Friendship

#8

100 Words: The older I get the more I appreciate friends and family, because in certain instances some family had become friends and some friends had become family. Looking around at the lives of others and also ours – as we have moved to a different phase of our lives – I realised that life can get lonelier as we grow older and move up in the family hierarchy to become the older generation. Friends and children move away or immigrate or die, leaving empty holes. But fortunately, our global village is small and a good friend is always just a video call away.

Under 10-words Takeaway: Be that true friend.

Read my previous 100-word Pondering here.

Read this article about loneliness and health risks when growing older.

Watch this video to learn how to make a WhatsApp video call.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Finding North

Lees die Afrikaanse weergawe

My father taught me to always find North when getting to a new place. That way, he said, you would never get lost. He found his Way twenty-two years ago and doesn’t need the stars for direction anymore.

Me, on the other hand, still search for my North when arriving in a new town or city. Here it isn’t challenging at all, but I must confess that, when we lived or travelled abroad, I struggled to find it.

We lived in Egypt for a while and travelled to the Middle East and Europe and when I looked up at the night sky and didn’t see the Southern Cross in the Northern Hemisphere, I felt a bit lost. My inner compass just couldn’t find its North. Everything felt backwards and upside down. And it didn’t help that the Nile of the Bible flowed in the ‘wrong’ direction.

In Egypt I made East and West my goal. My husband, Deon, and I got lost while going for a walk on our second day in Cairo. We eventually saw the setting sun between the high buildings and followed it, because we knew that that was where the Nile was. In Cairo the Nile became my North – even though it was always East or West from where we were coming from or going to.

Tonight, when our son, Michael, walked to his cottage, he knocked on the window and called me to have a look at the stars. And there the Milky Way hovered in the load shedding darkness over our town with the Southern Cross reminding me – we are home.

© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

Om Noord te vind

Read the English version

My pa het my geleer dat jy altyd Noord moet vind wanneer jy in ‘n nuwe plek aankom, want dan sal jy nooit verdwaal nie. Hy het al twee en twintig jaar gelede reeds sy Weg gevind en het nie meer die sterre nodig vir rigting nie.

Ek, aan die anderkant, soek nog steeds my Noord wanneer ons in ‘n nuwe dorp of stad aankom. Hier is dit nie juis te uitdagend nie, maar ek moet erken dat ek, toe ons in die buiteland gebly of daarheen gereis het, dit nie altyd kon regkry nie.

Ons het vir ‘n tyd lank in Egipte gebly en na die Midde-Ooste en Europa gereis en wanneer ek saans na die hemel opgekyk het en nie die Suiderkruis in die Noordelike Halfrond kon sien nie, het ek ‘n bietjie verlore gevoel. My innerlike kompas wou net nooit sy Noord vind nie. Alles het vir my agterstevoor en onderstebo gevoel. En dit het ook nie gehelp dat die Nyl van die Bybel in die ‘verkeerde’ rigting gevloei het nie.

In Egipte het ek maar vir Oos en Wes begin soek. Ek en my man, Deon, het op die tweede dag in Kaïro verdwaal toe ons gaan stap het. Gelukkig kon ons later die sakkende son tussen die hoë geboue sien en het toe in daai rigting gestap, want ons het geweet die Nyl loop daar. In Kaïro was die Nyl my Noord – al was dit gewoonlik Oos of Wes vanwaar ons gekom of waarheen ons gegaan het.

Vanaand toe ons seun, Michael, na sy huisie toe stap, klop hy aan die venster en sê ek moet die sterre kom kyk. En daar hang die melkweg in die beurtkragdonkerte oor die dorp, met die Suiderkruis wat my herinner – ons is tuis.

© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Ma. Vrou. Skrywer. Bly in Hermanus in die Overberg, Suid-Afrika, met ‘n man, volwasse seun en twee honde. Skrywer van ‘n kinderboek, Yeovangya’s Quest, en kortstories en mede-skrywer van 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads saam met einste volwasse seun wat vir ‘n webblad oor karre skryf.

Where were you when the News Broke on 9/11?

(Add your story in the comments)

Late as always, I drove to work on that September morning in 2001, praying while driving as was our little morning tradition.

I ended with “Father, and please show us today as much mercy as possible.” A bit baffled, I looked at our five-year old sitting in his car seat at the back and said: “Mommy prayed a strange prayer this morning, don’t you think?”

Normally I would pray for our safety and for our family and people suffering etc. but that morning those words came out of my mouth as if it wasn’t me uttering them. I found it strange, but quickly forgot about it as the morning’s nursery school drop off and work activities chucked it into the background.

