Someone said we had a cool life… and I panicked.

misty

Today… as I sit writing this post… I am enjoying the most blissful view.

I’m sitting on a lounge-chair… on the deck of our beach house.  It’s a gorgeous day.  Not a cloud in the sky… and not even the slightest chill in the air (considering that this is still, officially, Winter).

The sea stretches before me… turquoise, melting into deep blue.

Three Southern Right whales are playing… only a few metres off-shore.  From where I sit, I can hear the whoosh of their blow-holes… and occasionally they let out a loud, deep bellow.  As if to greet us.

There’s the faintest breeze… and all I can hear (apart from the waves crashing and the occasional whale grunts)… are calls from different birds.

Next to me, Nick is comfortably curled up in a hammock… reading through the script of the upcoming film he’ll be working on in September.

On the other side of me, Morgan is perched on a lounge-chair of her own.  She’s munching a banana and enjoying the view.

Joah is inside.  He has taken a collection of newly-built lego boats to the bath.  He wants to test them.

Life is… indeed… pretty good at the moment.

—————-

And then somebody wrote on Facebook (in response to a photo I posted):  “Wow, you guys live such a cool life”.

And my first thought was:  “Really? She thinks our life is cool?  I don’t think it’s that cool… it’s just kinda… normal…”

And my second thought was:  “Holy crap!  We’ve already adapted to this lifestyle!  We’re already used to it!”

Adapting to our circumstances is one of the things we humans just… *DO*.

On the one hand, it’s a necessary survival technique.  It helps us to deal with shitty situations… it helps us to cope with life’s hard knocks… and I think it’s saved many a miserable life over the millennia.

I understand the “Adapt or Die” mantra… the whole “Make a plan – or you’re not going to survive this situation” thing.

In that sense… I’m glad that I have a special “adapt” ability built into my DNA.  It has helped me cope and allowed me to deal with some very shitty situations in the past.

Problem is…  the “adapt” button… can never be switched off.  It’s always on.  We’re always adapting – whether we want to or not.

And I don’t think I’m okay with that.

And the reason why – is this:  it has become SO EASY for us to just… *adapt* to this life… to these beautiful experiences… these privileges.  And when we adapt – we start seeing it all as “normal”.

And…  when we start seeing it all as “normal”…. we start taking it all for granted.

After over 2 months in this lovely beach house…  we’ve started to really settle in.  The problem with “settling in”… is that the wonder… and the magic…  and the “Omigosh!  Look how amazing!  Look how magnificent!  We’re so fortunate!  We’re so happy!  Wow! Wow! Wow!!!”  feelings (that we initially experienced during our first couple of nights) evolves into a general feeling of “well-this-is-very-nice”… which in turn, slowly becomes: “well-this-is… normal”.

I think our adaption abilities work really hard to slot us into predictable routines and an acceptance of (if not an urge for) comfortable predictability.  I don’t think the human psyche is entirely delighted with unpredictability… and it works hard to normalise things.

… and then, before you know it, you’re opening the curtains in the morning – but not *seeing* the beautiful view…

… and you’re gulping back your coffee, but not *savouring* the taste…

… and you’re driving down the road in your nice car… past the fynbos… and the indigenous-plant nursery… and the bays and the beauty…  and all you can think of is how you hate shopping at Pick ‘n Pay and how you wish the mice wouldn’t keep breaking into the grocery cupboard… and how that bloody nocturnal creature (with what sounded like a small jackhammer) in the roof kept you awake all night… and how you wish the tourists would stop feeding those blasted baboons… and you whinge about the extra chunkiness around your bum…

and before you know it…. you’ve missed the point.

“Normality is a paved road:  it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it” – Vincent van Gogh

I really have to fight hard not to accept this as “normal”… not to take ANY of it for granted.

Because it’s a privilege.  All of it.  A ridiculously beautiful privilege… to be living here, now… this life… with this family… at this time.  It’s more than ‘cool’.  It’s frikkin’ awesome!!!  And I am filled with gratitude for every precious moment.

Preparing to leave paradise

cape point

So – for the past 2 blissful months, we’ve been happily snuggled up in a divine beach house in Misty Cliffs, Cape Town.

As I type this, I’m sitting on my bed… looking out the window and drinking in uninterrupted views of deep blue sea.  Every day, the Southern Right whales come to frolic in the surf in front of our home.

The house is flanked by cliffs and fynbos.  It’s teeming with wildlife… and is so, so beautiful.  The sound of the waves crashing on the beach rocks us to sleep at night.

I really do love it here.  I love that it’s so secluded.  It feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere (but the city is about a 45 minute drive away… in good traffic, that is).  I love that the Southern Peninsula is so family-friendly.  Almost every restaurant and coffee shop offers a play area and a kid’s menu.

It’s certainly a lifestyle that I’ll miss… because the time has come, once again, to move.

Nick has been offered another film and he’s needed for 12 weeks in Joburg – from September to December.

I can’t say I’m overly delighted to return to Joburg… even if it’s just for a season.  Joburg (like Benoni) had been packed up in my mind and boxed away as a place that I had “left”… a place that we had moved on from.  I don’t like going back to the places I’ve moved on from.  I like going forward to NEW places.

However… work calls.  So, back we go.

Because our Joburg home is rented out indefinitely… I’m now hunting around for a short-term, furnished rental.  Preferably in a place like Monaghan Farm… or somewhere outside of the city where I don’t feel boxed in… and I don’t have to read the shitty newspaper headlines stuck on every lamp-post on every main road!

So… if there’s any readers who have friends in Monaghan Farm… who have a small, furnished cottage to rent to us on a short-term basis…  lemme know, okay?

