Cliffs, canons, baboons and childhood memories…

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.  🙂

Do I regret raising my kids like this?

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.  🙂

 

Artisan chocolate, wine estates and family reunions

So, about 3 weeks ago, we had visitors!

First, Cousin Mike spent a few days with us… and after he had left, Nick’s brother (Dino) arrived with his two girls, Danni & Gabi.

Morgan and Joah adore their cousins and had been really missing them, so it was a very exciting treat to have the girls come to stay for a week.  Nick’s parents flew in for a few days as well.

One of the (many) things I love about Cape Town is how MUCH there is to do here.  Much of Cape Town’s life-blood is tourism and there are many, many wonderful things to do and see.  First stop was the beach.  Morgan and Joah were super-excited to show Gabi and Danni “their” beach.  There was much running, playing and burying each other in sand…

The 4 cousins high-speeding towards the sea...

The 4 cousins high-speeding towards the sea…

The sea - yay!

The sea – yay!

The girls in their element...

The girls in their element…

Gabi making a sand mermaid tail for Joah...

Gabi making a sand mermaid tail for Joah…

Family fun on Long Beach...

Family fun on Long Beach…

The following day, we decided to take a drive to Somerset West to visit Vergelegen Wine Estate.    Vergelegen is a real treat.  As with most of Cape Town’s wine estates…  it’s not just a farm with vineyards.  There’s 2 restaurants, beautiful picnic spots, wine tours and wine tasting, a kid’s playground, a historic manor house and museum… and gardens….  beautiful, beautiful gardens…. with fountains and ancient camphor trees… and so much more!

Here’s some photos:

wine estate 3

(Above) – This is the restaurant where we had lunch.  It’s surrounded by gorgeous gardens, fountains… and this lovely view (Joah’s bum notwithstanding):

wine estate 5

There’s also a lovely play area for the kids…

wine estate 4

After lunch, we took a stroll around the gardens.  The old manor house is a real treat and had me ooooh’ing and aaaaah’ing….  and then, there were the camphor trees.  The massive 300 year old camphor trees… (which I instantly fell in love with)…

wine estate tree

Dino and the kids on one of the camphor trees...

Dino and the kids on one of the camphor trees…

And ancient oaks too…

The kids exploring the inside of Africa's oldest oak tree (planted somewhere between 1700 and 1706)...

The kids exploring the inside of Africa’s oldest oak tree (planted somewhere between 1700 and 1706)…

And here’s a photo of the kids and I with my brother-in-law, Dino…  my mother-in-law… and my 2 neices (Nick is taking the photo):

wine estate

 

More niceness at the Wine Estate (including my awesome male)… :-)

More niceness at the Wine Estate (including my awesome male)… 🙂

Another place we visited (with Dino and the girls)… was The Spice Route.

We first stopped for lunch at Fairview Wine & Cheese Estate (next door to Spice Route).  It was a truly beautiful setting…. and there was a bakery… and dairy… and a goat tower… and a shop selling all kinds of yummy delicacies.  My only regret was that we went on a Sunday – and it was packed with people.  Packed!  Next time, I’ll take the kids on a week day… and we’ll go and watch how goats are milked and how cheese is made.

After lunch, we hopped over to The Spice Route next door.  Oh – I LOVE it there!  It’s like a mini village of shops and restaurants all offering various, made-on-the-premises goodies and treats.

Cousins, fountains & fish...

Cousins, fountains & fish…

spice route2

La Grapperia pizza restaurant is one of the venues at the Spice Route… (next time, we’ll eat lunch there)…

We decided to stop over at the coffee and chocolate place – DV Artisan Chocolate, Roastery & Espresso Bar… and…. omigosh…!  It was such a treat!  I’m definitely going back (when there are less people!)…

The chocolate is made on site… and you can stand and drool next to big, glass windows while the machines churn big pots of melted chocolate before your eyes.  You can also do a chocolate tasting…  I guess it’s like wine tasting… where a clever person who know a lot about chocolate tells you all about the different flavours and textures and how everything is made.  (I would have signed up for that – but there were just way too many people that day).

We decided to sit down and order some coffee and chocolatey things…  yum!  Here’s some pics:

Joah is clearly enjoying the home-made chocolate ice-cream...

Joah is clearly enjoying the home-made chocolate ice-cream…

Some of the artisan chocolate on offer at DV's...

Some of the artisanal chocolate on offer at DV’s…

artisanal

During the same week, my mom was in Cape Town.  She was staying with her friend, but we decided to meet up for a morning, strolling around Kirstenbosch Gardens (another one of those must-do places in Cape Town).  Mom had brought along some prezzies for Morgan and Joah… and hit the jackpot with a French knitter and some wool for Morgan… (who has regularly kept at it ever since).  Here’s some pics:

Morgan with her gift-from-Granny… a French knitting gadget...

Morgan with her gift-from-Granny… a French knitting gadget…

She just kept knitting while we walked… and every time we stopped, she'd find a little spot in the sun… and knit!