Just after four o’clock that afternoon, I was packing away my things to go home while listening to the hourly news on the radio. Just as I was about to switch the radio off, the news reader interrupted himself with breaking news from the US. I listened without believing, and quickly called my male colleague – the only one who was still left – to come and listen if I heard wrong. His shocked face confirmed that I didn’t.

That night my husband and I lay on our bed and watched the TV coverage until the next morning. The scenes of planes flying into buildings, people running away from the ashes, people jumping from the top floors, political commentators speculating and news presenters bringing the newest information, played over and over on the screen and by morning it was still difficult believing what had happened.

That was the day our world had changed forever. Nothing that we would do afterwards stayed untouched. Air travelling had become a nightmare with new security rules being implemented and a new war raged on the TV news every night. For us it was something to observe when we took the time, but for the people of Afghanistan and the US, UK and the rest who eventually got closely involved, it was much closer and cost a lot more.

And as I am writing this, twenty years later, the world is still reeling. Because in the middle of another life changing event – a pandemic starting a year or so ago and leaving us to deal with so much illness and death caused by a virus which doesn’t discriminate – we also have to get to grips with the latest in the saga of 9/11. The US (and the rest) had abruptly withdrawn from Afghanistan, leaving the country and its fragile people in the Taliban’s hands again – and even ‘arming’ them with all the equipment left behind after the withdrawal.

As a wife, mother, sister, daughter and ex-military employee, I can’t help wondering what the point of the last twenty years’ struggle after 9/11 was? Had all the husbands, wives, sons and daughters on all sides just died for nothing? We even lost a South African friend and his two children (then teens) at the hands of the Taliban in their house in Kabul. The boy was in that very same nursery school class where I dropped our son off that still-innocent September morning…

© 2021 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, and now mechanic-in-the-making, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂

Opera in the Sea Breeze

We had ‘n few cold and rainy days, so instead of taking walks, we spend our time indoors in front of the fireplace. Yesterday we went for a late afternoon drive to buy more wood and on the way home I asked my husband spontaneously to drop me off just out of town to walk back home.

Although I believe in the Almighty God of the Bible and believe firmly that He is in control and will bring us through this time of epidemic, riots and so many other things life throws at us, I sometimes do get discouraged and a bit depressed. I’m human after all.

I love cold coastal afternoons, when the cool air touches my cheeks and makes me feel more alive. When I’m feeling a bit off, just a half hour walk by the sea makes me a new person again. But, as I was walking down the road – not having reached half an hour yet and still not feeling so renewed, I was thinking about friends having serious problems, issues in the family and just all the changes we had to make and have to live by because of the pandemic. I was wondering if we would ever have a bit of boring normality again and if there will ever be a time when I would become as excited as a child about the future again. (I’m not sure if this lack of excitement had come due to circumstances or because of age, but that’s a musing for another cold afternoon.)

As I was thinking these thoughts, people passed by in cars and on bicycles and on foot – all enjoying the nippy, fresh air which the wind breathed in from the snowy mountains not too far away. I heard some music over the sound of a nearing car and thought it was coming from a nearby house or one of the boutique hotels. But alas, towards me walked an elderly man with his two leashed dogs and when we got close enough to each other, I heard opera music coming from the cell phone in his pocket.

I walked home smiling, way lighter in spirit and I just realised again, that it is the small things in life which causes happiness and which makes pandemics and problems bearable. The God of the Bible does burning-bush miracles, but sometimes He just sings opera in the cool sea breeze.

© 2021 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, and now mechanic-in-the-making, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂

The Cat is out of the Hat – History is Repeating Itself

I normally write blog entries about things that I love and find interesting and almost never rant here. I have decided today though, to speak a bit of my mind, because I am worried about where ‘we’ are going with freedom in this world of ours.

By now every reader had probably heard about certain Dr Seuss books being withdrawn from the market. You can find out about it here.

I don’t know why we always have to be seen as ‘left’ or ‘right’ when we raise an opinion. What happened to be decent, having common sense, choosing the midway? Sometimes things are not just black or white, but actually grey or yellow or purple or blue or orange with green dots. This is after all something liberal thinkers fought for throughout the centuries! Many even died for it!

(Maybe it is because we are mostly exposed to/dependent on American commentary and entertainment and they – the biggest democracy in the world – has only two political choices available – either Democrat or Republican! You guessed it – left or right. The in-between parties are for all practical purposes non-existent. And maybe this – their political choice – had spiralled downwards into every other inch of society. But, that’s just my [in-between] opinion.)

I look at events these days and think that modern liberal thinkers had lost the plot, because one see more and more Nazi-like censorship from liberal (!) sources everywhere. It makes me sad, and frankly, quite scared. Like Hitler’s SS did in the 1930s, we are being told what to believe, what to discard, what is right, what is wrong etc. and this is all done under the flag of political (and social) correctness. And by doing so, they kill those fighters for freedom of speech all over again!

