Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PRIDE & JOY

Ross’ move from public school to Jewish day school just before the end of second grade last year, was made possible by virtue of a capped grant for tuition fees. I was very pleased when I was contacted by the management from the school recently. They told me the name of the family who are the donors of this fund that makes these grants possible. I have never known who is actually behind it.

The reason they gave me this information is they said that every year they extend a letter of thanks from some parents who have been awarded this grant. This year we have been chosen as one such set of parents and they asked me to please outline how being at the school has enhanced Ross’ life.

I jumped at the opportunity as I have always wanted to thank the actual powers that be that make it possible for Ross to be there. As I was coming to the end of my letter, I thought that the person who should really have a voice in this is Ross, he is after all the one attending the school and going through the educational experience.

We recently had to work on a book report for school. The book had to be an autobiography and the report had to be done in the form of an interview. Ross had to be the person the book was about. He chose to be George Lucas and to do it in a taped radio interview format. I acted as the journalist interviewing Mr. Lucas. I was therefore confident that he had a clear understanding of the concept of an interview.

I drew up a list of questions and put them to him – and typed his spontaneous verbatim answers. A transcript of the interview is outlined below.

oooOOOooo

HOW HAS THIS SCHOOL CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

“Learning Hebrew, making very nice friends and having great teachers.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT YOURSELF AND BEING JEWISH SINCE YOU STARTED THIS SCHOOL?

“The great celebratial* holidays and the great history of the Jewish people. I now realize how great my religious history is.”

HAS THIS NEW LEARNING EXPERIENCE GIVEN YOU ANY NEW GOALS AND DREAMS FOR YOUR FUTURE STUDIES?

“Yes. Well, I’ve got new goals to be a famous Rabbi and make sure all Jewish kids grow up to be nice, young religious adults.”

NAME YOUR SIX FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT SCHOOL.

“Gym, Chumash, Social Studies, Language Arts, Math and lunch!”

DO YOU FEEL PROUD ABOUT GOING TO THIS SCHOOL?

“Yes, because I have met so many new people and learnt many new things.”

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR TEACHERS?

“That they are honest and they really teach us well.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST POSITIVE THING ABOUT MOVING FROM PUBLIC SCHOOL TO THIS SCHOOL?

“I am finally not the only Jewish kid in my school. I am surrounded by kids who have the same religion as me. It makes me feel proud because I have people to ask things about things I don’t know and I can invite them to the holidays I celebrate instead of having no-one to come to my Jewish celebrations.”

IF YOU COULD SAY THANK YOU TO THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO ATTEND THE SCHOOL – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

“I would say thank you, you are the best people in the world.”


* I felt compelled to leave this exactly as he said it

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DIVERSIONS

Today is one of those days where I am feeling overwhelmed by the burdens of responsibility and having to be an adult. A number of people close to me are going through major health issues and this permeates everyone’s lives on the deepest of levels.

Without letting go of my prayers for everyone and my constant output of loving, supportive and positive vibes, I have the urge to get into a yellow convertible 1965/6 Mustang, (although I have yet to see a yellow one, it features high on my ‘wish list’). I would take a drive along the coast of Cape Town. I would have piles of cd’s in the car but the first one I would play would probably be ‘I can’t tell you why’ by the Eagles. I would have Ross and Daniel in the car with me and life would feel just perfect!

On a trivial note, I really hope our next American Idol is not the product of yet another vending machine-like star, and if Taylor Hicks doesn’t win, I will be mighty upset. I would like to mention that I spotted Taylor as the best contestant from the first episode of this season! I also hope to celebrate Harold’s victory on Top Chef tonight. If that is the outcome, then I will seriously consider changing careers and becoming a talent scout!


Just for today, let it all be ok, please!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

COOL DAY

Ross’ best friend at nursery school in London was the most darling little boy by the name of Jamie. They adored each other. A couple of months before we were leaving the UK to come to New Jersey (NJ), I finally met Jamie’s Mom, Karen. She was on an extended summer vacation between jobs. She is a very successful solicitor, as lawyers are called in England. I had never met her previously as because of her work schedule, she would drop Jamie off at school earlier than Ross got there, and I would get Ross before Jamie went home.

