Full Circle – A Year’s Adventure in Blogging and Other Things

Full Circle - A Year's Adventure in Blogging and Other ThingsOver the past few months, I’ve come to appreciate that nagging feeling – otherwise known as gut feel or intuition – and subtle reminders that life seems to send my way. Today was filled with that same constant nagging feeling, like a toddler pulling at your jeans with sticky fingers after more of the sweet stuff. I had to do something and it wasn’t my overwhelming load of German homework, the mountain of laundry that rivalled Mount Kilimanjaro or the breakfast dishes still in the sink well after lunch time…

It all started with a beautiful butterfly that my little boy discovered outside our front door. To my non-scientific eye, it was clear it was a very special kind of butterfly thanks to its bright, bold and beautiful colour combination. The sad thing was that it was struggling, fluttering its wings which seemed to stick together, but not able to take off in flight. My boy was intent on saving it and I was anticipating having to deal with a lesson about the circle of life. The more he tried to urge it to climb onto a leaf and gently blew behind it, the more I tried to dissuade him, telling him to let it sort itself out (secretly hoping that it would manage to crawl away out of sight and be left to die in peace, and that he could forget about it). We went out for lunch and when we came back my boy went straight to where he had left the butterfly. Surprisingly, the butterfly had made its way onto the top of an old laundry detergent cap that my son had left for it to try to climb onto and was fluttering its wings more confidently. My boy whispered words of encouragement and went inside to hang up his coat. Not long after, my husband came inside and reported that the butterfly was nowhere to be seen and must’ve flown off.

In that moment I experienced an ‘ah-ha’ moment. What seemed like a struggle towards an end, was actually a struggle to begin – to embark on a new journey. The irony that butterflies are often associated with a connection between two states of being, beginnings and endings, did not escape me. So what did I need to begin? What was the message that the universe was putting before me so blatantly?

The restless feeling continued and intensified until I started up my computer (which is a MISSION for me in this age of hand-held tablets that don’t need updates and time-consuming software tweaks before you can log on). After managing to deftly skirt the matter of writing on my blog over the past few months, I was suddenly compelled to open it up and hope that my skittish inspiration would come out of hiding.

I was drawn to scroll down and then it jumped out at me: Today, 2 November, is the one-year anniversary of my first blog post. I’ve come full circle. How could I not write a post? Inspiration presented itself with the beautiful photo my boy took of his ‘rescued’ butterfly.

Seasons move on, Inspiration presents herself in ebbs and flows, but what might be considered as an ending could turn out to be a beginning. What my boy and a butterfly taught me today is not to give up even when it appears as though the odds are stacked against you – and to continue trusting that nagging feeling, with or without the sticky fingers!

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Time, Space and Relate-ivity: An Expat’s Take on Friendship Across the Globe

The Road AheadWhen I was seven years old, my best friend moved across the Atlantic. It made a lasting impression on me – the newfound feeling of loss, having to strike up new connections with other children without feeling as if I were betraying our unique connection, and the frequent reminder of her absence each time we drove past her house which was just around the block from mine.

Even though the distance that separated us was immense, we kept in contact by post and the occasional long-distance phone call, where the first person you spoke to was the operator. I always had a sense just as the phone started ringing that it would be a call from her and, while we were growing up in two very different worlds, our connection was just as strong as it had always been. We could just pick up where we had left off the year before.

Over time, more friends moved away and it was easier to deal with – e-mail messages replaced the memorable long-distance phone calls as well as long-winded letters sealed in envelopes that had never gotten their stamps and were still stored in my cupboard, waiting to be sent.

I went to university, made more friends, started working, had children, made friends with the mothers of my children’s friends and life was good.

Then WE moved. Not to another neighbourhood or province. Oh no, we took a huge leap and landed on another continent entirely.

Missing my friends and family, it only took a South African Tourism advert on an international news channel to reduce me to a puddle of tears. The longing and grieving for life as it was, was real and strong. Skype and Facebook are my lifesavers, keeping me in touch with those dear to me on a daily, or at least frequent, basis.

