Monday, July 31, 2006

BOLD...?

I recently saw an ad on TV that pissed me off. My immediate reaction to it was one of anger because I felt it was an insult to my intelligence. I only saw it once again and I am not sure if it has perhaps been taken off the air.

The ad was for a car with what looks like the perfect family of 4 in it. Mom driving – dad looking oh so lovingly over his shoulder at the son and daughter on the back seat. Mom pulls up and dad gets out presumably at their happy little home. The daughter then runs out to give Dad a big hug goodbye and Dad says to her, ‘See you in two weeks.’ The camera pans to Mom who is watching this scene from the car and she has a warm and loving smile on her face. Dad looks over his shoulder and sort of mouths to mom, “Thanks for inviting me,” or something to that effect. Mom then gives a non-verbal acknowledgement indicating that it was her pleasure. The overall message of the add is TO BE BOLD.

What a load of crap. Let me just make these general points before I voice my opinion:

I know the insane statistics of divorced/broken families.
I know there are some families who divorce/break very amicably.
I know that not every divorced father is a low-life who doesn’t pay child support.
I know there are exceptions to every rule.

However, I think it is really sad if it has got to the point where companies are projecting divorced/broken happy families as the norm. I would be keen to know how often the scenario they presented actually happens in the real world. What they are saying is that Mom decided it would be a bold thing to phone Dad and have him join the family on their outing to the beach that day. Yeah, right. In reality – I doubt if this happens very frequently.

My husband was married before. I also have a lot of divorced friends – more with children than without. Out of this group of people, there was exactly one couple who had a civilized divorce. They have been divorced for well over ten years now. The husband re-married a few years after the divorce and took in two step children. Both families always shared birthdays, graduations, and all and any kind of event deemed a celebration. They were there for each other at sad times too. The parents continue to be friendly, to treat each other with the same respect and dignity they did when they got married. In so doing, they have avoided any additional pain, hurt and stress that their children might have suffered through the divorce. The children today are grown and married, the divorced parents are now grandparents, and this family will continue to exist as a family in spite of their change in circumstance.

My experience of divorce as well as what I see around me all the time is that some insane dynamic comes into play when couples get divorced. The women, who have been married to the men, know exactly what their financial status is. You would think they do as they have been married to them for how ever many years leading up to their divorce. In spite of this, a phenomenon takes place and the wives believe that these husband’s, while in the process of their divorces, become millionaires. They make financial demands on them sometimes that are nothing short of insane. They might as well declare war. What follows on from these unrealistic demands is a protracted legal battle, costing someone, if not both of them a lot of money and ultimately, everyone comes out of this situation not getting what either of them initially wanted – which was – to end a situation that was not serving anyone anymore – to move on and start a new life. Instead, there is such a lack of harmony that any last shred of friendship that might exist between the couple is wiped out completely.

Nobody gets married with the intention of the union breaking up. I do think that as time goes on, people are marrying thinking that if it doesn’t work out it is not a big deal to get divorced. It is a big deal to get divorced and if anyone thinks otherwise, they are really very highly mistaken. We all go into our marriages or long term relationships to have them work. I know a lot of people who have been in committed relationships for many, many years, who are as married as the next couple in spite of the fact that they did not formalize their union with a marriage certificate. When these relationships break up/down – it is a divorce like any other.

What I don’t understand about these demands that the majority of wives put on their husbands is how they don’t see that all they are doing is dishonoring their children by creating and then perpetuating a war between the parents. Nothing takes people lower than the challenges of money wars.

I do not understand how the mothers have no desire to contribute to their children’s process of growing up on a financial level. Why should this be exclusively the responsibility of the father because the parents have decided to take separate paths?

I would love to conduct a survey among divorced couples and find out if after an extended period of time, the ex wives still believe they acted in the best interests of themselves and their children, or if they were simply wanting to be victorious in the war of rightness?

‘What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?’
~ George Eliot

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BANG-BANG ...