She just kept knitting while we walked… and every time we stopped, she’d find a little spot in the sun… and knit!

Joah pretending to be dead.

Joah enjoying the soft grass.

Me, Mom and the kids… at beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Me, Mom and the kids… at beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens.

It was lovely seeing my mom again.  I would like her to come and stay with us for a whole week… and I would definitely like to take her to visit the Spice Route.  Another person I’m desperately missing is my sister.  I haven’t seen Soo since late October last year!  We were packing up for our 2-month US Road Trip… and Soo was in Nigeria on business.  When we touched base in Joburg earlier this year, Soo was in Nigeria again.  So we keep missing each other – and now I really miss her!  I’d love to have a good catch up over some coffee and something yummy.

Travel has it’s many pro’s…  but missing friends and family (wherever they are in the world) is always the downside.

Anyway… before Dino and the girls headed back to Joburg, we got to take all of the kids to the aquarium and also for a boat tour around Cape Town harbour.

The cousins and the clown fish at the Cape Town Aquarium...

The cousins and the clown fish at the Cape Town Aquarium…

aquarium2

And they loved the boat tour, of course!

And they loved the boat tour, of course!

It was actually quite funny (on the day we took the kids on the boat tour).  Nick had to fly back to Joburg for a meeting so Dino and I ended up taking the kids.  The boat tour guide got the idea that I was “Mommy” and Dino was “Daddy”… and that all four kids were mine!  Eeek!

Needless to say… Morgan and Joah had a marvellous and very happy time with Cousin Mike, Yia-Yia, Papou, Granny, Nano (the name they call Dino)… and Cousins.  Now they’re nagging me for time with Matt & Erin… and Adelaide… and have told me that they also miss Isabelle and Grace (in Ohio!)… and they want to see Keren again… and why does cousin Kyra have to live so far… and when can they visit the Karoo to see Edwina again…. etc… etc…

Like I say, this travel-thing has it’s pros and cons.  Missing people is the hardest part.

How dreams helped me escape my old life

About 6 years ago… when I was still living my old life…

  • When I was still working long hours in a job that exhausted and drained me…
  • When I was still rooted in suburbia, surrounded by all my *stuff*…
  • When I was still drowning in debt…
  • When I was still dropping my kids off at pre-school at 7am (and fetching them at 5pm)…
  • When I was still 30 kilograms heavier, dressed in drab-baggies… and filled with self-loathing…

Back then, I used to have a little daily ritual.

Every day, at lunch time, I would leave my phone with my secretary and I would ask her to take messages… and I would visit the Wimpy restaurant down the road from my office.  (For international readers, Wimpy is like a slightly more upmarket Mac Donalds).

And every day, I would visit that Wimpy… and I would sit in the same place – a corner booth – and I would order the same thing:  a Wimpy double cheeseburger with chips and a coke (and later, a coffee).

And I would sit there… alone… in my corner booth.

With my cheeseburger.

And with a pen… and a notepad.

And I would allow myself to DREAM.

I would allow myself to… IMAGINE… what a different life might look like.

What would I want from a different kind of life?  What would I LOVE to be doing with my time?  What would my daily routine look like?  Where would I live?  What would I do?  What would make me happy?  What would make my family happy?  How could we live differently?

And I would write these dreams down in my notebook.  And I would draw some pictures.  And I would allow my mind the complete freedom to just… imagine the possibilities.

The dreams for my life materialised there… in that Wimpy corner-booth.  In that space of depression and frustration… the first seeds were planted.

And every day, I watered those seeds.  

And my “What if’s…”  slowly became…  “Maybe we actually could…”  which slowly became… “Maybe we actually should…”  which became  “What the heck is stopping us?  Let’s DO this thing!”.

Which then led to the mini-holiday in the Southern Drakensberg of Easter 2012 – when Nick and I solidified our decision and decided to make our dreams a reality.

Today – I type this to you, as I sit at Blue Water Cafe… a charming restaurant which overlooks the valleys and mountains of the Southern Peninsula of  Cape Town.  The restaurant itself is situated in an old, renovated farmhouse.  The walls are thick… the ceilings are high… there are beautiful proteas (my favourite flower) in glass jars on every table.

I’m sitting at a large, wooden table.  There’s more than enough room for my artwork, my laptop, our food… and there’s a lovely cup of coffee next to me.

No more Wimpy.  No more lousy, processed, plasticky cheeseburgers washed down with a coke and gulp of self-loathing.

I’m here now.

bluewater cafe

As I’m typing this post on my laptop, I’m watching my kids.  There’s a lovely organic playground outside… and the kids have made friends and are climbing trees, feeding horses and running free.  Every now and then, they’ll drop in for a bite of food or a sip of water… then off they go again.  Full-tilt.

We’ve been in Cape Town for 3 months.  Before that, we were road-tripping around the United States for 2 months.  Before that, we were road-tripping and road-schooling in the Karoo, the Eastern Cape and Hoedspruit.