There is something rather unique about being uprooted like a turnip and deposited neatly in a foreign country, surrounded by similarly uprooted turnips expats from all around the world. At first, the experienced expats are the ones who tuck you under their wing, chatting away to you as if they’d known you for years. This ‘familiarity’ is rather overwhelming and you back-off rather quickly. After all, you’ve just known them for all of five minutes! The ‘newbies’, however, seem to cluster around like puppies tentatively sussing one another out until there seems to be a mutual tail-wagging and a new friendship becomes a possibility.

Ah, this all sounds so hesitant because it is! Being without your usual frame of reference leaves you starting to ask questions about who you really are and what you really like. You don’t have your usual people to knock you back into shape and you also don’t have their expectations of who you think they think you are dictating how you think or behave (this sentence could be a test to see if you’re concentrating). Simply put, one of the most basic human needs is the feeling of belonging. By the time we’ve grown up and have addressed the “I need to find myself” and “I want to fit in”, you’re likely to have addressed this need and are reaching towards higher levels of fulfilment and striving to master all aspects of your grown-up life.

Ha ha. Nothing brings out the child within faster than when someone moans at you in German/*insert applicable language*, you have no idea what you’ve done wrong and you have no friend’s shoulder to cry on because something wildly irregular just happened. Nobody is going to Skype their friends online to cry over a petite woman having virtually picked you up and lifted you away from the refrigerator door you were standing in front of at the grocery store, whilst dithering over whether to buy yourself the low-fat or full-cream chocolate chip tub of yoghurt. Ok, this is not really a good example because my sister happened to be standing right next to me when it happened, but it’s these kinds of crazy stories that don’t sound that relevant to cry over 8 hours later when everyone is at home from work on the other side of the globe. You know they’ll laugh. So, you opt to keep them as part of your comedy routine or blog in the future.

Right, getting back to the point… Slowly, you start getting to know people and this is where the fields of relativity and quantum physics or some such in-depth science in the expatriate universe kicks in. Inevitably a crisis crops up and in the absence of friends, family and often your own spouse/partner (due to work and travel demands), you find yourself faced with the option of calling on a person you have known for only a month or two. If you are lucky, as I was, you find people you hadn’t really spent much time with coming to your rescue. Suddenly, you are on the receiving end of a level of kindness and support that you would normally only expect of your family and very close friends. Before you know it, they’ve worked out a schedule amongst themselves to fetch and carry one of your children to and from school, while you are house-bound with the other child who has pneumonia/scarlet fever/chicken pox/etc. Packets of groceries arrive and are often supplemented with heartening visits by the immune and/or very brave! A friendship grows out of this kindness that you hope to reciprocate. And then the time comes when they tell you they are leaving.

Other friendships take time, or you mistakenly feel as though you have as much time as you would in the ordinary world, but this is a world of its own. Work contracts come to an end or are suddenly superseded by better opportunities or unexpected corporate shifts. People who renewed their contracts last week are those leaving in two weeks’ time. It’s a harsh reality. They leave.

Mostly, the shift happens just as you feel you can throw caution to the wind and allow your thick accent to replace the optimistically neutral one that you hope any elocution teacher would be proud of, and you start revealing more of yourself. You are at the point where you can make bawdy comments and throw your head back and laugh out loud (or you feel free to have an intellectual conversation on the pros and cons of multilingual education – whatever rocks your boat) – and you know it’s safe. And then the time comes when they tell you they are leaving.

Some friendships just happen. From the moment the person next to you makes a comment at the school’s orientation-for-new-families day, you share a conspiratorial grin and just know that you’re already friends… And then the time comes when they tell you they are leaving.

It’s hard to move away from where you are. To see the contents of your home, your life packed into the back of a removals or cargo truck. To have to renegotiate learning a new language and cultural peculiarities in another foreign country or returning back ‘home’ to your roots where people have moved on without you or those who thankfully haven’t changed at all…

To see friends pack their belongings and drive away to the airport leaves a sadness hard to describe. A form of grieving for friends who became family, balanced by the joy of having gotten to know such incredible people with their amazing stories to tell and the hope of keeping those friendships across the seas and over time just as I did as a child…

Bon voyage, my special friends and, as the Irish blessing goes:

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand”


Woman, Machine and a Case of (Im)perfect Timing

Man and MachineThe kids were fast asleep in bed (finally, after a long, looong evening), it was blissfully quiet and I was inhaling my warm cup of tea when I realised I’d forgotten about the washing in the machine. As I made my way down to the utility room, my ‘doom’ sensors started to flicker. I hadn’t heard the familiar, annoying ‘bing, bing, bing’ that usually sounds the end of the cycle and summons me to unload it. Hmm. I opened the door and the first thing I saw, other than the evidence that the machine had tried to run away again by virtue of it being half a metre away from where I’d left it, was the bright digital ERROR MESSAGE. Just two little yellow letters that could elevate the heart rate of every mechanically challenged person and induce immediate perspiration.

