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an american in joburg

why am I here? thats a good question...

Updated: 2017-09-05T20:15:31.212-07:00




Open for business

I am sitting at my desk at work. I can hear the traffic outside and the phone still rings. There was a photo shoot in the studio today. My kids went to school and have gone home with friends for playdates. This is quite a normal day. Except, I just read that there are about 27,000 people displaced from their homes in a city whose official population is some 2.5 million. Yes, 10% of Joburg has been displaced due to xenophobic attacks. Its mainly foreigners that are getting the axe - or rather the necklace (which is the very disturbing practice of putting a tire around somebody's neck and lighting it on fire), but those housing and employing foreigners are also a target.

People are dying, people are starving. Many have been beaten or raped and at the very least, they have been unable to fight back as the few possessions they own have been taken from them or destroyed. It started because a group of South Africans heard from somewhere that foreigners were getting preferential allocations to government housing. This information, coupled with massive unemployment, rising food and petrol costs, growing disassociation and disenfranchisement from the government - and probably also a couple bottles of beer - led to the first attacks on Zimbabwean nationals living in Alex Township. Others caught on to this and the wave of violence spread, through and outside of Joburg. The classic xenophobic beliefs that foreigners are taking "our" jobs and commit all the crimes fueled the classic mob mentality and within a few moments, the thugs got involved. They were doing it anyhow, now its just an easier environment to work in.

Thousands of people, many of them already refugees and (as the current government refuses to accept that Zimbabweans could possibly have reason to leave home) economic migrants, some documented, some not, have been left displaced again. South Africa does not have a refugee camp policy. These people have been seeking refuge in churches and police stations. Ironically, it is the "Red Ants" now guarding these makeshift camps. (The "Red Ants" are a branch of the police force responsible for the search and eviction of undocumented migrants in the inner city and known for the cruelty in which they carry these orders out.) The call has gone out for everyone to bring in food and clothing, especially for the children. Everyone knows someone who is gathering up to take in to some shelter or other. Community associations are up in arms - its just that the government has been awful slow in taking up arms against the terror. The pictures are horrific. The stories will make you cry.

There is a war against foreigners going on in "my" city. I wonder if I should be worried about my safety. I wonder if there will come a point when I need to jump on the next airplane and off to safety. I wonder if I am really a foreigner; how can I be now? And as I ponder all these things, I sit at my desk in a city with violence erupting and exploding around me and I answer the phone calls that are still bringing work in. The city is burning, but if you need a make up artist, we are open for business.



Made for TVI have recently spent a horrific amount of time reading up on the Josef Friztl case that emerged in Austria a few weeks ago. By now I am pretty sure I have read most things that the general public has been allowed to get its hands on. I can rattle off facts like I am somehow involved in the investigative team and I really hope the bastard is charged with murder for the death of one of his sons. How on earth can someone who perpetrated crimes for 24 years be sentenced for 15 years? Look, he is pushing up in years, and chances are 15 years is enough to see him to his death bed, but really? I spend most of my time and energy on this thinking about the little things like trying to deliver babies on your own. And then there is this tricky one: the kids' mother is also their sister, but that fact is really not important, because being their mother is the dominant role she plays. So the kids are soon to get their Austrian citizenship, but will the courts be as speedy in granting a divorce (assuming his wife asks for one) and removing him as a custodian for the minor children he has adopted and fostered? I know nothing about Austrian law (except that the max sentence for rape is 15 years and that prostitution is legal), but does Josef's name go on birth certificates as the father and as such is he necessarily a guardian of the youngest child, Felix who is still a minor? Ah, its a tricky one. And while I agree that trying to give the family some peace is a great idea, wow am I entranced by this crazy crazy story. How on earth can this happen? I join the ranks with the others in almost disbelief.The other thing that occupies my brain space these days is the imaginary holiday I am planning. Yes, imaginary, because just like my holiday to 1971 New York City (just to hear Carol King's Tapestry as it is released) and 1954 Chicago (just because I want some furniture and clothes), I can not really go on holiday to Star's Hollow. Yes, that's right, I have become obsessed with the tiny Connecticut town in the Gilmore Girls. Of course, in my imaginary holiday, I am going to visit Loralei and Rory. Its totally possible that Stars Hollow exists, but I haven't done a scrap of web research on this. I just sit on my couch after the kids have gone to sleep and watch episodes back to back while sinking ever deeper into my couch. But, after admitting around a table of friends that "I looooove the Gilmore Girls" (for which I was told I was brave for admitting), I got slammed with, "but who talks like that?" and "its so fake". Ahhh, I talk like that - or at least I want to. Snappy come backs and cutesy inside jokes. Oh please let me talk like that...And upon enquiring about the Gilmore speak, I have sadly been told that no, my sister and I do not speak like them. Its very sad, but not nearly as bad as realising that all my memories are made for TV. They are edited and clipped at precisely the right point. They do have the benefit of an almost unlimited music budget and with me in the roles of art director, producer, and lead actress it makes the chances of winning an Emmy really, really outstanding. But still, the editor has taken 30 years and condensed them in to a couple seasons of a weekly 30 minute sitcom (though I am toying with entering under the situational drama category instead, its just all the quippy lines that make it so fun to watch). Nonetheless, made for TV is much better than made for reality. I mean, who wouldn't take the fantasy of Stars Hollow over the reality of the cellar in Amstetten, Austria? Thankfully I have the one to balance the other as I spend my days, because they are both a little too surreal for me to handle on their own. And when this week's episode of "The Katie Show" airs, both will just have a tiny mention, a little one-liner like "Why don't you pose Gilmore Girls vs Josef Fritzl on Google fight?" (Wow, even managed to get in my ever growing dependence on the Google applications in there!) There will be canned laughter and then applause. Afte[...]



snip snip

"Cut my hair?"
"No, don't say it like that, say, 'change my appearance'"
"Cut my hair?" This is me repeating myself to my hairdresser. It went on like that for a few minutes.
"Its time for a change." This was Kobus trying to defend himself.
"A change? For years it was jet black and long and straightened. Just recently we added in streaks of red and now we are on to blond almost. How much of a change is that?"
"But its always just been long and straight."
"Cut my hair? You want to cut my hair?" I think Kobus was glad to be rid of me when I walked out of the salon, I was worse than a broken record. I really couldn't fathom the concept of cutting my hair, much less believe the words that were coming out of Kobus' mouth.

I am Sampson. My strength is in my hair, obviously, because I was on a path to revival of self and the mere mention of me potentially losing it, has broken me down and I feel weak. (Cut my hair?) I would have thought I was a bit more Delilah, I generally have a knack for finding the weaknesses in others and breaking them down when I need to. Sneaky. Sly. You'll be too busy watching the foot in the door to notice that the door is all the way open. All that. (Cut my hair?) It looks like I have just switched operatic roles and that is okay, except I am still reeling from the inability to compute the consequences of losing my hair.

