of rising fuel costs on the food security of South Africa's (and indeed, the world's) most poor. We could be talking about the ongoing persecution of Tibetan Buddahists, or the ongoing Christian martyrdom in the East. We could be talking about the 11cm of snow (!!!) predicted to fall on Table Mountain this weekend and the impact of climate change on our endangered fynbos. We could be talking about SO many other things, yet instead we're all talking about Miley's antics.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we shouldn't be talking about it, because it does raise important issues regarding the morality of famous people, the morality of programme developers, etc. But I am horrified that this was the current trending topic this morning. I'm sure that the reason she did it was to get a reaction, to put her name in lights, as it were. She definitely succeeded there.

But how tragic that her atrocious behaviour should cause more outrage than the other topics I mentioned above. Clearly there are some sins that we regard as worse than others. The fact that people in Syria are killing each other is not as morally abhorrent to us as Miley's actions on the stage last night. Clearly, sexually explicit behaviour is worse than taking a life.

Now, again, don't misunderstand me. We need to have the conversation about the implications of Ms Cyrus' actions. We need to talk about the message it has sent to young girls, to the general public, about women and the role they hold in society. That is a very important discussion. And maybe this is the time for it, I don't know.

BUT

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the number of children who are addicted to Tik on the Cape Flats?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the gang violence that last week saw several schools on the Cape Flats being closed?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the ongoing corruption in government?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by the number of people sleeping rough in parks and under bridges every night?

Shouldn't we be just as morally outraged by ... and the list goes on. And on. And on.

How is it that we have become so desensitized to some sins, but not to others?

I don't have an answer, and I am just as guilty. The fact that I'm writing this blog post, rather than one about the school closures last week, or whatever, means I'm just as guilty.

And yet another problem is that by the weekend, no-one will really care. There will be some other hot topic to talk about - in CT that will probably be the frightful cold and snow predicted to fall on Table Mountain. By the time the weekend rolls around, people will have moved on. News happens so fast, and there is SO MUCH of it now that we are a global village, that one is simply overwhelmed by the barrage of issues to care about.

I do care about what is happening in Syria. I don't know what I can do though, except maybe to pray (not that prayer is a small thing!). I do care about the school closures, but again, what can I do about it? I do care about the kids on tik, but what can I do about it, particularly as a whitey? I do care about so many different issues, but if I was to give myself to all of them, I would either spend my life curled up in a little ball, sobbing on the floor all the time, or I would be dead from emotional exhaustion.

Maybe the trick is to find ONE THING to care about. Maybe if we all got a download from God about one issue he wanted each of us to tackle, then all the issues would get covered, and fixed.

But how DO we respond to a world that is broken and crying out for healing?

I'm busy teaching a section to the Gd 11s on the 'Human Impact on the Environment' at the moment. We look at water availability, water quality, food security, pollution, climate change, solid waste treatment, etc. It is potentially a hard-hitting section. This is the section in which we can turn our kids into Eco Warriors, if we wanted. It definitely is an area in which we get to talk about morals and ethics and all that good stuff.

Yet, I remember when I was at varsity, being taught about the evils of dams - how they destroy natural vegetation, even entire ecosystems; they disrupt the food chains and webs, they reduce biodiversity, they completely mess up EVERYTHING. I remember walking away from a 2 week block of lectures with an aching heart, coming home, and crying about it. I wept over the destruction that man has caused to this planet, all because of our greed. I wept at our blindness to see how we were only creating MORE problems for ourselves in the long run. I wept over the lost biodiversity, the fynbos species that we will never even know we lost because some of them might only have had a range that was smaller than the dam built over them. It sounds silly now, but back then, I can't even begin to tell you how heavily it weighed upon my soul. We are supposed to be the custodians of the earth, after all.