My brains fled back up the stairs, grabbing the tea cup and muttering words of denial and something along the words of, “it’ll all work out”. So, instead of relying on my traumatised brains, I followed my instinct. It was all I had left. I pulled the plug out. Then realised the machine was still full of water and hadn’t drained. Oops. What to do? I checked my phone – nope, husband was definitely on a plane and in the air, heading towards another continent and wouldn’t be *vaguely useful until the next morning. *Vaguely useful because I think he has as much mechanical knowledge as I do, except he’s braver and stronger, and can break things apart and put them back again, even if they still don’t work. Typical – always when he goes away and always as he is just out of contact so that I don’t even have a sounding board, a second opinion or someone to blame.

With shaking fingers, I decided to make use of my technology and hitch a ride on the information highway. Google. YouTube. They answered my error message and a patient, kind and helpful female voice guided me through a visual presentation of how to open the machine and manually drain the water from it. I love how it worked out for the guy who was doing the demonstration. There was a lovely little flap that came down and formed a channel and the water flowed obediently into a little water tray that he had ready. All I had was a bucket, a little door that was too low to get the lip of the bucket underneath and a spout that preferred to spew the water right down instead of into the bucket. I emphasise the use of the word BUCKET because that is what I used and it still wasn’t anywhere near enough to contain all the water that came running out. The little water tray in the demonstration was a ploy – a false sense of security about how bad the whole process really is when you’re in your long t-shirt pyjamas, bare knees on the cold floor, trying to get all the water into a bucket and most of it is running along the tiles looking for the nearest exit. Thankfully, we have a drain in the middle of the floor. It never made sense to me because it seemed so shallow and useless… until now.

As I was muttering words we never say in front of nice people or our children, my feisty memory jumped back to another time, long ago, when I was dealing with another kind of water flow…

Husband and I had recently moved into the very first home we had bought together. I had enjoyed a long, robust day at work, begging clients to accept my spelling and grammar changes and getting their very late adverts into their chosen publications through diplomatic – um – begging with our media contacts. I was looking forward to a nutritious, gourmet microwave meal (no kids, no conscience). Husband was away on business and I was going to watch all the girly TV programmes of my choice. As I entered the townhouse complex with my car window open, I was struck by the sulphuric smell that must’ve been from those building works down the road.

As I entered my kitchen through the adjoining door from the garage, I realised that the smell was somehow stronger. As I turned left out of the kitchen and into the hallway, a flow of water trickling out of the guest bathroom on the opposite side of the hallway caught my eye. It was immediately very clear to me that it was more the kind of water that goes out of a house via the toilet than the kind that you allow into a house…

The realisation of what that ‘water’ contained completely overwhelmed my OCD-inclined self and I can only say that my reaction was similar to that of Janet Leigh in the horror film Psycho. It all happened in a bathroom, the ‘visitor’ was unwelcome and there was a lot of water and other stuff.

I realised that I had to take control. I was an independent, salary-earning grown-up and this was no time to stamp my feet and wring my hands like a five-year-old. I grabbed hold of a mop and bucket and approached the offensive stream with purpose. After a few ineffective dabs and a lot of dry retching, I knew this was not going to work. I had to be decisive, a problem-solver and make a mature decision about the next steps to be taken. So, I burst into tears and phoned my dad.

Don’t judge me. There’s a lot to be said for appreciating the value of your parents even after you’ve left the fold. He arrived in a flash, armed with a plunger and already wearing his black gum boots (wellingtons/rubber boots). He’d called the emergency plumbers who were on their way and he’d brought my mother with for moral support as I tried to process the horror of my hallway and living room having been turned into a sewer.

