Thursday, October 31, 2019

hallow queen

For someone who has often claimed not to be a big fan of Halloween ... we've had some good ones!

I've been pretty grinchy about it tbh ....

... and then I've taken it all back.

I've hosted, and learned to love it.

And even when I've not managed to blog about it, it's still happened.

I might even be able to call myself a bit of a Hallow Queen by now...?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

first rule of CrossFit*


I thought this was funny before I started CrossFit. Now it's hilarious.

I have two friends who've been at it for about a year. About the same amount of time my ankle was either incapacitating me in pain, or recovering from the surgery intended to heal it.

When I was laid up in my recovery room (or 'on my nice holiday' as the same two friends like to call it), they would come and hang out and 'entertain me' by flexing their muscles and talking about the WOD and so-and-so at the gym and how much they could snatch and a bunch of other incomprehensible things. 

I was so not interested.

Part of it was my disbelief at how useless I was, had been for a long time, when it came to exercise and getting in shape.
My ankle had been a factor, a large one, but to be honest I stopped exercising a long time before that. I was just really not into breaking a sweat, or feeling uncomfortable.
Part of my boredom was envy - they were looking great and their passion for it was palatable.
Shame and envy, not a good combo for the existential dread.

Some months after I was walking again, the end of July to be exact, I felt a shift. I was feeling so out of shape and suddenly filled with the need to MOVE, to flex and stretch and test my new foot and DO SOMETHING already. 
But I was still in a lot of pain, and really apprehensive about what I could do and how radically unfit I felt.

One afternoon on the side of the hockey field I spoke to a school mum friend, we were talking about swimming, yoga - low impact ways I could get back into exercise. Then I came home to cook supper for one of my now lean and ripped friends ... two bottles of wine later and I'd committed to going to a CrossFit class with her the next morning.

The existentials were nothing on the dread I felt waking up that morning, hungover and scared.

I dressed with major anxiety and drove myself there deciding to just not think about it, and ready to HATE everybody and everything.

I did hate everybody, and I really nearly cried, but it turns out I wasn't as unfit as I thought I was, and my ankle handled fine.

I woke that night, and tried to get up for some reason. I couldn't move.
I carefully lowered myself back into bed, flinching in pain, and then I smiled. This felt good.

Boy, I drank the Kool Aid fast after that.

Obvs I had to start with new sneakers ... and then I was away.

It's been 3 months. My ankle pain has reduced by about 85%. I feel great. I need to workout. I'm firming, I'm losing some weight. I like to sweat. I'm getting fit.

So yeah, now I am a CrossFitter. Good lord this is a weird old life.

*always talk about CrossFit

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


You think I'm referring to my long absence here hey?
Let's just not mention that and move on...

It seems I am finished work for the year.
I know right?
But it seems that I am.

This week I'm wrapping up my last contract for the year, with nary a sign in sight of more work and not one project lapping at my heels. This is a first in nearly 8 years and amazingly, I'm so okay with it.
I feel like I've reached the end of a piece of string, only to find it led to quite a nice place.

The last two years have been particularly full on work-wise. Everything-wise actually.
Months and weeks have run into each other in a blur of clients and events and kids and school and house and friends and pets and horrible tragedy and travel and family and wild fun and late nights and achingly boring adulting and mind-numbing stress and worry and tears and hysterical laughter and boundless joy and ... jeez, I'm tired.

But a moment has appeared, a break in the clouds - maybe the eye of the storm - in which this one enormous aspect of my life has stilled, and I feel a pause. It's deeply energising.

Can I call it a sabbatical? I asked a friend-colleague.
Sure, she said, but the thing with a sabbatical is you need to do something special with it - study, write, travel - set yourself a big goal you'd never have time or resources to achieve when you're working.