About two years ago Ross used to attend a gymnastics class. I always used to watch the one hour sessions. Other than my friend Jodi whom I met at the gym, I hardly used to engage with any of the other mothers. They used to huddle in their typically uninviting groups and in spite of several attempts to be included, aside from Jodi, nothing ever came of it.

One week though, I had a brief conversation with one of the mom’s. I don’t recall how or why we started talking. Our conversation was short but she made quite an impact on me. I thought about her all the way home and told Daniel about her later that evening. I explained to him that I wasn’t sure what it was about her, but I picked up this deep sadness from her. I walked away from her feeling quite heart sore and there was just something about her that touched a soft spot in me. I felt like she needed some TLC. She stayed on my mind for several days.

Soon after that happened, Marti started taking Ross to gym and when I described the woman to her, Marti told me that she would often chat with her.

On Wednesday last week when Ross came home from camp, the bus counselor accompanied him to the door as he wanted to talk to me. He explained that Ross had been playing catch on the bus with another little boy by the name of Noah. They sit next to each other and for some crazy reason; Noah took his sneaker off, threw it at Ross and asked him if he wanted to play catch with it. In their exchange of throwing the shoe back and forth between them, Noah got banged on the nose. This resulted in a dramatic nose bleed which lasted all the way home for Noah who was met off the bus by his mom. I asked Ross and the counselor if this had been an accident and they assured me it was and that Noah had agreed it was. The counselor rightly thought I should be made aware of the event.

The next morning I asked Ross if he knew Noah’s last name and addressed a note to his Mom. I gave it to the same counselor and asked him to pass it on to her when they stopped to get Noah. In the note I had said to her that I had been made aware of the incident on the bus and was told that the boys agreed it was an accident. I said I hoped Noah was OK and that if she had any concerns, she should please call me and I listed my number.

Within 15 minutes my phone rang and I answered the call from Noah’s mom. She thanked me very much for sending the note and stressed Noah was fine and it was not a big deal at all. As she continued chatting away, I became aware that she had a lisp and this reminded me of something. I listened to her more attentively and at an appropriate time asked her if Noah had ever attended the gym that Ross used to go to. Through a few questions we worked out that we had indeed met before and this was the lady I had spoken to Daniel about those two years ago. I didn’t mention anything to her about the feelings of sadness I had picked up from her, but as she continued talking, she told me that at that time things were pretty rough for her. She had recently been divorced. Three months after that her mom had passed away and the whole situation was difficult for her as her ex husband works for her father. No mystery as to why I picked up feelings of sadness. Although it was a really long time coming, I was pleased we made our ways back to each other and agreed that we should get together for coffee.

On Friday afternoon as I was about to leave for my physical therapy appointment my phone rang. I saw from the caller ID that it was a cell phone number but I didn’t recognize it so decided to take the call even though it would delay me.

“Hi Dawn, this is the nurse from Ross’ camp.” Even though my heart felt like it instantly changed location in my body and had suddenly shifted to the rear exit door, in that split second I tried to reassure myself and while responding in that almost quivering voice with, “Oh .. hi …” I simultaneously think to myself, “Aaaah the nurse must be phoning me to tell me Ross is having an awesome day at camp.”

She went on to explain that Ross and another kid had literally had a head-on collision. One of them was running into the room, the other one was running out of the room – they didn’t see each other – BANG. Ross had split his left eye open just under the eyebrow and she thought it needed stitching.

Daniel had overheard the conversation and was already on his way upstairs from his office and looking for his keys.

She put Ross on the phone and the poor kid was in a complete state. He was crying and sounded very distressed. When I asked him if he was ok he got a few words out between the sobs and said, “No Mommy.” I explained to him that he would feel much better if he could calm himself down and that Daddy was already on his way to get him. (In the USA you get your kids from camp and your dog fetches the stick in the park – for the benefit of my South African readership!)