To you - and you know exactly who you are, I am the picture of strength. I deal with the big issues with such poise and grace. I take it away for breakfast and chew it up slowly, letting it work itself out of my body naturally. The small issues don't even come near me do they? I am a pinnacle of understanding and accepting. I am stronger than you will ever be. I wonder if you will ever know how weak and pathetic I really am. I wonder if you will ever understand the reasons for the strength I exude. (Cut my hair?) I wear those scabs like a badge, like a hero, but they are window dressing, a lot like my hair. Don't worry honey, look how strong I am, I will handle it, I will always handle it, I will always be there for the people too afraid to let me in anyway. As words drip from my hands, I can almost hear the snip snip of the scissors behind my neck... I am terrified.

But I know what I need to do. I know I need to develop another platform of strength, one that is based here, where I physically am. I know I can not rely on all that I have relied on so far. Because this is as far as that train goes. I need to make some changes, because I want to win, I want to come in first and that might mean running on my own two feet for a little while. So maybe cutting my hair is not the end of the world or the end of my inner strength. Perhaps its just a way of showing that I am as strong as you think I am. Maybe even stronger. And maybe it will show me I am Achilles and not Sampson. Which means of course that once I cut my hair, my new thing may be investing in bullet-proof, kick-the-shit-out-of-you ankle protection. I mean I always have to have a thing, don't I? (But really, cut my hair?)



crustyIts the first time I have attempted to write a blog where the first thing that came to mind was the title. And what a title, you know? I mean, where could I take this from here? Crusty. It just sounds gross. The first word that came to mind was healing, but that is just not creative enough for the put-two-obsolete-and-abstract-words-together-and-call-it-a- description girl. But then crusty doesn't fit under that either. Crusty here, however, is being used as the description of the outer edges of a large scab as it starts to heal from the outside in. And yes, you got it, I am calling myself a scab. One or two of my readers may have at one point or another thought of me as a large scab on their knee following a skateboarding (or similar) fall. I however have never thought of myself as a scab until, um, just today.Truth is, its not a wholly inaccurate description of myself in the recent past. A bleeding wound in the line of constant re-injury. Let me re-phrase that. "Its not a wholly inaccurate description of myself (full stop)." Oh yes, setting myself up for injury is what I do best. Girls, back me up on this. I mean you have seen it numerous times, you saw it before I saw it. Scab that won't develop past the point of crustiness. That is me. Over and over, again and again. I have a soundtrack to the emotional injuries of my life, any one need a copy? I have been fortunate, its not like I am constantly in the crusty stages, sometimes it is a fresh wound and once I allowed a scab, which had been opened and broken over and over and again and again to heal into a throbbing scar; it remains to this day. And its not like anyone causes these injuries, its just me, I should really learn to lick my wounds with my anti-bacterial tongue and invest in a supply of good bandaids. Because obviously the techniques I have been using to date just don't work.Recently, in my quest for new and improved healing techniques I have turned to an addiction that I hear is very soothing (and infinitely more popular than count the stitches knitting I engage in). Video games. I have recently taken possession (albeit short-term) of a PS2 and I have been engaging in some Tony Hawk action on a nightly basis. I suck. I am worse at video skating than I am at real skating. And that is really hard to beat, as the last time I was on a board, I was having gravel picked out of my back at the health centre as as soon as the alcohol stopped masking the pain. I have also found that it is hard to practice skating without listening to old school punk, which means that things like Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine and Adem have been missing from my evening playlist. This is obviously infinitely more emotionally beneficial than knitting as it is a complete waste of my time and skills. I am not even good at it. And I am allowing myself to be mediocre. And I am also having fun slamming people into walls and watching them slip off their boards in ways that would require them being picked off the gravel instead of the other way around.You get the picture though. I am in the limbo of healing and working on being nothing for the first time instead of being everything. It is a little bit difficult for me, but maybe for the first time I will have a clear head and maybe just maybe I will move forward from there. Maybe I will remember I live where I really do, even if its not where I want to be. Maybe the Tony Hawk plaster will work where nothing else has. Maybe this scab will become just a scar, after I work through the alphabet (scab, scad, scag...), but for now I am spending my evenings on the couch, controller in hand, getting more and more crusty as I heal from the outside in.[...]



time lordWhere did all the time go? How come it is not bending the way I want it to? Five years passed with revelations and revolutions. A few days passed through my world in the space of minutes, despite the feeling of kid before Christmas that comes with a new place. And this week. I can cross the days off my calendar, but I can't figure out what happened to them. I am stuck in a Doctor Who universe that isn't really mine. Its colding me out. Well everything except the comparison of my life to a Doctor Who episode, because I have firmly committed myself to having the worlds biggest crush on the Doctor. Please note we are talking about the 2005 version of the Doctor, not the classic Doctor with very Simon & Garfunkel just got out of bed hair. And for those of you unfamiliar with either series, Doctor Who is a Time Lord who saves the day all over the universe with his sometimes beautiful accompaniments.And speaking of hair and time. How is it that a nearly-30-year-old, fully-capable, mother-of-two, holds-down-a-job, world-traveler, and most-vainest of people in the world simply can not find the time to brush her hair in the morning? The routine should very clear by now. It should go something like this (with you know the bits about the kids taken out for edited list purposes):wake upput on robestart kettle for coffeeuse toiletmake coffeedrink coffeetake showerget dressedhave another cup of coffeeapply deodorant brush teethbrush hairgather handbag and other essentials for the daymake sure lights, etc are turned offgo to workI am pretty sure that most people who go to work every day and especially those of us who are so vain about our hair that we go to the salon EVERY week and even more especially those of us whose job description entails meeting clients, I am pretty sure pretty much everyone else manages to brush their hair. How come I can't? But that I don't even think about it in the morning is the real problem I suppose. Yesterday, around lunchtime, I was greeted by a visitor to our office. Conversation went something like this: Me: "Hello"Him: "Hey there"Me: "How ya doin?"Him: "Better than you by the looks of it"Me: "What? What the hell does that mean?"Him: "Well it looks like you had a night"Me: checking over my appearance quickly, noting that I am not hung over despite some wine having been consumed "what on earth makes you say that?"Him: "Your hair looks a state. Clearly had a rough morning..."Me: "Wow, thats a thing to say..." and then silently to myself I swore at him and at me for a few seconds and headed straight for my hair brush.And really, despite the fact that I am missing some of my time and spending some of it plotting and writing, I do actually have plenty of it and a hair brush. And I seem to be spending some of my time doing nothing but watching a Time Lord on tv. And I mean nothing. The girl who multi-tasks for fun has been vegging out now and again and watching a very absurd celebrity crush. I could seriously be using that time more constructively, by doing things like brushing my hair. But then I think to myself, well, most of my non-verbal communication is played out by my relationship with my hair and sweeping it forward or to the side or twisting it with my fingers. And some people have gotten so good at reading my relationship to my hair that maybe one of them will step forward and tell me what it means that I haven't brushed it yet today...[...]



blow your house down

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in..." Then I'll sniffle and grumble and sneeze your house in... I remember the worst flu I ever had. I was living in Coventry and working out at the diner. I would wake up in the morning and feel ok, so I would go through to work and on my drive all the way back it would hit me. One night I was so bad that I got home, collapsed on the couch and proceeded to allow the dizziness to set in. I wanted orange juice, I had orange juice in the fridge, the fridge was in the next room, it was a small place, the fridge was not that far away. For some reason I couldn't do it. I crawled, on all fours, crawled I tell you - after more or less falling off the couch - to the kitchen and smeagoled my way on to the counter, managed to get a cup and then managed to get some orange juice in it. I was delirious. I sat on the kitchen floor to drink my juice because I couldn't manage to crawl with the cup of juice. When the cup was empty, I continued to sit on the kitchen floor because I just couldn't manage to build up the strength to get back to the couch, let alone my bed. Dizzy to the point of ridiculous, alternately burning up and freezing socks off. Slowly, and with the aid of my roommate I was pried off the floor and dragged back to the couch. I remember Ally McBeal came on. It was the first time I had seen it and I was delirious or it was brilliant. I still can't say, I don't think I've seen it since...

