Silver Lined Asshole

Photo on 2015-10-24 at 6.24 PM #2I’m home alone right now. The rest of South Africa is out watching the rugby. It’s not quite my thing. So I’m here, breathing steady after the emotional turmoil over the last few days, and just doing some quiet thinking.

The last few days have been a thing of magnificence for me. While I did go down and witness/join some of the #feesmustfall protests, they were not “mine” to claim, so I can’t say I “lived them” or anything quite so glamorous. What I can say is that I got  a lot out of them. So much that I cannot properly express my gratitude. Throughout these protests I got to open my eyes (and I love opening my eyes!) to the plight of our country. I was made to think a little further than I have in the past. I am quite socially aware of the kind of things that need to be fought for in this country, or I at least try to be, but of course this made me look at those things even harder. I also got to meet some magnificent people, in real life and on Facebook. I was reminded by so many of my friends about why I am so grateful to have them in my life. I got to watch some people start out spewing bile, and then humbly turn around and start considering things from a new perspective. This was an especially incredible thing to witness and experience because it serves as such a powerful reminder that we are all capable of the most beautiful change.

And then….*sigh*….there were the assholes. Now let me tell you I spend a lot of time cringing at something I’ve spotted on social media, and then relaxing because I already knew that the poster-of-the-assholishness was a bit of a dick (please don’t ask me why I allow them to stay on my timeline – for the most part it is out of familial or social obligation and because I tend to feel like the “unfollow” button is a tad bit disingenuous so I don’t use it). A lot of the mean and kind of blind stuff being said by people I know was not surprising. Like a real lot of it. So because that kind of fit in with the source I must admit it didn’t bother me. The part that did kind of sting, however, was when the the most vile things started coming from a couple of surprising people. In the last week I have witnessed viciousness spew from the mouthes of folks whom I used to hold in high regard and to be honest with you I don’t quite know how to handle it. Of course the feelings and opinions of others are possibly not my business, and for me to be “hurt” by them is quite unreasonable (not to mention that if they feel that way about these particular things then I must be a HUGE disappointment to them as well) and yet I sit here with a very strange feeling that dynamics have shifted in a lot of places and I am unsettled.

The thing is though, I can’t make people see what they don’t want to see. I can only speak my own truth and know that if in doing so it is possible that I will make at least one person think a little bit more about something important. In managing this, dealing with the backlash of those truths becomes not only worth it, but even more relevantly necessary. Still, I am saddened by the severe lack of conscientiousness on my timeline. I’m saddened by the refusal to try and understand the beginning of what could be the most incredible revolution for our country. I can’t help thinking that I feel so good right now. I wish you would let go of your prejudice and feel good too. Hope is such a powerful thing.

I probably can’t help those people. I can note them though. And in doing so I can ensure that the relationships closest to me remain as uplifting and edifying as possible. I can ensure that the people who I allow into my psyche are not the energy sucking naysayers, but those whose souls act as fodder for my own soul, and vice versa.

Because if I have learned one thing in this last week it is that we are good for each other. We need each other. We are each other. And dammit that feels bloody amazing.

#feesmustfall

2015-10-22 20.47.52Today a friend of mine and I went down to NMMU to see if we could offer up some food and water to the kids who had been protesting all day. As non-students (I’ve never even been a student!) it seemed to be something we could do instead of just sitting back and watching it all unfold on our computer screens while holding thumbs and hoping that it will work out.

When we got there we couldn’t drive the car inside. The police were kind to us but they would not let us in, so we had to park our car and walk. Luckily we bumped into two strong men while we were at the shops gathering supplies and they decided to join us, so we had extra hands to help us carry.

When we got to the edge of the crowd we sat down under a tree with some girls and within seconds we were all making sandwiches together. Nicole and I didn’t even need to ask for help. It was given freely and quietly without question.

As I sat there, under that tree, smearing peanut butter on slices of bread, I listened to the girls talk to each other. I understand Xhosa to a limited degree so  I was able to get an idea of what they were saying.

They were scared. That’s all. They were afraid for their futures. They had dreams and plans and these dreams and plans were important to them. And they were worried. They knew they were part of something important but they struggled to hide the fact that they were a little bit afraid that it might not work.