Then, just as clearly, I remember thinking to myself that if this was how much it affected me, I simply could not walk around thinking about it any more. I assigned my grief and pain at the impact of humans to a little box that I have never really dared to look at again. Because I felt so dis-empowered to fix the problem, or to do anything about it at all, I dare not allow myself to get emotionally involved with the problem.

I find myself reacting in a similar way now. I can't physically care about all the issues. I know I should be outraged by all of them. I know I should be on my knees beseeching God to INTERVENE in all of them. I know I should be lobbying my local counsellor, raising awareness, fighting the good fight, ... But I can't, and I don't, because I've already had so much pain in my life I honestly can't bear the thought of actively opening myself up to any more.

And I think that's why so many people have reacted as they did to Miley's antics. Here's a quick 'little' issue we can all jump up and down about, yell and make a bit of noise about, and then congratulate ourselves that we are good people because we said something about it. Maybe that's an oversimplification. Maybe all the yelling and outrage is because it enables us to point fingers at someone else for a bit. If all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing, then each of us is, in a greater or smaller measure responsible for all the evils of this world - climate change, intolerance of other's religious/ political views, pollution, poverty, etc.

It feels good to rant and rave about someone else's failings and mistakes. It's a lot harder to acknowledge that I am responsible for X or Y, and to take ownership of trying to fix it.

And maybe that's the lesson we learn from Miley - she's our scape goat, because we're too cowardly to own our sinfulness and really do something about it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My little bookworm


I know I'm biased, but isn't this just the cutest kid? In the past year, she has gone from strength to strength in terms of her reading. She is now reading Roald Dahl, the Secret Seven, and has read all but one of the Horrid Henry series. She reads everything she can get her hands on. 

Sometimes it is highly annoying - she reads at the table, while brushing her teeth, while driving in the car, while walking around, while dressing... We have already started with the arguments about when it is or is not appropriate to be reading.

On the other hand, I am THRILLED with how much she is reading. I love that she loves reading. I love that she is being stretched like this. LONG may her love of books continue. Kids who do well at school are readers. Although, having said that, I was more interested in reading than studying... And I would often not do my work, or do it poorly, in order to get more time to read. Hmm... Like mother like daughter, I suspect. At least I know how she feels in this regard, and can empathise. When that book has you in it's grip, sometimes even breathing seems less important than finishing the story!

Speaking of which, I have some reading to catch up on... 😉

Friday, August 09, 2013

How to end poverty

Amongst the people I follow is a guy I knew way back when I was still involved in camping with Scripture Union - Brett Fish Anderson. Today he posted a link to an article he had read years ago by Peter Singer that really challenged him on the issue of giving, and ending poverty.

Now the name Peter Singer should ring a few bells with some of you - he was the guy who really got the world thinking about vegetarianism and animal rights. Anyway, you can read Singer's article on poverty here.

As it happens, God has been raising the issue of giving with me again just recently (ever since I completed my tax return last weekend, in fact). He's been challenging me again to think about how much I give, and why I give. I was, therefore, massively challenged by Singer's article. Essentially, Singer's premise (back in 1999 when he wrote the article) was that if everyone gave $200 to an aid organisation of their choice, they could save the life of a child (pay for food and medication from age 2 to age 6, which is past the worst danger zone for children in poverty). He then argued that it would be very easy to raise this money by simply doing away with luxuries - not eating out for a month, not going to the movies every week, not buying designer clothes every month, simply doing without something for a short period of time.

Now, $200 in 1999 is roughly equivalent to R2720 today. That's a lot of money, I know. Assuming that a meal out costs R300, that is 9-10 meals. i.e. if you eat out once a month, then across the year, by simply not eating out you can save a child's life. That's a pretty profound thought, isn't it?

When I shared the link to the article on Facebook it sparked a lot of debate, about whether Singer was advocating giving out of guilt, or simply saying that it was the right thing to do, and whether the fact that he didn't seem to be a Christian made a difference to what he was saying and whether we should listen to him or not.

