Wanna see the odd things I draw?

I have a very busy, messy, disorganised brain.  One of the quirks I have (and I have a kinda love/hate relationship with this)… is my propensity to generate ideas.  On the one hand… I like that I’m full of ideas.  It’s been a character trait of mine for as long as I can remember (my other personalities will confirm this)… and I like that it’s easy for me to think up new ideas and to invent new concepts and projects.

On the other hand… it’s mentally exhausting.

It’s like the cakes are coming out of the cake machine on a conveyer belt…  but there’s too many of them, and they’re coming too fast… and there’s no time to ice them or eat them or store them or sell them… so they just start falling off the end of the conveyer belt in a big messy, sticky pile… and still… more cakes come.  And more cakes.  And more….

That’s my head.

Anyhoozers….

So ONE of the ways that I manage my sanity…  is to journal.  Except – my journals aren’t neat little moleskins with dated, neatly written entries.  My journals are dog-eared books of all shapes and sizes… and on the inside… you’ll find the regurgitated contents of my brain on any given day.   So… there’s scribbles and quotes and photos and bits of scrap and blobs of paint (I think in colours and textures almost as much as I think in words).

So… (at the risk of confirming a certain amount of lunacy)…  here’s some of my odd doodles (PS:  this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  I have mountains of this stuff.  Mountains, I tell you!)…

Heather Costaras

WHO are the mysterious “they-who-say”??  (a mystery I’m still pondering on….)

A quote from Anthony Hopkins that I try to remember…

A quote from Anthony Hopkins that I try to remember…

The front page of the Durban Film Festival booklet (I liked the design) and a little rant about systems...

The front page of the Durban Film Festival booklet (I liked the design) and a little rant about systems…

A lovely quote from Anne Lamott… and the author of Winnie the Pooh...

A lovely quote from Anne Lamott… and the author of Winnie the Pooh…

A random collage (whilst thinking about stupid rules) and a postcard I got from Knotts Berry Farm in California (many years ago)...

A random collage (whilst thinking about stupid rules) and a postcard I got from Knotts Berry Farm in California (many years ago)…

The beginnings of my Fuck-It List … (I have a number of extra items I could add)… and b&w version of the front cover of a chapter of one of my Hatbooks.

The beginnings of my Fuck-It List … (I have a number of extra items I could add)… and b&w version of the front cover of a chapter of one of my Hatbooks.

A pile of ideas… and another illustration (lots and lots of dots) drawn whilst fretting about the noise in my head.

A pile of ideas… and another illustration (lots and lots of dots) drawn whilst fretting about the noise in my head.

Experimenting with different styles of illustration… and a John Wayne quote on courage (because I was feeling particularly chicken that day)...

Experimenting with different styles of illustration… and a John Wayne quote on courage (because I was feeling particularly chicken that day)…

More ranting about systems.  The quote on the right is not mine (I have to dig up who said it)… but I resonated with it nonetheless….

More ranting about systems. The quote on the right is not mine (I have to dig up who said it)… but I resonated with it nonetheless….

On the left… a scribble whilst thinking about systems and being puppets… and on the right, a photo I took in Mozambique … with some scrawled idealisms...

On the left… a scribble whilst thinking about systems and being puppets… and on the right, a photo I took in Mozambique … with some scrawled idealisms…

Trying (and failing) to work out my elevator speech.  WTF am I supposed to say to people when they ask the inevitable:  "So… what do YOU do??"

Trying (and failing) to work out my elevator speech. WTF am I supposed to say to people when they ask the inevitable: “So… what do YOU do??”

So – there you have it.  The tip of the iceberg.

Anyone else out there that deals with ideas and head-noise in this manner?  How do YOU manage your ideas?  (Maybe I can garner some tips!)…  :-)

I don’t want that to be me

Here’s one of my songs.