Next month, we’ll move on to Durban… for the Film Festival… and then later in the year, another international trip (but I’ll tell you about those plans when we have the plane tickets).

We’re nomadic now.  We travel slowly… and we rent furnished apartments or homes as we journey along.  We own very little stuff.  Our own house in suburbia is rented out – and we live very comfortably on a combined income generated from the rental of our home, Nick’s work as a filmmaker… and my work as an illustrator (which is now morphing in to something else).

Nick and I are able to generate an income anywhere… as long as we have our computers and access to the internet.  Right now, as I type this, he is finishing off the post-production of his latest film project… while he enjoys an uninterrupted sea view from our rented apartment on Beach Road, Noordhoek.

We road-school and world-school our kids.  We are happy… and very, very content.

So… today, I am grateful.

So very, very, very grateful – for everything that has changed and everything that has happened in our lives.

Every now and then, I think back to that corner booth… in that Wimpy (which has since closed down)… and, I’m grateful even for those experiences.  Miserable though I was at the time.

Because that’s where the dream-seeds were planted.  And that’s where change was birthed.  In the corner booth of a crowded, franchised restaurant.

I’m dreaming a new dream now.  A big, crazy (scary!!) dream.   And I’m watering it daily.  It’s not ready yet… not ripe enough for plucking and enjoying…  but every day, I water it.  Every day I invest into it.

Every day, I dream.

My Bathtub Moment (the moment I knew my life HAD to change)

I thought I’d start out the New Year with a story…

Some folk (and especially those who are new and/or who don’t know much of my personal journey) may wonder how we ended up doing what we’re doing.  What compelled us to turf all our stuff?  What made us ditch the debt, rent out the house, take the kids out of school… and begin a nomadic  existence of travel and exploration?

Well…  here’s an important part of story:  I call it my Bathtub Moment.

The moment… when I knew… with utmost clarity and certainty that my life had to change.

My life didn’t need slight tweaks and adjustments… it needed to change.

As in:  completely.

As in:  irrevocably.

The entire trajectory of my existence needed to shift on to a different course.  It needed to be different.  Very, very different.  And I knew… with certainty… that I could never go back.

See that miserable person?  That's me… in my studio… taken somewhere around the time of my Bathtub Moment….

See that miserable person? That’s me… in my studio… taken somewhere around the time of my Bathtub Moment….

It was mid-2007.

At the time, I owned a graphic design and below-the-line ad agency called COPS Creative Corporation.

I don’t exactly know how I ended up with that company.  It certainly wasn’t on my list of Life’s Big Dreams (to own a design agency).  I probably ended up in that position for the same reason that (most?) people end up doing the stuff they do.

I kinda… drifted there.

It just sorta… happened.

It’s like I had been swept up by the tidal wave of life… and dumped unceremoniously on a shore I’d never intended visiting.

It went something like this:

  • I have a creative talent.
  • I started doing freelance design work for a few friends.
  • Word spread.
  • More clients came along and asked me to design for them.
  • Eventually, there was too much work for me to be able to manage on my own… so I hired another designer to help me – and voila! a business was born!

By 2007, the business had grown significantly.  I employed 10 people (excluding myself).  8 people were employed by COPS and, on the home-front, I employed another 3 – including a full-time nanny (who cared for 2-year-old Morgan) and a full-time housekeeper.

In 2007, my life was… kinda like a runaway train.  It surged ahead, full-steam… and although I knew that I should have been up front in the cab, powering the train and tooting the whistle… it felt as though the train was driving itself, and I was limping on the train-tracks, far behind the train, frantically trying to catch up.

It was exhausting and disheartening.

At the time, Nick and I lived in a large suburban home which we had moved in to shortly after we’d married in Feburary 2005.  Morgan arrived in November 2005.  Joah followed in March 2008.

The house (and attached cottage) was our home… but was also a studio for Nick (a filmmaker)… and the headquarters of COPS.

My company created advertising and promotional campaigns for a number of clients.  I once heard somebody (I think it was a copywriter) refer to this kind of work as “rolling other people’s turds in glitter”.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what it felt like.

Sometimes, I not only disliked the clients… but I thought their products and services were horrible.  Horrible and turdish.  And yet – I would need to don the polite-and-enthusiastic-smile… and invent creative ways to promote said turdish product… to glitterize it… to make it more palatable to the general public… to generate sales for my clients.

(Obviously this isn’t true of all of my clients – I had some lovely clients too) – but it felt as though most of them (and certainly the large, arrogant corporations) required me to do lots of turd-rolling.

One of my largest clients was a company that owed hotels.

LOTS of hotels.

They were a big, hotel-owning company and (like all big corporations) they were concerned about one thing:  The Bottom Line.

I did lots and lots of turd-rolling for this company.

And I did lots of corporate brown-nosing in their bling-encrusted boardrooms (whilst sipping their shitty coffee). I’d talk the jargon-talk and dazzle them with assurances of how *amazing* their next campaign would be.