For me though, the issue I was left debating was how much is ENOUGH to give. At what point do we draw the line. No-one disagrees that giving is good - for the giver as much as the recipient. Certainly, God expects us to give. 'Freely you have received, freely give." Matt 10:8 "For as much as you have not done it for the least of these, you did not do it to me." Matt 25:45

But how much should we give? Is it a percentage of what we have? If so, what percentage is the 'right' one to give? 1/10th? And should that be counted before or after taxes?

This topic has been dealt with by many greater academics than I, in much greater detail and much more clearly than I can express. But one image keeps returning to me - that of the poor widow, standing at the Temple, giving her last coin to the Temple coffers. Jesus sees her, and commends her. It wasn't the value of the coin that she gave, it was the faith that she demonstrated. It was the fact that she chose to put the things of God before her own needs.

How many of us can say the same - that in our materialistic culture we are willing to sacrifice for God? Are we willing to sacrifice a new pair of jeans, or a meal out, or a box of chocolates, let alone our last anything, for His sake, to save a child? Yes, we have necessities, but is going to gym one of them? Couldn't we exercise more cheaply by running on the road, or buying a bike? Yes, we need to eat, but do we really need to buy the most expensive foods, or shop at the most expensive shops (or at Woolies)? Yes, we need to cook, but do we really need that 7 plate gas burner stove top? Yes, we need to get around, but do we really need to buy a new car, or will an older 2nd hand one suffice?

So, how much is enough to give back? I don't think there is a figure. I think that the question should rather be turned around - not, have I given enough, but, what else can I give?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

All I want is a room somewhere..

...far away from the cold night's air...

and how cold it has been! Snow on the Langeberg mountains around Cape Town this weekend... maybe we should take a drive up and play in it before it melts. Hmmm...

But why am I singing about a room somewhere? Because right now, all I want is a quiet place, with no-one else around, where I can read, sleep and relax, with no thought about work. Ek is uitgeput en gedaan. Work has been good, mostly (although I've had a few crises this week that have left me drained and demotivated), but between work and the freelancing I'm doing, and Expo, I am feeling very thinly spread.

So just say no, right? That's that answer, right? Sadly, it isn't. We are seriously cash strapped - these petrol increases and poor Rand: Dollar/ Pound rates are taking their toll, in addition to all the unexpected medical and car bills we've had. Rather than live off the credit card, which is never an option, I've taken on additional work. Not heaps, but enough to help us with our day to day expenses so that we can begin to pay off the credit card.

With this long weekend, I would love nothing more than to spend the weekend relaxing with my family, but I have Expo work to do, and school work to do, and freelance work to do. But I also need time off.

And so the tussle begins. Where do I draw the line? Don't get me wrong - I love my job (except for marking!), I love my freelance stuff, I love Expo, but I do not love the amount of time it takes to do all of these things. When I die, my last thoughts are not going to be how I should have spent more time working. Rather, they will be that I should have spent more time with my kids, with my hubbie, with my family, with my friends.

So - against my better judgement, this weekend, I am going to TAKE TIME OFF. I am going to lie in bed and read. I am going to play with my kids. I am going to go for a run and go to gym and walk the dogs. I am going to look after the introverted part of me that just needs some peace and quiet.

Because if I don't, I might just kill someone.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sometimes he whispers...

... and sometimes he yells.

Who can understand the mind of God? Who can fathom why he sometimes chooses to be silent, or to whisper, or to step back, and why, at other times, he chooses to bend down and yell in your ear, to INTERVENE, to make his presence known?

For no reason that I can determine, for the past few days I have had one line from a song running through my head non-stop, on endless repeat.

"My love is unshakable, my love is unbreakable for you."

For the first few hours I thought nothing much of it. You know, it's just that my brain is stuck on this track, so, okay, move on. Hum, hum, yup - still stuck on this track.

Then, suddenly, it smacked me in the face.

This wasn't just a random line from some random song (I still don't know who sings it, and can't find the lyrics to the rest of the song or the mp3 on the web. If you do, please let me know). Nope - this was something else.