What happened to common sense? What happened to reading literature in context and then have discussions over it instead of just banning authors. Isn’t that one of the reasons why we read? How will our children learn to think critically if they don’t have access to read (even politically incorrect) literature and ask questions about it? Do ‘we’ want to raise little obedient, non-thinking, political-correct robot people? It seems more and more that it is coming to this.

Are ‘we’ back to burning books again? Yes, ‘we’ are. ‘We’ have just burned Dr Seuss books.

History is repeating itself.

This Dr Seuss-like story is a reply to the sad affair by author Laura Ainsworth. Quite sharp I thought.

(WARNING: This is not socially or politically correct reading.)

Load Shedding Memories

We all loath load shedding. Of course. But secretly I enjoy it when it is scheduled late in the evenings. We have a few useful lights we use, but in our bathroom we light candles, which transform the room into a place that takes me way back into time. With every flickering of a candle and in every dancing shadow, I am transported back to a simple and innocent time before there was Eskom power on farms.

Way back, every evening offered a candle lit dinner and weekend nights were filled with all the people I loved back then, around a table – either in our kitchen or in a kitchen of my parents’ friends. Those were happy, happy days.

There were no phones intruding in a dinner conversation and no social media to capture an aunt’s embarrassment if she had one glass too many. Children sat with adults around the table, listening to adult conversation, but were mostly only heard when laughing at a joke or an anecdote.

I’m not naïve enough to say “those were the good old days”, because there are many better things available to us nowadays and many bad things were going on in those days, but our parents knew how to live good lives above their circumstances.

Those nights by the candle light were wonderful and memorable and every flickering of every candle I light, will always remind me of those moments and of the people whose faces the shadows gently caressed around those tables – most of which are now gone.

So now load shedding gives us the opportunity to light candles to make new (non-virtual/digital/electronic) memories with our families. I’m almost sure that our children would one day look back and not talk about 2020/21 as ‘simple’ or ‘innocent’ times, but with a bit of living-in-the-moment-on-purpose and less absent-minded time spent on our phones, we just might create memorable nights for our children and grandchildren to remember one day.

#loadsheddingmemories

© 2021 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂

Family Traditions Creates Unbreakable Bonds and Awesome Memories

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What do the Sunday night movie, playing Monopoly on holidays and eating dinner at the table have in common? They are the glue that bonds a family together.

According to https://www.childhelp.org/ family traditions are handed down from generation to generation and add to the rhythm and seasonality of life.

What are Family Traditions?

They are those things we tend to repeat doing when we are together, like the things mentioned above. Family traditions differ from family to family and are normally just simple things we do that we as a family love, like having rowdy conversations around the dinner table as the Italians and Greeks tend to have. Or it is taking that annual holiday to the same place every year. So many of my husband’s childhood memories derive from their seaside family holidays, so much so that we live in the town they had their holidays in! My family didn’t have seaside holidays, but we had a big mass of water nearby where we lived and we went camping there over the Christmas season when I was little. It was also my birthday this time of year and to me it felt as if I had my birthday every day during those holidays, as different family members arrived daily with gifts for me!

Family Traditions look Different and can Literally be Anything!

Times have changed and so have the activities we do. But we still participate in traditions – even though we don’t even think of them as ‘traditions’. Mom and the girls going to the mall on a Saturday morning, Dad playing cricket with the boys in the garden on Sunday afternoons, visiting the grandparents for Saturday braai or watching the rugby together, are all good examples of South African family traditions.

The Advantages of Family Traditions

Other than helping the family to bond, it also builds children’s confidence, because their parents are spending some real time with them. That makes them feel grounded and safe and help them to be more outgoing and courageous. You can read up more on the advantages of family traditions on your own.

Family Traditions in the Time of the Corona Virus

Yep, we are locked in and can’t even take our dogs for a walk in the streets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still do things together. We are after all, cooped up together like never, ever before in our lifetimes! So, this makes it a perfect time to bring back some old family traditions or establish new ones.

If you have stopped or never eaten together at a table as a family, start doing that – even if it is for only one meal a day. Here are a few pointers for this:

  • Ban cell phones from the table and keep a few conversation starters handy to get your family talking to each other again.
  • Research a few good conversation topics which are fitting for your family’s age.
  • Allow difference of opinion, but make sure to establish rules so that it is still done respectfully and things don’t get ugly. If we teach our children to have an opinion and speak their minds at home, educators don’t have to teach them what they want to teach them.
  • Start debates about different topics. Divide everyone present into two groups and let them debate two sides of a topic. When things get heated, change it around. It is fun to see everyone suddenly out of their comfort zones when having to defend the other side! And it normally ends fights immediately.

