Life as I See It

 Lying in bed this morning with a mild (poetic license!) headache from an overly indulgent evening of sushi and wine with special friends, got me thinking about Life -  and the Stages we go through, and often repeat the older we get. The thing is, I wasn't left feeling morbid, regretful, or even particularly depressed. I felt oddly comfortable and confident. Content even. Life is funny like that. As we move from stage to stage, how we perceive life, how we react and respond to life,  how we feel about life, and even who we are at any given time - is erratic and unpredictable. We are undeniably mercurial.

 I remember very clearly how I felt in my school days. This early developmental Stage of Life was carefree, and relatively uncomplicated. (Unless time has hazed my memory!) Friendships formed hard, fast and eternal. Growing up with my best friend in-the-whole-wide world-and-beyond Jennifer Dunn (She is Ray now, but will always be Dunn to me - sorry Clay!) Experiencing all of life's firsts together - primary school; high school; from school discos and house parties where doing the actions to Climie Fischer was cool - to clubbing; sleepovers; holidays and walks home after school; practically living at The Block on the beach; Sandpebbles; Rippingtons; Jewish Club; 330; Raywood; sharing boyfriends (until Clay Ray); surfer boys; Milli Vanilli; Vanilla Ice; MC Hammer; Rick Asterly; Depeche Mode; Madonna in the good years; Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue; dancing; sharing clothes; looooong land line phone conversations and even longer letters written in class (on paper!); childhood ailments and illnesses and broken bones (mostly me!) - growing up the best way possible. I wish a friendship like this for my children. WHO I was had not developed yet. I cringed at fashion faux pas; I blushed horribly when given compliments; I kept my opinions to myself should they differ to my peers; I craved acceptance; and I had a complete lack of confidence in any of my decisions. My benchmark? What other people thought of me.

University was that Stage of Life where we all attempted to Find Ourselves, and Figure IT All Out. New experiences; independence; making sometimes-less-than-mature decisions and learning to live with the consequences.  Embracing learning and new friendships and finding out that below the anxious, less than confident facade, were skills, character traits and abilities I never knew I possessed. From Rag (parading around in peak morning traffic in nothing but underwear and a whip, alongside my boyfriend and friends all dressed in much the same ridiculous way, shaking our.. um.. tins, and selling the Official Rag Mag!!); to Dome (writing for the 'Varsity paper); to wearing black and organising The Battle of the Bands. Learning about hangovers (and drinking the most awful stuff in an attempt at sophistication!) Having a crush on my History lecturer; eating roti's on the grass in front of Howard College and coffee from the Top Ref; sitting in Psych lectures with thousands of other opinionated students; reading Sartre and Goethe (and being told by a hot guy in the library I was pronouncing Albert Camus wrong!). Choosing subjects because I would be with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, and realising that was where my passion lay. Mastering the art of double-line spacing, and learning the craft of renegotiating deadlines. And no matter how many waitress shifts, or bank teller Saturday mornings we put in - never having enough money!! I left University four years later  with my Honors Degree thinking that I would change the world!!

I remember feeling less than confident in myself these years. Unsure of who I was and what I wanted. Constantly needing and seeking approval. Constantly questioning, and being too uncertain of myself to express what I thought or felt. I did a lot of second guessing. And worrying about the small things. As the Stages of Life evolved to more serious ones - marriage, homes, bonds, medical issues, careers, kids - so did my range of vacillating emotions and my sense of what was important. At some point there was an incredible sense of self actualisation. Things that worried me back then, roll off my shoulders now. I am far more confident in myself - in who I am, who I have become. I no longer question my beliefs. I stand behind my views and opinions. I stand up for things, for my family, my friends. I am completely confident in my abilities, and in the sheer determination I possess to make things happen. I have learned to ask for help, to laugh at myself and to embrace change as the one constant in life. This Stage of Life is incredible. It is full of rediscovery and exhilaration. It is about doing all the things I previously thought I couldn't or wouldn't do. And I love it!!