This was a message from God, to me, personally, loudly, and repeatedly.

For several hours, I reveled in it. I love knowing that I'm loved. (Who doesn't, right? Unless it's some stalker person... but then, that's not really love, is it?)

But then, I was suddenly brought up short by my suspicious nature. Why would God want me to know this fact, on this particular day, in quite such an 'in your face' kind of way? Was something about to happen when knowing this would be vital? Was someone I loved about to die? Was something about to happen to me? Was I about to get hurt? And needless to say, I then spent a while in a minor state of panic, contemplating all the possible situations in which I would only survive if I was confident of God's love for me.

Thankfully, more than 48hrs later, nothing untoward has happened. (My suspicious mind says it might still happen.... and I shouldn't think I'm in the clear just yet.)

Nope, I think God just wanted to let me know how much he loves me. Not for any particular reason, just because he does, and he can.

When I behave like this to my kids, they also wonder what's up, why I'm suddenly being affectionate, or hugging them - what I want from them. (I wonder who they get this suspicious nature from?) But, they enjoy it. When they ask, I often tell them that I have to get all my hugs and love in now, while I can, before they become teenagers and want to keep a mile from any affectionate touch with their parents (or, God forbid, PDAs!!). Then they usually smile, and give me great big squeezy huggles (not cuddles, not hugs - huggles!) and lots of kisses. I love those moments. I love the smell of my kids, I love their little bodies cuddled up into mine. In fact, I positively adore them.

So why is it so hard for me to believe that if I want to have that with my kids, my heavenly father would want it any less with me? I have so much to learn!

"Unless you become as one of these little ones, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt 18:3 (paraphrase)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

She works hard for the money...

So, this holiday, in between doing school work, I have done some freelance work. God has always provided the work for me, for which I'm grateful. I earned nearly a month's extra salary this holiday, which is awesome, but I won't really be able to enjoy a cent of it. Why?

In order to supplement our family income, I have always done a bit of freelance work. If I don't, then we don't make ends meet. I don't think we live extravagantly - we don't have DSTV, if we eat out once a month that's a lot (and it will be Spur on a Monday night, or take-away fish and chips on a Friday night), and all our wardrobes are full of clothes and shoes that are falling apart (literally). We can't afford household contents insurance, so God help us if we are ever burgled!

Because we are among the richest people in the nation though (and yes, I recognise that we are), we are fortunate enough to have a solid concrete-and-brick house to live in, life insurance, a medical savings account, a cheap gym membership (as a bonus from our medical aid), 2 cars (although one is really just a rust bucket with an engine and dodgy lights... I doubt it would pass a roadworthy!), relatively healthy food to eat, and can afford a full-time nanny cum domestic. We can afford to pay our kids school fees, buy them a uniform, and pay for a few extra murals that will broaden their horizons and teach them valuable skills. We also believe in saving for our future (so have a pension/ RA) and in giving to those less fortunate (so we tithe, support a missionary and support a child & his family in Ethiopia).

But with the state of the Rand, all of this is coming at a greater and greater cost to us though. Not a month goes by when we don't have to re-evaluate our lifestyle and wonder if there's any way we cut back on our expenditure. In order to stay out of the red (which is a principle we believe firmly in!), at least one of us has to freelance on the side. When the unexpected occurs, as it usually does, we have no buffer. We have no little nest egg to fall back on that keeps us afloat.

But back to the close on a month's salary I have earned. Over the past few months, we have had to spend a little more on the credit card each month, just to stay afloat - to pay for the odd item of school uniform we need to buy as the kids grow, to cover the car that needed a major service to maintain the warranty, the scooter that needed its electrics overhauled, to repair the family heirloom couch the kids broke, to repair the lawnmower after I accidentally drove over its cable, to pay for the doctors' bills and hospital bills the medical aid won't cover, to give my child a birthday party, to cover the increase in petrol costs (and hence transport costs).... the list goes on.