Then I’d go home… and my designers and I would work crazy hours in order to meet the demands and expectations of the client.

My Bathtub Moment was, in a sense, the fruit of this particular hotel-owning client.

And I remember it as though it were yesterday…

When it happened, Nick was away on an international shoot.  Nick was usually my reliable buffer when the shit hit the fan.  If I had crazy deadlines, he’d make sure that Morgan was taken care of (during the evenings… or over weekends and holidays when the nanny wasn’t there).

But, on this occasion, Nick was away.  For 3 solid weeks.

And during those 3 weeks, my hotel-owning client suddenly decided (at the last possible moment) that they wanted to exhibit at Indaba (a huge expo for the travel & hospitality industry, held in Durban every year).

Not only were they going to exhibit at Indaba, but they needed thousands of printed fact sheets, posters, brochures (and every kind of promotional material imaginable) for ALL of their hotels.

ALL of these items needed to be designed, printed and delivered to their flashy double-storey exhibit by 7am on the first morning of Indaba.

We had 2 weeks to pull it off.  2 weeks!!

Usually… a job of this size will take the printing company – alone – 2 weeks to produce (at a push).  And we needed to first DESIGN the whole lot… and have it all checked and proofed and signed off before I could send a single item to the printer.

To cut a long story short, I worked like a rabid dog for those 2 weeks.  I lived on a cocktail of coffee and Red Bull.  I slept in short spurts.  I paid the nanny overtime to help me with Morgan in the evenings (she bathed her, fed her and put her to bed).

I sent the work to the printing company in stages.  As soon as one fact sheet had been proofed and signed-off, I immediately forwarded the artwork to the printer.  At one stage, I humiliated myself when I begged my printer… (like a dog!)… literally, I begged him… with genuine tears in my eyes to “Please, please, please… make it happen, please!” – when he told me that he just didn’t think it was possible to have everything printed by the prescribed deadline.

“It has to be ready”… I begged him, “Please, it has to…”

I was really worried that I wouldn’t have everything at the Indaba exhibit by 7am on launch day – as expected.  I fretted about what might happen if I didn’t meet that deadline.

What if I lost the client?  And how would we pay all the bills and salaries without that hotel-owning client?

A day before the deadline, I was pacing my studio like a restless, caged animal.

I’d phone the printer.

“Is everything ready yet?  Can I collect?”

“No!  Not ready yet!”

The hotel-owning client was also phoning me… regularly.

“Are you on your way to Indaba?”, they’d ask.

“No, I’m still in Joburg.  I’m waiting for the printing to come off the press”.

What?  Why isn’t it ready yet?” they demanded, seemingly oblivious to how much of my life I had given up… and how much turd-rolling I had taken on for them.  No, wait…  I wasn’t turd-rolling.  For this particular job, it felt as though I had submerged myself in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of corporate poo!

By 5pm, I was starting to get desperate.  I phoned the printing company again:

“Please, please tell me that it’s ready”…

“It’s off the press.  We’re just waiting for the ink to dry.  Then we’ll score, fold and send it through the guillotine”

“It’s not cut yet?” – I asked, feeling the desperation and panic beginning to rise like bile in my throat…

“We’re doing the best we can, Heather” – said the printer, sounding distinctly unfriendly.  He had a bite to his voice that suggested that his patience was wearing really, really thin.

By 8:15pm, the job was ready.

I had packed a small, overnight bag, dropped Morgan off at her grandparents and had driven my Renault Modus to the printing factory.  The staff helped me to load 10 000 copies of fact sheets, brochures and posters into my small car.  The printed material engulfed my Modus.  It filled the boot, the back seat (I couldn’t even see out my rearview mirror)… and it towered precariously on the passenger seat next to me.

I was worried that if I made an abrupt turn in my car, that the mountain of printing would topple over and crush me like an insect.

The weight was clearly too much for the Modus.  The axles creaked… the tyres looked as they would burst under the strain – but I didn’t care.  I had possession of the completed artwork.  Now I just needed to drive it all to Durban (700 kilometres / 435 miles away).

With my overnight bag, 8 tins of Red-Bull and a tiny car… overloaded with printed promotional material… I drove, through the night, from Johannesburg to Durban.

Oh – and did I mention…?  I was also pregnant with Joah at the time!

I was beyond exhausted… beyond stressed… beyond sleep-deprived.  I drove with the windows down so that the cool night air would (hopefully) keep me awake so that I (hopefully) wouldn’t plunge myself off a ravine… or something.

About an hour in to my drive, I received a phone call.  It was from the hotel-owning-client (the CEO himself).

“Where the FUCK are you?” he barked into my ear.

Just as I was about to explain… in my most polite, brown-nosing voice… and tell him that I was on the road, that the job would be delivered on time… the battery on my phone went flat.

I drove the rest of the way to Durban with the knowledge that the CEO was foaming-at-the-mouth-mad at me… expecting me not to show up on time (if at all).