Maybe one day, I’ll sing it to you.  :-)

I’m sitting in the corner booth of a crowded, franchised coffee bar… I can hear the conversations of the patrons passing through

There are four old ladies talking ’bout the things that mean the most to them:  soap opera plots and cooking pots and how to make good stew

And they talk about the price of peas, and how to oust a stain with ease and the children they no longer see and the husbands they once knew

And the “silly” dreams they once embraced, adventure that they never tasted, talent and potential wasted… and that was when I knew:  

I don’t want that to be me

I am stuck here in a traffic jam in the morning rush-hour drive… and I can see the drivers next to me, they barely seem alive

as they perform their daily duties and they hustle for their pay so they can pay the debt they owe the bank and last another day…

and they go to work in cubicles while wearing suit and tie… and they make the wealthy richer while their passions slowly die…

and they drown their woes on weekends and numb away the pain… and I have seen this all before, because my life was once the same  

(and I don’t want that to be me)

I am witnessing the funeral of a relative who died so unexpectedly and tragically… we’re here to say goodbye

And as the eulogies are read and all the people bow their heads, I know that we will soon forget about his… life

And is that all that we were meant to be?  A blip of mediocrity?  An antiquated memory in an overcrowded cemetery?

I don’t believe that’s how it’s meant to be… I think there’s more than what we see… I want to leave a legacy….

’cause I don’t want that to be me!

© 2013 Heather Costaras

Adventures with a Scam-Artist…

*sigh*…

It was inevitable, I guess.

We’ve been looking for furnished apartments to rent in Johannesburg for about a month now.  We wanted to stay in the Maboneng Precinct (but the only apartments available have been single-room bachelor pads)… so we decided to fish around for a place in Braamfontein.  I know a couple of folk who live and work in Braamies (and have been involved in a lot of the developments and upgrades there) – and we were very kindly hooked up with a nice, furnished loft apartment on Biccard Street.  It’s very small though… and I would have preferred something bigger…

And then I saw the ad (posted on Gumtree).  It was for a penthouse apartment;  2 bedrooms, wonderfully spacious – there was even a roof-top pool.  And – it was *cheaper* than the small apartment we had organised in Braamies.

Sure… it was a little bit out of our preferred area (closer to the public library than to the bustling coffee-shops and food market of Braamies)… but hey – it was BIG… and it was FURNISHED… and it had a DISHWASHER… and a POOL!

So – I sent an e-mail expressing my interest.

And I didn’t hear back from anyone.

“Rats!”, I say to Nick, “We’ve missed it.  Somebody got it before us”.

(This has happened a few times.  When people don’t get back to us, it’s usually because the apartment in question has already been taken).

But then today…  I received a very friendly message from somebody called Estelle Manera.  Estelle writes:

Hi,
  
Sorry for my late reply, I was completely overwhelmed by the large number of inquiries and just managed to respond them.
Thanks for your inquiry, I can rent my apartment for long/short term, is fully furnished but can be rented unfurnished too (same price), utilities included (water, electricity, internet). 
The monthly price is ZAR 7050. Pets are allowed. 
There is washer/dryer in the apartment, A/C, dishwasher, parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else.
Apartment Address is: The Bank, 87 Commissioner St, Johannesburg, Gauteng 2000
Please tell me what exactly are you looking for and which are your requirements, as well as some information about who is going to live in the apartment.
 
Thank you,
Estelle Manera
Hmmm.
And right there, my suspicions are aroused.  Something doesn’t feel right about Estelle’s reply.  First of all, most people would write R7050…  not ZAR 7050.  Secondly… who, in Jozi, says “Johannesburg, Gauteng, 2000″?
So I do a bit of googling on our friend, Estelle… and immediately find her on Brazil’s scam-list…  along with her reply to another website …. offering another apartment…. to somebody else.
Same old copy-and-paste method-of-the-Scammer.  Here’s her ad on the Brazillian website:

I can rent my apartment for short or long term; is fully furnished at the moment, but could be rented unfurnished too (same price); utilities included (water, electricity, condominium, internet). 
The monthly price is Reais 1110. Pets are allowed. 
There is washer/dryer in the apartment, A/C, dishwasher, parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else.
Apartment Address is: Rua Professor Lemos de Brito 27 – Barra – Salvador – Bahia – 40140-090
I uploaded more photos here (actual): http://postimg.org/gallery/acbepwia/
Please tell me what exactly are you looking for and which are your requirements, as well as some information about who is going to rent the apartment. 