Karen and I chatted with each other whenever we were at the school at the same time. I was very grateful to her when she acted as a chaperone on one of the school field trips and she took Ross in her car with her and Jamie. There wasn’t much time for us to devote to building a friendship because we were almost on our way out of the country when we met. I did however invite them to our farewell party and it was really strange how out of a group of some 40 people, Karen, her husband Stuart, and of course Jamie were the only English people there. The group was all ex South Africans so I think they might even have felt a bit uncomfortable. When they left the party to go home, Karen and I promised that we would keep the boys in contact with each other, and in so doing, I said to her that if they ever found themselves in NJ, they should please contact us and they would always be welcome to visit with us.

We exchanged emails which were kind of short and sweet because we didn’t really know each other and our mutual ground was very much limited to Ross and Jamie. I think it was about a year after we got here when I got an email from her telling me that they were coming to the States to visit friends in Massachusetts (MA) and thought they would come say hi to us. I wrote back and we arranged that they would stay with us and asked her to let me know their exact dates.

I had expected her to tell me that they were coming for 2 or 3 days, so when I read that they were coming for nearly a week, then going to MA and coming back here for a few days, I was quite shocked. Stuart was going to leave ahead of her and Jamie as he had to get back to work, but Karen thought it would be nice to give the boys a few days extra together.

I awaited their arrival with a certain amount of trepidation. I was confident that the boys would have no problem carrying on where they had left off. I told Daniel that I hoped us four adults wouldn’t end up feeling like we were on a disastrous blind date. After all, we really didn’t know this couple.

The time we shared was absolutely fantastic. As each day unfolded, I discovered a friend who was interesting, thoughtful, totally hilarious in that uniquely daft English way and also very strong. Daniel and Stuart got on well and the days passed with extreme ease. I missed her while they were in MA and was eager for their return. I was now pleased that Karen had decided to add those extra few days on at the end. When we said our goodbyes, they were tearful and I felt really miserable after they were gone. A relative stranger by the name of Karen had arrived. After many good laughs and a heated argument about whether Posh Spice could sing or not, I had parted company with a friend whom I now called Kaz and I had declared her a snooty solicitor at that!

I think it was about a year later again when I had been ill and we were talking on the phone. I passed a comment that I wished we could get together for a face to face chat and cup of tea and before I knew it Karen was back on the phone with flight details. I was, as I learnt to say in England, completely gob-smacked! We again exchanged emails confirming plans and decided to keep this visit as a surprise for Ross and Jamie. We discussed this at length and felt quite childlike ourselves about how amazing this was going to be for them. A couple of hours later Karen called me.

“I’ve just been to get Jamie from school and the first thing I said to him when he got into the car was that we were going to see Ross!” she told me. I roared with laughter because I tell you, we had sworn to secrecy as if we were planning the greatest conspiracy, ever. To this day I don’t know how I managed it, but I did keep it as a complete surprise for Ross.

Somewhere in between all of this we went back to London for a short visit and while we were there, they extended the most generous hospitality to us. Their home was open to us and anyone who wanted to come see us there. In the short bursts of time we got to spend together, an ongoing and most wonderful friendship continued to grow and our bond has gotten stronger and stronger over the years.

Their family increased to now include a daughter but unfortunately we have not been able to get together for close on two years now. We continue to exchange emails and phone calls now and then and whenever we do, we are reminded of how much we want to see each other again.

The last time the snooty solicitor called me, I was unfortunately on my way out the door so could not speak for very long. She did manage to say, “It’s ok as I am actually busy making dinner. I don’t know why, but I just put a chicken in the oven and it made me think of you.”

“Well,” I said, “I suppose it must be those succulent, firm breasts that made you think of me.” This was about a month ago and I still haven’t had the good manners to return the phone call.

In among my snail mail today, I received a parcel from Karen. It came as a total surprise and I had no clue as to what it might be.

The outside of the card said:


The personal message read:


Then I unwrapped this book and smiled a huge smile!
I am always surprised when something happens in my life that reflects that someone, in the busyness of their life, not only thought about me, but went out of their way to do something kind and loving and generous for me. When it comes as a total surprise, it doesn’t get much better than this.