It’s important to note that, at that stage, we were slowly discovering that the very things that usually secure a building certificate were turning out to be non-compliant – plumbing, electricity, and so on. All I am grateful for was that they were also not too perturbed about how to lay the concrete so THANKFULLY there was a slight dip in the flooring (not normally visible by looking at the tiling) that created a channel. All the nasty stuff was somehow making its way out of the front door via the hallway and straight out of the back door via the living room without entering the kitchen. We had no carpets and everything was tiled. These were my silver linings on a very murky evening.

And, so, going back to the other night when I was busy rinsing off the clean washing in the bath, I realised how grateful I was for the fact that the washing was at least clean, although not properly rinsed and that I had drained the machine all on my own. I was very proud of myself.

The kids weren’t too interested though. Neither was the repairman nor my husband.

So, I just had to share my story with you.

Wordy Cara on How Not to Tackle Valentine’s Day

How to Mess Up Valentine's DayLittle pink and red hearts, long-stemmed roses, cards filled with loving words and/or cryptic clues and question marks, romantic candle-lit dinners all under the umbrella of ‘Valentine’s Day’ are… not for me. Believe me when I say that it has nothing to do with commercialism (that’s the excuse we’ll attribute to The Husband and 50 million or so other people). I am a hopeless romantic. Hopeless. No, my aversion to celebrating this day has taken root over many years and for many reasons. So, I’ve come up with some hot tips on what NOT to do on this day of love:

1) Tell a four-year-old that her heart is actually the shape of a fist (so not full of love, right?) and not at all like the pretty little cut-outs that she made at school for someone special. It’s right up there with decimating the secrets of the Tooth Fairy and Santa. Sooner or later she’ll take a biology course and all will be revealed.

2) Do not send a fake Valentine to your teenage daughter, who’s into reading detective novels and handwriting analysis. She’ll throw all her resources behind finding that sensitive young man and when she finds out it’s you, she’ll have completed a very revealing summary about your personality too.

3) Never believe your boyfriend/partner/husband when he says that Valentine’s Day is driven by pure commercialism that he will not entertain. There’s nothing worse than when he has had a change of heart and got you the CD you were hinting for and you – who fought your romantic inclinations – stand there empty-handed. Follow your instincts and buy him a fine gift (one that you can enjoy if he doesn’t come up with the goods).

4) Do not spray paint (or even worse – paint) declarations of love all over highway bridges or the sides of buildings unless you can spell and compete with artists the likes of Banksy. Your failed attempts with runny red paint and poor spelling make you seem like an obsessed serial something.

5) I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read newspaper articles that ended really badly with this grand gesture – do not throw an engagement ring or piece of jewellery in her food or arrange for it to be submerged in her food by the chef, unless: you want her to gobble it down and experience the joys and tribulations of being a diamond smuggler and waiting for nature to take its course; you are happy to pay for aesthetic and other dentistry; you actually want her to choke; or you are prepared for the eventuality that your donated gesture of love sets in motion the betrothal of a couple sitting nearby by virtue of it arriving at the wrong table. By all means, surprise her. Just leave it out of the food.

6) When dedicating a song you love to the one you love, make sure you know the lyrics very well and understand their meaning too. I recall a radio DJ commenting on how many weddings he’d been to where the bridal pair had played Dido’s ‘White Flag’ for their first dance. I also recall the DJ made this comment after having numerous callers phoning in with this song as their Valentine’s Day request for that special somebody. Same thing with Eurythmics’ ‘Thorn in My Side’. Nice tune, but listen to the words. This could be the deal breaker.

These are just my top six, front-of-mind ‘Don’ts’ and I get the sense that the list is bound to grow over time. If you’ve got some great stories to share, don’t be shy – we need to help all those misdirected souls out there and save them from Lonely Hearts parties.

Whatever your feelings about the day, the best fact about Valentine’s Day 2014 is that it falls on a Friday and I just LOVE FRIDAYS! Oh, and I love that this also happens to be my 14th post on my blog!

Best Wild Animal Encounter – Ever!

Wildly in Love

Wildly in Love

A few weeks ago I decided to risk it and asked you, my ‘followers’, for some fun blog topics to challenge me beyond my comfort zone. One of those received was, ‘Best wild animal encounter’. Well, growing up in Africa and being treated to many bucket-list type of safaris gives me loads of material and an unfair advantage over those of you who might be more familiar with the concrete jungle and animals of a different kind.