HOWEVER. My gorgeous children will be ten in five days time. TEN. Into double figures, hurtling towards those teenage years quicker than I can bear to think about.  As I write this, I can feel myself breaking into a cold sweat. Its not just that I am, quite honestly, t e r r i f i e d of what these teenage years will bring, but also that I just need it all to slow down. The pressure on these little things is tremendous in comparison to what we - or at least I (lest I be too blanket with my generalizations!) - had at this age. School was relaxed, friends were plentiful, sport was fun, parties were musical-statues-pass-the-parcel-catches-with-den-at-the-end-of-the-garden-and-birthday-cake-in-a-serviette-as-a-party-pack. Now its pressure at school to achieve above and beyond average marks, or its off to OT, Speech, and remedial lessons; score enough runs to maintain your place in the school sports team, or its a drop down to the next team below; cliques of (bitchy) friends (I kid you not - especially at my daughters school!); and parties rivaling our 21st's!! The pressure and the fast pace of life is forcing them to grow up quicker than they are ready (or more honestly, than I am ready) for. The clothes; the brand and image-consciousness; the lingo; the attitude; the knowledge about life and love and the birds and the bees...What is left? What is next? What on earth will we be in for in the next stage of our and our children's lives? More importantly, what will they be in for?

 As I reflect on the past Life Stages I have survived, and as I revel in the one I am in Right Now, I can't help but look forward to what lies ahead. Not altogether in apprehension, but in anticipation. Hopefully my obviously malleable state of being will adapt my strengths and render me willing and able enough to embrace the imminent life challenges both in my and my children's lives. And if not, I am now wise enough to know that happy pills really do make you happier; that wine is a very necessary and restorative tonic; and that an occasional escape from reality makes me a better person! I'm Just Saying...

How to be a Hero

Heroes come in all sorts of disguises. Not many fit the prescribed formula we had imprinted on us as kids by Hans Christian Anderson, or Enid Blighton, or even Stephen King! Growing up, traditional heroes rode magnificent steeds into battle; were always armed with the biggest gun or sharpest sword; carried badges; solved crimes or mysteries; and saved people from the inevitable Baddies. Traditional heroes were confident; outspoken; brave; and were regaled as Heroes - celebrated as one to aspire to be like - a template to be followed in order to be a success, a Good Person. A Hero.

What about today? Who are our Heroes? Is there still a template that would render one a typical Hero? Looking around, in all societies, in all cultures, across all levels, I see a lot of Fallen Heroes. People who have once ticked all the boxes that magic template prescribed. Who we as society acknowledged and celebrated as the Real Deal. Heroes in every form.  Why them? What made us lift them up onto those pedestals? Revere them? Aspire to be like them?

Not to beleaguer the point - but to mention a few. Oscar Pistorious begins his trial for the brutal murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steencamp tomorrow. (Make that 19 August - postponed already!!) Once a hero in all forms to so many, meeting all the preordained requirements, - on the sporting field, for his upliftment projects, for his positive and motivating advocacy of the handicapped in sport. What will he be remembered for now?  Will history still reflect his life as that of a Hero - once claiming his rightful spot on that elusive pedestal? Lance Armstrong? A True Hero - unadulteratedly admired by nations. His undignified fall from grace rendering him Only Human? Movie Actors and Actresses are often viewed as Heroes by our kids. They have been built up in this imaginary, fantasy world by the industry, and when they come crashing down to normalcy - their fall is harder than most. I remember Hannah Montana (Mylie Cyrus) being my daughters Heroine for a very long time. Then she saw pictures of her in "Real Life" smoking - boom! She was now banished by Kirsten to the category of Fallen Hero. What, or rather, who is left? Spiderman? Superman? Wonderwoman (or was it Catwoman?)

I look around in Real Life, in my small world, and I have personally have plenty of Real Life Unsung Heroes. These are the Heroes I have, and will be further, promoting to my children. I am so lucky to have a large circle of amazing friends, who are part of my life in so many obvious and intrinsic ways. Friends who have made me who I am, friends who help me to strive to be who I want to be. Friends who are like second moms to my kids (Ash and Karen - the roles go both ways!), friends who frustrate me, challenge me, and friends who make me silently count to ten in my head! I have friends who have always been in my life (Jen - almost 28 years of friendship - forever and always x), and friends who have just come into my life. Friends who have come, and gone, and come back again, friends far away and friends up the road. I have one group of friends, whom I have wanted to write a tribute to for a long time. They have been my glue for the past five years. We have developed a bond that is untenable, and have a deep love and respect for each other that overshadows the most seemingly impossible situations. For laughter (in abundance), for tears (there have been lots - we take turns!), for help, for wine, for fun, for dancing, eating, talking, sharing, teaching and ultimately, for just being there. My Bookclub Babes. When I think of heroes in the true sense of the word - these girls are mine.

(Take out the names, and I guarantee these heroes exist in some form in all of your lives. And somewhere in there, you may find yourself - a hero to someone special.)