It gives me great satisfaction to work, to be productive. I get a kick out of completing a big task and doing it with excellence. I even get a kick out of knowing that I am providing for my family (a very male trait, I know). But I wish that when I did earn all this extra money, I could spend it on something other than paying for necessities.

I'd love to be able to - for example - pay for the printing of leaflets for Born Sleeping and someone to then go around to all the gynae's, paed's, midwifes, grief counsellors, etc and hand them out. I'd love to be able to help my friends out of financial trouble through retrenchment. I'd love to be able to save up enough money to take my kids on a holiday to the UK. I've love to have enough money to take a holiday around SA and show the kids the beauty that exists in this nation. I'd love to pay off my bond.

In years gone by, a person could afford to pay off a house in 25 years. In fact, by saving hard, it was possible for an ordinary person to pay off a house in 15 years. We've owned our house for 11 years and have hardly made a dent in the bond, even though we're paying back capital.

The value of the Rand is decreasing, which makes life all the more expensive for us. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is increasing, and the people who feel it most are not actually the poverty stricken, but the middle class who are worse-off now than at any time in the past.

[I'm not saying the poverty-stricken aren't feeling it, but it's a bit like the situation with the education system. In 1982 the government used to spend about R1200 per white child, R500 per coloured child, and about R150 per black child. Now, the government gives schools anywhere from R800 to R130 per child depending on how rich the school's suburb is. In most cases, former white schools are able to push up school fees, so their standard of education has not fallen. Former black schools have seen a dramatic increase in their government subsidy. It's still a pathetic amount, but it's better than it was. Former coloured schools however have seen their subsidy decrease and are often not in areas where the parents can afford steeper school fees. The result? Former coloured schools have felt the pinch the most.]

Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. On the contrary, I feel blessed, for all the reasons I stated in the beginning. However, I do wish things were financially easier. I wish I didn't have to work so hard, and have so little time to relax, or to spend with my kids, just in order to make ends meet. I long for the day when the principle of "a worker is worth his wage" would be implemented fully, the day when no-one will lack anything, the day when the shalom of God would cover all of us. I long for that day.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Adult bed time story (warning: PG 18L)

I know I've blogged about this before, but it needs saying again.

This evening, while trying to get our kids to sleep so that the adults could get on with playing their games, I was reminded of the adult bed time story 'Go the fuck to sleep'. You can read the text on http://poetry.rapgenius.com/adam-mansbach-go-the-fuck-to-sleep-lyrics.

Every time I read the lyrics I can so clearly recall the hours and hours I have spent feeling exactly those sentiments with at least #1 (not so much with #2) who, in her younger years, simply would not. I wept with laughter when reading it again this evening. 

Yes, it uses the swear words and so, theoretically, is not very Christian, but I'm afraid that sometimes you can't express the gut emotion without using swear words. I confess that there are times when i think swearing is funny. This is one of them. If that offends you, then I'm sorry. If that makes you think less of me, then I'm sorry. In that case, can we just agree to disagree?

I love the sense of the rising ire, the exhausted defeat, then elated triumph, then despairing defeat. That roller-coaster is so true to life, to my own experiences when I was a new parent battling to work out how to get my kid to JUST. GO. TO. SLEEP.

So, if you have kids, and have battled at one point or another to get them to sleep, go and read this. Bookmark it, and return to it every now and then when you need the reminder that:

you are not alone 
this is a common problem
Gina Ford/ Dr. Spock / whoever the latest guru is does not have all the answers
the Pinterest/ yummy mummies with the perfect kids aren't the only valid experience of parenting
it is better to laugh at yourself than weep at your predicament
life goes on
and, that this too shall pass.

You owe it to yourself to get real.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mind the gap

In SA, as a middle class whitey, I don't ever take public transport. After all, I have my own car... Why would I want to swap that for being squished like cattle on their way to market, and inconvenienced by having to wait on someone else's schedule? Besides, my memories of the train in SA are of a filthy, unhygienic, and unsafe environment.