My gut response to that kind of topic, though, is to automatically respond by saying the best way to encounter a wild animal is definitely not at close range and I have a few stories to keep us sitting around a campfire from dusk ’til dawn as well as a good dose of advice (that comes from studying just enough psychology to do a fair bit of damage).

For now, though, I’m going to start with my favourite story.

The four of us – the Husband, the Children, and I – were slowly making our way down the footpath at Boulders Beach (part of the Table Mountain National Park) to watch the African penguins as they went about their daily manoeuvres. Every now and then we’d hear a rustle as the penguins scuttled about in the beach vegetation. To give you a taste of what’s to come, I can’t resist mentioning that they used to be called the Jackass penguin because of the braying sounds they make, until somebody decided that it was a bit non-PC. Personally, I think it adds a little perspective and character to their antics and I’m still rather fond of their maiden name.

Finally, we reached the viewing platform. A small group of penguins swimming gracefully caught my eye. They were close to shore and were bound to make an exit when the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen happened. Like surfers they caught the next wave, but instead of gliding onto the beach as the marine experts they are, they were tossed and tumbled about reminiscent of toys in a washing machine, spat out onto the beach like amateurs in a total wipe out.

They bounced up like a teenager who’s taken a tumble in front of her class, humiliated but playing it cool. Shaking the water off and getting their balance back they clustered together as if to compare notes on who recovered the best. As I was about to turn away, I noticed two penguins looking into each other’s eyes and suddenly they appeared to kiss. The remaining peers all looked off into different directions, awkwardly waiting for this romantic moment to pass. If you’ve seen the various Madagascar films or the spin-off Penguins of Madagascar, all I can say is that these guys were the inspiration for Kowalski and Co.

Normally, romantic encounters in the Animal Kingdom are not as elegant as this couple were and I think I’ll say no more on this, except that I’ll leave the details for a dedicated nature programme on television.

Now for Wordy Cara’s words of advice on wild animal encounters:

1) If you find yourself driving a car in a nature reserve/national park, do NOT drive up the animal’s backside. I’m sure you don’t like a shopping trolley up yours, so give it a bit more thought, especially when following an elephant who’s having a rough time with his sky-high testosterone levels and looks like he’s crying. It’s called ‘musth’ and although it only happens to boy elephants I can only equate it to a woman at the wrong time of her cycle who’s just discovered lipstick on her man’s collar.

2) Related to point 1, you suspend the right to complain if you annoy the animal to the extent that you end up with a wrecked car, on all the social media you can imagine and with a nomination for the Darwin Award.

3) Related to point 1 and 2, you should be banned from ever entering a nature reserve/national park/zoo/circus if your actions resulted in the untimely death of the animal you provoked.

4) Persons who should be exempt from any of these points are those who have been unfortunate enough to have been guided by an ‘expert’ who has no clue what he/she is doing and who should, him/herself, be banned from owning, running or visiting a nature reserve/zoo/circus (in fact, could we just leave animals out of a circus unless they decide to submit their own application to join one due to their unbelievable sense of self-confidence and talent?). Rather go into the field of fleecing tourists by letting them have their photos taken with life-size photos of wild animals at an obscene price. It’s less messy that way and saves a few lives.

5) Do NOT ride a bicycle through a nature reserve on your own and especially not when the pedals squeak. This sounds like an obvious point that needs no mention, but I have almost WITNESSED what could have been a live kill. Briefly, we were seated in a game-drive vehicle at the crack of dawn, admiring three male lions in their prime. Suddenly, we heard a ‘skweeek, skweeek, skweeek’ approaching us and one of the male lions jumped up into his starting blocks, staring intently through the bush at the approaching sound. The tracking game ranger at the front of the vehicle lifted his hand slowly in a warning and it was only then that we noticed the reserve employee on his bicycle just over 50 metres away. Looking at it from the lions’ perspective, I visualised a prime piece of fresh steak seated on a serving tray with two wheels. Luckily the employee could back-pedal quicker than the lion could dismiss the fact that he had actually just eaten breakfast, even though he still felt slightly peckish. So, stick to the authorised and organised bicycle tours… if you must.