While waiting for Daniel to get back with him to come and get me to join them to the ER, I was trying to work out how we were going to calm Ross down sufficiently to get his eye stitched. He has been really fortunate and never suffered any serious injuries. The only shots (injections) that he has ever had to have were the usual childhood immunizations and various others required for immigration purposes. Anyone who had been sitting in the waiting rooms at the various places he has had these shots would stare at us on the way out in shock and horror from the blood curdling screaming they had been forced to listen to. Ross could practically screech, scream, yell, and make strange animal sounds that could peel paint off the wall as a needle would approach him. He would get himself into such a state that I would eventually have to yell at him to tell him he really needs to stop screaming because it is all over. I would find myself on the brink of calling him names to shut him up he would make such a production of it. And now, we were supposedly on our way to the ER for stitches … above his eye.

Fortunately for us the ER was quiet so we were seen immediately. When the nurse took a look at it and quickly said that they would be able to glue it rather than stitch it, I’m not kidding when I say that Ross collapsed into my lap with relief and shouted out, “Thank you God!” From that moment on he started getting color back in his cheeks and within an hour we were on our way home with the eye glued and no shots given.

The process worked incredibly well and exactly as the doctor explained, after not getting it wet for three days, the glue started flaking away and yesterday the last few pieces came away with the remaining scab. There was no pain or discomfort and it didn’t cause any problems for Ross over the weekend.

They say things happen in 3’s. You can read about the third BANG here. Hopefully that’s it for now with the BANGING!

FRIDAY



SUNDAY



TUESDAY

For some additional 'chocolate fiend mug shots' look here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

TGIF ...

I received this pic in an email a few ays ago. It explained that this is a fire rainbow - the rarest of all naturally occurring atmospheric phenomena.

It was taken this week on the Idaho/Washington border and the event lasted about 1 hour.

Clouds have to be cirrus, at least 20k feet in the air, with just the right amount of ice crystals and the sun has to hit the clouds at precisely 58 degress.

In the middle of all the chaos that is going on around the world, from wars to fires to earthquakes, etc. this was reassuring for me and a reminder that when people just back off and let the process of life take care of itself, beauty and miracles manifest everywhere.


Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful and joyous weekend to everyone.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MIXED BAG ...

I have commented many times before about the fact that I am not a political thinker. I never have the audacity to express any kind of political opinion. In spite of these admissions, I find it impossible not to comment on the lunacy that is going on in the Middle East. I have very close relatives in Israel as well as near and dear friends, so it is impossible to ignore it. I don’t understand the lunacy and I just pray that sanity will be restored – it freaks me out completely.
I really didn’t know what to write about today. I struggled to come up with one theme. Therefore, I have decided to post under a heading I use from time-to-time. Here’s my mixed bag.

Madiba turned 88 today. There is an event held here every year called the Scarsdale Braai. I have been to two of them. It is held on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. The setting is gorgeous and South Africans from near and quite far attend. The event was started by a boykie 14 years ago who hosted a braai/bbq in his back garden. Next month will be the 14th year. The first year we went we were fortunate enough to enjoy the live sounds of Sharon Katz and the Peace Train. If you are in the area, it's worth attending.

Taken last year en route from New Jersey to New York when we went to the popular South African restaurant, Madiba.

HAPPY BITHDAY NELSON MADIBA MANDELA.

The birthday party we had for my mom and Ross on Saturday turned out amazingly. There were lots of dietary restrictions pertaining to food allergies so we had to pay close attention to the menu. Once again, Daniel rose to the occasion and prepared nothing short of a feast. Everyone’s needs were catered to. To ensure the meal was safe for everyone to eat, I decided to make labels for each item on the table. It worked really well and I strongly recommend this for your next party. Everyone was so appreciative of this small gesture but as I too am on a strict food allergy/intolerance diet, I know how nice it is to not have to abstain from something that looks really yummy just because you can’t be certain of the ingredients. A couple of days before the party, I decided I wanted to give everyone party bags. This is a custom I learnt only after arriving in the USA. When I attended a birthday party, I was used to giving the birthday person a gift, and that was it. Here however, all kids have to go home with a goodie bag. I have done it for five years at all of Ross’ birthday parties. In spite of the fact that there were only two kids at this party and 11 adults, I thought the bags would be a nice touch … and they were! I hung one on each person's chair. It was a really fun way to end the meal with everyone opening their goodie bags around the table.

