Saturday, December 18

End of 2010

I've always been someone who plans for the future - or rather, who has dreams and hopes for the future. A long time ago - ie back in 1993 - I visited a career consultant. I'd been a nurse since I was 17, I was married and had two young children and I really felt that there had to be more to life than just working and raising a family. I remember poring over the results of that visit, thinking and strategizing about what t0 study and how to build a new career as a lawyer, or a journalist, or a teacher or something. But the thing I remember most clearly was looking ahead toward The Year 2000 when my kids would be older and I'd be more free to do whatever it was I decided to do. 2000 seemed like a long way off, and I couldn't imagine how it would feel to be over forty. :-(

Well. Y2K came and went. Forty came and went too. During the first half of that decade, the career plans and dreams still beckoned but life intervened. I got divorced. I got sick and after two and a half years, I got better again. I moved to a small, quiet town and lived a small, quiet life as a single mom. I worked in aged care, joined a church, started writing, travelled overseas twice, ran a part time business as a copyeditor/writer, bought a house, raised my kids and started thinking about emigration.

The second half of that decade saw US emigration plans flourish, then crash alongside oil prices and retrogression. So we moved to Plan B and soon after I turned fifty, I left South Africa and moved lock, stock and barrel to New Zealand, in pursuit of a safer, healthier, happier life. My son moved to the UK and gapped it, working and falling in love and partying for nearly two years. My daughter and I settled steadily into our new life in NZ. She flourished and nowdays, calls Wellington 'her town'. I returned to clinical nursing here in the 'coolest little capital in the world' and surprised (and delighted) myself by reclaiming old skills and lost confidence. I actually enjoy most of what I do these days, except for the usual nursing nasties (night duty, bed pans, sore feet, etc ...)

HOWEVER: old dreams never die, they just go into hibernation when the climate proves inhospitable. And my old dream of returning to study is back and starting to look more and more inviting and possible and hopeful. Victoria university in Welly is very supportive of the so-called Mature Student (and boo hoo, I'm now much more mature than I was back in 1993.) Anyway, the point being that in 2011 - ie almost fifteen years after I first contemplated starting a degree - I think it's going to happen. Both kids are starting university and I've put in an application to study one or two papers per semesters. Waiting to hear back from them, of course, and still need to hand in my official documentation, but I'm excited and hopeful and optimistic.

Subjects I want to do include philosophy, religious studies and english literature. Not sure what my eventual major will be or even where exactly it will take me afterwards, but for now, the sheer joy of being able to sink my teeth into things like this will be the stimulus that keeps me interested and motivated and going. I can imagine maybe ending up teaching literature or religious studies; I could imagine doing an MA in Creative Writing or Masters in Information Studies; I can even envision possibly heading into chaplaincy or religious feature writing or something like that ... who knows? The freeing thing now is that with my children moving ahead into the rest of their lives, I'm becoming more and more free to focus on doing stuff that works for ME, and not necessarily doing stuff simply to get by and keep us all housed, fed and clothed.

The possibilities are endless. I'm looking forward to 2011. :-)

Friday, June 26

Lolcat Bible

Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

The whole LOLCAT Bible Translation Project can be found HERE. But for now, just a brief excerpt ....

Psalm 23

1 Ceiling Cat iz mai sheprd (which is funni if u knowz teh joek about herdin catz LOL.)
He givz me evrithin I need.

2 He letz me sleeps in teh sunni spot
an haz liek nice waterz r ovar thar.

3 He makez mai soul happi
an maeks sure I go teh riet wai for him. Liek thru teh cat flap insted of out teh opin windo LOL.

4 I iz in teh valli of dogz, fearin no pooch,
bcz Ceiling Cat iz besied me rubbin' mah ears, an it maek me so kumfy.

5 He letz me sit at teh taebl evn when peepl who duzint liek me iz watchn.
He givz me a flea baff an so much gooshy fud it runz out of mai bowl LOL.