Just the knowledge of this, filled me with dread.

I arrived at my hotel at 3 in the morning.  It was a beautiful, 5-Star establishment and I was shown to my lavish suite by a polite porter (I had tried to book a cheaper hotel, but, with Indaba on the go, every reasonably priced hotel room in the whole of Durban was booked up.  Only super-expensive places were available).

I slept for 2 hours… woke at 5am… showered, dressed, ate breakfast… and returned to my loaded Modus, only to discover:  a flat tyre!

The Modus was going nowhere.

I  felt that familiar feeling of panic begin to rise:  “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  I have to have all this stuff at the hotel exhibit… at Indaba… in the centre of town… at 7am!  It’s now 6am… and I have a flat tyre!”

Thankfully… mercifully… my cousin was also attending Indaba (she and her husband own a lodge in Limpopo and they were also exhibiting that year).  I phoned Clare, explained my predicament and her husband, Michel, drove to my hotel… helped me re-load all the shrink-wrapped parcels into his van… and helped me deliver the whole lot… ON TIME… to the hotel-owning client’s flash double-storey exhibit.

After off-loading the trolley… I sank down on to the floor in a daze.

It was at that moment that the hotel-owning CEO arrived on the scene (the one who had sworn at me on the phone the night before… and who had since left a number of threats and choice words on my voice-mail during the course of the evening).

He was striding, red-faced, down the aisle… followed by a small cluster of worried-looking, note-taking minions.  Upon reaching his exhibit, he stopped abruptly… glared darkly at me and turned his attention to the mountain of neatly-stacked printed material that I had delivered.  Realising that everything was there… on time… he glanced back at me, delivered a curt nod, spun on his heel, and left.

No “thank-you”, no acknowledgement… absolutely nothing.

I was simply the hired help – and I was expected to do whatever it took… to deliver the goods.  If I had plunged the Modus off a cliff-face in the middle of the night… and died… his biggest concern would have been whether there were enough salvageable pamphlets for Indaba.

Michel dropped me back at my hotel.

I went to my suite, put on some music and sunk into a very hot bath.

I so desperately wanted Nick and Morgan with me.  I wanted them in that hotel room with me.  I wanted to lean against Nick and feel the reassurance of his warm hugs.  I wanted to scoop up my baby girl and just BE with her.  I wanted to see her beautiful face.  I wanted to listen to her laughter.

But, I was alone in that tub… in that big, 5-star-suite.

Exhausted… stressed… and alone (well, not entirely alone… I had a baby boy growing inside of me, at the time).

And THAT was when my Bathtub Moment happened.

I started to cry… as in howl-cry.

Big salty tears plopped into the steaming bath water… and I howled some more.

And then I started to QUESTION.

“Why am I here?  What am I doing?  Why am I doing this work?  Why am I putting up with these turdish clients?  Why am I running this business?   Is it WORTH it?  Is it worth the humiliation?  The stress? Was this my dream?  Did I even want this?  If I didn’t want it, why am I doing it? Is this all there is?  Is this what life is supposed to be like?  Is it possible to escape this?  Is it possible to change this?  Is it possible to dig myself out of this hole?  Is it possible to re-imagine and re-design my entire life? …”

Deep down, I already knew all the answers to the questions that I was spewing out.  Deep down, I already knew what needed to be done.  The Bathtub Moment was simply the first time I had articulated it to myself… the first time I’d given myself permission to feel… and dream… and to decide that I wanted something else for my life.  Something different.

And so, right there, right then… I decided.

Just like that.

The decision was made.

—————-

After I had returned from Joburg… after Nick had returned from his shoot, I told him what I wanted to do.

“I want to shut down COPS.  It’s just killing me slowly.  And the stress is not worth the money I make”.

Nick agreed.  And that was the end of that.  I closed the business.  Shut it all down.  My staff found other work.  I phoned all of my clients and told them they’d have to find a new design agency.  We sold the computers.  Shut down the shop.  Paid the last of the bills.  And just like that… it was gone.

COPS Creative Corporation was no more.

And just like that… I had the freedom to decide:  “What do I want to actually DO with my life?”…

And… I think… I’m only just beginning to figure out the answer to that question.

Thanks for reading!

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A typical day in the life of the Costaras family

Yesterday, I had a conversation with somebody who had a lot of questions about our life.

“You don’t send you kids to school??”

“You’re travellling where?”

“How do you make the money to fund this life?”

“If you’re looking after kids the whole day – how can you find time just to be yourself?”

I understand his curiosity.  I’m a naturally curious person myself – and I find the diversity of people fascinating!  I love to take a peek into the daily lives of people from around the world… and I love browsing those big coffee table books which show photos of different families from around the planet… what their homes look like… what kind of food they enjoy… what *life* looks like for them.

I’ve also recently read a post from a friend about what a day in the life of her travelling family looks like… and I found the little details soooo interesting!