Play together, whether it is board games or games in the garden. And don’t stop when the lockdown is over.

Create something together, such as cooking, baking and braaiing, making clothes, building puzzles, building lego or whatever your family is into.

Try to teach your children something regularly during the lockdown, but keep doing it hereafter. Teach them to pray and care for others, braai, plant veggies, snoei trees, play chess, build something out of wood, do DIY chores in the house etc. Doing this on a regular basis will not only teach them skills, but give them confidence and the ability to do things for by themselves and for themselves.

Read together. Read bedtime stories to your children from day one. (Yes, they need to hear stories in their dads’ and moms’ voices from an early age.) When they are older (and now during lockdown) you can lie around reading for a few hours a day.

Start a thanksgiving tradition, either at the breakfast or dinner table or whenever you are all gathered together and bored during the lockdown. Think about those less privileged during this time and start a ‘Thank You’ jar where you can all contribute with things you are thankful written on a piece of paper and put into the jar. Open in up in a year’s time or so and read it aloud around the table while eating.

These are just a few examples. There are lots more. You know what your family love doing. Dust off a few old ones or start new traditions. Search the Internet for more ideas if you need to.

Keeping it Up

Our young adult son is still with us at home. We continue doing things together as a family on a regular basis, such as eating together every meal, even though he lives outside in the cottage. We go for picnics at the beach and going on Sunday exploring rides etc. My sister-in-law’s two adult children are having dinner with them every Sunday evening. Some dads and their adult sons have weekly squash appointments. You get the point.

So, when this lockdown is over or when the children are all grown up, don’t stop with the traditions. Many South African families are split up and live all over the world, but with the technology available these days, we can still be ‘together’. Make a family group call on a week night/morning (depending on time differences) and kuier together on Skype or WhatsApp video calls.

Do whatever it takes to keep your family traditions going, because they create awesome and precious memories for your children which they will carry over to their children.

 

© 2020 Fielies De Kock 

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂🙂🙂

 

What Happens Between “Enchanté” and “Auf Wiedersehen”

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A longish note to everyone we met during our almost four and a half years stay in Egypt.

 

When we Afrikaners meet someone for the first time, we like to greet them with the words “Bly te kenne”. These words literally translate to ‘may we keep knowing each other’.

At that point, the person you meet is just another stranger about whom you know nothing, except his or her name – if you manage to catch, pronounce and remember it! But as time goes by and you meet again and again you learn to pronounce their names correctly, meet their families – either in person or by hearing about them. You eventually learn about the person’s passions, talents, joys and heartbreaks. And then suddenly they are unfamiliar no more.

During our five summers in Cairo we met quite a few people, who by sharing similar experiences, challenges, difficulties and fun, had transformed from strangers into dear friends. Fortunately, living in an ever-changing international community for a while, there are plenty of opportunities to say “Bly te kenne” or “Nice to meet you” or “Enchanté”. Unfortunately during this temporary expat life, another phrase is being used way too often too, because coming and going is a given in this type of lifestyle.

Saying goodbye is never easy and when you have to do it that often, it really “sucks”, to quote our American friends. At first there are goodbyes to family and friends when you first leave to go live in a foreign country in a foreign culture between foreign people. And then there are all the in-between goodbyes when you go home on holiday and return – just to leave your loved ones behind again. And again.  And again. And again…

But then, all of a sudden the day arrives when you have to say goodbye to the foreigners – the strangers whom you met at a reception or a coffee morning or a welcoming party or in the street or at work, and who, in a short period of time, became friends. People who made your stay in a foreign place less foreign. Who helped turn uncomfortable into comfortable. Whose unknown faces had become so familiar and loved that you can’t imagine saying goodbye to them to probably never see them ever again! And that thought is just unthinkable!

So, for that purpose we have another wonderful phrase in Afrikaans and in some other languages with which we try to ease the pain of saying goodbye. We say “Tot weersiens”, which means ‘until we see each other’ – much like the Hebrew l’hitra’ot or the French a bientôt or the German ‘auf wiedesehen’.

If we say “Until we meet again”, we all know that – even if the goodbye part is inevitable for the now – we keep the hope afloat to meet again, because who knows? It just might happen! It already happened when we went on holiday to Greece and met up with old Cairo friends there and when some of our American friends visited us at home while on holiday! So, anything is possible!

Saying goodbye is too final. It means it’s over and done with. Finished. It shuts the door on hope. Goodbyes are no good. They are hope killers and killing hope is not good for one’s soul.