Thank you,
Estelle Manera
estellestelle@outlook.com

Magically…. the Brazillian accommodation (with a whole new set of photos collected from God knows where)… has the exact same details as the apartment in Johannesburg.  Complete with “parking, safe neighbourhood, nice neighbours, very quiet, no noise, close to transportation and everything else”.
*sigh*
A scammer.  First things first, I report the gumtree advert as a fraud (don’t want other unsuspecting people to fall in to that trap – although I’m pretty sure that Estelle has a number of different properties for rent offered throughout the world… and someone is going to fall for it).
Her next e-mail arrived about 20 minutes ago.  It says:
Hi again Heather,
  
We can sign a Lease agreement between 3 months – 5 years, with the option to extend it further.
Couple info about me, I am a British woman in my thirties, recently divorced, worked 2 years in South Africa for the BBC News Channel and returned back to UK because I am pregnant, and I decided to rent my apartment so that I could pay my rent here in UK. The apartment became my property after the divorce was finalized. 
I am asking for the first month of rent (ZAR 7,050) plus 1 month as security deposit, it’s ZAR 14,100 in total. The security deposit (ZAR 7,050) is refundable at the end of your Lease.
The apartment is available for rent immediately, you only need to get the keys and the contract to check it, and see if you would like it. 
Obviously we need a way to complete our rental, that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after. For that I chose to hire an international Real Estate agency named STEWART International, who will intermediate the rental procedure for us (here are explained their real estate escrow services: http://www.stewart.com/international/escrow-services)
For more details don’t hesitate to contact me. 
 
Thanks,
Estelle Manera
By now… fully aware that it’s a scam (but I’m just oh-so-curious to see how she responds)… I ask whether somebody can visit the apartment today.  I get an immediate reply:
Dear Heather,
 
Just so you understand better, this is the Stewart International rental procedure:
-You give me your details (full name, current address, phone number) and I will register our transaction with STEWART 
-You will receive their confirmation after I register our transaction, and they give you further details/instructions.
-Then you pay STEWART the deposit of ZAR 14,100 (as per their invoice request)
-Once your deposit is validated, STEWART sends the keys and documents to your address and chose a convenient date and time for inspection (an agent will meet you at the apartment at the booked date/time).
-You will then have 14 days to decide if you want to rent the apartment, since the inspection date
-If you decide to rent the apartment, your Security Deposit (ZAR 7,050) will be held into their custody until the end of your lease when you will receive it back.
-If you do not want to rent the apartment, you give the keys/contract back to the agent and you get your money back at the moment (there won’t be any hiding/extra fees).
This will be in writing in the contract I will sign with this company. The company fees will be paid by me when I will initiate the procedure.
 
I will wait your soon reply and if you agree with everything, I will need your details and I will get the ball rolling with STEWART International 
 
Thanks,
Estelle Manera
Interesting that she links so frequently to Stewart (which seems to be a legit organisation).  I imagine that – should I pursue this further (out of sheer curiosity) – she’ll put me in contact with another *person* (probably herself pretending to be somebody from Stewart…. with a second e-mail address that has “stewart” in it somewhere) who will supply banking details.
Also… interesting to note how her e-mail address changes all the time.  First it’s estelle.manera@outlook.com – but in her messages to me, she supplies two more e-mails:  manera.estelle@outlook.com and estelle.estelle@outlook.com.   Jeez – how do these people keep up with it all? 

This – of course – is CLASSIC scam stuff…. the PAY FIRST to “release the apartment”… or to “release the money”… or whatever.  Big, big promises – but you *MUST* pay first.

So… I thought I had heard of all the typical internet scams… but this is the first time I’ve seen a property scam.  Very creative thinkers, these guys.
Anyhoo…. so we’re gonna end up in the Braamies apartment – even though it’s a bit of a squeeze.
As the old saying goes:  “If it seems too good to be true – it usually is”.
Nuff said.

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

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

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.

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.