I love these words of inspiration so I copied it and put one in each party bag. If you click on the pic to enlarge it, you can then print one off for yourself.


While in Toronto recently, at the pool in the complex where my in-laws live, I found it impossible not to extend my zoom lens as far as it could go, if not further, to capture some pics of this bathing beauty. I am not sure if she is going for some kind of world record, but take a close look at the length of her finger and toe nails.

Two of my favorite shows are back on TV - Hell's Kitchen and Project Runway. I successfully predicted the winner of another chef’s competition that was recently aired on a different network to HK. I don’t know if the best of the best all auditioned for Top Chef, but my golly – HK is really scraping the bottom of the barrel this time around. I will make no prediction as to who is likely to win as based on the show so far, I don’t see any of these contestants being worthy of a million dollar restaurant at a resort in Vegas. It is too early to comment on a possible winner for Project Runway, but I would certainly suggest that contestant Keith should find himself a Jude Law look-alike competition to enter. I am pretty confident he would win it.

At around 1.15 this morning, we heard a whole commotion going on outside on the back deck. On investigating, we discovered that Rocky Raccoon, checked on to our deck, only to freak out our doggy. (sung to that tune!) Fortunately Pingy sleeps tucked up under our duvet or in this super plush new bed we bought her on the weekend, so she came to no harm. The raccoon totally creeped me out. I have never been this close to one who was stationary, in fact, he turned to face us when Daniel knocked on the sliding door and all but posed for the pic. I took one long look at him and started to itch. I broke out in a complete rash to the extent where I had to take an anti-histamine. I’m not sure what it was about this guy that gave me such heeby-jeebies.

Pingy curled up in her new bed/lounge suite is a far prettier picture.

My relationship with my step son David ranks as one of the hardest I have had to deal with, ever. In the last year or so I have learnt how to protect myself from the hurt it has caused me and for the most part, I have chosen to stay out of his way and in so doing, he is out of mine. For reasons I could never understand and have stopped trying to fathom, he switches from barely extending a grunt in my direction to suddenly interacting with me as if we have had a “normal”, healthy relationship over the last 8 years that we have lived together. While I do proceed with caution, because it is heart shattering when he then switches back to walking by me in the hall as if he has never seen me before, I give the “good” times my all. Earlier this week we were having a conversation about the trials and tribulations of looking for love where you mostly only find sex when you are in your late teens. He is turning 18 at the beginning of August and as we well know, it is a hard, life-lessons age. I know this might sound extremely self-important, but when he left, I thought to myself that the irony of our relationship is that the one woman who has consistently been there for him regardless of how he has treated her, is none other than ME. No matter what might have gone down, (and believe me, major stuff for both of us has gone down) when all else has failed him, I have been and will continue to be there. I confess to wishing that he would not only see that for himself, but acknowledge me for it – maybe not now, maybe not in the immediate future, but hopefully some day. I would really like that.


Last summer my friend Jody asked me to take care of her pet while she went on vacation. The strange thing about this pet-sitting job was that the pet was not yet born but was likely to arrive while they were away. Confused? What Jody had asked me to take care of were still in the making ... butterflies. If you have never witnessed this process – you must treat yourself and your kids to it. It is so interesting and an opportunity to see the miracle of creation unfold in front of your eyes. Here are some more detailed pics off a website that show this process of metamorphosis. My pic shows the butterflies within minutes of them hatching. As soon as they were able to spread their wings completely, we released them. It was fantastic.


To fully appreciate the history of my family’s relationship with Martina, you would have to glance over three archived blog posts. These are from August 1st and 3rd, 2004 and October 17th, 2005. The next chapter in this wonderful story took place last week when Marti received her Green Card. Acquiring a Green Card was not her motivation for coming here but a complete life-change is what she found. I know that everyone who knows Marti through us and who reads this news will be as thrilled for her as we are. Congratulations Manka – you deserve it!
(p.s. any attempts at a vrtual lesson on how to link back to earlier posts will be both welcomed and apprecaited!)
Marti welcoming her Dad last year when her parents arrived for her wedding.