I feel a little fluish now. I don't even think it is the flu. It is called too-much-stress-and-my-body-is-worn-out weakness. And of course I am stressed out and of course I am over-working myself. I know this because those are two things I really do well. In fact I have to say they are my most consistent personality traits. There are plenty of other personality traits that we could go into, but I am not strong enough to face those right now. I want to go home. (Hey that is another consistent one, isn't it?) I want to crawl into bed and wait for my mom to pop in her head and announce dinner plans. I want to watch mediocre (or even good) sitcoms on tv. I want to be a little girl for a few hours while someone else makes the decisions. Hell, at this point I would settle for just being settled...

Moving is no joke. Its like a big bad wolf came and blew down my house, my world. Organise this, phone them, go here, pick up that, oh my, what about this? I dunno, maybe it is more like the Wizard of Oz, house spinning, my head spinning and I have landed where exactly? And I feel somewhat delirious and like I want to sit on a kitchen floor (although not the one in my new place, not until it is cleaned, the people who lived there before me were filthy people) with my head up against a fridge. I think it is just fatigue, but even if it is the flu, I know the feeling and I like repeats, and I'll take it. I am just looking for the comforts of home, my home, a home, any home.

And I suppose that is why, when I was greeted this morning by a little voice declaring that I had not read him a story last night (he fell asleep on the couch), it didn't matter for a second that my body was on the weak side of life, I huffed and I puffed and I made it all the way through the Three Little Pigs without sneezing. And I tried to hold back on the kisses, just in case I am a little more than exhausted...



fire exits

I read like a tarot card, its so easy to pick out my mood and to divide up what I am really saying. But I am not alone. I think it is actually rare that people are able to conceal their real feelings. And I am generally pretty good at picking these things up. Last night was just another night, like any other night. An exhibition, some drinks and then a packed full space of people mushing and pushing and putting on their smiles and their attitudes. A sea of bodies, dancing and laughing and full of the expectations of this life... I played along, I smiled and put on my attitude and danced and laughed, but I am feeling jaded.

I saw him. He doesn't know who I am, but I know who he is. I know his history, his story. I know this because when people are in a sea of other people all mushing and pushing each other, sometimes they talk. And they gossip and they say things to get an edge. But that is not the point right now, we all already know this and I don't need to rehash this for you right now. The point is that I know what he has gone through, in a very superficial way perhaps, but it is something I have gone through. And I was fascinated. It was, if nothing else, more interesting than worrying about venue capacity versus possible exits in the case of a fire. I watched him and his interactions with the people around him. I watched him dance and flirt and smile and laugh. I saw how he dealt with the mushing and pushing. I saw a moment of release, where all the old rubbish just went away and he mushed and pushed back and he relaxed and became himself. It was revealing, and it released me. I stopped watching him, I stopped thinking about fire exits and how close I was to one. I let go myself.

Transformation. Realisation. And I danced with abandon and I mushed and pushed and I was full of the expectations of this life. I was full of dreams and possibilities, and pushed back the regrets and the bittersweet sentiments that I cherish. I started to watch me in my minds eye and I laughed, for it was far more interesting than the fire exits. I felt assured, reassured and not pressured. And then I had to leave. All the mushing and pushing, its not forever me, it was a night, just another night. I made a bacon and egg sandwich. I skimmed through a cooking magazine and went to bed, joined eventually by my babies who mushed but didn't push and who are intensely filled with the expectations of this life. And this morning, I got my daily tarot card emailed to me: The moon (now go pick that apart).



stop colding me out

Its another cold morning and everyone is worried about their toes. Its not that my toes don't count, its just that it is winter and of course they are gonna be cold. And truth be told, its not that cold. It is refreshing. Although, I admit, the way the wind was kicking up something terrible last night was nothing I would have wanted to be out and about in. But this cold is not really up to scratch (meaning it doesn't compete with NEOH winters) and as I have recently had a taste of proper snow, there is nothing here to get excited about, not even cold toes.

What is exciting is moving in to my new place in a weeks time. We all know by now that I love lists and organising them and making them so complicated I need more than one spreadsheet to accomplish the task of organisation. Then there is prioritising, and crossing completed tasks off my lists and then cross referencing them and delegation and educated decision making. Its all too wonderful. So what a move entails is a lot of list making and all related tasks. I should be in my element and I am, truly. Only, I can hardly say that list girl is on the ball. List girl is not working off a list, she has not made up complex spreadsheets, she is pretending that the move is not the scary or list deserving.

List girl is for some reason spending way too much time worried about the fact that she does not have a bread knife. This is not a train smash. This is not even cold toes in winter. No one really NEEDS a bread knife. I mean, they are nice to have and when you get to a certain point in your life, it is kind of assumed that you will own something called a bread knife, but it is not a necessity, ya know. Trouble is, I thought I was at the point in my life where I would be expected to have a bread knife. I have plenty of tableware & servingware & linens for entertaining only, so surely I should have a bread knife. But I don't. Not even an old one. I am now trying to figure out why I don't just go and buy one. Not an expensive one, mind you, just your average run of the mill Woolies brand bread knife. Its not something that will break the bank (okay, maybe it will mine), but truly, I could pay more for medication to make me sleep at night instead of worrying about silly things like bread knives.

Bread knives and cold toes aside, I am excited. I have been eagerly anticipating this move since long before it was coming. I have been waiting for this new beginning, this revolution for far too long and the idea of it all gets me giddy extreme. And perhaps this is why I am not concerned about my toes. I wish I was not concerned about bread knives and I will try my best to listen to the very good advice I received from my son this morning, "Mooooommmm, stop colding me out already!"



righter me, writer me

Get back to it everyone screams at me. Write. Just write. Just write. So alright, I have spent the past several weeks trying to come up with some sort of inspiration, with mixed success... Some things are actually just too personal. You understand. So instead, I filled myself with writers block and writers grief and self doubt and procrastination and I tried to wallow in it, but its just not there; I guess I am just no good at it. Late last week I sat down to write a short story. I could feel it - the air around the story. I could see my characters, almost smell and touch them. I felt their fear and emotions. I dove right into the icy piercing waters of weeks of writing nothing. And I typed as quick as I could, still stumbling as my brain was working faster. And then, and then... bam, I had no more oxygen and the hypothermia started to creep in and freeze up my body, fingers first. Brain, still stumbling along, I realised the story was trite. The line was not unique, my characters were shallow. The whole story was rather cold and distant, lacking in any substance or thrills. Again, I tried to wallow in that misery, to absolutely no avail.