So, after this long account, I’ll come to the point. This note is not a hope killer. This is not our goodbye to you. This is just to say thanks to you for all the laughs and cries we shared. For the many, many, many glasses of wine we had together – and for lamenting together over all those almost-full glasses we lost to over-eager Egyptian waiters! And for all the caipirinhas (“por favor” wink-wink) and all the times we danced to C’est La Vie at functions we were supposed to and at functions we were not supposed to!

Thank you for caring for Deon when Michael and I were not here and making him feel less alone in Cairo. Thank you for helping him when he was dean. And thank you for always asking about ‘our Michael’ and conversing with him and treating him as part of our community and giving him the experience of a lifetime! Thank you for every “How are you?” and every smile and every hug and every kiss and every “I will miss you” towards the end.

We will miss every one of you – those to whom we have already said goodbye to four, three and two years ago and last year and this year, and you who we leave behind now. Every one of you and your families had touched our hearts in one way or another. From now on when we hear English in a foreign accent it will be your voices and your accents we hear it and then we will miss you even more. We will miss your smiles. We will miss dancing with you. We will miss laughing will you. We will miss everything about you.

We wish that you and your families will be blessed in whatever you do wherever you go. Our family’s prayer for you comes from the Bible:

God bless you and guard you.

God make His face shine upon you and show favour to you.

God lift up His face upon you and give you peace.

 

We will always remember you, because between “Enchanté” and “Auf wiedersehen” we have made too many memories together to forget each other.

 

Until we meet again, our friends.

 

With love from Deon, Fielies & Michael De Kock

June 2018 – Cairo, Egypt

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On Doing Something Really Well

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At my Cairo Hair Salon

As always I am tempted to read on my phone to kill the time, but I decide against it. I‘m trying to be more in the moment and to enjoy the ‘now’. So, I sit and watch as Issam, one of my hair dressers at a Lebanese salon in Cairo, is creating art in my hair for the night’s ball. He is working focussed and with precision, but most of all, with confidence. This is what he does, one can clearly see. His hands are moving easily – combing, straightening, curling, calling for pins from his young helper with two other trainees standing behind, looking on eagerly. One day they will be the Issams of the salon, doing the women’s hair for their balls.

The salon is functioning like a little ‘factory’. On arrival, one is greeted by one or more women at the reception, who might be the actual receptionist or one of the beauty consultants (I know they have a smarter title, but I can’t remember it now) who also operate from the premises. But from there on it is a manly affair. First, your hair will be washed and your scalp massaged by one of the eager young apprentices. They all look still fresh out of school – as if they had just made the trip from their home country. This is the part I always enjoy most – the head massaging. I sit back, close my eyes and relax. Very in the moment.

After this the young one leads you to your chair, clothe you in a white coat – not made of plastic, but of fabric – offers you something to drink, and vanishes to get the drink. Then one of the specialists arrives to do the cutting. My haircutting specialist is Charlie. When I first met him he had long hair, a few tattoos and a bit of a boepie (although he is a thinnish man), but he now fashions short hair, a slimmer waist and has a new tattoo of an ECG image in his neck. I like coming to this salon and I like Charlie, because the whole setup reminds me of my childhood. We lived in the small town of Delareyville where oom Peter Diab, also Lebanese, was our hairdresser. He later moved to the neighbour town, Sannieshof, where he bought the wholesaler, but he kept on doing hair, so when I went to high school there, I still got my hair cut by him. These are fond memories. I wonder what had become of the Diab family and all the other Lebanese families I grew up with?

After the cut, Charlie goes on to his next customer and the blow drying expert takes over. Most of the time the same or another washer will come to assist, holding hair, handing over brushes, plugging in the straightener or just standing, watching. Within an hour of arriving, one leaves the salon again. Hair serviced. They run a smooth operation here.

On Being an Expert

I am what people call a bit of “a Jack of all trades and master of nothing”. I can write a little. I can draw and paint a little. I can do mosaic and pewter and decoupage a little. I can do a little crocheting, knitting and needlework. I can make things and build things (like when my husband returned home from work one afternoon and my son, the gardener and I built a braai). I can teach someone to use a computer. I can take photographs and I can make slide shows and short movies with them. I can garden. When my health still allowed it, I could play volleyball, tennis, squash, golf and almost anything else with a ball.  I cycled, ran half marathons, hiked in the mountains and walked (only if I couldn’t do something faster). On top of these things I continually learn to do or make something new. But, my frustration in life, is that I’m not an expert at anything. I really want to be an expert at writing, but that’s another story for another day.

I always look at people who do something really, really well and I wonder how it feels. How does it feel to be a heart surgeon who can remove a piece of someone’s 3mm-in-diameter aorta and replace it with something man-made, pull the even smaller veins through and make it work again? At least I know how it feels to have that done to me and I’m humbled by the precision of someone else’s expertise. How does it feel to be a violinist in a classical orchestra, playing a masterpiece to perfection? How does it feel to be a steno typist in court, recording what is said by everyone with absolute precision and at the speed of real speech day by day?