As the greeting on the card suggested, my day went from ordinary to totally cool. Thanks, Kaz.

CHILLING

How often do you say to your kids, "Chill out!"? This made me question if Ross ever does.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

THIS 'N THAT



Alex and Ross surprised me with these really gorgeous Mother's Day gifts.

Here is a mixed bag of things that you can enjoy as treats for yourself ...


I finally got to see BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and it was well worth the wait. The love between these two guys is as deep as the sadness of not living a fulfilled life. It made a profound statement in the gentlest of ways about how destructive prejudice is. I thought that both the music and cinematography were great and my desire to visit Wyoming is strong!


It has been a long time since I enjoyed a move as much as JUNEBUG. I love movies that leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions but that don't leave you guessing. Amy Adams' performance was nothing short of spectacular - you fall in love with her. This movie sucked me in completely to the point where I felt like I was one of the family caught up in the struggle of showing up in their own lives. This is a very different kind of movie and I would encourage everyone to see it.

When you are struggling to find a gift for someone, consider a donation in their name. My first suggestion is always the MDA. You can visit their site here where they make it very easy for you to donate. Please consider this association the next time you are looking for a perfect gift.

Have you ever been in the situation where a lack of money in a small amount is what stands between you and the possibility of getting on with your life? I have discovered this organization which gives you the opportunity to make a totally affordable donation in order to make a huge difference in someone's life. When it comes to supporting others financially, I think we often make the mistake of holding back because we ourselves can't quite manage something huge. Every llittle bit helps those in need. I have made this my charity of choice this year.

On March 23rd I received this email:
"Never start stopping, Dawn and never stop starting, something new.
Works for me.
-The Universe"

On March 26th, while at an Expo to launch a project I had been working on for close to a year, I fell and broke my shoulder. It was really a case of ON YOUR MARK, GET SET - STOP! (I will write more on this project soon.)

On March 27th, I received this email:
"Well, Dawn ... Each challenge adds to the suspense, adds to the mystery, adds to the chaos, adds to the possibilities, adds to the romance, adds to the adventure, adds to the joy.
Cool?
-The Universe"

Get your daily NOTES FROM THE UNIVERSE here. Some days they are exactly what I feel like hearing and when I feel like I don't want to "hear" that, I pay even more attention to the message!



It doesn't look like Keri Smith is selling these PERMISSION CARDS anymore, but there is a whole bunch of really cool stuff that she is selling.

Check out her shop here.

There are also some very nice posters to be had for free (just pay shipping and handling). Check out your choices here.

~ Happy Looking ~

Saturday, May 13, 2006

IN FULL FLIGHT

I went to the doc last Friday and hooray – my shoulder has healed and I have been free of my sling for a week. I have to do four weeks of physical therapy, three times a week and see the doc one more time after that. I have to wait another month until I can drive.

With Daniel having to rush off to Toronto at such short notice, I went from doing almost nothing for myself for 6 weeks, to having to do it all. It felt like I went from 0 – FULL SPEED in .2 seconds. . I was alone at home with Ross for the weekend. As always though, he was a star about helping me out and he just has a 6th sense when it comes to being resourceful when Dad is not around. He takes care of most of his own needs and assists me as best as he can.

At the beginning of that week my cousin from South Africa visited with his girlfriend, Pat. Roy and I are the youngest in our respective families. He has four older siblings. He is a couple of years older than me and we were, to say the least, practically joined at the hip as kids. We were partners in crime. We did everything together and we bonded a relationship that has sustained itself over all these years. The physical distance between us has not detracted from anything and this reunion after nearly six years was everything I had hoped it would be. Although this was the first time we had met Pat, it felt like we have known her for years.

As the days drew nearer for him to arrive, I started getting really pissed off about the fact that I was still going through my healing process and was restricted in the things I could do. I go through a bit of a number every time I am going to see someone I have not seen for a long time. My MD has brought about so many changes in my appearance and the way I now have to live my life, that I am sometimes nervous about how people might respond in meeting the “new and not so physically improved me”.