Yet, today we decided to grab a train to Simonstown to see the statue of Jus Nuisance. I was surprised by the experience. Firstly, the trains didn't look like the new in my memory. Yes, they were still filthy in many respects, but it was at least litter and graffiti free. However, the seats reminded me of the Tube in London, just slightly wider carriages.... Even the yellow stripe on the platform rang a comforting bell.

Sitting in the train, contemplating my class list life style, I was amazed at how normal it felt to be sitting there. I guess all the years of public transport use in the UK has not been lost. Sure, I did feel uncomfortable with some of the passengers - I confess I did wonder whether any of them were criminals - but then, I felt uncomfortable with some passengers in the UK too.

All in all, it was a good experience, one I would like to repeat soon. I don't get much opportunity to, living and working where I do, but maybe I can create opportunities.

Along similar lines, I learnt yesterday that it costs R1 to catch a minibus (black) taxi from Howard Centre to Mowbray station. Imagine that! That's so cheap!!! Even using a scooter isn't that cheap. And again, how middle class and how classist that I never knew that. Maybe, just for the experience of it,  ought to catch a taxi... 

A grief unending

Today I came across this blog post about a mother losing her children. Read it. That is all.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Just Nuisance


Once upon a time there was a dog. Not just any dog, but a Great Dane. (He stood 2m tall when he stood on his hind legs.) Not just any Great Dane, but an Able Seaman.

He is the only dog to officially be a sailor in the Royal Navy. He was drafted to prevent him being out down as a result of accompanying sailors on their day trips via train to Cape Town. You see, sailors got free travel, and the railways threatened to have him euthanized if his fares were not paid.

His duties involved whatever he saw fit to engage in, but he was a huge morale booster to the troops during WW2. His name came from the fact that his favourite resting place was on the gang-planks of the ships moored in Simonstown Harbour, making a 'nuisance' of himself to anyone trying to board or disembark the ship.

This past term #1 has been learning about him in class, so she wanted to go and see his statue. We took the train from Muizenburg, to make a day of it. We saw seals, penguins, and ships; ate mussels, calamari, biltong and ice creams; climbed rocks, walked for miles and slid down the zippy slide. What more could a family want?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Corruption in SA

On Sunday we have a routine: while the kids nap, we lie in bed and read the paper. I love it.

Except that, of late, I have felt demoralized after reading the paper...

The more I read, the more evidence and accusations about corruption (particularly in SA) I see. In this weekend's edition, there is the story about the price-fixing by 5 major construction companies, which involves the tenders for such large structures as the Cape Town stadium in Greenpoint. There's the story about the transport minister who allegedly owes more than a million Rand in unpaid rent for his home. In my own experience there is the issue of how the DBE can spend R12000 to centrally procure a basic laptop for a Dineledi school, when everyone knows they only cost about R4000. (Who, I have to ask, is getting the kick-back?)

Following the Arab Spring, this year's elections in north African countries have seen the youth disillusioned and uninterested, and therefore disenfranchised. Why? Because their attempt to overthrow the corrupt government has fallen on deaf ears, and has seen little real progress. 

Right now, there are huge protests in Brazil, again by the youth, regarding the corruption in government. They've called a major strike across the nation, in all sectors, for tomorrow.

The USA has been seen to be spying on its own people, according to the whistleblower Snowden, twisting laws to be ale to essentially do whatever they like semi-legally. Of course, that smacks of President Zuma's trick of declaring the report about the R20-odd million he has spent on upgrading Nkandla top secret to avoid having to face public scrutiny.

Or what about the police, who are allegedly so corrupt they stop innocent people deliberately in the hopes that they will be offered bribes? How can a nation that is so corrupt at its core ever hope to improve or move forward?

Everywhere I turn, I see corruption, corruption, and more corruption.