These people are really professionals. They do this one thing so perfect that they are in demand in their specific field. They are good at it, because they do what they do for hours and hours almost every day of their life. They are not like me scrambling around the house, doing a bit of writing, then fixing trousers, then decide to make a bag, then try to paint something and then get the urge to make ‘art pictures’ on my camera and then get bored. And at the end of the day, none of those things I made are masterpieces. They might look nice or be useful, or they might be a flop, but they definitely aren’t perfect or even really good. I quite enjoy doing so many different things, because I get bored easily – except when I’m writing. I can do that for hours every day. I just wish I did. Maybe I would have been a better writer then and maybe I would be able to write a masterpiece.

I’m not belittling my efforts at all. I like being able to do so many things – even if I don’t do it all that well. It’s just that I really, really admire that excellent Grade 1 teacher who teaches children to read and write within two months from starting school, or the Djokovich or Federer or Murray who can hit a tennis ball precisely where they want to or the neighbour who’s cake is always a success. I think it must be an awesome feeling to do something so good that you know it will almost never fail, that it would almost always be hugely successful. Because later on, even if you do what you do slightly ‘worse’ your good reputation will pull you through. (Not that it works so well for our country’s rugby players.) Because even if the latest John Grisham novel wasn’t as good as all his previous ones, you will keep reading them, because you know that the next one will be on par again. Excellence breeds excellence. I read another version of the saying “Practice makes perfect” somewhere. It goes something like “Practice until you know you can’t fail anymore”.  I want to do just one thing that well!

It is not only heart surgeons and tennis players who impress me though. People doing everyday jobs, like making burgers or sewing socks or putting products in their packaging amazes me. There are a few of these video clips doing the rounds on the net. I always watch them in astonishment, taking off the proverbial hat to them virtually by liking or sharing the clips. (Some of the footage is duplicated in the clips and the resolution isn’t always good, but I’m sure you will be impressed too.) https://youtu.be/vZK5mzj62Pk, https://youtu.be/494dUevcqJM, https://youtu.be/RsnTNCKMaR4, https://youtu.be/wo7qvyqQ_xE

And if you are one of those people who have the ability to do something perfectly well – enjoy it. I salute you!

© 2016  – I, Fielies (also Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write some masterpiece – all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with more ideas and story characters than I can handle.

High Above the Clouds / Hoog bo die wolke

English version

This will be recorded as one of my most beautiful memories ever. We are on an Egypt Air flight from Amsterdam to Cairo.

Deon and I always listen to Paul Wilbur’s ‘Shema’ together on shared earphones when they play the Islamic prayers on the small screen – something that is done before every flight. Normally I switch my phone off after this, because I want to keep it charged should I need to make a call after we have landed. But today I keep listening. The time between sitting on the tarmac and take off can be a bit boring sometimes.

It is a majestic feeling when a plane jets into the air with the forceful sounds of Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’ in your ears. Outside the lush green landscape of Amsterdam is left on the ground as the plane swoops through the thick clouds to glide above them. This is one of the most beautiful pictures my eyes ever had the privilege of seeing! The cotton wool-like clouds are bundled onto each other with no earth to see down below. The music is still playing while I hear my spirit whisper in my heart: “Thanks for beautiful things, Father!” and “Thanks for all the undeserved treats. Thanks for all the places we see that I’ve never thought I would see and thanks for seeing some more than once!”

And then I heard the Halleluja choir with ‘Ode to Joy’ and Susan Boyle sings ‘Then sings my soul’, while mine sings with. I ‘halleluYAH’ on with Leonard Cohen and Delaney en Bonnie’s ‘Never Ending Song of Live’ follows passionately. Then André Rieu’s orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne’ and I long to be with my family and I wonder what they are all doing on this spring Sunday afternoon in South Africa. While I’m still wondering Neil Diamond makes a ‘Beautiful Noise’ and on the note of ‘Hava Nagila’ I have to close the plane window a bit, because the son reflects quite sharply from the Alps down below.

My finger chooses Josh Grobin’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire’ almost automatically, because one always tends to feel closer to heaven so high up in the air.

In the aisle seat Michael sat cramped-in and reads his new book and in the middle, next to me Deon rests on his forehead against the front seat, trying to sleep. I trust on his cell phone today should we need to make calls on the other side. For now my phone’s battery will help Josh fly high above the clouds over Europe.

Afrikaans

Hierdie sal in my onthou opgeteken word as een van die mooiste memoeries ooit! Ons is op ‘n Egypt Air-vlug oppad terug van Amsterdam na Kaïro.