It has been a while since I experienced this kind of excitement about a visit. As his arrival drew closer, I found myself calling Ross, ‘Roy’ and it just got silly.

I can’t think of any other way of describing this visit other than to say the time together felt like a soft place to fall. There is something magical about being with someone who loves you, just because … they love you – that’s it! I admired a necklace he has worn for as long as I can remember. It is a silver peace dove with the word ‘shalom’ making up the wings of the bird. When I commented to him about how many years he has worn it for, he instantly reminded me that I had given him the chain it was on and confirmed he has worn it for almost 20 years. He told me how the links on the chain had worn away and when he took it for repair, his son had told him it would be easier to just buy a new chain. He told me how he had said to his son, “Jah, but then it won’t be the chain from Dawn.”

It was 4 days of constant “cherries on top”. Laughing, crying, being uplifted by some memories and getting quite sad about others. The sweetest cherry on top was when he brought out the “Margate Mouse”. In December he had gone to Margate on vacation and while there, saw this little mouse made from shells. He told me how when he saw it he thought of Ross and had to buy it from him. I was just blown away that he had thought of Ross and then taken good enough care of this tiny item for 4 months until he could give it to him in person.

In South African slang we say, “Shweet, cuzzie”. The closest I can come to translating this into Americanese would be “Good one, bro!”

From the bottom of my heart, I say, SHWEET CUZZIE – HOPE I SEE YOU AGAIN WITHOUT HAVING TO WAIT ANOTHER 6 YEARS.

"Shweet, Cuzzie!"

The Margate Mouse

Monday, May 08, 2006

REMINDERS

On Thursday last week we received the unfortunate news that my father in law has been diagnosed with two brain tumors and one on his lung.

Daniel flew off to Toronto on Friday and his two brothers flew in from Vancouver and Sydney. This brought the three brothers and one sister together with their parents for the first time in close to three years.

Our family awaits the outcome of tests that have been carried out and on Thursday we will know the details of the prognosis and what the course of treatment will be.

This is a very new experience for Daniel’s family as they are fortunate enough not to have suffered illness and loss.

I realized while speaking with the various family members on the phone over the weekend that I am very well versed in living my life on the edge. By this I mean that in the last 9 years since I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, I have had all sorts of health challenges thrown at me. Daniel has gone through everything with me and living on that edge of not knowing what life is going to present you with from day to day has become very normal for us. I most certainly know that this reality is not unique to us and that life challenges everyone – but when there are health vulnerabilities you are constantly reminded of many things.

These things are all basic stuff. Human nature being what it is, we go about our lives and we sometimes forget the basics. As a family of four siblings who stepped up to the plate without a moment’s hesitation when this situation arose, I couldn’t help questioning why we don’t make a firm commitment to get together once a year in celebration of our lives and blessings. We are all very quick to be there when the shit hits the fan, but when we get caught up in the inevitable day to day comfort zones in our lives when things are good, we forget how important it is to live each day to the full. We forget that if we live away from our families, we should be sure to save so that we can see each other every year. When we do get together, either in smaller groups or all together, while we have to live with a positive attitude, we should have the courage to spend the time and say our goodbyes as if this might be the last time we see each other.
When we were still living in London, Marti and I stripped the wallpaper in the entrance hall in preparation to re-paint it. We only applied the paint about three days after we finished stripping the paper. I was astonished that the kids didn't even notice the difference and pointed out to them that in life they should not treat anyone or anything like the wallpaper. With further explanation I attempted to clarify the importance of not taking things or people for granted. I gave the example of how for three nights they had gone to bed just assuming the wallpaper would be there in the morning. I pointed out how important it is to know that things can change drastically at very short notice and it is essential to live your life consciously so that you are aware of everything and everyone around you all the time.

We go about our lives forgetting how fragile it all is. Everything hangs in such a fine balance and the scales can tip at any time. Hug your children, tell your parents, partners and anyone near and dear to you that you love them at every opportunity you have. And just for the hell of it, extend some love to someone you cross paths with and know you will never see again. You just might make the difference that being needs so that they don’t feel like wallpaper.

 
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