And I can’t stop thinking: this is who the students are. They are these girls. These girls who are simply eager to learn. They want to invest in their futures. That’s all.

I see so many people out there bemoaning how the students expect everything to be handed to them. I see folks trying so hard to convince others that the intentions behind this protest are sinister. My “favourite” is the folks who yell about how they should work for their educations, as if this is not already happening. By nature an education is something you work for. Besides tuition, you pay for it with stress, anxiety, exhaustion, tears, determination, tenacity, and perseverance. If you’re not an English first language student you pay for it with even more. It is by no means something that could ever come without a cost. And yet you want to write students off as freeloaders. They are not freeloaders. They are the future of our country.

Students are fighting for their futures. They are talking. They are listening to each other. They have been brave enough to be part of a revolution.

And we want to call them names? We’re so eager to paint any and all protesters with a brush of violence because small groups resort to getting a little out of hand from time to time, when the majority of folks are just folks who have been brave enough to hope for their situations to improve and have been proactive enough to take part in bringing about that change.

The only thing I can think of to call what I witnessed today is beautiful. And I’m really glad that I went down today and soaked up a bit of that energy.

Dear Person of Colour – I Need Your Help.

I have been trying to write this letter for a long time now. The thoughts are not quite translating to my keyboard, and I hope you will forgive my lack of eloquence as I continue to try.

I am  a white-skinned middle class woman, with a middle class South African white woman’s life, and I am therefore most probably racist, or at the very least I am someone who hasn’t quite grasped the entire concept of white privilege just yet. This deeply imbedded racism exists for many reasons. Some of those reasons may include wilful ignorance as well as subconscious ignorance, childhood upbringing, background, religion, and of course that deeply imbedded inequality that exists all over the world…the one that we white folk simply cannot see through our privilege-tinted glasses. The point is, there are reasons. Some of them are my fault. Some of them are my ancestors’ fault. Some fault lies simply with the complicated “way the world works”. What it is not, however, is your fault.

Now, when I admit to my racism, it is not the “obvious” racism that I am claiming. I don’t hate people of colour. But I probably have a thousand weird (white) racist quirks about myself that I don’t always recognize. I know this  because I keep seeing those weird (white) racist quirks in other (white) people – and I have come to learn that those things we recognize in others are possibly faults that exist, or at least have existed, within ourselves. I see sideways digs coming out of the mouthes of people whom I have loved and respected for years and it is kind of a gutting experience. I guess I’m a little more attentive these days. I guess age makes you wake and ask ask questions. Whatever it is, I know that it is bugging me deeply, because the love and respect that used to be automatic is waning at quite an alarming rate. The faces of my heroes are changing. My heroes are asking the hard questions. And they are demanding the answers. I want to be more like them. 

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Review: Big Ups! No Three

Big Ups! No Three
Big Ups! No Three by Ros Haden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I must admit that picking up a little reader filled with short stories by South African authors was kind of damn nice. It’s about time we start seeing more of this kind of thing. Reading little short snippets from different perspectives is kind of great and I hope that a publication like “Big Ups” will continue to play their role in bringing South African writers to South African readers. This is the sort of thing that will inspire future generations to not give up on their art and take part in what could potentially be a creative revolution in South Africa. Wouldn’t that be awesome?



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Review: The Library of Unrequited Love

The Library of Unrequited Love
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little book is a sweet soliloquy by a librarian woman as she converses with a man who accidentally spent the night in the library. If nothing else, the idea of the book intrigues me and I have to admit that I currently feel inspired to attempt something similar. I love the style of it. It’s so different.



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Review: Martin Misunderstood

Martin Misunderstood
Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this little bit of odd brought to us by the queen of crime was…well…odd. I swear Ms Slaughter decided to just have a bit of fun with this one, I must admit that it made me kind of giggle a few times. She kind of disses Patricia Cornwell at some point which I thought was a bit “ok then”. Weird. Just weird. But nice and short. My newly lazy reading ways have started to appreciate nice and short. So at least there’s that.