How bout a sabbatical in which the goal is to be a more present parent. To support my big girl through end of year exams, my little through her current existential crises about getting older. How bout I be a more patient partner, a more engaged home-maker, a less haphazard Christmas gift-shopper, a more attentive daughter/aunt/friend.
How bout a sabbatical where I have more time to do the things which spark joy - work out more, organise my home office/studio, clear out the trenches of a big house and family, beautify my space, write my blog and frankly all of the things in the paragraph above.
How bout I find the time and head-space to create again - to make things with my hands which still and lighten my heart.
I feel like these are big goals of mine, special things to be able to do, things I don't have the time and resources to achieve when I'm working.
I feel like these are enough.

And as if the universe heard me, this week has been an onslaught of school plays and associated lifting and snack-bearing, of bake sale and school oral prep and personal admin and an afternoon lost to chasing a snake around our garden and trying to arrange its capture (and it's only Wednesday!).

But because this is all I've been doing, all I've been having to do - because there's been no additional email tyranny and meeting plans and calls with clients and deadlines and necessity to focus elsewhere - I've been flowing with it.
It feels like this is more than enough.

I know Murphy is probably listening and some huge and un-refusable job could be lurking around the corner, that would be okay too, but I'm hoping that the wolves remain at bay for a little longer. I'm hoping to have more time to just do this.
I love my work-work, but I love my life-work more, and I'd really like to spend a sabbatical building on that.

Friday, May 31, 2019


This whole week I've been nagging myself - you can't let May go by without a post!
May is your month, May is important.
Once a month is bad enough for the ol' blog - don't skip one!

I did this thing back in Feb. On the anniversary of Zahida's death. My favourite punctuation tattooed on my forearm ...
... for endings and beginnings, and the never-ending cycle of both, for things left unsaid ... for room to imagine ... to trail off and pick up another thread ... to pause and think ... to leave a space for someone else to occupy, or leave ... to assert yourself subtly ... or show doubt, vulnerability ... for life and whatever comes after ...

My 101 year old Granny slipped off in March.

In April we said goodbye to our beloved Khoki cat - our first baby, our friend for 19 years.

But still the sun rose every morning, some times more magnificently than others, and the world turned around the sun and, despite everything, it was my birthday.

And I decided that of all the lessons I'd like to impart on my daughters - this said in the knowledge that one never knows what will stick and what will not - I'd like one of them to be that you make your own fun, you have agency in your own happiness, and that birthdays deserve a party, no matter your age.

I spent my birthday surrounded by my bests. We hosted a lunch and that weekend, for the first time since mid March, I could walk. I could faff around the house making nice for my friends, I could prep a meal and lay a table, I could do a 'food board' ala Instagram, I could host and fetch another bottle of wine and more ice and a sharp knife and juice for a child ... I could WALK.

Even at the ripe old age of 4fuckin'4 my body can still heal. In the midst of my 40's I can do a highly responsible job for an international client and still know the value in taking a day off for illicit mid-week treats - this time an indulgent meal and a massage at the wondrous Babylonstoren ...



I am of that age where you realise it doesn't last forever. And as cliched as that sounds it's a real thing, and a natural thing. It's great that we live our 20's thinking it'll last forever, it's natural that we spend our 30's too busy to think of anything else much, and then the 40's come and with it comes loss, if you've been lucky enough to avoid it until then, and the reality of aging and the inkling that it will all end, it really will, and in that, the freedom to think 'fuck it, let's do it'.

I loved being young and feckless and living in the moment without even realising it. I love living in the moment and realising it, even more.
Best life, it's the only one worth living.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

easter in elands

You'd have thought with 3 weeks flat on my back I would have blogged more. I certainly thought I was going to.
Turns out even with all the time in the world there are only so many hours in a day.
Also, Netflix.

I had ankle surgery on 27 March. There's a highfalutin medical term for the procedure but basically I had an impressively large bone spur removed to release a trapped nerve which had me gradually losing sensation in my left foot.
Two weeks in a large and uncomfortable cast, knocked up on pain killers and codeine, now just a  dressing over The Wound (it is large and intimidating enough to warrant capital letters), physiotherapy, crutches and still a lot of time flat on my back. Very boring.

But this past Easter weekend I got a chance to get out of town with my (long suffering and wonderfully supportive little family) and a big gang of friends and it was blissful.