Last night I tossed and turned, it was like drowning in the warmth of my blankets and socks. I flit over millions of tiny thoughts, as if it was just a puzzle of information I had to put together. Truly, I have plenty to analyze, the past several weeks (months, years...) have all been something of a blur and some clarity is required, just to soothe my hypothermic soul...

This morning I woke up with strange memories. I woke up in the cold, with icy frost on my car and on the grass in the garden. I woke up thinking about the one cold I experienced in Australia hundreds of years ago... It was far west Victoria, maybe even in South Australia and only a matter of about 10 days before I travelled home. It was freezing cold outside and I had a warm, bittersweet soupy feeling in my heart, that was visible on my face. I must have looked like I was waking up, the glow surrounding me, radiating out from me. People commented on how well I looked and I loved the warm feeling that was growing inside, hiding the fear of leaving that still lurked deep inside. My coffee that morning tasted like my coffee this morning, warm and sugary and just about right. That coffee's sugar came in packets. One found its way slipped into a jacket pocket, and was retrieved only weeks later, back in NEOH at a time when the bittersweet was overwhelming, all encompassing... I spent the morning thinking about what I may have accidentally slipped into a pocket this morning.

Oh, but I am not looking back. I do not need a sugar packet or cigarette wrapper or a scrap piece of paper with a note scribbled on it. I have no fear, I am fearless. I am a world of warmth in the frosty morning light. I am not drowning in icy waters. I am a writer - go check my status...



fallin' Fall is here I think. Sorry autumn. Look we say it in the States as well, only I think it’s more commonly referred to as fall. Or at least I’ve always referred to it as fall. And that works for me because it’s named for the leaves falling from the trees and north east Ohio has one of the loveliest falls in the world as far as I am concerned. That is shear bias, I know and I don’t care. The thing is (as I have to keep reminding myself), I live in Johannesburg, not NE OH. (Can I have permission to just shorten that to NEOH from here on out? We all know I like the funny acronyms – like I’m glad Ambulance Ltd is commonly called Ambulance L T D instead of limited… which I suppose isn’t an acronym and I am straying…) The fall/autumn season here is kind of non-existent. Okay it happens, as does spring, but its like summer and winter take up like 9 months between them, spring gets about 2 months, leaving like no time at all for fall/autumn. And look, if summer is your thing, then Johannesburg is the place for you. And if you like never thawing out because nothing is ever properly heated here, because somehow SAfricans seem to continually forget that there is 4 long months of winter, then yeah, you could potentially consider Joburg as a place to live. That is as long as you don’t require snow with your winters. And if you can stomach the fact the Christmas comes in the middle of summer – which I still have a hard time with. On an almost unrelated note, I’ve been noticing that I have some sort of a SAfrican readership. It keeps coming back to me that so and so was reading my blog and then they told someone who knows me or whatever. I find this strange because well, I am convinced that a) most people will find this to be a rather limited and repetitive writing space (please note I have discussed fall before and I know no one is interested in hearing how I can’t navigate around the city yet) and b) I’m not really sure that I say anything that anyone here could twig onto, you guys already know what a braai entails and you also understand dodging certain intersections – which must be why the roads here are so confusing, I mean who wants to take a main road? But then I look at that and I think, yeah, it might be a little funny to read an outsiders perspective of this place, even if it is littered with crazy references to somewhere else. So maybe someone from here will step up and explain the lack of central heating. Look, I know I live in an old house made of bricks and plaster and centrally heated houses usually are made of wood and drywall with snot loads of insulation, but have you noticed the exorbitant amount of housing developments going up now? Surely these developers should be thinking about the future of housing in SA – which is pretty much equivalent to the middle ages USA – I mean how long has central heating been around? Not that I am really trying to make the comparison that SA is light years behind the US. I am sincerely not in the mood for that argument right now. I just want to put my two cents in and tell anyone who will listen that I would move to the unholiness that is the northern suburbs if they were building these shockingly bad townhouses with central heating. This is something I firmly believe someone can do something about down here. What I understand no one can do anything about is the length of time that fall/autumn occurs down here. I know I theorized it to be about a month, but is it even that long? It’s like the best time of the year. I know spring is supposed to be the time of new beginnings, but it’s always been fall for me. You know, time to go back to school, time to get new pencils and new clothes, time to make new friends, it really is the time for new beginnings. There is a di[...]



good stuffSometimes I can listen to a song for the first time and just know I am gonna love it. Most of the time though, it takes a little bit of time for me to have that realisation. I have to hear it a few times, usually in amongst other songs. Which is, I suppose the premise that radio works on and even further, the more they shove it down your ears, the more likely you will like it. I can live with this, because a lot of life is like this. People you meet, food you eat, some of them you like from the first taste, others need to grow on you - or at least you become accustomed to their presence in your life. So you begin to take notice when you fall in love with something immeadiately and then you just let that get better and better and better as time goes on. This happened with the "Bodies and Minds" song of the album by the same name from Great Lake Swimmers. The first time I heard it, I knew I was gonna play the song for everyone who came anywhere near me and my music, cause it is that good.On a similar level, the first time I met Felix's teacher, Wai-Ling at his new "big boy" school, I was happy with her. She is so cute and she has such an amazing air about her, like she is both real to the kids as well as to the parents. And she burns incense in the classroom sometimes and well, if I was Felix, I would be in love with her actually. In fact, I'm his mom, and I knew I liked her from the first minute. And she does just get better and better and better. Like for instance, she doesn't seem to mind that I bring the kid in to school, dressed in, well, not what normal moms wear. I just seem to live by the line from the Erin Brockovich movie: "so long as I have one ass instead of two, I will wear what I like." Sometimes this borders on inappropriate and sometimes, I just wear my slippers, cause thats what kind of a work place I have. Wai-Ling never seemed to find this strange or inappropriate at all, so she continued to grow on me. And then the other day, she reached a new level of the mountain. We were having an informal review of Felix's progress at school and she mentioned that she had to tell some of the other parents that yes, in fact, I am Felix's mommy. I laughed, she said, "well you look so young."I said, "well, I'm like 30, I'm not really sure that is TOO young to have a 4 year old.""Wow," she says, "is it just good genes? Or is there a secret?""Well, my mom has also always looked young for her age. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don't really dress like a mom.""Yes," says Wai-Ling, "you don't really dress like a neighbourhood mom, but its good, why should you HAVE to just because you have kids? I love how you dress. In fact, we all come out to see what you are wearing, and then we talk about it in the kitchen while making tea."What?!? Are you kidding me? I didn't say that, I just put my hand over my mouth and stared with big eyes, but she understood my point exactly."Oh no, its a good thing!"Oh holy wow. What a great way to start the day, especially when I had been thinking I really need to tone things down, if for nothing else, just to make things easier on the kids - not that I'm too showy, but I do wear what most girls consider their, "going out shirts" to work and like pret-a-porter cocktail dresses during the day, etc... And yeah, we did also discuss Felix's progress, don't worry, I didn't forget about him. And he likes it that Wai-Ling gave his mommy a compliment and which in fact she didn't really need to do, cause I liked her already.But it did feel good. And its a lot like this song, that I can't get out of my head. I already liked it, but it doesn't even need to get any better, it was great from the word go, but it gets better each time I put it on. A lot of things are going like this [...]