So… without further ado…  here’s a very Normal or Typical Day-in-the-Life of the Costaras family:

We usually wake up at around 7am… and it’s usually the kids who wake us.  They both come upstairs and join us in bed for a morning snuggle… which, inevitably… turns in to a morning wrestle!

Nick (who is very disciplined with his time)… has a shower and heads off to the cottage attached to our house (which is his studio).  Today – Nick has a 9am meeting with Josh… the director of a TV drama that Nick is currently editing.

In the meantime, I go downstairs and make myself a mug of coffee… which I drink while checking e-mails and browsing social media.

Everyone in the family makes their own breakfast… (when they feel like eating breakfast).  We don’t have a timed schedule for eating.  When somebody is hungry – they go and make themselves something to eat.  Nick likes muesli with yoghurt.  The kids like cornflakes or weetbix with milk and sugar – and I’m never hungry in the morning (I have a coffee… and, if I remember, I’ll take a multi-vitamin too).

Today, the kids start their day with lego.  Morgan makes an Angel Fish and Joah builds a “Rainbow Fish”.  After lego play, they grab the iPad and access the Garage Band app.  They record an improv song – and create sound samples out of their voices.  This is followed by some piano time (Joah) and ballet moves (Morgan).

Morgan in her jammies... creating lego wonders...

Morgan in her jammies… creating lego wonders…

I have a few things on my plate too.  One of the toilets in our newly renovated bathrooms has sprung a leak – so I need to call the plumber to sort it out.  I also need to sort out US visas for the kids and buy a cool, cotton top for myself since the weather has turned hot (very quickly) and I don’t have much in the way of Summer clothes.

Tomorrow, I’m flying to Cape Town for 3 nights – as part of the Inspired Individuals initiative… so there’s a few things I need to pack – and I need to stock the kids and Nick up on groceries before I go.  I’m a bit worried about Nick – because he has a mountain of work on his plate… and will simultaneously need to care for the kids while I’m in Cape Town.

I’m busy working on “Mad Hatster’s Coffee Cabaret” and a “One-Month-Book”… so, to get the kids out of the house (and simultaneously get some work done)… I pack the kids (and a whole lot of art material) in the car and we drive to Pappachinos.

My little work nest at Pappachinos...

My little work nest at Pappachinos…

Pappachinos is my favourite Joburg restaurant.  They have an awesome play area for children (with child minders in attendance for small kidlets)… and they serve fabulous food and great coffee.  Unlike other restaurants, they don’t charge a fee for children to play in their (huge) play area.  I visit Pappachinos for these reasons:

  • I am able to work or draw (relatively undistracted).
  • Morgan and Joah get a lot of play-time, climb-time and exercise (and they enjoy the company of the other kids).
  • There’s great coffee (!)

Today, we spend about 3 hours at Pappachinos.  The kids eat a large brunch… and I quaff down 3 cappuccinos.

Morgan got a bit of art and writing in too...

Morgan got a bit of art and writing in too…

Sketching ideas for Mad Hatster's Coffee Cabaret... (at first it was going to be Tea-Party... but I changed my mind)...

Sketching ideas for Mad Hatster’s Coffee Cabaret… (at first it was going to be Tea-Party… but I changed my mind)…

Back at home,  Morgan builds a mini “aquarium” while Joah returns to his lego.  Then, the kids decide they want a cool bath (because it’s so hot).  I let them enjoy the occasion while I write out a grocery list.  Nick is still locked down in the edit suite with Josh.

That's my bedroom... if you look closely - you can see Morgan and Joah in the tub enjoying a cool bath on a hot day...

That’s my bedroom… if you look closely – you can see Morgan and Joah in the tub enjoying a cool bath on a hot day…

Morgan's "aquarium"...

Morgan’s “aquarium”…

After the kids’ mid-day cool-bath… we hop back in the car and drive to (dread!) Pick ‘n Pay… to stock up on food and groceries.  I really… really… REALLY… don’t like shopping.  I don’t like malls.  I don’t like supermarkets.  I don’t like shopping, in general.

But I shop anyway… because our fridge is empty and needs to be re-stocked.

At least there was some weird fruit for us to play with!

At least there was some weird fruit for us to play with!

We come home… and unpack the groceries.  Morgan plays with the big Leapfrog Interactive World Map… Joah plays with a set of magnets and asks me to explain why the magnets repel or attract (depending on how you turn them).

At 6pm – Nick comes in from his studio.  We catch up on the day’s events and chat about a few things while Nick eats supper (leftover chilli con carne from Mexican Fresh with hot seeded rolls from Pick ‘n Pay).  Then Nick plays with the kids (while I type this blog).  As I type… all 3 of them are crowded around the iPad… giggling at some kind of monster game and crunching on pretzels coated with sesame seeds.  Just now… I will tuck the kids in bed and read them a story.

Then I’ll pack my suitcase for tomorrow’s trip… soak in a hot bath… and maybe I’ll snuggle up on the couch with a book or a movie.  Nick – unfortunately – has deadlines coming out of his ears… so he’ll be working until late tonight.  He has another 9am meeting tomorrow morning and needs to finish a LOT of editing before then…

So – that was today.