On the one hand, I feel I ought to be pleased that it is being exposed, that the media is doing its job in telling the public about these atrocities, and about how politicians and government are misbehaving. Maybe we're hearing abut it more because the media is doing its job better, or because more people are reporting it. Either way, that's got to be a good thing, right? You can't solve a problem you are unaware of.

On the other hand, maybe we're hearing about it more because there is simply more of it. Maybe that too is a feature of there simply being more people in the world now. Governments have always been corrupt, but with there being more people in the world, and more government officials, there is more corruption. 

Whatever the truth, whether there is more corruption, or whether the reporting on corruption is more efficient, I find it demoralizing.

With Mandela basically being on his death bed, as a nation we have been reflecting on his work, and on his person, and have been reminded about being a person of virtue, of integrity, no matter the personal cost. 

How long will we stand by and watch corruption steal the heart of this nation? At what point will we become so incensed with corruption that we take action? Is there a time coming when SA will rise to its feet and protest these gross injustices? And if we do, will that achieve anything? Looking at the Arab Spring protests - what have they really accomplished as far as corruption is concerned? 

Looking back at our own Spring - at the history of the new SA, when freedom was won for all South Africans - we supposedly voted in a government that fought for integrity and ethics, for human rights and freedom for all. That very same government is now shot through with corruption. It steals from its own people in the way that the Apartheid government stole from them - starting with stealing money from the education coffers and thereby denying its own people a chance at improving their own lives.

So, where to from here? With Mandela on his way out, who will stand as the icon of this nation's soul? Who will be the voice that calls us to account? Tutu? Zille? Is there anyone who can stand as the model of who we should be as individuals, and how we should live our lives?

I believe there is only One. Only One to whom we can, and should, be looking. Seeing with eyes not covered by the grace of salvation, with carnal eyes, I become demoralized and hopeless when looking at the world around me. But when I look with eyes covered by grace, eyes that are spiritual, covered by the blood of the One who came to set us free from the corruption that eats into all of our souls, then I see with hope. Then, even as I see all the corruption around me, I do not fall into despair. Instead, I see opportunities for prayer, opportunities for me to bring the freedom Jesus offers into the lives of individuals and organizations.

It seems overwhelming. There is SO MUCH corruption... Where do I begin? How do I begin? While movements like LeadSA are fantastic, and I applaud and support them, they rely on human strength to succeed. No good movement will ever succeed on is own, because human nature is fundamentally flawed, and poisoned, and corrupt. 

It begins, I believe, with self-leadership. I have to model integrity before I can expect others to demonstrate it. I have to overcome the corruption in my own soul first. This, of course, is impossible. That's why there are constantly new self-help books on the market, and new fad religions. People continue to seek truth because they cannot, in their own strength, truly overcome the evil within. 

But there is One who has already done it; One who has already overcome; One who is already pure. What's more, this One has offered to give me that purity, that integrity, that self-leadership - for free. no strings attached. No catches. 

This, I believe, is truly where the battle over corruption will be won: not in new organizational structures, or new organizational procedures, not in a constant calling to account, not in whistle-blowing, not in protests on the streets (although all of those are valuable and necessary). No, I believe it will be won in the quiet revolution inside the individual hearts of men and women who truly encounter Jesus.

Hello... I'm still here...

I've accepted that my blogging this year will be sporadic. I hate it, but such is life. On the priority list of m life, it's not that high when compared with a actually getting out there and living life. I could choose to write what I consider drivel, and write more frequently, but I don't want to read drivel from others, so I don't think I should subject you to that either then.

One of the themes of recent weeks has been enjoying my kids. In the pas few weeks I have had so many moments of sheer pleasure with my kids, just loving them and laughing with them, and watching them grow and develop. Every time I've debated running together my ipad/ camera to record the event, and then share it on the blog, or just enjoy it. As you can tell by the lack of recent posts, I've opted for the latter every time.