heaven, hell and in betweenAirports are weird places. And they are all completely different - even if they are in the same city. Take for example Washington Dulles and Washington Reagan - they are 2 totally different vibes. As for New York, I can't really say. I've flown through both LaGuardia and the more remote Newark (which yeah, I know is in New Jersey, but its all the same metropolis), but I don't know these airports at all. As far as JFK is concerned - its hard to even call it one airport considering there are 9, count them - nine terminals. I can't really say I know all of JFK airport, but i can tell you all about terminals 2, 3 & 4. Just so I can get it down, the first two are totally rubbish. Terminal 4 is set up totally different and Delta has nothing to do with it, so it is marginally better. However, I guess I can allow for the fact that if I was stuck in Terminal 4 for 2 days, I might think of it in terms of Terminal 2. As it was, I spent 5 hours in Terminal 4 yesterday and it was enough.Thinking back, I've been in a lot of different airports, though I am not sure I could actually list them all. And i would certainly try if I didn't think I would lose the tiny readership that I have in the attempt to do so. Basically though, I have begun to equate airports with pregnancy. Think about it. You find out your are travelling and you are excited or apprehensive or whatever, but in any case, you begin to accept your fate. At the airport you find yourself weighted down by all kids of extra baggage, totally within your own world, waiting, while you place your life in the hands of others. Its just like being pregnant. And its dreadful. Temperature controls are off, people smell weird, and if you are like me - taking flights with ridiculous lay-overs in random places - then you are uncomfortable for too long, forced to sleep sitting up and constantly checking to see if the time is now or not yet. Its just like being pregnant. And more, when it is over, I will only remember that I didn't like it while forgetting many of the reasons I didn't like it. (And just so you know, I heard a baby crying just as I tried to make the broad leap to delivery...)As I sit here writing this, I am in the middle of a ridiculously long 8-hour lay-over in Dubai, but believe it or not, there are free internet terminals here, which means I can even hike over there and type this all up after I finish my beer. Its a totally different airport, probably because I don't have a history of hanging out in Arab countries and no matter how international they make it, this is predominantly populated by Arabs. That's not bad, just different. I wonder what Joburg's airport felt like the first time around. I'm sure it felt like being in Africa - also not a place I was ever know for hanging out in.The fact that I have been in 6 airports since I left - some twice, some for 2 days (ahem) makes me think I may be some sort of authority on the subject. But, kind of like being pregnant, I don't know any more than anyone else who has been through it before. Every experience is unique. So just nod your head and smile as you would do if you were talking to some pregnant woman. And be thankful if you never had to sped 2 days at JFK or 8 hours in any other airport... Cause airports are weird places and its probably good that they separate out arrivals, departures and transiting passengers - cause heaven, hell and purgatory are a lot to deal with all at once. As for me, I think I am waiting for the words "final destination", cause whether its Cleveland or Joburg - the arrivals hall is the best place to be...[...]




You know you are with good people when you find yourself totally comfortable. You know - when you meet someone new or when you find yourself in the presence of people you haven't seen in half a decade or more and nothing is weird. I've been having a lot of this kind of thing going on since I arrived Stateside. Of course, for those of you who don't know, I've also had crazy troubles. I landed and cleared customs like it was my job, then I tore screaming into the bitterly cold New York air, took a deep breath and ran screaming back inside. Shortly there after I had the unfortunate realisation that I wasn't getting out of New York. The very few people that were getting out were a small and infinitely lucky minority. I didn't resent them as I stood at the baggage claim office trying to get my hands on my luggage - crying and carrying on. - I just wanted out. Long story short, I ended up in good hands with a friend of a friend. (This seriously deserves its own blog and will get one, if out of sequence.) And there I was comfortable.

Last night, sitting in a bar with my friends Chris and Samantha, I realised that since landing, I had spent 1 night in New York, 1 night in DC, 1 night in Cleveland and 1 night in Pittsburgh. And even though Julie was missing and Chris and Samantha (despite both being Kent friends) came from totally different periods in my life - every thing was perfectly comfortable. Ditto that sentiment on today which was spent breakfasting, shopping, lunching, watching tv (during which I napped on Samantha's couch to the sounds of Chris and Samantha reciting with Office Space), and more food (read- I whined until they had no choice but to organise me some Taco Bell).

In and amongst the primary activity of the day (eating), I was being instructed in the fine art of Pittsburgh speak. Look, its not all that far away from Cleveland, but man, they talk funny here. All this yinz-ing and some, "watch out its slippy - might fall on to a jagger bush". The last comment was followed by extreme laughter on the part of me and Samantha, who tried to recall the Ohio word for jagger bush - its called prickers. Take your pick, they are both totally ridiculous descriptions of whatever the plant may actually be called. Nonetheless, to my Pitt Crew, I gotta tell yinz, its been a good time out here. I feel totally out of circuit on my beer knowledge, which is understandable I guess. And the merry little stroll was a little cold and the team lost the game. Its slippy outside, but I am totally comfortable and I'm sad I don't have more time.




I went back to the posts from 2005 before I went home to see if there was a clever catch line I could use to start off this email. Not that I think I have some amazing fan base or anything, really just for myself. I found a few possibilities, but nothing so catchy that anyone else would be like, wow - thats good stuff, except maybe, where the fuck is Lee Road? But I am past that and pretty sure as well that I can get to Lee road from both Cedar and 480. And who cares but me anyway?

In a few minutes I will be taking my little ones off to school and I will come home and wiggle impatiently until it is time to leave for the airport. Everything on my to-do list has been checked off and everything has been packed, right down to the only hat, scarf and gloves I could find in my closet. Those are stored in my carry on. And good thing too, because this morning I woke up to the fantastic news that the blizzard has just raged through Cleveland.

I don't really care, I am "in transit" already. I've been smelling airline coffee in my nose for days and last night my leaving song was putting me pretty close to tears. Everything is where it needs to be and I will soon be drinking my Sammy Smiths out of the bottle underneath where the purple lights used to be before the flood. All of my clever words on the subject have been spent already and I am left with the vocabulary of a "Clueless" character and the ability to formulate sentences like Milton from Office Space, in other words not at all and certainly not without a lot of stuttering.