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The Bully Culture

Photo on 2015-10-05 at 10.54 AMIf I learnt anything from my school going days – or life in general really – it is surely that any questions that attempt to delve deeper than the prerequisite curriculum demands of any subject matter are questions that will have you either immediately dismissed or, most likely, laughed at. Somehow I have not yet learned to stop asking them. Questions keep me up at night. They plague me during the day. And they continue to haunt until they have been satiated.

Last week someone walked into a college in Oregon with a gun and killed a bunch of people. This kind of story has become so commonplace lately that surprise doesn’t even register anymore. I still get that wave of dread that washes over me though. These things make a thousand questions flood my mind. How does this happen? Where do they get the guns? Why these particular people? Why that particular school? What made him make this decision? Does this happen so much in America because it happens in America? Is it a monkey-see-monkey-do scenario?

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Review: Mister God, This is Anna

Mister God, This is Anna
Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mister God, This is Anna is a book a bout a man who finds a little girl wandering the streets, and he takes her home. This always tickles me, because: how insane! Granted it does sort of explain itself out of that hole, and the book is set in the 1930s so it is forgivable, but still, it makes me giggle. Then again, if you pulled that kind of thing today, would anyone notice? I think it’s probably less likely than we expect.

Anyway, the book is ok, I suppose. I don’t think you need to be a believer in God to enjoy it, you simply need to be respectful of religion, I suppose. Anna is a precocious little thing who spends her days puzzling the narrator, Fynn, with intense questions and poignant observations about the world around her. It does get a bit blahblahblah in the middle, but all-in-all it is quite a sweet story.



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Review: The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling

The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Over the weekend I was mock-pouting at my husband for “abandoning” me to go and run a marathon (seriously: why do folks in their 30s insist on this weird phenomenon?) and for the fact that I was up way too early on a Sunday morning because of his sudden need to sports. I then jokingly grumpy-yelled at him that he needed to go and find me a book to read and that he should be aware that the state of our relationship depended on his choice.

This is the book he brought me. I imagine it is because it was one of about 3 that he has read in my entire library.

So this book has a copyright date of 1976. Now honestly I find that quite impressive because often when I read older books, I find them filled with cliches. This is not necessarily the fault of the authors themselves, because maybe they weren’t cliches back then but they are today. Anyway – this book is quite low on the cliches and I love that becauseI personally suck at steering clear of cliches in my own writing, but am quite adept at spotting them in the work of others.

This is a fast-paced read and it’s heavy on the dialogue. Somehow it’s easy to read without being annoying, in fact sometimes it’s even quite charming with a hint of humour that doesn’t try too hard to be funny. It’s not meant to be a grand masterpiece and that’s fine. Just something easy to read over a couple of days before moving onto something a little more taxing, perhaps?

I loved the relationship between the protagonist and his sidekick. She is a lesbian, which is a subject barely tackled in the novel. I love how flippantly it is treated, like it was no biggie for those days. Then again, I suppose he is also treated as if his burglaring is no biggie, just an extension of himself. (I mean no offense in comparing homosexuality to burglaring – of course I don’t think they are the same. I am merely pointing out that these two characters were beautifully accepting of each other while never making any sort of big deal about the acceptance. It was nice. Especially out of a time when such things were far more taboo than they are now.)




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Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some books are kind of lovely when you think back on them, have you ever noticed that? It happens to me a lot. I find myself slogging through something that everyone else seems to have loved (I mean come on – this was one hella popular book at one point) and just longing to get to the end so that I can move on, and then once I’m done I kind of look back and go “hmmm that was good” and I feel all glad to have made the effort. Is that insane? I’m starting to think that maybe it is…

Anyway, The Lovely Bones is well written, of course. And the concept of it all is quite sweet. I want to rewatch the movie sometime (I remember not loving it before, but that is all I remember about it) so that I can compare the two. But I didn’t love this book. It is sad. And kind of heavy. Some folks say that it is hopeful but I didn’t feel that way about it at all. It was just heavy…

I never really know how to rate books that are good but that I didn’t enjoy. Enjoyment seems to be the point. I can understand how some might enjoy it, of course, so I can still value it’s merit. But I didn’t love it. And I think that loving it is kind of important. So my apologies for the 3 star rating, as I do feel that the book maybe deserves more. It just doesn’t deserve more from me.

Does that make sense?