A strange drive managing two giant cakes and a foot which need elevating a lot of the time. Grateful for the enormous dashboard of our Jeep.

Our destination - a traditional langhuis (long house) up the West Coast from Cape Town. No lights, solar/gas cooking and water heating, beautifully high-rafted ceilings, thick walls, wonky doors. That distinctive thatch smell which is so comforting - I'm pretty sure there's something in thatch which eases the mind - and restful.

I was pretty useless all weekend, only really able to breeze around in a miu-miu and make conversation. 
I still over-estimate what I can actually do while on two crutches (answer: nothing), and with uneven ground outside and slippery polished concrete floors inside the less moving about I did the better risk-wise.
So I sat in a chair outside and let children decorate my hair with wild garlic, I played many games of Monopoly Deal, I 'watched' kids while their parents went for a swim or a run, I chopped some veggies...
And as I listened to my lovely bunch of girlfriends feed a massive congo-line of children, including mine, wrangle them all into hats and cars for a trip to the beach, produce delicious meals and wash endless dishes I felt all the feels of deep fondness and gratitude for their loving care of us all.

I did manage to fulfill my birthday cake duties. Not baking this time, for obvious reasons, but arranging, procuring, transporting and be-dazzling an enormous rainbow cake to be served and eaten at sunset in tribute to the birthday girl among us and the wonderful reason we were all gathered together.

It was really one of those weekends. The ones which rest your bones and feed your soul, remind you of how lucky you are and how much we seriously, all the time, have to be thankful for.

I say it so often, and it's true: friends, food, gin. These are the things worth living for.

And when I look at pics like this, I also think children. They drive us mental, they work us to the bone, but when you look at this bunch of shining happy faces it all really does seem to be pretty magical, this season of our lives.

Monday, March 25, 2019


After last year's somewhat more subdued celebrations, Stella was really keen on a 'traditional' party this time (i.e. a bazillion children, 'running around in the dark' and general total OTT party bedlam).

We did it.

Her chosen theme (apparently we're still doing themes): rain forest.

The night before the party, as darkness fell and most dog walkers had retreated indoors, she (dressed appropriately) and I drove around the neighbourhood 'borrowing' some big leaves for party decor. We kept the engine running, jumping out to saw off the leaves and dashing back to the car.
She was the perfect accomplice - opening doors for me and holding the knife when I wrestled with some stubborn fronds - and on the way home after it was all done she turned to me and said, eyes gleaming, 'Now honestly Mum, if we got caught would we have been arrested?'

It was a lovely party, much less stressful than I've found some of them to be in the past - I'm not sure why?
The surprise cake - decaying log on the forest floor, complete with birds nest, ladybirds, fungi and tropical flowers. Great big decadent chocolate logs, rolled with sweetened cream and covered in chocolate - it was delicious and fun to make.

Every year, twice a year, Husband and I do these cakes late at night before the party, and every year we're reminded of how much we enjoy it. I think we might just keep on making them surprise themed birthday cakes for the rest of their lives.

There was trampolining and dancing and some 'running around in the dark'. There was grown ups with wine on the stoep and a pecan pie which couldn't be beat and all these children that we've known since babies bashing around.

And a few days later there was the excitement of a 'new room' (ie newly decorated) and presents and another birthday cake with the Grandparents.

I think it was a sublime 9, I know that she is and as I was writing this I reflected on words I wrote at both the last birthdays 'I know from her older sister that this year, 7 to 8, is really the last of the little girl years.' - 2017 and 'Stella is 8 and from here on out it feels like we're officially in the Next Stage. No more smalls in this family' - 2018 and I thought rubbish - she's still our baby and will be for a long time yet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

international social justice day

Apparently sometime last week was International Social Justice Day (who decides these I do not know), but reading that made me so grateful, again, for the work I've been able to do (for an astounding 17 years now!) assisting and supporting some of the most dedicated and hardworking social justice activists in our country.

I'm still not really sure how I managed to fall into this.