6 Niec things an luck wil chase me evrydai
an I wil liv in teh Ceiling Cats houz forevr.

Hole in the Sidewalk

There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson
(Borrowed by me from Flirting with Faith )

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall's a habit...but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately,

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

Sunday, June 14

The War Within

I nearly went to church today.

This post probably belongs on my other blog (the immigration story blog) but I'm not ready to be that exposed to any of the few family or friends back in the old country who might chance to read it. And this blog is the one I've used for more personal posts - the deeper things.

Where to start? It's Sunday morning in misty, rainy, beautiful Wellington. I spent a lot of time yesterday exploring websites related to churches in the city and found several that looked interesting - communities that claimed openeness and inclusivity and acceptance as part of their credo. I picked out the one that has fascinated me since we arrived here - our first hotel was directly opposite it and it's a gorgeous old church with a tall spire and stained glass windows.

But why could I possibly be wanting to go to church again, after all these months and years of agonizing and grieving and turmoil over issues of faith and belief and God? Looking back on my life, I recognize the psychological pattern - when I reach an emotional place where I'm feeling very isolated and alone, where I'm struggling with anxiety and depression, where I'm yearning to be accepted, to belong, to be part of a community again, I turn to religion or church - and by default, to God. Why? The reason is probably two-fold.

As a child, the community I knew best was the church community - so by default, when the need to belong somewhere comes up again, I'm emotionally drawn to 'church' as a concept. Secondly, although I call myself agnostic these days, I've always had a deep pull towards the mystical - to whatever lies beyond my ability to reason and think and dissect. To digress: if I ever found a community where the two (intellect and mysticism) could be mixed in a way that satisfied, I'd join in a heart beat!

However, this morning I woke up and thought about the service I'd semi-planned on attending - the 10am Sung Eucharist. I'm drawn by the idea of song and liturgy and ritual, but there is simply no way I can imagine actually taking communion with any degree of honesty any more. I could not eat bread and drink wine and offer prayers of thanks to God for 'saving' my soul by sending Jesus to die in my place, thus ensuring my place in Heaven one day. I don't believe any of that any more. I still cannot articulate any of my beliefs with any degree of certainty, so I remain a mystically-inclined agnostic for now.

So I didn't go to church today. I'd still like to visit St Peters, though. I'd like to sit in the quiet of the sanctuary and just be. Breathe. Wait. Listen. And see what happens. Who knows, I might yet touch 'God' somewhere along the way ...

Saturday, April 11

One Giant Leap

I did it - made the break, took the leap and flew half way round the world to start a new life!

Today, it is exactly 11 weeks since we arrived in New Zealand, landing at Wellington International airport on a Sunday morning at the end of January. Since then, we've moved three times, I started work at a new job, my girl started her new school and the good news is that so far, we are 95% thrilled to be here. It's beautiful, cultural, peaceful yet vibrant, friendly and very civilized.

The other 5% is interesting. I don't miss South Africa except in a generalized, slightly nostalgic kind of way - such as when I remember Scarborough beach, Kirstenbosch gardens, the squatter camps on the way to the airport, the hospital wards where I did my training years ago, the farm I grew up on .. that kind of thing. All the memories of times long ago and scenes unchanging ... I do miss our people: mum and dad, family get togethers, my book club and writers group friends - that warm sense of belonging that years spent together brings with it. My girl misses her best friends back home, but within days of arriving, she met a lovely British girl with the same zany sense of humor who also loves shopping and shoes and music and movies - and at school, she's part of a small group of new and good friends where she feels welcome and accepted. So life is good for her in that regard.

However, there are two things that have surprised me - and yet, neither one should have! The first is the comparative lack of emails/communcation from all the people I left behind. In the first few weeks, I spent a lot of time emailing and updating our new journey blog, yet comments were minimal and emails even fewer. My two brothers, being family, are the worst offenders. So far, I've had NO emails from the one, and only two one-line replies to a direct question from the other. Hmmmf.