My two friends Caren and Georgie who not only survive but excel as part time single moms while their husbands travel for work on a permanent basis.  They are truly amazing women who are each raising three amazing kids, in the most beautifully creative homes, with wonderful foundations. Georgie - who has overcome cancer, who rises to any challenge life throws at her, who is always ready to (literally) kick her heels up and let loose, and who is a completely compassionate and empathetic human being. Caren - who along with kicking ass in a huge way in her gym sessions (I once literally battled to sit or walk for four days after one of her training sessions! I cursed her. A lot.), has this amazing, eclectic decorating eye - this ability to put a 1920's sewing machine on her mantle, hang handbags on her wall, mount life size Freda portraits in her hallway, and make it look unbelievably phenomenal!  I am constantly in absolute awe of her - and unashamedly green with envy! She is strong minded, and passionate - and is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Gen - my strong, resilient wonderful friend, who survived a horrible hi-jacking at work, faced her fears and trauma and didn't allow the monsters to change who she was. She went back to work and has made such a success of her business - which alone makes her my hero. (Well, that and her Master Chef capabilities!). Gen is without a doubt the most organised person I know. She is master-list-maker-supreme, she organises the BEST getaways, has a fantastic dress sense, and is the kindest, most generous, honest friend I know. She wears her heart on her sleeve (I have so much respect for anyone who does this), and I have never heard her utter an unkind word. Gen's door (and heart) is always open.

Carla - the epitome of the Mother Bear defending her cub. Carla has recently had to endure the agony of watching her step-daughter go through an intense trauma. She has walked on fire to stand up and fight for her, to ensure that justice prevails, to help her daughter heal and emerge stronger for the experience. Carla is a real hero in my eyes. She has had to visibly react in a way in which every mother hopes she has the strength to do. Aside from this, Carla is my mentor. She has accomplished so much, and never lets anything stand in her way. She had a desire to learn to paint? Done! With such skill and flair. Carla is also one of the most generous people I know - generous with her home, her entertainment, her skills, her knowledge, her advice, and most importantly, with her heart.A very special lady.

Four Kids. And the last one in her 40's. And all achievers. That's a whole heap of work! The exhaustion, the emotion, the financial outlay, the juggling act, the organising skills - Debs is fantastic! She makes motherhood look like a walk in the park. To add to her hero CV, Debs is an accomplished lawyer (not practicing right now), and always looks gorgeous and stunningly dressed. Dylan once thought that Megan Fox, who happened to be gracing the cover of Cosmo one year, was Debbie. I kid you not. Debbie has this ability to create an impression the moment she enters a room. She has an infectious laugh, and way of getting you to open up without realising you have done so.

With the ability to create the most spectacular art - in all forms, with her paintbrush or her mouse, Jos is my enviable hero. She is a free spirit, with the most phenomenal ability to sense when you are hurting or needing a friend. Her calls or messages always come at just the right time. She is incredibly talented in graphic design, and her artistic ability is unbelievable. Anyone who can create awe out of a flat canvas, is a hero in my eyes, and Jos just takes this to a whole new level. She reaches out and hits home, when she senses you are down. She celebrates all your successes. She taps into your psyche and is incredibly wise and deep in her advice. 

Robyn is about to complete her BA psychology degree. Her second degree. In her forties. With three children. And a travelling husband. She whips up culinary master pieces, putting us all to shame with her wine drinking capabilities - surviving most bookclub evenings (lets not mince words - we all understand its wine club!) with no hangover! But more than all of this, what makes Robs a hero in my life is how she has jumped in with both feet to be there for her sister, who is undergoing chemo for breast cancer at the moment. She is strong, and focused, and emotionally a pillar of strength. She has put her own fear and heartache aside, and has stepped up to the plate in so many ways. Robs has a magnificent, raucous laugh! (Along with Georgie, they have literally brought bookclub to its knees with noise levels, according to Warren attempting to sleep upstairs!!) She is a wonderful raconteur. Her stories are colourful, loud, and spellbinding!  With Robs in the mix, there is always bellyaching laughs, and genuine emotion.

I have always been a bit wishy-washy (a very technical term!!), when it comes to dealing with conflict, and have a habit of mincing my words in an effort to always try to say the right thing. Karen- there-is-no-grey-only-black-and-white-Foord is my ultimate hero in saying what you mean. If it needs to be said, she will say it. But in such a good way that you leave her company feeling like all the problems of the world have been solved. She has talked me though many issues in such a straightforward, level headed way. She is also the friend who senses you need it, so just pops past to give you a hug. Oh - and if you ever want to know ANYTHING - ask Karen! Karen has opened up conversations you swear should be banned in public. Many a waitron serving our table at dinners have earned themselves an invaluable education!