We have one more month here.  We’re staying in Cape Town for this year’s Silwerskermfees where Nick’s latest film, “Hard to Get” will be featured.  Then, we’ll hit the road for a 2 week road trip.  Maybe we’ll go visit our Karoo friends… or the big hole in Kimberley.

And then… 12 weeks of Joburg.

And then… 2 months of holiday (much deserved for Nick!)…

And then… the next film (the location of which is currently undecided).  So… who knows?  Such is the life we’ve chosen to live…  we can only live in the *now*.  Tomorrow is another day.

An illustrated guide to my personalities

I haven’t blogged for about a month… which is very unlike me.

Part of the reason is because I’ve been trying to sort through the noise in my head.  And I’m constantly trying to figure out what I want this blog to *say*… and what projects I want to focus on… and what I want to do with my time and talents (because there’s more to life than mooching around and travelling – I actually DO want to contribute something significant to this world while I’m still in it!)

Anyhoo…  with all the thinking and ruminating (and the many arguments I’ve been having with myself of late)…  I thought I’d give you all a disturbing peek into The Noise which is my brain.  Without further ado, an illustrated guide to (some) of my personalities.

MAMA BEAR

mama bear

Obviously – a large part of who I am is mom to Morgan (8) and Joah (6).  I adore these two little people… and could easily spend many hours waxing lyrical about their quirks, cleverness and the funny things they’ve said or done.  Mama Bear is cuddly… and kind (but very protective of her offspring).

Mama Bear likes to talk about free-range kids… and free-play… and unschooling… and creative ways for children to start their own little businesses… and – of course – the dreams she has for her kids.

Mama Bear is a huge part of me – but I keep her in check… because I don’t want this to turn into one of those Mommy-Blogs (the web has enough of them already)… and I don’t want to alienate other parents or try to infer that *MY* parenting choices are the *RIGHT* choices (and everyone else is therefore wrong).

So… Mama Bear is allowed to have her say on this blog… but I try not to let her dominate the conversation.

PROUD WIFE

proud wife

Again – obviously – the most important people in my life are my husband and kids.  So the part of me that is “Mom” and the part of me that is “Wife” are both major ingredients in the Cake-of-Me.

I am fortunate enough to be in a very happy marriage (going on 10 years now) with the love of my life, Nick.  There’s a LOT I could write about marriage and love… but that’s not what this blog is about (and I tend to be rather private when it comes to discussing my relationship with Nick).

An important element of the *Wife* part of my personality… is “Proud Wife”.  Since I’m both involved in Nick’s work as a filmmaker – and very proud of his accomplishments and talent, I’ll occasionally mention awards he’s won… or films he’s working on.

Nick isn’t entirely comfortable with me proud-wife’ing on the internet… but, as I’ve told him before, I have Wife-Rights…  and Proud Wife is allowed to occasionally boast about her hairy Greek and tell everyone how wonderful he is (and what an amazing father he is too!).

Okay.  So – those are the obvious ones.  Heather-the-Mom and Heather-the-Wife…  but there’s SO much more….

THE CREATIVE CREATURE

creative hat

This is Hat.  Hat is the artist…  the designer, musician, songwriter, poet, photographer, illustrator, singer, scriptwriter, composer, storyteller, ideas-person and creator.

The Creative Creature part of me isn’t so much a personality… but rather, it’s an Operating System.  I view the world through the eyes of the Creative Creature.  Hat is the conduit through which I process and interact with the world.

I have always been the Creative Creature.  This is the oldest and most known part of me… the part I’m most comfortable with.  Everything I do… whether it’s opening a bank account… or running a bath… or posting an Instagram pic… is done whilst looking at the world through the eyes of Hat.

I love Hat.  But she can be rather frustrating. And somewhat embarrassing.  For one, she’s appallingly messy and disorganised.  She’s always losing things… and forgetting things… and she has WAY too many ideas for her own good.  She sucks at money management too.

I often get cross with Hat.  Because she’s scatter-brained and A.D.D. and she keeps flitting from project to project…  idea-to-idea… because she is so easily bored and distracted.  I’m constantly lecturing Hat and telling her to get her shit together… but most of the time, she’s not listening.  She’s too busy marvelling at the whales outside the window… or composing poetry… or illustrating irreverent little books.

She seems deaf to reason.

THE FAIRY DO-GOODER

fairy dogood

To be honest.  I’m not really sure what to do with the Fairy Do-Gooder these days.  A few years ago, she ran the show… but now she has been sent into the attic and told to rest and wait… while I figure out an assignment I could send her on.

The Fairy Do-Gooder is the part of me that wants to *FIX* the world.  She’s one who wants to help… who wants to DO… who wants to BE the change.

About 3 or 4 years ago, the Fairy Do-Gooder was very very busy.  She was hosting self-esteem workshops for girls… she launched an NGO called WOODO (Women who DO!)… she co-launched another project called Tapestry of Dreams…. and another one called VENT!

People called her a Social Entrepreneur.  She was even embraced by an international, London-based aid organisation as one of their “Inspired Individuals”.  She travelled the country (and internationally) to different conferences and events… all with the aim of figuring out how to help others and fix the world.

But… sadly… the Fairy Do-Gooder eventually suffered extreme burn-out… followed by a tidal wave of guilt.  And went into hiding.

It’s a story that I think the Fairy Do-Gooder might like to share some day… but parts of the story are still painful and raw.

The Fairy Do-Gooder shouts from the attic every day… and asks me:  “When are you letting me out?  When are you going to give me an assignment?”…  and I keep shouting back:  “Hang on, I’m working on it!  Be patient for just a little bit longer…!”