As a pre-teen the running joke in our family was my allergy to the word 'responsibility'. Being the oldest of 3 I guess it was a natural backlash against having to be older and wiser, more responsible than my seemingly carefree younger brothers.

But responsible I have become - for giant budgets, complicated international travel arrangements, hordes of delegates, deadlines and deliverables - I am often the hinge upon which it all swings, the stick upon which the plates are spinning, handling the immense stress of logistical success so that my clients don't have to, so that the participants - the social justice activists - can concentrate on the WORK.
The work of listening, of speaking for the voiceless, of finding the platform for their voices, and making them heard.

Recently I got in touch with an old lefty friend of my parents, and chatting to him brought back memories of sleepily listening in on their rigorous debate, around dinner tables and braai fires, often wine-fueled, always fascinating.
I learned so much from those evenings - not just great swear words - but how to agree to disagree, what injustice looked like, how to fight it, intersectionality (before that was even a concept probably), how to protest without getting arrested, what to do if you were arrested, how many people it took to build a movement (not just the big names), how to put your ego aside and do work for a greater good.

It was when bringing up these memories that I realised this was the foundation of the work I do now. A logistical mind is one thing - that's some weird shit I got born with (from my Granny Molly I think) and eventually made peace with, but the ability to use that in a social justice space (see, I can even speak the lingo) with empathy and an innate understanding of those specific challenges is a learned skill, learned in part by the example of my parents - social activists themselves in many ways - and in part from those long weekend evenings of being exposed to highly inappropriate discussions and arguments. 

Many of the activists I work with say that the key to social justice is for everyone at the table (more lingo see, I'm fluent) to work to their strengths. To find their skills, be acknowledged for them and be given the chance to use them for the greater good.

I think I might have found mine, and I'm so grateful to have found the perfect niche in which to flex them.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

summer holidaze ...

On the last day of school I took a gang of 9 girls to the water-slides for the afternoon.
The last day of school, the first day of the long summer holidays, and the first day in absolute ages that I was just a mum.
Just a mum with a cooler fill of juice, towels, sunscreen, hot chips and my book. Just a mum in the shade taking pics and admiring tricks and enjoying watching her kids and their friends having a ball.

After months and months of desperately juggling work and parenting - trying never to let either job impact on the other, it was a gift to be just a mum, and a fun mum at that.

Then it was me time - my now annual retreat to Vortex. Last year it was everything I'd hoped it would be and more, this year just as great with more friends and the boud-car improved upon to attain peak comfort.
Favourite moment: A well meaning young thing remarked that it was 'so nice to see mature ladies at an outdoor party, how long have you been coming to Vortex for?' 
My friend deadpanned in response: 'Since 1997'

Old dog = old tricks.

On the way home from Vortex we stopped off for another little forest adventure - a picnic under the trees for a bestie's birthday on an old established wine farm on a hot afternoon.

And home in time for a shower and Christmas carols under the bridge. See? Fun mum.

The first of our 3 trips out to Onrus. This one highlighted by Jeremy Loops live at Stanford Hills!

The girls loved it so much - their first 'rock concert' of someone they really like - dancing and singing along like crazy. Such a jol.

Home for Christmas Eve - pool, food, pressies and family. Every year I'm more grateful for them.

With nearly half of my poor man's family gone in the last couple of years that side is all a bit disjointed now, scattered around and not really sure how to regroup. Christmas Day resonated with the loss of his Mum, none of us could face trying to muster Xmas cheer without her, so we headed straight back to Onrus, to spend it with his chosen fam.
And to CHILL. Just to bloody well stay still and chill for a minute.

The holidays are over, the girls back at school, work is picking up - but it's still summer, and the good times are far from over.
Hello 2019.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

bye bye 2018

We're packing for our 3rd trip of the holidays - back to our friends in Onrus for the 3rd time. We've done a crazy dance of back and forth for Christmas and cat-checking-in and playdates for the girls and catch up time for us.
It's such a soft landing there, and so worth it for the chill factor, but it has been a bit of a whirlwind of laundry and packing and unpacking and repacking.