In recent weeks I have been reminded that my kids are:
- funny
- sweet
- intelligent
- caring
- beautiful
- cute, cheeky monkeys

If I could capture all the funny things they have said or done, their attempts at teasing, as well as all the tender moments when I've caught them loving each other, being kind to each other, playing sweetly with each other, I think I could have created a daily photo/ video blog that would easily run for a year. 

I have felt such gratitude at being their mother. I haven't done anything to deserve such wonderful children, yet God has blessed me with them never the less.

I have also re-discovered how FULL ON parenting is, and my respect for SAHM's has been renewed. I love my kids, I love weekends and holidays, but I also love my job and getting space from my family. For those whose job is their family, I truly salute you.

For those heading on holidays, have a happy, safe time.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Functional Art


Don't you just love this 4-seater bench? Designed so that each alternate person faces the opposite way, making it easier to have a face-to-face conversation while sitting next to each other. But I also just love the detail of the mosaics. Beautiful. I wish there was more functional art like this around Cape Town. This bench is in The Company Gardens.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How cell phone providers get away with daylight robbery

A few weeks back my phone stopped charging. Now, for anyone who knows anything about me, you will know that I LOVE my phone. I love my social networking, and I love technology, so my phone is an essential part of my life.

Unfortunately, because it goes everywhere with me (except my bedroom when I sleep - radiation fries the brain, you know!) it has wound up getting rather wet at times. Four times, to be precise. Soaked, to be even more precise.

But each time, good 'ol Tastic rice lived up to its name and saved my phone from certain death. In the process, I got quite good at opening my phone and disassembling it, and then reassembling all the parts. The volume button died, so to change the volume I now have to go via the settings page, which is a lus, but to be honest, that's not a huge train smash, because I so seldom watch videos on my phone (and the volume for everything else is already set at a comfortable level), plus there's another short-cut I use for muting and un-muting.

However, there came a day when the connection point for my charger just died. Understandably. (Personally, I think my phone has put up with quite a bit of abuse from me, so I'm rather impressed with it!) But I don't have insurance (I only have life, medical and car insurance... I can't afford any other type of insurance.)

So off I went to my cell phone provider, to see what they would charge me. Firstly, it took them more than a week to give me a quote, because the phone had to be sent to Jo'burg. Ja. Apparently they don't do repairs here in Cape Town. But take a guess at the quote.... go on! Take a guess.

R1783. Let me say that again. R1783. That's nearly the cost of the phone today!

Forget that! There's no way I would pay that amount, even if I could afford it. That's daylight robbery if you ask me.

So I phoned and told them, rather politely, that they were insane, and exactly what they could do with that quote, and, oh yes!, to please send my phone back to me IMMEDIATELY.

Well, 'immediate' must be relative, because it took just over another week to get here. Sigh!

But there's a little cell phone shop in my shopping centre. A very nice, upmarket teeny weeny cell phone shop. What the hell, I thought - it couldn't be worse than what my provider wanted to make me pay. Right? It was worth a look in at least.

You can see where this story is going, right?

Yes, I got the guy in the rather nice, upmarket, teeny weeny cell phone shop to repair my phone.

Firstly, guess how long the repair took? Go on... take a wild guess...

1 day. Less than 24 hours in fact.

And then, guess what I got charged? Seriously - take a guess.

R250.

R250.

And I'm sure that he put the price UP after hearing my sob story. (When will I learn to lie to salespeople and stop wearing both my heart and my conscience on my sleeve??)

So let me ask you this - if some random little cell phone shop guy can not only fix it PRONTO, but can do it for a 7th of the price, how is it that cell phone shops get away with such daylight robbery???

Because people are suckers.

SUCKERS.

I hope I never have need of cell phone repairs again (although, maybe I should get my friendly cell phone shop man to look at the volume buttons for me...), but if I do, I know where I'm NOT going.

And nope, Trevor Noah, I won't be telling you about it either.