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JK Rowling Makes So Much Sense

Anyone who knows me knows that JK Rowling is my queen and that I’d be the first to vote for her as world president. For one: you can tell a LOT about someone by reading their books, and she is no exception. Her heart, humour, and humanity is written all over those pages. She is so beautiful to me. She always has been.

But with this Lumos video? She’s outdone herself. I can’t stop thinking about just how much sense this makes. And I cannot fault how right she is. Thank you. Jo, for being the beautiful humanitarian that you are. We all have so much to learn from you.

An Open Letter to The Herald & AlgoaFM

20150904_105548I am addressing this letter to the local news sources in my city, but I have to wonder if perhaps it shouldn’t be directed at all news sources in general. Today my heart is fighting between giving in to utter futility and roaring out loud with an all-consuming anger.

A while ago I stumbled upon an article in The Daily Mail about how refugees coming ashore in Greece were really making British holiday makers uncomfortable. Now I have come to expect this kind of revolting angle of reporting from The Daily Mail so the fact that they were absolute arrogant idiots about it didn’t surprise me at all, but I was nevertheless disgusted. Here were some people, who were fleeing across the ocean in search of sanctuary, and the Britons were moaning that they didn’t feel comfortable sipping cocktails while there were people loitering around and begging for food. People who were lost. Confused. Hungry. Exhausted. And crippled by a language barrier.

I thought about that for a few days and then I guess I moved on. Life, as you know, has a way of making us do that.

imagesAnother Syrian plight that gave me pause was the picture of the Syrian child with her hands up in surrender, because she thought a photographer’s camera was a gun. That image haunted me for a little longer than the idiocy of The Daily Mail and the part of the story that they weren’t telling.

And then on Wednesday night, I was milling through my Facebook timeline and I stumbled upon the photograph of a little boy washed ashore. My heart crawled into my throat. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t click on that picture and look at it properly. But I had to. Because it was damn important.

I did not sleep well on Wednesday night. In the last two days I have learned of myself that I don’t want to move on anymore. I want to move forward.

download (1)Finally, last night, after a day of stifling tears here and there, so as not to alarm my children, I gave in to the emotions that where overwhelming me and I finally sobbed myself to sleep.

I cried for almost two hours over the loss of Aylan (and Rihan) Kurdi. Their deaths mark the very essence of the lack of humanity that has our entire world in a vice grip. Their deaths remind me that I have a child capable of dying. Their deaths remind me that life is worth preserving.

The death of Aylan Kurdi has the power to shake this whole world on it’s head. The death of Aylan Kurdi has the power to give us all the wake up we so seriously need.

And yet? At the time of writing this, neither AlgoaFM nor The Herald have so much as acknowledged his existence. Or at least not enough for the story to have travelled to their Facebook pages. News24 has at least touched on the plight of the Syrians in a sort of cursory manner, but you guys?

How can you not see how important this story is? How can you put more political rubbish on the front page when THIS is happening? Your front page tells us that the  education system in South Africa is in bad shape. We already know that!

I am not usually one to bemoan the things others choose to care about. I don’t yell “Why such a fuss about a lion when there is rape?” or “Why do you care about animals when people are starving?” I get that the things that touch us are different. And I also get that caring about one thing does not mean you do not care about another.

But this? This feels like one of those things that absolutely everyone should be talking about. Everyone should be wrecked about it. And if we live in a society that is insensitive to these things, we should be reminding each other why this is so important.

So I say shame on you! You are in such a position of power. You are in a position where the choices you make and the stories you tell could actually AFFECT the lives and hearts of real people. You could play a part in increasing the softness in the world.  And today you chose to hide under the shadow of bureaucracy instead. Shame on you. I cannot accept that you are robots operating under a set of rules that barely take into consideration the true human condition, and yet today’s paper reads as if that is the case.

images (1)Today you could have been telling me about the plights of refugees in our country. You could have been telling me about where our country stands when it comes to people like the Syrians who are so desperate to find new homes. I want to know this. I want answers. I want to know if my country helps other countries because I have no idea about any of that. I want to know if there is anything I can do from right here to help those people. I want to know if I will be arrested if I happen to take a boat load of Syrian people home. The possibility of being arrested might not stop me, but I still want to know. Why aren’t you telling me?