Back in Fish Hoek, it took years and years of effort and taking the initiative before I felt part of a small group of like-minded folks. We were all church folk to start with and coming in as a forty-something single mom meant I didn't fit the mould - I couldn't be invited to dinner because who would the husband talk to? I worked fulltime mostly, so I didn't get to hang out with other mums at extramural and sports events. Added to that, I'm an intelligent introvert who doesn't relate easily to the somewhat superficial chit-chat of parties and pubs and so on - well, it took a while before I felt I belonged. Those friends I made were important to me, but I didn't see them daily or even weekly. So why was I surprised to not get emails back from all of them? Maintaining long-distance friendship requires energy and time, and even back in Fish Hoek, both these commodities was in short supply.

The other thing that surprises me is that I'm starting to feel a yearning to be in a place of worship again. I don't want to go to a church service full of happy clappy songs and fiery sermons about redemption and sin and atonement and so on. But deep inside me there is a yearning to be in a place where there is a sense of presence, a sense of the sacred; a place where I can be silent and still and go deep inside myself to just be quiet and listen and feel ... there is a definite longing for the God I used to love.

If I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised by this either, especially given that this is Easter. I grew up with this God. He is woven into the tapestry of my past. His values, his judgements and his hopes for me permeated every aspect of my life for well over thirty years. I'm still stirred by music like Handel's Messiah, by a few (very few) contemporary christian songs and by the writings of modern christians like Henri Nouwen and Kathleen Norris. My head tells me one thing, but my heart instinctively yearns for the old, safe, emotionally-comforting God I used to know. The good thing is that I'm getting to the place where there is room inside my agnosticism for growth of all kinds. :-)

We'll see. It's a new world, a new life and a new me ... I've even been on a real date since arriving in Welly, with a very decent and likeable man. I'm not ready for romance yet, not by a long chalk, but life is full of possibilities right now, and that's a good place to be!

Sunday, December 28

Down time ...

This weekend, I had the amazing blessing of getting away from it all for two days .... and here are the pix!

I stayed at this cute little beach cottage ....

... with a pool out back ...

A panoramic view of Scarborough beach late Saturday afternoon ...

I walked on the beach a lot ...

... even at 5.30 AM ...when it was completely deserted ...

Tuesday, September 16

Global Financial Crisis Getting Worse

Back in May, I posted about Signs of the Times. I got some emails back then from people who thought I was being a bit over-reactive and prophet-of-doomish. But seriously, folks, I think if anything, I was understating the case. It's bad - and it's getting worse. And I'm ONLY talking about the economic situation now, nothing more than that.

Reading and listening to BBC news this evening, I learned more about the after effects of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Bank in the US, and how it's affecting banks, businesses and the man in the street world wide. And it really seems as if we are heading into a massive global economic crisis - a global recession according to the boffins. I'm not a financial whizz, by any stretch of imagination, but the facts are starting to speak for themselves.

At times like this, I really wish I understood how economics and global financial matters better, but up to now, as long as I've been able to pay all my bills and keep food on the table here at home, I've felt OK. What this latest crisis is going to mean for me (and you) personally, remains to be seen.


Mamma Mia

Today, my 16-year-old daughter and I went to see the glorious and joy-filled Mamma Mia, in which Meryl Streep just blew me away with her funny, sad and altogether amazing singing. As a die hard ABBA fan, I was sold before I even bought the tickets, but you never know ... non-ABBA people singing ABBA songs? But it was sheer delight, from start to finish - a celebration of the strength and joy of being a woman.

But the bit that I didn't see coming really hit me hard. Meryl Streep is helping her daughter get dressed for the wedding ... and she sings to her. This song completely destroyed me .. I wept like a baby. Here was this go-it-alone single mom loving her little girl and saying goodbye to her. She was me, in every line:

Slipping Through My Fingers.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I'm losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when shes gone there's that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can't deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
(slipping through my fingers all the time)
Well, some of that we did but most we didn't
And why I just don't know

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what's in her mind
Each time I think I'm close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers...

Slipping through my fingers all the time

Schoolbag in hand she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile...