THE DOOM BROODER

doom brooder

This  is Fairy Do-Gooder’s rival.

The Doom-Brooder has a black thundercloud that follows her everywhere she goes.  Where Fairy Do-Gooder will look at a sad situation and want to fix it… or want to help…  the Doom-Brooder just says:  “Why bother?  It’s not like you can fix anything anyway!  Nothing can be fixed.  The world is full of evil and misery and there’s nothing you can do to alleviate the pain!”

Fairy Do-Gooder and the Doom-Brooder are always bickering.  Always.

They’re both in the attic and I hear them bickering every day.

Doom-Brooder would like to escape to a desert island and stay there indefinitely.  She wallows in hopelessness and despair.  Whenever she watches bad news or views a disturbing photo on the internet (usually of war and suffering)… she withdraws further and constantly grumbles about how hopeless everything is.  If Doom-Brooder had her way, she’d pack us all off to a remote desert island tomorrow.

Thankfully… though… Fairy Do-Gooder (and some of the others) are stronger than the Doom-Brooder and can usually keep her in check.

THE WORD WUSS

word wuss

This is one of the more tiresome parts of my personality.  She is constantly worried about what other people will say… or what other people will think.  A bunch of us have been plotting to kill her… but so far, it hasn’t worked.  She just hides behind that blasted shield of hers and avoids us.

RANTY REBEL

ranty

This is Ranty.  I’ve kept her in a padded room for a long time…. (at the insistence of the Word Wuss and the Fairy Do-Gooder).

The Word-Wuss is worried about the damage that Ranty could inflict with her tongue… and constantly panics about what others may say – or think – if Ranty had a platform.  Ranty has tried… on occasion… to stab Word Wuss (who just hides behind her troll shield and whimpers).

Fairy Do-Gooder doesn’t trust Ranty’s mouth either.  Fairy Do-Gooder disapproves of conflict and doesn’t like hurting anyone’s feelings… so she often tries to calm Ranty down and tell her to think happy thoughts.

I have to gag Ranty every. single. day.

She screams at me from the padded room (next door to the attic).  “Let me out!  &^$%@!!!!  I want my say!  I want to be heard!!!  You can’t silence me forever!!!”

Ranty has a LOT she would like to say.  She’s a potty-mouthed anarchist / agnostic who loathes stupid rules and systems of control.  If she had her way, she would rant (loudly!) about organised religion, governments, war, guns, chauvinists, bigots, educational systems, the Rat Race, corporate control & greed… (and much, much more).

I think she’d get us all into big trouble.  So for now… (or at least until Ranty learns some manners)… I’ll keep her gagged and locked in the padded room (although I have given her some art materials and have allowed her to write her memoirs… which I might consider publishing one day).

THE LATE NIGHT RUMINATOR

ruminator

For some reason, The Ruminator is a night owl.  She is the cause of my insomnia.  She doesn’t allow me to sleep.  All she wants to do is ruminate… and “what if?” about EVERYTHING.   She is my over-thinking.  She is my confusion.

I try to keep the late night Ruminator and the Doom-Brooder as far away from each other as possible.  When the two of them collaborate, they have the power to sink me into deep depression… and it takes a lot of coaxing from Mama Bear, the Thinker and the Fairy Do-Gooder to drag me out of the mire.

THE DEEP, INTENSE THINKER

thinker

I like The Thinker.  I find her interesting.  I can listen to her for hours.  Unlike the maddening Ruminator who obsesses over meaningless nothingness, The Thinker makes sense.  The Thinker likes to ponder on all kinds of interesting things…  meaning, purpose, God, love, life – the Big Questions.

And the Thinker loves to question… learn… and read… and understand.  One of the Thinker’s favourite quotes is this:  “Education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance” – and, indeed, the Thinker is always on the hunt for knowledge and meaning.

The Thinker also likes to listen and learn from other people… and learn from their journeys and experiences.  She’s an anthropologist… a quiet observer…  and is deeply respected by my other parts.  Even Ranty shuts up when the Thinker wants to share something.  That’s because the Thinker doesn’t talk much – she observes and learns and thinks – but when she DOES speak, she usually has something very interesting and profound to say.

The Thinker is allowed free reign of my head and can roam where she chooses.  She can even visit the attic or can check in on Ranty in the padded room.  The Thinker manages to calm everyone down.  Even Ranty.

THE ADDICT

addict

The Addict is an escape artist.  Every time I think I have locked her up and have her under control, she escapes… and devours a jar of Nutella and an entire lemon meringue pie!  She has caused me a LOT of stress and self-loathing over the years – and I am always trying to wrestle her back into her cage.

Her favourite ally is the Doom-Brooder whom, I suspect, is the one who keeps setting her free under the guise of:  “What’s the use?  Why bother watching what you eat anyway?  We’re all gonna die anyway.  May as well quaff some pie on the way out!”

Today… as I write this… The Addict has been safely contained for about two weeks.  I can hear her grumbling in her cage.  Occasionally she demands chocolate… but I pretend not to hear her.  Hopefully, the Doom-Brooder is too busy bickering with Fairy Do-Gooder to consider releasing The Addict.  At least for now.

I worry that if I send Fairy Do-Gooder on a new assignment, that Doom Brooder will get bored… and start looking for trouble with the Ruminator and the Addict.  With the three of them on the rampage, I worry about my mental stability.

THE KNOWER

knower

We killed the Knower.  Her constant Know-it-All attitude was driving us all mad.  She believed she was *Right* and everyone else was WRONG.  She believed that she knew “The Truth”… about life, God, purpose, how-to-live, how-to-parent – everything!  And she was always preaching at us… and telling us how wrong and sinful we were.