But the thing is… there is never a day that is the same as the last in our household.  Just by virtue of the work Nick and I do… there is always something different happening at our home.

Here’s what our weekend looked like:

On Friday, we spent the day in a 4m deep dive pool – shooting a model who was swirling and spinning underwater in a big, floaty dress.  It’s been a while since I’ve been scuba-diving… but, as I kitted up (and fussed about a missing O-ring)… it felt like only yesterday since I was cruising the depths with whale sharks and moray eels.

Nick directing the shot at the top of the pool... the blob underneath... 4m down... is me.

Nick directing the shot at the top of the pool… the blob underneath… 4m down… is me.

Yellowy-greeny blob is the model swimming near the surface.  Dark blob is me at the bottom - shooting upwards.

Yellowy-greeny blob is the model swimming near the surface. Dark blob is me at the bottom – shooting upwards.

On Saturday, we had more renovators at our home (repairing our driveway and finishing off the last of the painting in the bathrooms).  At 1pm, we drove to Braamfontein and fetched our Sri Lankan friend, Prabu, from his hotel… and enjoyed a lazy lunch at Tasha’s in Rosebank with Prabu (while the kids splashed in the nearby fountains and munched on chocolate croissants).

Prabu & Nick at Tashas in Rosebank...

Prabu & Nick at Tashas in Rosebank…

In the evening, Nick, Prabu, Joel (friend from DC) and Rogan  (good friend of many years)… went out to watch a movie while I curled up on the couch with chocolate and a DVD.

On Sunday, we went to our community debate/discussion group called Imagine (Prabu came too).  We had a fantastic conversation about what it means to live in “the NOW”.  Afterwards, we drove to Joburg’s Arts-on-Main where my friends Tracy and Bernice were launching their new range of up-cycled furniture called “Ternary” – (I’m very very proud of them!)… and I quaffed a yummy Lebanese schwarma (and Morgan ate 2 Nutella pancakes… and Prabu sampled chilli biltong).

Tracy and me.  Tracy is a very dear friend.  I've known her since the age of 12 and we were best friends throughout high school.  I am SO proud of what she has accomplished...

Tracy and me. Tracy is a very dear friend. I’ve known her since the age of 12 and we were best friends throughout high school. I am SO proud of what she has accomplished…

Chatting to Tracy and Bernice (also a friend I have known forEVER!)... I so enjoy their company and definitely don't see them enough!!!

Chatting to Tracy and Bernice (also a friend I have known forEVER!)… I so enjoy their company and definitely don’t see them enough!!!

Joah pulling faces in a Ternary mirror...

Joah pulling faces in a Ternary mirror…

Yummy Lebanese lunch...

Yummy Lebanese lunch…

Then… back home… where we were met by our friends Joel & Megan (currently visiting from DC with their daughter, Juno)… and our good friends Rogan and Tracey (plus kids)… and, of course, Prabu… and we chatted… laughed… and ate Nick’s fried haloumi, coffee from Burundi (courtesy of Prabu), Greek baklava, chocolate croissants from Fournos, Tracy’s rice-crispy-marshmallow squares, chocolate (Prabu again), a huge bowl of fresh strawberries with cream.  Yummy-ness!

The food...

The food… (or rather – what was left of it!  Notice the lone piece of fried haloumi on the plate)…

The friends...

The friends…

More friends...

More friends…

So there you have it… this is sorta-kinda what our lives look like – depending on the day.

Obviously – all of this will change significantly once we’re more “nomadic” in and after November… but for now – this is what it is.

Anyone else care to share some links with me about what YOUR daily life looks like?  I’m sooo curious about this kind of thing….

Our week in photos…

Since it’s a nice, relaxing Sunday…  I thought I’d just post a few random photos of our week (I think my brain is too chilled to bother with long-winded post writing)…

Last week… I did a fair amount of writing… (of the screenplay)… with lots of illustrations and scribbles slotted in between… and lots of stewing and brooding on my many projects and ideas and what should take priority over what…

As usual… there was coffee involved…

IMG_6464

IMG_6460

IMG_6493

Last weekend… we enjoyed a lovely family Saturday.  We spent the morning at 44 Stanley (collection of arty, eclectic shops and coffee places with GOOD live music and GOOD food)…

Waiting for our food (Joah looks like he's licking the menu)...

Waiting for our food (Joah looks like he’s licking the menu)…

After lunch… we went to watch the Johannesburg Youth Ballet perform Hansel & Gretel.  Morgan was totally enamoured and has now decided that she “wants to go back to ballet”… and to “get serious” about practicing  (the last time we had her at ballet lessons, she complained about “the sweating” and “the stretching” which she said she didn’t like at all… now, she has changed her tune!).

After the ballet… we took a walk in the cemetery.  We like to do this occasionally.  Gives us a great perspective on life… and death… and the importance of living deliberately (and not wasting this one, precious life!).