Ek en Deon luister altyd na die ‘Shema’ van Paul Wilbur oor gedeelde oorfone as hulle die Islamitese gebede op die klein skerm wys – iets wat voor elke vlug gedoen word. Normaalweg skakel ek my foon hierna af, omdat ek nie die battery wil pap maak nie vir ingeval ek dit nodig sou kry nadat ons geland het. Maar vandag hou ek aan luister. Die tyd tussen in die vliegtuig sit op die aanloopbaan en opstyg kan nogal vervelig wees.

Dis ‘n majestieuse gevoel as ‘n straler opstyg met Verdi se ‘Nabucco’ se klanke in jou ore. Buite het ons die lowergroen landskap van Amsterdam op die grond gelos en die vliegtuig het die dik wolke ingeswiep – na waar ons bokant hulle sweef. Dit is een van die mooiste, mooiste prentjies wat my oë ooit die voorreg gehad het om te sien! Die wolke is soos watte-berge op mekaar gestapel, met niks aarde onder ons te sien nie. Die musiek hou aan speel, terwyl ek my gees in my hart hoor fluister: “Dankie vir mooi dinge, Vader!” en “Dankie vir al die onverdiende voorregte. Dankie dat ons plekke kan sien wat ek nooit gedink het moontlik is nie en party wéér kan sien.”

En toe hoor ek die Halleluja-koor en ‘Ode to Joy’ en Susan Boyle sing ‘Then sings my soul’, terwyl myne saam sing. En ek ‘halleluYAH’ verder saam met Leonard Cohen. En Delaney en Bonnie se ‘Never Ending Song of Live kom tussen-in en toe ek weer hoor, speel André Rieu se orkes “Auld Lang Syne’ en ek verlang na my familie en wonder wat doen hulle op dié lente Sondagmiddag in Suid-Afrika. Terwyl ek nog wonder, maak Neil Diamond ‘n ‘Beautiful Noise’ en op die nota van ‘Hava Nagila’ moet ek eers die vliegtuigvenstertjie ‘n bietjie toetrek, want die sonnetjie skyn nogal skerp so hoop bo in die lug waar dit van die Alpe af reflekteer. My vinger kies so half outomaties Josh Grobin se ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire’, want ‘n mens voel mos maar altyd ‘n bietjie nader aan die hemel so hoog bo in die lug.

In die gangsitplek sit Michael ingeprop en lees sy nuwe boek en langs my in die middel, sit-lê Deon op sy voorkop teen die sitplek voor hom en probeer slaap. Ek vertrou maar vandag op sy selfoon, sou daar ‘n ‘vir ingeval’ anderkant die landing wees. Vir nou help my foon se battery eers vir Josh om hoog te vlieg bo die wolke bokant Europa.

© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function normally .

On Having too Many Ideas and the Pure Evils of Multitasking

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Just keep reading. The advice part comes at the middle of the article…

Struggling to Focus

I really struggle to focus when it comes to my writing. To focus – not to concentrate. I can sit and do the same thing for hours. Unless I’m on my phone. Then I have the intention span of a two year-old and I can forget what picture I want to open only half a second after I’ve made the decision. I don’t have a search for the reason for my problem, because I know what the cause is. Ideas. I have too many of them. While I am busy researching links for  my Writing Club Facebook page, I think of a new short story that I want to write and then I think of a great idea for my next blog entry and while still busy with that I’m struggling with the plot problem of my decade-old novel.

Multitasking towards Scatter Brain Syndrome

Every weekend I think of what to do the next week and plan it in my head, but come Sunday (when the work week starts where we currently live) I sleep too late, spend too much time on my phone checking Facebook, play Words with Friends or find something interesting that I have to do Bible study on. So by 10:30 I realise that our bedroom needs tiding, the building cats want food, our son wants to sound his view points on his latest university essay with me and while I’m listening to him, my mind wanders to have yet another few writing ideas on another few projects.

Am I too scatter-brained or do I have too many ideas? I can’t always determine, but I know that whichever it is – or maybe it’s both – it makes me unproductive. Having ideas as a (would-be) writer can only be good, can it not? I rarely have had problems with writer’s block in my life. That must be a good thing, mustn’t it?  Having lots of ideas is good. But it doesn’t help if any of those ideas ever get finished. Oh, I have finished manuscripts in my cyber Dropbox drawer. It’s not if I can’t finish anything. I can sit down and work on a long project to finish it. It’s just that I can’t finish everything that I want to, because I don’t know what to work on and what to leave.