So, eventually… we killed her.  Ranty did the deed… but the rest of us turned a blind eye.

She’s been dead for about 2 or 3 years now.  Initially, there was a bit of a bitter stink as her corpse began to rot.  These days, however, her remnants are dried up… like a mummy… and she doesn’t stink as much.  Eventually, I think she’ll turn into dust and disappear entirely.

I threaten the Addict, the Doom Brooder, the Word Wuss and the Ruminator with the same fate.

But I don’t think they take me seriously.

 

 

More Play. Less School.

rotten apricot fight

When I was young… and really, I’m not that old… I played.

A lot.

In fact, when I was Morgan’s age, most of my play was uninterrupted, unsupervised, free Me-Time.  My mom got on with doing her thing… and she let Soo and I do our thing.   She’d call us in for dinner when it started to get dark – but other than that, we were left to our own devices.

Back then, we lived on a smallholding in Benoni that we fondly (or not so fondly) referred to as “The Plot”.  We had 6 acres of land… a swimming pool, a trampoline, loads of trees to climb, fields to explore and animals to interact with.

Some of the things we did during those years (and this is a small list):

  • Built our own tree houses.  One was in the willow tree… the other was in the apricot tree.  For a Christmas present, my parents renovated the Apricot Treehouse – into a *proper* treehouse… complete with roof tiles, carpets, balcony and trap-door with rope ladder.  Best. Christmas-Prezzie. Ever!
  • Built our own forts.  This was one of our favourite games… pretending that we were stranded on a desert island and that we needed to ‘survive’ and build our own fort and hunt our own food.
  • Raced BMX bikes.  We even had a BMX bike track in the back of our ample yard.  My dad made a deal with a friend who had a earthmoving machine.  The friend got a Cosy-Gas-Log-Fire… and we got a BMX track (which made me the envy of all the boys in my class at school).
  • Milked the cow, collected eggs from the chickens, picked fruit from the trees, helped my mom to make jam and to bottle and preserve fruit…
  • Had rotten apricot fights (see photo at the top of this post).
  • Rode the horse.  His name was Billy, and every Wednesday, I would canter him up the road to Jill’s house for horse-riding lessons.
  • Climbed many things (oh, how I loved to climb!).  Apart from climbing every large tree on the property, we could often be found on the roof (of the double-storey house)… or on the roof of the garage.
  • Digging for “secret treasure”… (or burying secret treasure… including Prince Charles & Lady Di coins from my parents’ collection which were never retrieved from the earth of The Plot).
  • Playing Matador with Rooster Fight.
  • Swimming (and inventing all kinds of pool-games).
  • Making pots and other little things out of natural clay found in a small pond right at the end of our largest field.

(Again – this is just the tip of the iceberg)…

Performing a play for our family… (including aunts and uncles)...
Performing a play for our family… (including aunts and uncles)…  (I’m on the left).
Soo and I on the balcony of our favourite treehouse...
Soo and I on the balcony of our favourite treehouse…
Indoor games with my sister and cousin...
Indoor games with my sister and cousin…
Soo and I (with cousin Clare and her stepsister Kathy and stepbrother Mark)… at The Plot.  We used to love climbing right on top of the roof of the house...
Soo and I (with cousin Clare and her stepsister Kathy and stepbrother Mark)… at The Plot. We used to love climbing right on top of the roof of the house…
Soo and I playing a game we had invented which involved the wagon, a chair, some dolls and a sign...
Soo and I playing a game we had invented which involved the wagon, a chair, some dolls and a sign…
Dress-up (my mother had made both of these outfits from scratch)… I was a mermaid, Soo was a rag doll...
Dress-up (my mother had made both of these outfits from scratch)… I was a mermaid, Soo was a rag doll…
My tramp party… (come to think of it, I often liked to pretend I was a tramp)...
My tramp party… (come to think of it, I often liked to pretend I was a tramp)…
This is Soo and I with our cousins, Clare and Jenny… and those are our Easter Features.  During Easter time, my Mom would (as a treat) buy chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes - and we'd be allowed to create edible "Easter Features"…
This is Soo and I with our cousins, Clare and Jenny… and those are our Easter Features. During Easter time, my Mom would (as a treat) buy chocolates and sweets of all shapes and sizes – and we’d be allowed to create edible “Easter Features”…

Back then… my mother didn’t hover around, checking up on me all the time.  We were allowed to go for walks on our own… (in fact, that’s how I’d go and visit my best friend Sonja…  I would walk to her house, on my own).  We were allowed to ride our bikes in the street – and I was allowed to ride my horse to riding lessons every Wednesday – on my own.

Back then, there was very little on the TV that interested us.  Occasionally, we’d hire a video from the video store -but only on special occasions.  If we played inside, we’d make up our own games… and I was never bored.  There was a piano I could play… or other musical instruments I could experiment with.  There was a small typewriter that I could type my short stories on.  There was loads of art supplies, paper, pens and other creative materials.  We had a massive bookshelf, bursting with books of all sizes and topics.  We had a bag of paper dolls that my cousin had given us.  We had pets to play with (dogs, cats, hamsters, rats… and on occasion, we looked after spiders, captured snakes and a newly-hatched guinea fowl called Henry).  We were allowed to bake or create our own kitchen masterpieces (I used to make chocolate fudge… and Soo’s favourite recipe was Creme Caramel)…

There was a record player – and we could play our favourite music… and choreograph dances and write and rehearse plays.  There was a generous collection of records – both for adults and for kids.  There was a dress-up box – with countless items to dress up in.

And then, there was the privacy of our rooms.  Soo and I had a huge bedroom.  The upstairs section of the house was our domain.  It had it’s own balcony and bathroom… and it’s where many, many friends and cousins visited… and where many, many games were played (and fights were had).