This last year has been baby season in our family. I previously featured my pregnant sisters in law. Here are the belly's beauties.

Another pic that I featured last year was this gorgeous child in the green hat. When ever my friend sends me pics of her children, I reply by asking how she copes with so much cuteness. This is what gorgeous child in the green hat looks like now. No surprise she has wings – right?


Inspired by an email my sister sent me today, I am launching a new awards show. It is called the HOTY AWARDS. (pronounced 'hotty.') It stands for HUSBAND OF THE YEAR AWARD.
Which countries do you think each of these contestants come from?


And finally, as was clearly evidenced in the comments section of my last post, if I don’t feature my sister, who knows what punishment I might end up enduring?

Friday, July 14, 2006

FULL THROTTLE ...

I have really been struggling with how to write about our trip to Toronto. It was a mix of so many different emotions – a real bitter sweet experience. My mom and dad in law and Daniel’s sister live in Toronto. My f.i.l is in his early 70s, and up to about 8 weeks ago, he was in good health, working full time and leading a very active life. He has always been in good shape, never smoked and was always on the go.

Everything changed those few weeks ago when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He has already undergone radiation treatment for two tumors on the brain and is currently in the second phase of what will be a series of four phases of chemo therapy taking him through to November.

He is fortunate enough to not be suffering the usual side effects of chemo and aside from extreme weight loss and losing his hair; it has not been too brutal. He is putting up such a sterling fight and I truly pray, from the deepest place inside of myself, that he will be blessed by a miracle.

I really salute both my mom and dad in-law. If anyone knows what it takes to surrender a large part of control due to circumstances that are beyond your own control, it’s me. When I think of what they have both had to deal with and how they have had to change their mind sets, I am just blown away because of the speed at which it came at them. When life comes knocking at your door full throttle, it is quite amazing what you can do.

This was my 4th visit to Toronto but the first ever in the summer. The weather was perfect and all I can say is it has made me fall even more in love with the place. I don’t know if it is the very strong South African presence that perhaps makes me feel so at home there, but I experience a sense of place when I am there that I have not felt anywhere since we left SA. While shopping at the local supermarket for the in-laws it got to a point where I felt like I was at Checkers – it was unreal. Almost every person in the fruit and veg section was South African. The whole shopping experience was a treat and I confess to having walked the aisles pretending I was at home. (sad ... but true!)

Our niece ~ do you get the urge to eat this up, or what?

We got back home on Monday 10th which was the day my mom turned 83. Ross’ actual birthday follows hers on the 14th so tomorrow we are having a party to celebrate these special people.

Today, as the phone calls came in for Ross from literally all over the world, I remembered how when he was much younger I was sure he thought all his family and friends lived in the phone.


As I review the week and think about all the people in our lives no matter how near or far, and at the risk of sounding totally cheesy, I am reminded how every day is truly a blessing. The bad days are sent to remind us of how important it is to enjoy the good days. Our lives hang in such a fragile balance and ultimately all that is important is for us to live truthfully and in good health.

Today, more than ever, I thank my body for having made it possible to do what it did to make me a mother. I honor my husband for all that he is. I look at our son and see how wonderful it is to have someone in my life who makes loving such a natural and easy thing to do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I'M BACK ...

Daniel, Ross and I just spent a few days in Toronto visiting our family there. Lots to tell and will write more soon. I received this link in an email today and had to share it. For those familiar with the TV series, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE - this should be particularly enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

JULY 4TH ...

When I visited a South African friend’s blog and saw that even she had acknowledged the 4th of July holiday – I felt pretty slack and thought I really should do something as well.

As I am not American, in all honestly I don’t feel any kind of emotional response to the 4th of July and all it stands for – but I totally respect those who do. To honor the day though, I decided to post some pics that show aspects of my life that are unique to my American experience.