6) Capturing that incredible moment on film when a lion/leopard looks through your car window is awesome! Well, the fact that he’s looking through the window is a slight indication that he’s a bit too close and if your window’s open and your arm is extended beyond the outline of the car, the reality is that you might never get to see that photo or your camera or your arm ever again. The fact you’re a coward and you let your kids do it on your behalf is even worse. Sunroofs also count as windows. Keep your body parts tucked safely inside before they’re plucked off you.

7) Do you like it when you hear a pimped-up ride pull up next to you as you sashay down the pavement with the occupants catcalling, whistling and yelling all kinds of proposed shenanigans at you? I didn’t think so. Don’t tease wild animals if you don’t feel confident you’d be the last gladiator standing.

8) I love that moment when a stranger comes up to my kids, dangles sweeties in front of their face and then shoves them into my kids’ hands without asking me. Actually, I don’t for many reasons. DON’T FEED THE ANIMALS! I can’t make it any clearer and neither can the signboards, unless you think it’d be cool to take a baboon for a drive down a coastal road with the top down. Have you seen the size of a baboon’s teeth? Would you let someone with an uncovered, unwashed and chafed-looking backside sit in your ultimate set of wheels? Would you like the product of the food you’ve just given the animal and an upset stomach to be all over that pretty leather interior? NO, NO, NO! If it’s alive and not in special care, that means it’s getting food from its natural source. Leave well alone or start allowing creepy people to give your kids sweets.

I could go on with this list of do’s and don’ts, but I don’t want you to end up feeling like you might have to consider scratching a safari off your bucket list. Truly, seeing a wild animal at a safe distance is one of the most magical moments you could ever experience. The absolute peace and oneness with nature you feel as you hear a giraffe chewing the juicy leaves at the top of a thorny acacia tree in the morning sun or the far-off hysterical whooping laughter of a hyena at nightfall is incomparable.

Remember to do everything the game ranger tells you, but just take the story of ‘why the warthog’s tail stands up’ with a pinch of salt.

An-ti-ci-pa-tion… The Sweetness in Life

An-ti-ci-pa-tion

An-ti-ci-pa-tion

I have a sweet tooth. I also have a strong grain of impatience running through me, alongside equal amounts of guilty conscience and indecision. This makes for interesting viewing when I’m standing in front of a pantry cupboard. I know what I want, that I want it now, but can’t have it and that I don’t know what to do next. Ultimately one of the competitors has to win and it’s usually Impatience that makes the rash decision, swaggering off with the spoils of the pantry.

Now, you know I am not really going to go on about sweets and temptation. You’ve seen the soap box I’m about to get on and you know I’m about to natter on about something a little closer to the heart. It’s all about anticipation – looking forward to something with great excitement; something you have to wait a little longer for and that doesn’t just manifest with a brisk click of the fingers.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading many blogs over the past couple of months and one, written by a mother, got me thinking. She wrote about how she would like her daughter to be able to look forward to milestones, especially in this day and age of instant gratification where we tend not to value the things that we would’ve had to wait for or work towards just 10 or 20 years ago. I shared it on Facebook and then, after reading a friend’s comment on it, the topic really got me thinking.

A special memory came to mind. I recalled how, at the age of eight or so, I had saved up over months to buy a double-screened hand-held Nintendo game. I had saved Christmas money, birthday money, exchanged Easter eggs for money, worked hard at creating much-needed chores around the house and then did those chores until I had saved enough to buy my game. I still have it and it still works many, many years down the line. How interesting it is to note how well we take care of things we have to work hard for.

So many things come too easily these days. On the flip side, I suppose it would almost be impossible to save up over such a long period of time and still expect the same item to be available in the shops. Things move incredibly quickly, marketers have perfected playing the game of supply and demand, and we play a key role by rushing off to buy the next best thing the minute it hits the shelves, discarding the functional items we consider newly obsolete.

The true problem comes in when we start treating people like those newly ‘obsolete’ items. We’ve become so geared towards looking out for the latest thing, perpetuating this horrible concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) that it begins to manifest in our attitudes and decisions. Commitment becomes a commodity, traded in for something better than what we have. We make tentative plans with friends and then discard them when something more appealing comes up. What happened to the days of, “Sorry, but I have a prior COMMITMENT”? What are we teaching our children? What are they learning to care for?