There are people who want to help. Not just in this situation but in many situations. You could tell us how.

But the same old same old political drama is on The Herald’s  front page again today. Somehow political party versus political party is more important than the fact that our fellow humans are dying in absolute terror by the thousands. And all because they are so desperate to save their families. No. Their story has been squished into a small box on page 6. Barely a story. Where you quote…you guessed it… The Daily Mail. You don’t even mention that Cameron has given in to the pressure put on him by his people to accept more asylum seekers. The people, every day citizens like you and me, made that man change his mind. THAT IS NEWS!!

11059706_975219615862804_1468637924916160380_nIn case you don’t know why is it news, I am going to tell you: We the people understand families. We understand people. We understand love and fear and pain.

So please, for humanity’s sake, when there are children washing up on the beaches of this world, choose them. Choose them even though you think people will not care. Choose them even though you think that pictures of dead children will upset people. The people need  to be upset. The people need to cry. And we need to care.

Because we are all people. We are all capable of putting ourselves in the shoes of someone else.

And it’s about damn time that we actually did it.

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Little Boy

CN6lhVfVAAAuCtHI dreamt of you in the night

Though this mourning’s haunt is harder

My heart crushed for you and your father

Your lost mother, and brother

 

And my thoughts keep going back to the same place

If only he had died too

Because, your dear brave father…

…now he has to live without you

 

I have one like you, too

He’s a little older, though I haven’t noticed yet

I still think he’s three, not seven

And he’s been my heaven for longer than that

 

So a part of me has died today,

Searching for your soul

Because I know your father, left behind,

Could never hope to be whole

 

I hope that there is a God to meet you

Someone to calm you, and keep you

On the other side of all this…

Some form of bliss

 

And I hope that in your heaven

There are greater rewards

For little boys lost

In old men’s wars

 

And when I am a little older

When I have done my time

I hope that there are hugs in your heaven

Because I’d like to give you one of mine

Springing Forward

Photo on 2015-09-01 at 9.14 PMI had one “plan” for Spring Day today: see if my razor is capable of navigating through the forrest that I have been growing all over my body. Of course, that didn’t happen because it’s too damn cold today and I’m pretty sure all that fuzz is actually keeping me warmer than usual. Instead of the evening with my usual – tv/ipadding/tea – I found myself on Google, investigating costs for trips – sans tv! I reckon it’s time to plan a new adventure, even if I can’t take it anytime soon. I imagine that it is in all the not planning that all these things that we want to happen don’t. If that doesn’t sound particularly profound it is because it isn’t. And yet? Well…and yet the plans are hardly ever made because we’re always waiting for one bloody thing or another. Bugger it. My head is too buzzy for waiting. And so I’m making plans and checking out hotel prices and silly things like that.

But  even though I’m in the very dreamy stages of planning right now, what I want to know is:

Where are the weird places to go? The quaint and quirky and wonderful?

Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?

I’m thinking of Prague.

I’m thinking of Cambodia.

I’m thinking of Bhutan.

I’m thinking of Nepal.

I’m thinking of Colombia.

I’m thinking of Italy.

I’m thinking of Iceland.

Where are you thinking of?

Dear Kids: About Sex…

 

I’m still feeling a little grumpy after reading this article on The Herald website yesterday. I can’t seem to be able to stop thinking about it.

You see… I did not choose to home school my kid because I necessarily think school institutions are terrible. I don’t. At least not all of them. Obviously there are good and bad points to just about anything. But I think this sort of thing kind of makes me realise that I might very well never send my kid to “real” school. Because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to help being that mom who complains every five minutes. Yes. I’d be the mom that all the teachers hate. I’d be discussed in the staff room. I’d make people cry. It probably wouldn’t be good.

If you didn’t read the article, it tells of how the Grade 11 pupils at Alex High School are looking after fake babies for two weeks. If  the point of this exercise was some sort of tepid initiation into the trials of parenthood, that would be one thing (although I have some serious concerns about even that!) but no. The exercise is to promote abstinence.

To quote The Herald:

The high school is conveying the importance of sexual abstinence to its Grade 11s in a clever way – making them experience what being a parent is all about.

Um: gross….

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