So here I am, ready to take the little boys. Ready to drive to the airport. Ready to get on that plane. Ready to get off that plane in the freezing cold. Ready to eat Taco Bell and Graham Crackers and Pizza Rolls. I am ready. This coaster is pulling into station. And I know where Lee Road is - so I guess I had better get on my way...



fast forwardIt is Sunday morning. I leave on Wednesday morning. That gives me about 3 days to get my shit in order. I am mostly done and good thing too. Today is filled up with kids parties and the like. Tomorrow I work full day and will no doubt be spending most of it explaining where all my stuff is so the other ladies can find it when they need it. Tuesday is a half day, but I have to run around to the bank and grab things I don't yet have for the voyage. (This is a self-note to remember to find the electrical converter so I can charge my phone.)But you see, as happy as I am to go home, I can't seem to get everything altogether for some reason. It could be that I am working a lot on my books lately and started going to the gym again. It could be that work has been completely chaotic and I can barely find a minute to think. Or it could just be, that in many ways, I don't believe I am going. I really just cannot believe it. Josie said she wouldn't believe it until she saw me, so I sent her my flight itinerary from the airline's website - with a whole bunch of CONFIRMEDs next to each flight - and she started to believe (clap your hands if you believe in fairies). Its like I've just realised that life doesn't stop on either side of the ocean if I am not there. In theory I know this, I know that people go on living without me, but I like to think I hold some universal remote that I can press pause on when I leave a place.Last night I had a collision of worlds and it sent me reeling. First, my housekeeper came in with a handbag she had found tossed by the side of the road. The strap had been cut, but most of the contents (less, one must assume, the cash) were inside. We located the name and number of the person who owned the bag and phoned. She would come and collect. When she arrived with two other folks, we heard the sad story, they had been held up at gun point at zoo lake. Even I wouldn't go for a walk around zoo lake without one of the dogs, I might go into the bowling club or sit down at Moyo, but I wouldn't go walking around the pond that they call a lake without the dogs, c'mon. The lady was distraught, wouldn't you be? And then my house keeper got in the car with them to show them where she had found the bag. What a tough world this can be...A few minutes after this happened (which, I'll be honest, I didn't completely have the headspace for), I called Holly. I'm at Kelly's shower, wanna talk to her? Yeah, gimme the phone. Ahhhh and ahhhh and ahhhh and what are you doing next Friday? Ahhhh. She hands the phone back to Holly. Wanna talk to another mystery guest? Yeah, who? Just talk... Kat - omigod! Ahhhh ahhhh ahhhh. Where are you, what do you do? You have kids? You have kids? You live in Chicago? You live in South Africa? Ahhhh ahhhh. When do you go back to Chicago? Tomorrow. Damn... This was an interaction I had the headspace for, but couldn't believe as much as I could believe someone getting robbed at gunpoint at Zoo Lake. Wierd. I hauled out an old photo album with some pics from Kent days and the times my peeps would all come down to go out dancing at some totally crappy nightclub. Then Holly's email came in listing names of people I went to elementary school with - married, kids - oh and this one - married, kids. Holy cow, my pause button doesn't work at all.And that my friends is why I HAVE TO GO HOME. Because you aren't all sitting around in a vacuum waiting for me to let you out. Things change, construction happens. And when a good chunk of my heart is spread out over there, sometimes, I just have to check on those pieces so I can feel whole again. And I don't have long to go unti[...]



and another countdown...

Another countdown has begun and I don't know how I am gonna make it through this one. Don't get me wrong, I really don't have that much to do. Here is the shortlist:

1. Pay for & collect tickets
2. Rent a car (and remember how to pump gas and wipe the snow off a car)
3. Find random pieces of American money
4. Find money (in general)
5. Strategically pack suitcases so the maximum number of graham cracker boxes can fit in on return
6. Get on plane and sit through roughly 26 hours of travel

Thats it. Seriously doesn't sound like such a challenging to do list, does it? Cause its not. Here are the problems as I see it.

1. Boss lady hates the idea of driving to Sandton to get the tickets.
2. I need to rent the car on my credit card so I can pick it up stateside and theres no money on that.
3. I don't think I have more than like $3 in American money.
4. If anyone here knows where I can find money, I'm sure they would snatch that for themselves.
5. $3 dollars doesn't buy a whole lot of graham crackers. It doesn't even buy a whole lot of tacos - so why burden myself with extra luggage (and do I own anything that will keep me warm in -18 degree with the windchill factored in weather).
6. My pod is broken, how can I survive that day+ with out my pod?

And I am trying to pull people in from all over the place. Come over from DC, come up from the south, meet me in Pittsburgh. And I already see myself driving in every direction possible. I have roughly 5 days to go and I seriously can't think straight!




snowTwo nights ago, I was next to the stereo, playing music to dance to, then suddenly, I played a song that just reminds me of the bar back home - loud. Within a few beats of the song, the tears were streaming down my face and I would have given my soul to go home - except it seems my soul and home are the same thing. So yesterday, I asked the boss lady, you know that money you said you would lend me to go home? She says yes. I say, send me home next week. She says, alright lemme just check with the financial advisor for the business. I left for a meeting on campus, a meeting which I was completely unprepared for and being on campus during registration was no fun either. I got home and took a nap, then sat with the kids on the couch for a little. I couldn’t wait any longer and phoned the boss lady. “So?” “You have to wait for tomorrow to find out.” This is the stunt her financial advisor pulls on her when she wants to know if she can go on holiday or buy a new car or whatever. I know for certain she already has the answer and all I need to do is pull it out of her. “Why?” “You have to wait to check your work email.” “I can do that from here.” “Nope, I already downloaded your mails to your Outlook so that you can’t check it before tomorrow morning.” Foiled. Which means I have to pull it out of her. Push, push, pull, pull. You mean it? You mean it? You mean it? This is when I started jumping and kicking the air and pulling strongman muscles in the mirror. I got off the phone and started squealing. Squealing I say, maybe even like a pig. I ran, screaming into the kitchen. Boys I am going home… going home… going home…!!! Freak, who am I gonna call and tell, like right now. When I finally could sit down at the computer, it took enough of my energy just to tell my girls I’ll be home next week. SHUT UP was the response I got and I was immediately dropped into the sphere of trying to make plans without travel dates from 10,000 miles away. An amazing glow settles over my world when I close my eyes and can see that next Friday I am gonna be sitting in my bar drinking my beer. This time though, I am pretty sure I can make it to Lee road. The big problem at hand is of course trying to figure out if my blood is thick enough to handle the snow.[...]