I often say that I survived my rotten school-experience – simply because of the variety of what was on offer at home.  My play-needs were met.  My creative-needs were met.  I learned more at home than what I did at school (and it’s also where I began nurturing my talents and passions).

The things that I’m good at today…  the talents and the skills that I’ve developed and which earn me an income today…. were ALL birthed and nurtured at home – in the creative and free environment that my mother had created.

I don’t think Mom realised it at the time…  but in retrospect, I look back on those years – and I’m so… relieved… that I had an *outlet* for my creativity… and for my curious and adventurous spirit.

Mom – recognising my creative gift – sent me to art classes with my aunt.  Unlike school (with things like potato prints and only 3 colours of vile powder paint – red, blue and mustard)… my aunt challenged me creatively – and refused to patronise me with “easy” projects.

The same was true of music.  My first piano arrived in our home as a birthday gift for my 8th birthday (because Mom had wisely detected my love for music).  School didn’t teach me music.  I taught myself music… on that Bentley.

Additionally, my mother had me join an amateur children’s theatre production company called Protea Choral Society… and I loved it there.  In so many ways, I felt at home in those creative spaces… where there was singing, dancing, composing, storytelling and art (none of which were on offer at my school).

Performing as Boy George in the children's production, "Mini Pops"...
Performing as Boy George in the children’s production, “Mini Pops”…

My creativity survived in spite of that awful, soul-destroying experience known as “school”… because my mother had equipped me with the resources I needed most… and had set me free to use them in whichever way I chose.  Without Mom even realising it, she had plugged me in to the Interest-Led-Learning lifestyle which I now carry forward with my own children, today.

Thank-you, Mom.

No… seriously…. THANK-YOU, Mom!!!

The reason why I write this post (apart from wanting to publicly thank my Mom)…  is because I have noticed such an enormous change in the world we live in today.

Play… and opportunities for children to play…  and create… and initiate and learn (in a natural way… in a natural environment) are now very, very different.  No longer are children encouraged to ride their bikes in the street… or walk to the home of their friends… or do anything – really – without constant adult supervision and monitoring.

Even children’s playgrounds have morphed into plasticky “safe” zones…. rather than organic spaces where kids can still push the boundaries (and learn in the process)…

I find this to be very sad.  I think kids are really missing out on something special…

I recently read a BRILLIANT article about WHY this might be the case – and what we (as parents) can do, to turn the situation around.  I strongly recommend THIS ARTICLE to all parents.  Seriously, it’s such a good, thought-provoking read.

Secondly, I watched a brilliant TED talk by Dr. Peter Gray (recommended by Ken Robinson).  It’s called “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders”.  Here it is:

Nuff said.

More PLAY… less “SCHOOL”.  Children learn best during play.  The glaring evidence is all there.  Whether we take any notice of it is still up for debate.

Cliffs, canons, baboons and childhood memories…

morgan sea

So – I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve been up to for the past week or three…

We’ve been settling in very nicely to our new temporary home in Misty Cliffs.


misty cliffs

 

misty cliffs7

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches.  There are sandy beaches… and rocky beaches.  The beaches directly in front of our home are rocky… with loads of little pools for the kids to explore.

Two days ago, I took the kids for a sunset walk on the beach…  here’s some photos:

misty cliffs6

Morgan was in a dancing mood...
Morgan was in a dancing mood…
…and a jumping mood...
…and a jumping mood…

misty beach

Another one of the things I love about this area is the nature.  Apart from the magnificent mountains, beaches and the sea (whose waves I hear loudly crashing as I type this)… there’s many birds… and small mountain creatures (like rock hyrax (dassie) and Cape gray mongoose)… and, of course, the beautiful fynbos… like this:

fynbos

And there’s a mountain stream that flows alongside our house and empties straight into the sea… and, of course, there’s baboons…

Joah watching a small baboon...
Joah watching a small baboon…

We’ve already had a few visits from the baboons.  Occasionally, they’ll circle the house and look in through the windows and try to figure out ways to get in because they know that they’re bound to find food inside.  Because it’s winter, we usually have the doors and windows closed anyway – and when they see us, and notice that we’re watching them as much as they’re watching us, they’re slightly more wary.

Today, we arrived home to discover that they had been digging in the charcoal bag and had found our firelighters.  Because the firelighters are wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, I think they thought it was food… so they tore and bit at the plastic bag… got it open… bit little chunks off of the firelighters… realised that it was yuck… and left us a mess of chewed box, plastic and bits of fire lighter – strewn across the patio.

If they make this much mess out of one small box of firelighters – I would HATE to imagine what they’d do to the inside of the house if they ever managed to get in!

Weather-wise, we’ve had a couple of really idyllic days.  Today, it was warm… the sea was flat and calm… and Morgan even had a (very short) swim in the pool.  When we first arrived at Misty Cliffs, the weather was very different.  It was wet, windy and very cold.  On one of those wet days, I decided to take the kids to the toy museum in Simon’s Town.

To get to Simon’s Town (from Misty Cliffs), we travel via a mountain pass… and it just so happened that I spotted a big cannon on a hilltop and decided to take the kids for a closer look…

It certainly offered a gorgeous view over Simon’s Town…  but it was SO cold (as you can tell by Morgan’s expression)… and the kids just begged to be let back in to the car.  I managed to take a few quick photos though…

simon's town view

cannon

Afterwards, we went to the toy museum…  which was really, really tiny…  but still housed some interesting cabinets packed full of toys.  There were even a number of toys that I remember from my childhood (jeez – am I getting so old that my childhood playthings are now in a museum?)…

Those toys brought back a whole lot of warm and fuzzy memories…  and this pram especially:

pram

My cousin, Clare… (who, incidentally, had her left thumb bitten off 4 days ago – but that’s a topic for another day)…  anyway, Clare and I were best buds growing up… and Clare had a pram just like the one above.  By the way, Clare wasn’t given the pram as a gift… she had stolen it!  Wheeled it straight out the shopping centre when nobody was looking (and her mother was too embarrassed to take it back)… (tee-hee)….