Idols For Writers


Ever heard of Idols For Writers? Me neither. But click on the banner above and you'll find it - a weekly writing competition based on the American Idol premise. I'm entering, as are a few writing buddies. How about you? All you need to qualify as an entrant is an active Live Journal or another creative journal with a lot of entries, and a willingness to write to a prompt on a weekly basis. If you don't have the time for that, you can join the community simply as an observer or as a random writer. That means you'll be able to read and vote for the various entries, which will be posted weekly on a Friday.

Join the community now, please! Season Two starts this coming Friday 19th September and the community will be closed at that point. If you can pick my entries out from all the rest of the anonymously posted entries, and if you like my writing well enough, it would be great if you can cast a vote for me!

Once voting is done, I'll be posting some of my entries to my writing journal, which you can find HERE.

Tuesday, August 19

Deep Impact

One of my favorite sci-fi/doomsday movies is Deep Impact, a story about a giant asteroid on a collision course with the earth and the efforts of mankind to save itself, or to save at least a very large handful of scientists, brains, farmers etc.

Anyway, I've recently started getting a daily quote from Delancey Place dot com. Extracts from relevant and interesting non-fiction books and articles and lectures etc. Today's was about asteroids and how often we narrowly miss being smashed to pieces by a stray chunk of cosmic rock.

"As Steve Ostro of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has put it, 'Suppose that there was a button you could push and you could light up all the Earth-crossing asteroids larger than about ten meters, there would be over 100 million of these objects in the sky.' In short, you would not see a couple of thousand distant twinkling stars, but millions upon millions of nearer, randomly moving objects--'all of which are capable of colliding with the Earth and all of which are moving on slightly different courses through the sky at different rates. It would be deeply unnerving.' Well, be unnerved because it is there. We just can't see it.

"Altogether it is thought--though it is only really a guess, based on cratering rates on the Moon--that some two thousand asteroids big enough to imperil civilized existence regularly cross our orbit. But even a small asteroid--the size of a house, say--could destroy a city. The number of relative tiddlers in Earth-crossing orbits is almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands and possibly in the millions, and they are nearly impossible to track.

"The first one [crossing near the Earth] wasn't spotted until 1991, and that was after it had already gone by. Named 1991 BA, it was noticed as it sailed past us at a distance of 106,000 miles--in cosmic terms the equivalent of a bullet passing through one's sleeve without touching the arm. Two years later, another, somewhat larger asteroid missed us by just 90,000 miles. ... It, too, was not seen until it had passed and would have arrived without warning. According to Timothy Ferris, writing in the New Yorker, such near misses probably happen two or three times a week and go unnoticed.

"An object a hundred yards across couldn't be picked up by any Earth-based telescope until it was within just a few days of us, and that is only if a telescope happened to be trained on it, which is unlikely because even now the number of people searching for such objects is modest. The arresting analogy that is always made is that the number of people in the world who are actively searching for asteroids is fewer than the staff of a typical McDonald's restaurant. (It is actually somewhat higher now. But not much.)"

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway, Copyright 2003 by Bill Bryson, pp. 194-195.

Why Bother?

Changing course from applying to emigrate to the US to applying to emigrate to New Zealand meant a whole new round of paperwork. So I got started in mid-June.

On the 21st June, I sent off requests to the SA Nursing Council for verification of credentials and transcripts of training (supposed to take 4 - 6 weeks) and requests for police clearances (supposed to take 28 working days). Delay Number One: the police clearance was returned 10 days ago - but they only sent ONE instead of THREE! Delay Number Two: I just called the Nursing Council and they told me: "Yes, we received your money (R1000.00) on the 23rd of June, but we haven't started doing it yet. We are still busy with requests from May!!! Call again in two weeks time and maybe we'll be a bit further along ... "

So all my sweating to get my package of documents off last week - via courier instead of post and at a considerable price - was a bit of a waste of time. Not a total waste, as at least it meant they got there safely and did not get lost in the mail, but still. Why do I bother to do my part as best I can when the bureaucrats in the system just drag their heels and lose your stuff and couldn't care less?

Makes me sick. There are a lot of people who scorn those of us who prefer to leave this country instead of staying and trying to make a difference, but tell me how exactly one is supposed to 'change' a service mentality like this?

This is Africa. Enough said.