videoOkay, I admit it, sometimes I am just so stubborn about the absolute lamest things. Some notable previous examples of this can be found in my relationship with food and being in a strange place. Nooooo, I scream, there are no beans here like refried beans - I can't have them then and I am going to pout about it for far too long. See, look at this shelf, nothing says PINTO beans. Stamps foot, whines, looks sullen. Eventually, I came to realise that pinto beans are called SUGAR beans here. What a waste of a temper tantrum - I was wrong. And the cans of pumpkin - oh yeah, don't need to buy the whole pumpkin, but I do need to boil and mash the pre-packaged bags of pumpkin in order to make some pies. Oh, and I still haven't seen Forest Gump, because of some weird idea that it took best picture away from Tarantino. I need to stop here before I give myself a complex, but the point is I have been stubborn and wrong before. What can you do.When YouTube came into the world and everyone went "way-oh way-oh" I just ignored it. More, I ignored the emails from friends that said, "hey check this video out (link to YouTube)". Although that was a combination of the fact that I wasn't interested in YouTube mixed with the idea in my head that I CAN'T STAND fwds and jokes and "hey check this out" emails. I know how to use the internet, I can find these things on my own, when I want, if I want. I am so stubborn.Sometimes it did feel like I was the only person I'd ever met that hadn't spent at least a few hours in front of YouTube browsing for the funniest video to pass on to my friends. Not like I was purposely ignoring the site, it just NEVER occurred to me. I'd sit around at a braai listening to other people talk about what they have seen and who sent them what and generally make some excuse to exit the conversation, like, "I'd better go make a salad" or "can I get you more to drink?" And the last time we went to a friend's house, I got into it. Stamps feet - THERE ARE NO PINTO BEANS AND I DON'T CARE!So this is of course the part where I am humbled and start buying up stock of sugar beans. Steve recorded Oscar and uploaded it to YouTube. Then Felix. And then I was emailing people all over the place - hey you, go check out my kids on the internet. And then I realised, this is great, my friends and family back home can now get a moving glimpse of my children. Go watch it, go watch it my emails urge. See my children. Go look at Felix's first day of school. More coming, keep checking back. I have become a fiend, checking to see how many times my kids have been viewed on the internet. Humbled.Okay look, I still haven't searched for today's funniest video, I haven't gone back and looked at the recommendations I was previously given, but at least I can not stomp my feet and denounce the whole project. I am still too stubborn... But for those of you who aren't, go check out my kids on YouTube: now, I have to go cook and mash up some sugar beans, cause thats all refried beans are no matter what they are called. And by the way, I have also looked up the stacking order of a Whopper and I can now get that here as well...[...]



tractorToday I realised I have little boys. Okay, I did know this before and I’ve even had similar revelations in the past, but this morning I had an all new insight into the mind of small male beings. As always, I had this feeling whilst in my car, driving to work. I was singing along to an old favourite (seriously days of old – and I’m sure only Josie can guess what it is), tapping on the steering wheel. Having a moment and a half, thinking about how much I hated getting up in the middle of the night to roll up the windows on my car during one hell of a storm, and simultaneously how grateful I was for having done it – and then I saw it. I wanted to scream out, “boys look!!!!”, but of course they weren’t in the car and even if they had been, the “it” passed so quickly, I would have had to explain it for another 15 minutes or so! The “it” was a blue tractor with white trim! Oh holy excitement! And it looked just like the toy blue tractor with white trim that the boys have in their toy box – although it has to be said that the tractor on the road was probably cleaner than the one in the toy box. What is completely amazing about this experience is not the fact that I saw a tractor that looks just like a toy, but the fact that I saw a tractor and I wanted to play with it. I am not kidding you, I wanted to play with the tractor. And if I couldn’t play with the big one, well I wanted to get down on the floor and make vrrrrooom vrrrooommmmm noises as I pushed my little play tractor on the floor. Needless to say, this feeling only lasted for a few seconds and I was pulled back into my song, tapping my fingers until I arrived a minute later in the parking lot at work, but the joy of understanding my little ones for just a second, just one tiny moment in time is priceless. The big test is when I get home from work and tell them – oh should I tell them I understand? Nah, I’ll just keep being mommy, dancing in the car, buffing their nails, never telling them that I’ve got the upper hand. I’ll play with the tractor after they go to bed. And maybe tomorrow I’ll pass a flash car and decide I want to play with one of those as well….[...]



The recipe for starving people


1 3/4 cups Flour; Unbleached; Sifted
2 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa; Baking
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Coffee; Black; Strong
1 cup Buttermilk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Butter Or Regular Margarine
3 ounces Semisweet Chocolate; 3
1 large Egg
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 cup Walnuts; Chopped
2 cups Confectioners Sugar

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, oil, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer set at medium speed for 3 minutes. Pour batter into greased 13x9" baking pan. Bake in preheated 350~ oven for 40 minutes or until the cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Frost with Hundred Dollar Frosting. Cut into squares. HUNDRED DOLLAR FROSTING: Combine butter and semisweet choclolate in a double boiler top. Place over hot water, stirring until melted. Remove and cool well. Add egg and stir vigorously. Stir in confectioners sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Stir in walnuts and frost cake with icing.

And byt the way - check out - where I get all my recipes!




It was bound to happen someday. I mean all the signs pointed to it and its been building up for years. (I do live in nine year cycles.) In the midst of all the chaos and things that must be done, I am busy trying to become a domestic goddess. Right now that means focusing on my cooking and baking abilities. I mean the house is in order and I still wander around on Saturday nights wondering what on earth I am going to do with my evenings. And I still do my freezer cooking - except, I'm cutting back. I mean if I have all this free time, why bother spending so much on one day doing everything for the week.

Today when I got home from work (half day on Thursdays), I decided I had to bake a cake. I mean had to. I had been thinking about it all day. In fact I had been thinking about it for a couple of days. It was an obsession almost and its really hard to let those sort of things just sit on the back burner, simmering unabated. It wasn't like I was waiting for a recipe, cause I had that all lined up and ready to go and had even shopped for it this weekend. I was just waiting for a few undistracted moments of my day. When I realised that was never going to happen, I just decided to make the damn cake and get it done with - in between my distractions.

There was a slight drama when I couldn't find the large cake tin - lost to the terrors of what small children can do. But I divided and made 2 smaller cakes. I guess one can go into the office. A bit of chocolate never goes unappreciated there - like a little slice of afternoon delight. Although I'm pretty sure that is not what the song refers to. Moving on.

I got to the frosting. I was skeptical at first. I mean the ratio of wet to dry ingredients didn't seem quite right - but while I almost never follow the recipe when cooking - you (or at least I) kind of have to when baking. I was surprised when I dipped my finger in for a little taste. The frosting is to die for seriously. There is no turning back to another frosting recipe ever! Its like a vegetarian who eats bacon for the first time and discovers that its brilliant. The frosting, called Hundred Dollar Frosting, is seriously divine. It was so surprisingly good, I can't get enough. Which leads me to believe that even in the inevitable, there are wonderful surprises along the way.(image)