Clare and I had loads of fun in that pram.  We used to take turns squeezing in and pushing each other around the streets outside (back in the days when parents weren’t so bloody paranoid about their children playing outside).  Anyway, on one occasion, we decided to put a “REAL Baby” in the pram.  The “Real Baby” being my sister, Soo.  And we decided that we were Mommy and Daddy (Clare always made herself Mommy, and I was left to be the Daddy whether I liked it or not)… and we decided we were going to take our baby for a walk….  down a really, really steep hill.

Long story short, we lost control of the pram (with Baby Soo inside)… and it hurtled down the hill (without us) and capsized at the bottom, sending Baby Soo tumbling out with much screaming.

We got into big trouble for that.

Anyway – so I liked the toy museum (small as it was) because it brought back all kinds of fun, childhood memories.  Here’s some pics:

They had a very large collection of toy cars...
They had a very large collection of toy cars…
Tea sets...
Tea sets…
Toy soldiers...
Toy soldiers…
A small, model train set...
A small, model train set…
toy museum2
Dolls and doll houses…

After the toy museum… we drove to Kalk Bay for lunch.  We wanted to get some fish & chips somewhere pretty… preferably somewhere warm – overlooking the sea.  Whilst looking for the perfect lunch spot, we happened upon some harbour seals.  Morgan and Joah normally love watching the seals – but again, it was just too damn cold…  so we ended up abandoning our restaurant search and fleeing back to McGruntis (the name of our Jeep)… and driving home for a warm meal, blankets, a fireplace and DVD’s.

kalk bay
That is Morgan’s “I-am-cold-get-me-outta-here” face.

So there you have it…. a bit of a random’ish update about a few Cape Town places…

I am now going to warm up some leftover pizza… and watch a movie… and wait for Nick to Skype me (he’s in Jozi at the moment… wrapping up the latest film).  Chat later.  :-)

To preach… or not to preach. That is the question.

hout bay

Perhaps you can help me out with a question that I’m struggling to answer.

I’m trying to figure out…  how to “Speak my Truth”…  whether on this blog… or in my books and courses… or art… of life in general… but I’m not entirely sure what speaking my truth actually means.

I’m probably over thinking again…  but perhaps you can help me understand this process better.

Let me tell you how it started.

A while back, I read this quote on the Free Your Kids Facebook Page:

“You have wonderful ideas.  Ideas change the world and implementing them in your own life is a step to a better tomorrow.  But consider the possibility of opening your mouth and letting your message flow.  You may be mocked.  They may talk about you behind your back.  Eyes will be rolled.  But you’re planting seeds.

Seeds don’t germinate immediately.  The first time any of us was exposed to a new idea, a new way, a different paradigm, we probably rejected it out of hand.  But the seed had been planted.  Weeks, months, even years later, we encountered that idea again.  And it didn’t seem as freaky.  Our brains had acclimated to the new information.  After further exposure, we began independent research.  The idea began to seem less insane.  It seemed, dare I say, almost plausible.

Plant those seeds.  You may never see them bloom.  You may never see those lovely flowers.  You may never sit in that garden yourself.  But maybe your children or grandchildren will.  We change the world by changing one mind at a time.  By touching one heart at a time.  By planting one seed at a time”.

Now… I must confess… when I first read this, I loved it.

I resonated with the process that the quote described…  how change came gradually.

Let me use the whole homeschooling / unschooling thing as a case-in-point.  Not too long ago, I was the parent who strongly believed that homeschooling was only for paranoid, fearful, uber-religious people.  And I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as “unschooling” (and I would have been horrified if I did know).

When Morgan was small, I was firm and resolute in my beliefs:  Morgan would go to public school… just as I had… just as my parents had… just as everyone else had.

But… somewhere along the line, a seed was planted – and I can’t even tell you exactly where.  It could have been the shitty pre-school she attended.  It could have been the fact that “normal school” just seemed to make less and less sense.  It could have been the fact that I had utterly resented my own schooling – and I started questioning whether school had actually taught me anything (other than the basics of reading and counting)…  It could have been a conversation with somebody.   It could have been the fact that I was disturbed by how much Morgan was conforming… and trying so hard to “fit in” with other children at her pre-school.  It could have been the stupid rules she began parrot-fashioning…

Changing my mind about the schooling thing was a process.  A slow process.  There was lots of reading… research… and deep, intense discussions with Nick – and eventually, other families… who had taken that route.

Okay…

But here’s the thing that… I dunno… eats at me a bit (about the quote above)…

Did *somebody else* plant the seed that led to me educating my kids differently?  Was it a person (like a persistent evangelist who keeps sticking “Repent!” flyers on our gate) that planted-the-seed that eventually convinced me to reconsider my outlook on school?

I don’t know.  I have my doubts.

I don’t know if anybody planted a seed… and besides, the whole seed-planting thing sounds a bit creepy to me.  It reminds me of the days when I was a dogmatic Christian and believed I was “Right”… and everyone else was “Wrong”.  Back then, I was big on evangelising… and believed that we could “convert” people – or change their minds (usually using fear as a weapon:  “Where will YOU go when you die?” was a firm favourite).