My darling, special friend Monique. Whenever you need a friend, a supportive ear, a shoulder to lean on or cry on,  someone to have that much needed afternoon glass-of-wine-that-extends-into-supper with - Mon is there. Always. Without fail. I needed help co-ordinating a more-than-we-bargained-for charity project this year, and without blinking an eye, or questioning what was involved, Mon stepped up. She can single handedly whip up homemade bread in a pan on an old gas stove in the middle of the bush; lend you a pair old kick-ass shoes in any colour of the rainbow; create timeless, unique GORGEOUS furniture from relics bound for the dump (Revive - partnered with Caren - these two are seriously fabulous!) - and be an amazing wife to her Greek husband who still believes in the sanctity of the weekend afternoon nap!  Without doubt - my hero! She has recently had an op, one which is excruciatingly painful. She took it head on, without flinching. She waved away her pain, got out of bed, and got on with her day. No milking of symptoms. No playing for sympathy. Always true to herself and her friends, my hero.

We all need hero's in our lives. They help us to be better versions of who we already are. When life hands us lemons (in Bookclub Babes they would either be used for G&T's, or for Robyn's mind blowing cevichy starter (literary liberty with spelling!)), these heroes make us see that there is more to life than disappointing sports stars, badly behaved-movie-stars-masquerading-as heroes, fallen politicians, and super/spider/cat/wonderwomen and men who by virtue of the fact that they wear their underwear on the outside of their pants, are destined to disappoint. Without looking too far, we are surrounded by good. By genuine, down to earth, Real Life Heroes. And I for one, am blessed to have so many Heroes in my life. I'm Just Saying...


Women's Day

"Well behaved women seldom make history" Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. 

In my (humble) opinion, never have truer words been uttered. 

Yesterday was International Women's Day (in South Africa it's only in August, but I believe we are well worth the double high-five-recognition!). Contrary to what I believe Women's Day should be - i.e. a day of recognition and acknowledgement to all women who everyday make sacrifices for their families and others - it is actually a day that slips by quietly, with the little acknowledgement there is being give by other women. What's up with that?? The glaringly obvious statement it makes to me is - thank goodness for a strong network of women who lift up, support, encourage and motivate each other!

I was privileged enough to attend a KZN Women in Business meeting on Thursday and to hear Helen Davis - an amazing author from Florida, USA - talk about, amongst other things, her success as a woman in business. She attributed her survival and business successes in the  early part of her career, to the strength, support and networking with other women. And looking around the room, and listening to everyone stand up, introduce their business, and as an extra impromptu, describe what changes they would make in themselves or their businesses, there was no doubt that I was in excellent company! What was equally undeniable, was that those who were most successful were the women not scared to take a chance, to go against tradition, against societal norms, against what "good girls"would do, and to "misbehave"in the once predominantly man's-world. (One of Helen's pieces advice for women in business - STOP SHOPPING and become more fiscally responsible! I took note.)

Hats off to all those out there who go against the grain in order to make history! From women who have left the comfort of a steady, guaranteed income of a career in making someone else's dreams come true, to those women who have put their own dreams aside for that very same steady income (yes, as a woman, I am allowed to be contrary!!). From all those battling the daily guilt of being a working mom, to those battling the daily guilt of being a stay-at-home mom. From women standing up for what they firmly believe in because the cause is greater than the consequence, to those women for whom the consequences outweigh the principle of the cause. Hats off to all women who compete not only against patriarchy, but against other women too - while at the same time maintaining their compassion, empathy and respect for all.

Please don't get me wrong. This blog is not meant as a diatribe against men, but rather a shout out to all women who forget their value and worth. I am fortunate to have a husband who celebrates my successes with me, and encourages and supports me as much as I need. But there are many, many many women out there who are not so fortunate. International Women's Day should not be a passive "You-go-girl-high-five", but a real acknowledgement of how bloody amazing we as women are! In South Africa, we have another chance in August to get this right - so watch this space!!!

To all those awesome women in my life - my mom, mom-in-laws, sister, sister-in-law, cousins, and my special, amazing circle of girlfriends - always remember to support each other, to give credit where credit is due, to lift each other up when needed, to sing each others praises when ever we can (lets be honest - we have pretty loud voices when we try!) and never forget you are FANBLOODYTASTIC!!! I'm Just Saying...