Later in the week… Joah found a green koki and decided to turn himself into the Incredible Hulk:

IMG_6504

And then… somewhere in the middle of the week (maybe Thursday?)… I ended up at Pink Room Studios recording a harmonica piece for Faan se Trein (the movie that Nick has spent the past couple of months editing… and doing all kinds of technical post-production work on).  The guy composing the film score just happens (ha! ha!) – to be ANOTHER Greek Nick… (although… one DOES find a lot of Greeks are called Nick!).  Nick #2… has done a fantastic job composing beautiful, moving music for the film (today, I listened to it all put together and I got a bit teary).

Anyhoo…

So there’s a small part in the film that calls for a harmonica / mouth organ (which I can play – but in a VERY rusty fashion!).  So… that’s how I ended up at Nick’s studio… blowing rustily into a harmonica on Thursday night.  Thankfully, Nick #2 has loads of patience… and recorded many tracks of my little offerings while my Nick played outside with the kids.

harmonica

Nick Sakellarides working hard in his studio...

Nick Sakellarides working hard in his studio…

My Studio-Selfie :-)

My Studio-Selfie 🙂

Later in the evening, Morgan cosied up to Nick’s wife, Brenda (who also happens to be the mother of… *insert Morgan’s admiring gasp of awe here*… “The Swan”).   Remember the Hansel & Gretel ballet?  Well – The Swan had a starring role… and danced very beautifully in a white, flowing outfit… that had Morgan all starry eyed.  When she heard we were going to “The Swan’s House”… she got very excited.  Unfortunately, The Swan wasn’t there on Thursday evening… but Morgan befriended Brenda nonetheless… and managed to score herself 2 ballet leotards, 2 pairs of ballet tights, a flowy-pink skirt… and a ballet jersey.  She has been prancing around the house for the past week (wearing said outfits)… and, every day, she props up the i-Pad and does “ballet lessons” while copying little ballerinas on youtube.

If this enthusiasm shows no sign of waning (and so far, it hasn’t), I shall have to see how we can slot some ballet training in-between the travels…

Anyhoo (again)…

This weekend, we enjoyed a “Granny Day” with my mom (who usually is very busy on weekends with her work at Fisherman’s Village) – so this Saturday was a rare treat.

We decided to go on a mini road-trip to Hartebeespoort Dam & surrounds.  We had breakfast at Home of the Chicken pie… then roamed around the Chameleon Market… followed by coffee at Tant Malie se Winkel (English translations:  Aunt Malie’s Store)…

Coffee at Tant Malie's...

Coffee at Tant Malie’s…

Mom at Tant Malie's... (perusing a map of the area)...

Mom at Tant Malie’s… (perusing a map of the area)…

Giant, fresh loaf of bread that we bought from Tant Malie's... (baked in one of those old, iron, wood-burning ovens)...

Giant, fresh loaf of bread that we bought from Tant Malie’s… (baked in one of those old, iron, wood-burning ovens)…

After  Tant Malie’s… we drove over the Dam Wall… through the tunnel… and stopped at the Rock Shop – which has a wonderful, awe-inspiring collection of semi-precious stones and other goodies… at VERY good prices.

Both the kids filled up a little bucket at the Scratch Patch...

Both the kids filled up a little bucket at the Scratch Patch…

Joah digging for the perfect chunk of Zambia Quartz... (R5 per chunk)...

Joah digging for the perfect chunk of Zambia Quartz… (R5 per chunk)…

More Zambia Quartz...

More Zambia Quartz…

After the Rock Shop, we drove to Pretville… which is actually a movie set where the film of the same name was shot.  The whole place was made up to look like a colourful town from the 50’s… and apart from admiring the hard work of the set & production designers, you can stop for a slushie, coffee, hot dog or milkshake from the 50’s Diner.

Colourful doughnuts in the Pretville Diner...

Colourful doughnuts in the Pretville Diner…

Enjoyed by Joah...

Enjoyed by Joah…

More Pretville...

More Pretville…

The kids playing hop-scotch (small section of the set behind them)...

The kids playing hop-scotch (small section of the set behind them)…

Pretville Car Wash...

Pretville Car Wash…

The whole Pretville thing got me thinking about filmmaking and screenplays again… and I talked the ear off my poor mother, telling her all about my various film ideas…

After Pretville… we drove down the road to a place called Jasmyn – which is a huge and very impressive farmer’s market & restaurant… with a HUGE thatched roof… and a HUGE windmill… and beautiful manicured gardens with little streams and bridges and picnic spots.  I never knew this place existed!  We’ll definitely come back (next time, with Nick)…

Morgan made a beeline for the mud and the stream...

Morgan made a beeline for the mud and the stream…

Relaxing on a rock at Jasmyn after a lovely Granny-Day...

Relaxing on a rock at Jasmyn after a lovely Granny-Day…

So…. that was our week.

How was yours?

🙂