I spent a quiet and relaxed day with my mom and sister. Daniel spent time as part of a mutual aid team who responded to a structure fire in a neighboring town. Poor folks – their entire three storey house burnt to the ground. He has spent the rest of the day charging in and out the house responding to ambulance calls. I guess he is my own version of an American hero. In between all these brave, good deeds - he manages things as outlined in the post following this one.

To all those people who did celebrate the 4th of July – I hope it was a fun and meaningful day for you. To all the South Africans who extended wishes for a happy 4th of July through their blogs – that was so kind and so typically South African – ugh shame man, you chinas are just so sweet!

While all this was going on the Shuttle had a successful launch. I am still enchanted by the Shuttle and hope the mission is successful and the return to earth is a safe one.

This pic was taken a few weeks ago on the way to Ross' school. I am not sure if it was a car wash or gas station, but as you can see it is now totally deserted. I found it so interesting that in spite of this fact, the American flag remains on display.

The one uniquely American thing that I have come to love in the almost five years that we have been living here, is the holiday of Thanksgiving. This was our table last year.

This pic was taken by my neighbor. She was sitting on her deck when she spotted the baby owl. If you look closely (click on pics to enlarge) you will see there is another little baby owl on the branch below - it is a darker color but you can just see the glimmer of its eye from the flash. She said they were extremely cute!

Seeing deer strolling through your own garden and the neighborhood is very common here. This was taken a couple of weeks ago when we were sitting at the table on Father's Day. I looked up and saw this deer over the road. Unfortunately it didn't come out very clearly but a deer it is, over the road from my house.

These next two pics show a deer who was passing through my back garden in the Autumn/Fall - this pic was taken from my back door.


SOD THIS ...

Up until the time I became a Mom, I always thought I really understood the power of the creative process. Then I became a Mom and I realized it was only the beginning of learning to understand the power of the creative process.

As time went on, I developed a deeper understanding and respect for people who put themselves in the public eye through the things they create. In much the same way that different people respond to my child in different ways, so is the response to anything, anyone creates from no-thing to some-thing. Other people will either love it or they won’t. Some will find it amusing when others will get pissed off and maybe even upset by it. While it might be so removed from our intention, there are some people who will even hold enough of a point of view about your creation to declare themselves offended by it.

I am always in awe of artists who are brave enough stand up in front of audiences with the clear intention of making them laugh. I am envious of artists who are daring enough to lay their souls on the line and exhibit their creations.


Then there are those special people who take the time to guide those who have no clue how to do something. They stand by the relatively clueless and hold their hand as they embark on a seriously creative process. I have written about the wonderful neighbors we have. I think it was during the first or second summer season we were here, we nick-named Stan, “The Lawn Nazi.” (LN) This came from him telling us that our garden sucked and that we had no clue how to take care of it and basically, how crap it looked most of the time.

We made feeble attempts over the next year to improve on it, and every Sunday morning the race was on as to whether it would be Daniel/David or Stan who would be doing laps on the lawn with the lawnmower. Stan’s wife Alyson soon acquired the title of “The Commish.” derived from Commissioner. Alyson knows how to tell people what to do without pissing them off because she is the kind of person who will thank you for asking her to do you a favor.

This winter, the LN and The Commish committed to guiding us through the process of a garden make-over. One day in the spring, I spotted The Commish in the garden sketching, writing down notes on a piece of paper, and very soon – the plan was laid out and explained to Daniel. This make-over would entail laying sod, extending the deck with a pathway to the sidewalk, digging out a flower bed, removing a tree and replacing it with a nicer one and planting lots of new stuff.
click on pics to enlarge



Between Daniel and David, all this work was done other than the laying of the sod. This required some heavy duty equipment and we all know that certain medications prohibit the operation of heavy duty equipment!



Having watched Daniel work his butt off to say the least, I feel I have gained even more insightinto the magic that lies within taking something from nothing and turning it into something. When this beautiful garden bursts into bloom next spring, there will no doubt be a party to celebrate the birthday of Daniel’s 4th baby and three cheers for the the LN and The
Commish.

 
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