“If people are only good because they fear punishment and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed” – Albert Einstein

Let’s just say that the Heather of today isn’t particularly enamoured with the idea of converting people… or convincing people… or trying to change the minds of people.

Actually – I’m not even sure whether it’s possible for me to change someone else’s mind…

I think people change their own minds…  I don’t think their minds are changed *for* them by someone else.

So…  while I am rather reluctant to “plant seeds”… or “change people’s minds”… I still think that there is a place – and a need – for connecting… and discussing… and questioning… and challenging… and inspiring.

And that’s what I’m interested in.

When Nick and I first took the big step of NOT enrolling our daughter into Grade 1… it was a scary – and lonely – place to be.

All of our friends either had children in school… or they were busy enrolling their kids in school.  We didn’t have a “tribe” of fellow homeschoolers  (and definitely not any unschoolers!)… and many, many times – I would question our decision… and Nick and I would ask each other:  “Are we sure this is the right thing?  Have we gone barking mad?  Are we going to regret this further on down the line?  Are we damaging Morgan by not sending her to school?”…

It was lonely.  It was scary.

But…  what a blissful, beautiful relief it was… to finally connect with other people (initially online connections which gradually turned into face-to-face meetings and friendships).

What a blissful relief to know this:  WE ARE NOT ALONE!  There are others out there who feel the same way as us!  There are others out there who are walking the same path!  We’re not the only people doing this… in fact, there is a massive (and rapidly growing) movement of people… all over the world… who are re-thinking “school”… and questioning what it means to “educate” – or to be “educated”…

And what a relief it was… to discover the writings of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto (who write the kind of stuff that resonates so strongly with me) … and even the less hardcore people like Ken Robinson… or Seth Godin.  And what a relief it was to plug into a network of unschooled adults – and to watch talks like this one… which simply reaffirmed that we were okay…  that we were on a path best suited for us… and that many others were walking that path too.

Part of the reason why I blog… is because I seek those kinds of connections.

And here’s the thing…  I don’t just seek out connections for *me*…  but I would also like to offer some inspiration and encouragement for those who still feel as though they’re walking the lonely road.  I want to raise my hand and say:  “Hey!  You’re not alone!  You’re not crazy!”…

And I can offer that place of understanding… I guess… for anyone who walks an unconventional road – who lives differently in some way.  I *get* the path less taken.  I understand what it’s like to live differently… and to feel so at odds with the world… and out of place… diagonally parked in a parallel universe…

And if I can be part of somebody’s tribe… and if I can offer a little space of encouragement and inspiration… for those who march to the beat of a different drum… well, let’s just say… that will make me very happy.

But… back to the “preaching” question.

I’m trying to understand where the line is drawn – as far as my honesty is concerned.  I mean – how much am I *really* allowed to share on this blog… before I start pissing people off and sounding all “preachy” as though I’m trying to “plant seeds”… or force some kind of unwelcome indoctrination down someone’s throat?

How much do I share about my thoughts on education… without coming off as angry… and condemning… (of the choices of others)…?

How much do I rant about the Rat Race… without making somebody (who works in a corporate job and negotiates the traffic every day) feel… I dunno… unwelcome… here?

How do I… “Speak My Truth”… without shaming the choices of others?

Perhaps the very wise Brené Brown has some additional insight in her book “Daring Greatly” (the chapter is about parenting… but try to read the following quote with a broader perspective in mind):

 “When you listen to conversations, or read books and blogs, about controversial and/or divisive issues in parenting, like how and where women labour, circumcision, vaccinations, co-sleeping, feeding, etc., what you hear is shame and what you see is hurt.  Deep hurt.  You see people – mostly mothers – engaging in the exact same behaviours that I earlier defined as shaming:  name-calling, put-downs and bullying.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe about these behaviours:  You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making.  Those are mutually exclusive behaviours and they create a huge values gap.  Yes, most of us (myself included) have strong opinions on every one of those topics, but if we really care about the broader welfare of children, our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support other parents who are doing the same.  Our job is also to tend to our own worthiness.  When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.

It’s easy to put up a straw man in this argument and say, “So, we’re just supposed to ignore parents who are abusing their children?”  Fact:  that someone is making different choices from us doesn’t in itself constitute abuse.  If there’s real abuse happening, by all means, call the police.  If not, we shouldn’t call it abuse.  As a social worker who spent a year interning at Child Protective Services, I have little tolerance for debates that casually use the terms abuse or neglect to scare or belittle parents who are simply doing things that we judge as wrong, different or bad”

Although Brene is talking about parenting in the quote above, I think that what she says applies to many situations.  I like the part where she says that “our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and to support (others) who are doing the same”.  But, it’s a fine line…  I think.  I want a space to be really honest about how I feel (about a number of topics)… and sometimes, honesty involves a rant! –  but, at the same time, I don’t want  those rants to alienate… or shame… people who believe differently to me.

But…  that said… I also don’t want to be so ridiculously watered-down and insipid… because I’m trying so desperately hard not to offend others or hurt their feelings!

“I cannot give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure:  try to please everybody, all the time” – Herbert Bayard

Where is the line drawn?

Is there a line?

Perhaps a quote by Socrates is in order:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

But… then again… it takes me right back to the first question:  IS it my goal to “change” people?  Is it my goal to “change” the world?  Is it my goal to “change” people’s minds?

Or is my goal to connect with… encourage… inspire… and challenge?

And if so – how do I do that whilst remaining true to myself… but without hurting, shaming or alienating others??

Thoughts???

Do I regret raising my kids like this?

disney2

This post is part 2 of this post… where I answer 2 questions from Claudia, a follower of this blog.

