Sunday, May 19, 2013

People who I have met this week.

My line of work brings me into contact with people from all walks of life. All of them have one thing in common - they all want to develop their knowledge/skill to improve themselves and their lives. Meet some of the people who have come into my life this week.....

An Afrikaans woman who is working in a factory. Her life has recently been turned upside down because her husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He also worked for the same company as her. Overnight their income has been halved as he is unable to work so she is now the breadwinner. They have  teenage children at High School - one on the verge of going to university whose dreams are about to be dashed as there is now no money to pay his fees. From what she tells me - with tears welling in her eyes - her husband is deeply depressed and has withdrawn completely from life. His shaking is really bad when he is awake so he just wants to sleep...forever! He doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything and if people visit he hides away. She has been waiting for 6 weeks for an appointment with a therapist assigned to him. Through all this she comes to work day, afternoon and night shift AND attends classes. I am in awe of her strength.
A police officer who confided that his job has cost him his marriage, his health and at times his sanity. He has devoted his life to a uniform and a badge and has encountered shocking crime scenes and been shot at more times than he can remember. He rejected the concept of being debriefed or seeking counselling after incidents, as being 'soft'. Instead he used alcohol as anesthetic and although he has now overcome that dependency he regrets that he has only realised too late that he put his career before what was really important to him and is unable to undo the hurt he caused his wife and children - he is currently trying to mend the relationship with his son and daughter and I really hope that all turns out well for him - a really lovely man.
A young divorced mother who is afraid that she is going to lose the 'temporary' job she has if she asks for the overtime pay that is owed to her. She was depending on that money to buy her son his winter school uniform because the school is giving him a hard time that he is not wearing it and there is no extra money from the little she earns. She worked the extra hours demanded of her and was promised and entitled to overtime rate - when she 'dared' to ask for it, she was told she was lucky to have a job and is frightened to ask again. When she is on night shift she has to leave her son alone overnight - he is 11. She worries the whole night and prays that he will be alright. I am outraged by the unfairness of this situation and my heart aches for her.
An African man about to give up on a qualification that his company insisted he attend, because he has fallen so far behind with his work - Why? He has been working 12 hour and sometimes 18 hour days because his company have retrenched half the workforce and expect the same output. He would give up his studies which are clearly difficult to continue with,but if he does he will have to repay the money that the company have paid for his course fees. A catch-22 situation - either way he loses. We sat and planned a way to continue.

A reminder that we all have problems - some more than others - but what makes these people different is that they have determination and a will to do whatever it takes to improve their chances of a better future. Whenever I feel like giving up - these are the people - and all the others like them that I encounter - that keep me going. Inspiring indeed!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Motherhood