What we really need to do is to take a step back and consider the people and things (yes, it’s important to like things too – but more important to see them in perspective) that we hold dear to our heart. It’s so good to take time out to think about what makes us tick, what prompts us into positive action and what gives us the joy of anticipation. Some things just take on a more colourful glow when you have to wait a little longer for them, when you have something to look forward to. Anticipation – the sweetness in life!

Oh, and just before I forget… I have to confess that I often confuse procrastination and anticipation, but more about that another time.

Guilty Pleasures… Who’s to Blame?

Pleasures Copyright 2014 Wordycara

Pleasures
Copyright 2014 Wordycara

It’s a Happy New Year and people are making their resolutions, discarding bad habits and hoping to sustain better ones (better habits AND better bad habits). Just so we’re clear on this – I don’t do resolutions and this blog is not going to be about how to ‘start afresh’ and ‘be a better you’. I’m not qualified (through successful experience or otherwise) to lecture you on this general topic. There’s enough reading material out there and you’re welcome to read it.

So, apart from this very obvious New Year’s theme, I’ve been sifting through the debris in my head, left after the excesses of the Festive Season festivities, searching for a gripping topic to kick off my blog for 2014. Let me tell you, writer’s block is no way to start a year and, if I’d had the foresight to know, I would’ve resolved not to have it and would’ve banished it to the land of terrible sitcoms before it could muzzle the voice that does the writing in my head.

With the thoughts in my mind flatlining and desperation increasing exponentially, I grabbed a nice, warm cup of caramel-flavoured coffee (bless that company for removing the ‘limited edition’ status on that flavour and making it freely available – at a fair price – to me all year round) and inhaled inspiration!

“Guilty Pleasures!”. The topic exploded in my mind and the letters of the alphabet did somersaults, “We’re back in business!” and then I sighed. The problem is that that I have a problem with the word “guilty” being right next to the word “pleasures” when it comes to things I like doing, eating, saying or appreciating.

For me “guilty pleasure” is something that happens when a person runs off with another person’s partner. In that case, there’s guilt and, of course, there’s pleasure (maybe even for the partner who’s left behind). Now, when I’m talking about eating French toast and reading a book – yes, yes AT THE SAME TIME – it’s certainly a pleasure and I’m certainly not feeling guilty about it either. I can’t apologise or feel bad about combining two of my favourite things. I’m not hurting anyone else and I don’t intend to stare ahead at the blank dining room wall, trying to allow myself to mindfully absorb and savour the flavours of my food. I’m a great multi-tasker when it comes to eating (not recommended with talking though) and reading (I can read in a car – just not when driving – and sometimes in the dark with a very faint light). It follows, then, that I am able to enjoy every single bite of my food and every word on that page AT THE SAME TIME!

I have so many more pleasures that I don’t feel at all guilty about – going into the city without the children and buying stuff just for myself (they have their turn), reading a juicy, gossipy and laugh-out-loud kind of novel that is termed ‘chick-lit’ (the Irish writers are so good at these)… Actually, I have to interrupt myself just to note that I don’t like the term ‘chick-lit’. It implies a level of silliness associated with giggly teenage girls who are actually over 30 and should be reading solid, classic literature. These novels have grains of genius running through them – witty asides that comedians dream of and accurate portrayal of feelings that only you thought you had and that some psychologists wish they could tap into. Right, now that I’ve made that clear, I’ll continue with some more pleasures… sitting outside and admiring a beautiful view instead of cleaning the house, eating freshly baked, hot bread with butter (not margarine), watching a kids/teens’ movie (with or without children/teenagers present to justify it) and listening to music from the 80s… I could go on.

When we talk about a “guilty pleasure”, but actually mean a fairly benevolent, harmless and delightful pleasure then we’re allowing that voice of our faux conscience to take over. Life is filled with enough challenges and expectations set by ourselves and others, so it really isn’t necessary to add rueful feelings to some of the things that give us unadulterated joy (no pun intended… well, actually… yes – pun intended). Come on, surrender the guilt and let’s put the blame on that person who called it a “guilty” pleasure in the first place! Have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!