In her second question, Claudia asked:

“Once the kids grow up, do you think they’ll be unable to adapt to a less exciting lifestyle?  Will they be open minded but also full of unreachable expectations and unable to settle down with a regular person?  Do you see any great advantages in settling down and doing the routine-thing with a full calendar of activities on the fridge and growing up with a group of friends?  Will we be cheating our kids in any ways?  I guess my bottom line question is, do you have any regrets in regards to their upbringing?”

We took our kids on a 2-month road trip around the United States earlier this year.  One of the places we took them was Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida.

Well, anyone who has ever visited those places… will understand how overwhelmingly “wow’some” they are.

I remember a family member worrying that the Disney experience would “ruin” the kids… because surely, after experiencing the wonders of Disney World… nothing else would ever measure up.  And every other playground and theme park would be held up and compared with Disney… and found to be lacking.

“How”, she wondered, “will the kids be able to enjoy the smaller things… the ordinary things… the less impressive things… after visiting the ultimate kids’ playground?”.

As it turns out, she needn’t have worried.

Our kids have enjoyed every single experience…  whether the expensive, uber-entertainment of Disney… or the organic treehouse down the road… or the battered slide at the park.  As much as our kids loved Disney World (and they did)… they have equally embraced ‘lesser’ playground experiences with just as much joy and enthusiasm… simply because they don’t view those experiences as being ‘lesser’… just different.

I think that all of us… adults and children alike… should embrace – with enthusiasm – every opportunity to make beautiful memories and to make the best of our precious life.  And I think that beauty and happiness can be found in many different places – not only the ‘exciting’ places.  Some things are less exciting…  but meaningful and beautiful nonetheless.

I have enjoyed some wonderful, exciting, blood-pumping experiences is my life.

I’ve swam on the back of a Whale Shark, jumped off the Gouritz River Bridge, gone parasailing in the Pilansberg, wreck-diving off the Natal Coast, raced snowmobiles across frozen fields in Ohio, gone tobogganing in the Austrian Alps (among many other things)…

And yet… some of my favourite and most meaningful times are things like this:

  • enjoying a beautiful view (as I am right now, whilst typing this blog)
  • deep, meaty conversations with thinker friends
  • snuggling with my husband and kids in front of a fireplace
  • sitting at a lovely coffee shop, watching my kids play and enjoying a good cup of coffee
  • a good movie
  • a vase of fresh flowers

I don’t compare the “big” experiences with the “small” experiences.  The exciting things aren’t “more”…  they’re just different.

One of the things I value most about how we’ve chosen to live is this:  the experiences we’re enjoying and the memories we’re making.

Some of those experiences and memories are made on international travels… and wow’some opportunities.  Others are made in small organic playgrounds… or on the beach… or having coffee with a new friend… or sampling guava jam for the first time.

Playing "Shop-Shop" with some local kids at the playground down the road.
Playing “Shop-Shop” with some local kids at the playground down the road.

The kids have also had an incredibly diverse array of experiences.  The US Road-Trip was like a high-energy, on-the-move-all-the-time boost of wow’ness.  Here in Cape Town, we’re enjoying a different season.  Life is far slower… there are different things to appreciate now… different experiences to be had.  It’s not a ‘lesser’ experience than the US Road Trip… it’s just different.

Suffice to say…  I think our kids will be able to adapt beautifully to any lifestyle they choose.

And who knows… maybe, at a later stage in life, they will want to travel less.  Maybe I will want to travel less.  I honestly can’t say.

And Claudia, as to whether I see any great advantages in settling down and doing the whole routine thing…

I honestly don’t think it’s an either / or situation.  I think that many people are actually suited to the more settled life.  Not everyone wants to travel the world.  Not everyone enjoys The New.  Some people genuinely like a settled life… a town, a community… an established base… where they’re known and understood.  I definitely see value in that.

It doesn’t suit our family… (well, not right now, any way) – because we’re just not wired that way.  We thrive off The New.  We love adventure.  I have an unquenchable curiosity… a longing to know what’s around the next corner.  But obviously, not everyone is like me.

This blog – or at least I hope people know this by now…  isn’t about inferring that there’s a right or wrong way to live.

If there’s only one thing I fervently believe in, it’s this:  Live DELIBERATELY!  Live on purpose!  CHOOSE your path!

Don’t drift along… don’t fall into a routine because it’s what everyone else is doing… don’t keep trying to fit-in or live up to expectations that other people have placed upon your life.  Live deliberately!

If you have a dream to travel…. then travel!!

If your dream is to own a farm in the countryside and grow your own veggies and bottle your own jam – then do that!

If your dream is to start up your own business – then do that!

And… I think that if we, as parents, live deliberately… live purposefully… and follow our dreams… then we set a fantastic example for our kids.  And I don’t think we’ll be cheating them in any way at all.

If I have any regrets about my kids… and their upbringing….  it’s this:

I regret the early years.  I regret sending them to daycare from 7 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.  I regret placing so much value on my work (which I didn’t even ENJOY) – and thus my kids were shuttled away in order to accommodate nasty clients, uninspiring work and draining deadlines.  For what?  So we could afford to pay for a mountain of accumulated stuff??  

So… those are my regrets.  I regret those years.

But I don’t regret our lifestyle now.

Apart from all the beautiful memories we’ve made… and the amazing experiences we’ve all enjoyed…  I think the most important part is this:  Morgan and Joah get to be with present, happy parents.  They get quality time… family time… and loads of love.  They get to see what it means to live deliberately.  And they know that it’s possible for them to live deliberately too.  They get to see Mom and Dad happy.  And they know that it’s possible for them to be happy too.

And that’s what I ultimately want for my kids:  I want them to choose their path, to live on purpose… and to be happy.  :-)