Its Mothers Day and as well as remembering my own mum and being grateful for all she did for me and the lessons she taught me, I am reflecting on being a mother myself. When I was young my ambition was not to be a doctor, teacher or explorer - my ambition was to be a mother. I 'mothered' my dolls and adored babies and children - my little nieces, my friend's younger brothers or sisters and the neighbour's little ones. I looked forward to having children of my own and I was young when my first was born. In anticipation I read all the books and attended ante-natal classes and spoke to older, wiser mothers - I decorated the nursery, filled drawers with hand knitted baby clothes and was prepared. What nobody could prepare me for was the rush of overwhelming love that comes with your baby or the incredible burden of responsibility that they bring with them. A double edged sword! The journey of motherhood is never a smooth one, never boring, sometimes thrilling and at other times painful - Like a roller coaster it is full of highs and lows.
My highlights include:-
  • I remember each one of their beautiful faces when they came into the world. I never tired of watching them when they slept or the feel of their soft skin and their powdery smell after a bath. Some nights I crashed into bed exhausted but pleased that I had accomplished so much just taking care of them.
  • I have lots of great memories of my boys in school plays and concerts: Craig aged 8, playing Prince Nutcracker in the Merton Bank school concert and playing to a packed Theatre Royal - I had no idea that he had the main part and that he had mastered all his lines so well. Mark dancing on stage at Newton Tech miming to Ziggy Stardust and dressed like a punk! Paul smart and shiny in his school uniform singing in Westering's very talented school choir and Sean whose roles varied from the donkey in a Pre-Primary nativity play to Mowgli in Jungle Book and young prince in the King and I - Paul acted in that as well at the Opera House in PE. I was the proudest mum in the audience and glad that the lights were low to hide the tears!
  • I was over the moon when Paul phoned to tell us he had passed his matric - not because my boys were not clever but because Craig left school in Standard 8 to take up an apprenticeship - Mark failed matric Afrikaans so graduated with a technical matric so when Paul (who would joyfully bring his school report to me and exclaim - "I got average for everything) passed matric I was thrilled that his hard work and diligence had paid off.
  • St Francis Bay was a place where we enjoyed spending time together and seeing Sean get in the little dinghy and set off along the canals in the early morning sun was always special for me - that he had the skill and more importantly the confidence to do that was very satisfying.
  • Weddings were proud days for me too - Tony and I had always told the boys that they must marry in a way that was significant to them and not to feel pressurised to have weddings that were meaningful to others for all the wrong reasons. Mark and Helen got married in Zimbabwe and then had a wonderful African honeymoon, Paul and Shelley chose a very small wedding - literally a handful of only close family followed by a week in Sun city. Sean and Nadine chose the more traditional start to married life - a church service and a wedding reception in PE and despite telling everyone the were away on honeymoon - they hid away in their own home enjoying the peace and quiet - time together.
  • Family Christmases and simple braais -as the boys get older and enjoy their own lives each time we all sit together to eat or enjoy one another's company is a highlight.
  • When Sean walked across the stage to receive his MBA I was really proud of his achievement and have the photos to prove it - at his first graduation when he received his BTech, Mark arrived with minutes to spare and gave Sean a set of hillbilly teeth! When I paid in advance for the very expensive photographs of our son being capped and gowned - I had no idea he would be wearing them.
  • Of course motherhood leads to granny-hood and each moment I spend with my grandies is a highlight!
My Lowlights:
  • The terrible price we pay for love is grief and when Craig died I really understood the term - broken heart. He is missed everyday and time has not diminished our love for our firstborn.
  • Having a child who is really ill and not being able to find out what the cause is nearly drove me insane. Mark was hospitalised in his matric year, lost weight rapidly and was really sick. Despite all the tests, the doctors could only tell us what was not wrong with him. In the absence of knowledge the imagination runs wild. When he sat up in his hospital bed and asked us if he was going to die it was just an awful moment...because at that stage we didn't know. The not knowing what was wrong lasted over 10 years and each attack resulted in white blood cell production going into overdrive so there were always tests for cancer! Through all this Mark continued to work and was simply brilliant. When he was eventually diagnosed with AOSD - a nasty and rare - but not life threatening - immune disorder, it was such a relief. When Mark was sick and had a bad day - the whole family had a bad day - when he had a good day so did we all! The treatment was simple and he recovered quickly and now knows how to manage it.
  • There are a couple of times when I have felt disappointed by their conduct or choices but I have never lost faith that it would be resolved. I have always believed as the parent in the relationship that I would do whatever I had to do to allow issues to be discussed and solutions to be found - life is too short to waste on matters of ego.
  • I still get defensive when I encounter people who ask if I am related to the boys and then proceed to tell me how they were naughty at school. I ask the question "How?" How were they naughty? Did they hurt anyone? Were they disrespectful? Did they steal, bully or damage things? The answer to all these is No! They asked questions, pushed boundaries and explored alternative opinions. They got up to mischief and occasionally got into trouble - they were high spirited! I think that having spirit is a great thing  - we are all born with it but many people mistake 'spirit' for naughtiness. I believe a parent's job is to nurture that spirit - not to break it and schools are very good at that! Without spirit you cannot make your mark on the world and I know for sure that my boys have done that!
Happy Mothers Day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mid Week Rant - Movies!

I have been having a little tantrum all week about movies. Half of me is mad because we don't get decent films here in PE anymore - that is the ones on the 'art' circuit and when they do come they stay for a week. The other half of me despairs of the PE public who don't go and see them when the cinemas bring them here!
Last week Quartet came and I was please that the theatre at the Bridge that was showing it was at least half full last Thursday. It was a well written, well acted portrait of a group of retired performers and their struggle to raise funds by putting on a gala concert. The snipes between these retired 'prima donnas' were entertaining, the comedy of Billy Connelly's character had us in stitches and the soundtrack was just wonderful. Here today - gone tomorrow! It was on for one week so if you didn't get to see it hard cheese!
This week's art offering is Little One - Darrell Roodt's moving tale of a six-year-old girl found left for dead outside a township in Johannesburg. It was selected for consideration as South Africa's official entry for best foreign film at the Oscars in 2013. Unapologetically South African with a minimalist narrative, it tells the story that we read about too often in our newspapers rape, poverty, lack of police resources but it is handled sensitively and there is not one poor performance. There was 3 of us in the cinema last night - I shake my head!
At Cinema Nouveau in Cape Town and Johannesburg they show 5 or 6 art movies per week and they are well attended - does the PE public really lack taste and culture and if so why?? We struggle to fill theatres, large concerts don't even come here anymore and our art galleries flounder! Yet the casino is full and the other cinemas showing digitally enhanced super heroes and violent American thrillers are thriving. Vampires ....need I say more!
Please PE come to the party - explore the arts - support your cultural community or it will be lost forever.
Thank You Ster Kinekor at the Bridge for not giving up on us - YET!