Because Facebook Said So

Confessionals are passe. Dear Diary doesn't exist. For your eyes / ears only never happens any more. Dinner for two unannounced is an oddity, a visit to the gym is no longer between you and your sweat pants... our lives are literally open books!

Facebook and Twitter are viral. I know that is not exactly hot-off-the-press news, but exactly how viral they are has been on my mind a lot lately. I honestly know exactly one friend in my circle of girlfriends, who is not on facebook. This said friend has also only recently upgraded to a Blackberry, so for her, the constant status updates on BBM are enough to contend with (her words!)!! From parents and grandparents, to my 10 year old godson; from charity groups, business pages, community updates, to both my kids schools; from your best friend when you were three, to the new friend you just met at work,  facebook does not discriminate. If you want information, gossip, updates, the weather report - or want to know what your neighbour had for breakfast (!), facebook news feed is your one stop shop!To be clear, I'm not running it down - I am as attached to facebook as the next guy. Aside from the obvious social (and voyeuristic!) reasons, I appreciate its value and reach from a general marketing perspective as well. Where would we be without that little blue, um, "F"!!
My thought processes regarding the virility of facebook, has been moving along the lines of can too much information at our fingertips, shoved in our faces, begging for commentary and further spreading (I mean sharing!), be dangerous?? In so many ways, I think it is not only dangerous, but extremely potentially harmful!! But like with anything, it all depends on how you use it, and how responsible you are. (On that note - I just heard that those ridiculously expensive little "buckyballs" (tiny, powerful magnetic balls designed to attract as many kids to their short-term spot of flavor-of-the-week, despite the hefty price tag, as possible!!) have been banned in the US due to their lethal consequence if swallowed. I'm Just Saying... use and responsibility... its simple!!)

And then there's the question of facebook friends - quantity over quality? In terms of numbers, is more seriously better? Do we quality control enough? I'm sure everyone is in the same boat. You know, that person / family member / work mate / old nursery school friend / nosey neighbour across the road, who, no matter how long you avoided that Friend Request notification, guilted you into accepting? The very same one who now facebook-stalks you - comments on your every move, every picture, every status update, every check in, and every new friend accepted to your page (and comments border-line-inappropriately, or inboxes you with not-so-borderline-inappropriate judgements!!). Like you didn't see that coming!!And yet here we are, 527 friends later. Open books. Shew!

Pinterest had a divine post recently (I forgot to PIN it, so I'm a bit hazy on the details). Something along the lines of most people's relationships would survive longer, if facebook didn't exist. I recall them referring to the constant interfering, questioning, judging made by facebook "friends", more than the not-so-unheard-of leaving your partner for that recently surfaced first love from pre-school days! I would go so far as to say that this goes for friendships as well. I would guess that many friendships have been derailed by facebook revelations, divulges, dodgy check-ins and cringe-worthy tagged pictures!! Timelines are inarguably filled with an enormous amount of detrimental over-sharing.

With regard to safety, crime, and community incidents, my husband and I recently had a conversation about reality versus perception. At the moment there seems to be this massive influx of crime in and around our area. Facebook and Twitter have been reading like a CSI role call - absolutely flooded by reports, warnings, stories and updates on attempted assaults, break-ins, hijackings etc etc.  My initial reaction was naturally "Well there goes the neighbourhood! Lock your doors, don't go out after dark, live in fear!" But on contemplation, has the level of crime really increased so dramatically, or is this only our perception because of how much more aware we are being made of it? I'm not denying the crime is there, has always been there, but I'm Just Saying maybe facebook and twitter doing live reporting on every incident, has exacerbated our reactions to the bigger picture.

Overly emotive - in fact, passive-aggressive attention seeking, vague Facebook updating; Tweeting in the moment; blanket CC'ing of emails; overly informative BBM status's; harsh / judgemental commentary and generalisations under the pseudo-comfort-blanket of relative anonymity; - much like drunk-dialling / texting, more often than not bites you in the @ss. Think twice, post once. I am seriously admitting (again!) to a bit of pottle (pot calling the kettle black), as I can plead guilty to a number of my hastily written updates falling victim to my quick posting finger. But in the future, I am going to attempt a self-imposed censorship of  any post-before-you-think updates. And am going to attempt a bigger picture view of whats on offer on my news feeds and timelines. Just because Facebook said so, doesn't make it Gospel. I'm Just Saying...

Dromana Beach Shacks

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