I couldn't leave this space hanging from September though, and had to squeeze in a quick post to say bye bye 2018, let's not see your kind around here again please.

It's hard to dismiss a whole year as total shit, because I'm deeply privileged in my life and family and work, but this one was hard, really hard.

The sting at the loss of my friend has not eased. The void is as gaping as it was, the physical shock when it hits me again that she's really gone is as winding, as hollow. But the profundity of the gifts she gave has grown. In life, in sickness, and in her dying she bestowed so much, left so much of herself behind to think on, learn from and develop further as I age.
I wish I could thank her one more time.

All the other losses have piled up too - my mother-in-law not least among them. This time of year is hard, Christmas was different, the little Ouma-shaped hole in our lives yawns deeply.

So many I love have had it so hard this year, so much loss. I was right to be cautious.

But, we look ahead - because what choice do we have, because where else do we go and because this is our one wild and precious life, and we must live it. Through pain, through sorrow, we must live and live and LIVE.
We owe it to those who no longer have that privilege, and we owe it to ourselves.

See you next year blog, thanks for waiting patiently here always.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

lost in soweto

Oh wait, before that I got lost in Nyanga.
Well, my Uber driver swore he was not lost but the multi-car pile-up in the middle of a 4-way intersection rapidly filling up with buses, kids, goats and pedestrians peeling out of cars to take their chances on foot felt a lot like lost.
Nyanga is the 'murder capital' of South Africa. My Uber driver kept asking me if I was okay and when I promised him I was (I really was, everyone in the situation - except maybe the goats - were intent on only one thing, getting out of the situation, and nothing felt threatening at all), he chuckled and said if he had tourists in the car they'd be crying by now ha ha.
I made him promise to never get into that situation with tourists, even if it was (usually) the quickest route to the airport.

I got to the airport in time for my pre-Joburg oh-seven-hundred manicure and got to Joburg in time to pick up my hired car and set off for Soweto. My little Renault Kwid (Quip?) had sat nav and a nice jolly English man periodically told me what to do.
Joburg freeways have only two speeds: crawling suicidal depression speed, and terrifying homicidal death wish. I alternated between the two.

Everything was going fine, my exit coming up on the left, when Jolly English Sat Nav man instructed me to stay going straight. 5km later I decided he was talking bollocks and while attempting to change direction via complex spaghetti junctions I loaded Google Maps with Laconic American Lady to see what her opinion was.
She and English man argued for a while - Him: You have gone off course, turn back now. Her: Continue straight - until I managed to turn his volume down, and Laconic American Lady boldly directed me straight into the heart of Soweto and a blocked off, non-existent road.

Soweto is massive, like a city on its own, but not the kind of place you dither around in looking lost. Staying cool, I followed a line of other cars diverting around the blocked off road. I followed those cars down a dirt track, through the heart of a very poor settlement, round a bend, through a field, over an embankment, a ramp over the pavement and viola! arrived at my destination.

Thank goodness Soweto is fairly flat, and from a distance I could see the iconic Orlando Towers - an old coal-fired power station - the University of Joburg campus I was headed to was just nearby...

Later that day my Kwid wouldn't start ... no idea why not ... but I got a new car delivered (sans hubcaps when they realised I was staying in Soweto ha ha) and made my way with Laconic American Lady to the Soweto Hotel.
Again she took me off course (in her defense she took me to the pin, which was off course) and this time, with the light fading and the exertions of the day taking their toll, I wasn't feeling nearly as adventurous and brave. And instead resigned myself to driving around in circles swearing outrageously at her, Google Maps, the architects of apartheid, the necessity of work, being self-employed, night time, the universe in general, hired cars and just fucking everything. Until I stumbled upon the hotel quite by accident - a massive concrete block on Walter Sisulu Square - and stood for a moment enjoying the light from my balcony and marveling at the wonder of this country of ours.

It's a pretty weird and wonderful place when you're able to stay still long enough to absorb it.