hug everyone you can think of dayLately I've been feeling like I need to get up and post. But then I wonder what I am going to write about, or alternatively I have something so good and by the time I can get to the computer it is all gone. But the year is nearing its end, and for those of you on the other side of the ocean who don't already know this, we get like 3 weeks off at Christmas time (which is in summer) and I think wherever you are in the world a basic rule applies to days off. Take the number of days you have off and subtract them from the last day before you are off and that is when work really stops getting done. Okay - this is excepting important deadlines and whatnot, but when you know you have a holiday coming up, you have lots of other things to work on besides work. This means that by the time Thanksgiving hits (and look it never hits over here, but for date reference purposes...) everyone has more or less stopped working. This means that from the beginning of November people have started to think about not working and start to slow down a little. As an American trained consumer this mindset has done nothing but annoy me for the past several years. As an employee in the South African workplace, I've not only adopted the trend, but taken it to the extreme. Since the beginning of October I've been letting things slide. Not so much at work, but kind of in all other aspects. And I am so excited for the one week I have off in November, which remarkably coincides with Thanksgiving.Fot the past several years, Thanksgiving has been spent in Durban in a hotel room, a reasonably sized one with an equipped kitchen, but a hotel room nonetheless. So Thanksgiving has fallen by the wayside, cause who trades in the beach for spending all day in a hotel room basting a turkey? Except this year I want a Thanksgiving. I want to feast on turkey and stuffing and all kinds of yummy sides and when I am too full I want to eat pumkin pie, whether or not I am overlooking an ocean in the heat and humidity of Durban. I've already begun to think of what I want to prepare cause that is just who I am.That was my mindset yesterday when I had dreadful news about a friend back home. From what I understand, its okay now - the worst of his troubles are over. In the midst of holiday planning, wondering how my sick kids are doing at home, and gloating over recent work successes (and I was also having at least 2 conversations about Keira Knightley) the bad news hit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. And of course I had a nice big helping of the guilty feeling - if I had been there... Its unhealthy and unrealistic of course - I mean could I have actually done anything. I've played witness to a number of downward spirals where, even in the same room - all I could do was watch it happen. I felt heavy and sad and that mixed with my fatigue made for a very melancholy end of the day. I couldn't think about Thanksgiving plans any longer or even my Keira hero. I went home and all I wanted was a hug. A 14 year friendship dissapated while I was away and I found myself needing someone to tell me it was okay. There were no hugs to be had. Ok little kid ones, but I just let them play. Steve is in Sudan and when you live in a great big city with walled fortresses - you have to forgive people when they don't just pop over for a quick hug. So I didn't even ask for one.Is that how it starts? By not wanting to trouble anyone for a hug? My head keeps telling me I[...]



guest post Last night I fell asleep on the couch. I was woken up briefly to have a look at this art. I appreciated it, but I was tired all the same. This email from Steve greeted me this morning, I thought I should share it.So Felix was like, "Daddy I wanna draw you." And I was thinking, "that's a bit advanced for a three year old, what have they been teaching him at school?" Then he was like "But I can't daddy, I don't know how." I told him he could do anything if he tried, etc, but he kept saying he couldn't So I said "well, don't worry Felix just draw anything." Then he said "Okay" and started drawing, he drew what looked like a head outline and said, "Okay daddy's head." I looked at it from the couch and true enough there was a head outline. So I said, "Wow Felix that's incredible, now what about giving daddy some eyes, so he said, "Okay" and drew eyes (well okay, he drew three).I was thrilled, "Now what about a mouth for daddy, Felix?" Sure enough he drew a mouth.And I was like, "That's unbelievable Felix, now what about daddy's nose?" Bang! Felix drew a nose. I grabbed him and kissed him and said what a wonderful child he was, then he said "No wait Daddy I need to give you sharps". I was like "it's okay Felix let's pretend that daddy shaved today, we don't need to draw the sharps." So he said, "Okay daddy but I have to draw your ears" those are the little squiggles on either side.Well I was so proud of Felix that I wanted him to sign the work so I asked if he could write his name, and he giggled "No daddy" all sheepishly. So I started to write his name and he got all cross and said "but you're doing it daddy, that's mine."I looked up and asked nobody in particular "What's the date today?", he said, "it's Wednesday daddy." And sure enough Wednesday it is.Anyway, emails like this only come from proud fathers, so I hope the pic doesn't disappoint, but I'm blown away by it, it was drawn entirely by Felix, unassisted, I mean the kid is THREE![...]



fearsI still live in NE Ohio. I've got no doubts about where I am geographically to be sure, but I still live in NE Ohio. This is easily evidenced by the fact that every day I download a half hour of NE Ohio news broadcast from Kent State's radio and listen to it either on my drive to work or my drive home from work. I know more about what is going on there with regards to politics, arts and culture, you name it. Plus when I am at work, I eagerly anticipate the rising sun in Cleveland - cause it means I get to hear whats going on in the social scene that I am missing as well.On the other hand, I am loving life over here. I love my house run like a ship right now and now that school is done, things run so smoothly. Plus, I love my artists and my boss (its about time I supplied you with a name - Bethea). The other day when I decided I wanted to wear false eyelashes because the heavy eyeliner look would be vastly improved by having long lashes - one of our makeup artists put them on. Do you know what Bethea said? She asked if I'd ever worn false eyelashes before, told me to follow the makeup artist's instructions as to when to close and when to open my eyes and then she gave me instructions on taking them off. And then she proceeded to answer the phones as I had them applied. Then I found a picture of the look I was going for online. You see, the heavy eyeliner, dark look is actually the Keira Knightly look, which is in stark contrast to the other look I have been striving for - Jane Smith - not Angelina Jolie, but her character. I just like the clean smooth lines. But thats not the point, the point is that then I proceeded to have my hair done. It was the middle of the day folks, my boss should have been telling me to get to work, not how great I looked. And I have to add, its not like Bethea is some middle manager, she owns the company.But back to NE Ohio, on the false eyelashes day, on my way home I thought about Gravity Hill. Can you believe it, Gravity Hill? Where did that come from? Then I started driving through Kirtland and Mentor in my head. Everything looked clear and consistent in my head, but its kind of strange cause some of the things I saw were from specific periods that have already passed. Like a sign I saw on my way to vote a few years ago that read "Vote Your Conscience, Not Your Fears". Okay, that was more than a couple years ago - that was prior to W. being elected the first time. I listened to the sign, I voted Green, I contributed to the dividing of the left. It happens.And then it happened, I turned to my closet to pick out something to wear for a play we were going to that evening. Not formal, but not too casual. And then tragedy struck. Clearly that was the Jane Smith look, not the Keira Knightly look, but nothing was making me take off the eyelashes. Once I had regained the ability to open my eyes, I wasn't taking them off. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I couldn't find anything to wear. I was totally stumped. It was the first time that I had ever tried to match clothes with eye makeup, for sure, but I am so good with this suff normally. I tried this on, I tried that on, I really didn't like anything. I got confused and just decided on black pants, black shirt and a grey sweater. Highly unimaginative. The play, "Defending the Caveman" was great. Then I put a couple of rand down on roulette. I lost. But, I just couldn't bri[...]



two points

We have two little boys that come into our office every afternoon - Wallace and Mpho. They are about 10 years old. I have know their mom almost as long as I have been in this country. My boss has known their mom for a couple of decades. They used to live near our office, now they live near my boss. In any case, they are still enrolled in the school (image) near my office, but there is no way for them to get home after school until their mom gets off work - so they hang out here for a couple hours.

Thats the background information. What has been happening lately though is that since last week these little brothers are fighting over which one of them gets to be my boyfriend. They keep demanding an answer, but what can I do? I don't want to damage their little self-esteems and its not like I can pick one. But today Wallace bumped himself up a couple points by giving me these divine letters. Of course they were passed through my boss and they've both been walking around covering their faces ever since, but they are too wonderful not to share.