I do something and then I leave it and then I do something else and then I leave it when a new idea pops into my head. I know I have this problem. And I have tried to overcome it many times. I am currently in one of those phases. I have decided to finish my Writing Club business idea. I have started well. Then I got sick. And now, a week later, I am writing a blog while still editing a short story whilst I should be busy with that instead.

The problem I find with my writing – as also in other areas of life – is that I try to multitask, in spite of being a hater of multitasking. Because I multitask in life too. I start tiding the bedroom, and when putting away some stuff in the bathroom, I see that the toilet need urgent cleaning and when I go to the kitchenette to fetch the cleaning products, I wash the morning coffee mugs and then remembered that my son didn’t have breakfast yet and when I take his breakfast to the TV room where we normally have it together, we watch the breaking news and I quickly do some research on some of the facts the reporter gave and then I see some interesting article that I have to share to my Writing Club Facebook page and while on the computer I see that there are some messages from my family group on WhatsApp Web and then I get involved in a who-looked-more-like-whom baby pictures debate and when it cools down I see more interesting articles on writing and read a few, and get new ideas for blogging and then my husband called to hear if I have started doing research for our trip and then I get into the mood to finish my short story and I write for an hour. And when I finally come to my senses again, the bedroom is still untidy, the toilet is still not cleaned, the coffee mugs are dirty again after having breakfast though, the breakfast plates had to be cleaned, there is new breaking news on TV, the family had decided that the baby looks like herself, my Facebook page have more notifications, my short story is still not finished, I haven’t done the research for our upcoming trip and I realise that I haven’t thought about what we’ll have for dinner. Then I leave everything I’ve been busy with and rush to the kitchen…

That’s my life. It’s not perfect. I frustrate myself. Days and weeks and months and even years fly by and I’m not getting done what I want to get done. In a few years’ time I will probably look back and ask my husband and son: “What have I done with my time?!” And they will probably remind me to read this blog entry to answer myself.

Having many ideas is a good thing. For creative people it is a wonderful thing. But if you can’t channel those ideas into some productiveness, they will always be just… ideas. Ideas means nothing if they sit in your head. They have to be acted upon – just like dreams. Ideas also have a tendency to get ‘stolen’. If you don’t do something with an idea, someone else, who is more focussed will and before you know it, another opportunity will be lost.

A Few Tips

Multitasking must be killed. We must live in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand – one at a time. Here are a few ways to try to do it. Let’s try it!

Focus

With the Olympics on, I couldn’t help to recognise again the athletes’ commitment to their respective codes. The archer’s focus on the target is a good example of how we as writers or other artists or people of any other career should learn to focus on one thing at a time. The archer can only hit one target with one shot. If his focus is on anything other than only his target, he surely will miss. Focussing on one writing piece at a time will eventually means that one project will be finished. And if that one is finished a next one will get finished and a next and a next.

Do Something Productive with those too Many Ideas – Make a List

Write down all the writing projects ideas you have in your head. By getting them out of your head and onto paper, you can start focussing on getting them done. Keep this list close and update it as you get new ideas.

Then Make a ‘To Do’ list

Now make a ‘To Do’ list. Decide what it is you want to achieve with your writing. Be very, very honest with yourself and focus on your strong points. Identify the projects that will be the most probably to get published and/or bring in some money. Prioritise you list. Then start and finish the first priority project on your list.

Don’t Move on Before a Task isn’t Finished

Don’t move to number two on your list unless number one is finished. In the case of number one being writing your novel, you can do blogging or other smaller projects in between, but always finish the allotted daily writing time for your priority project first, before going on to doing the smaller ones.

Plan your day – Have a Routine

You know the saying, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’

If that archer didn’t practice for hours every day, he wouldn’t have made his country’s Olympic team and he wouldn’t have been able to win the gold medal. If he failed to aim at his target, he would have failed to hit it. If you want to go on holiday in Greece, you need to plan to take leave, buy plane tickets and book accommodation. Otherwise you will remain where you are. If you don’t plan anything, you won’t get anything done. It is as simple as that.

‘Go to work’

My husband gets up at the same time every morning, showers, clothes himself, takes his bag and goes to work. And he remains there for eight hours of every five week days – working. For that he is rewarded with a salary at the end of every month. Input equals output.

Some writers have a day job and write for an hour or so every evening and some more over weekends. Well-known writers had got published for the first time this way – by writing only for a short time every day. Every day.

Some writers have the privilege of staying home and have more time than others to write. If you are one of those and still struggle to fill at least a few hours every day writing, you have to become more creative with managing your time and the way you work.

  • Identify your favourite writing place in your house/garden.
  • Decide on what part of the day your writing hours will be.
  • When the time arrives, literally pack your writing tools (laptop, notebooks etc.) in a bag and walk out of the house, through the garden (if you have one), back into the house and to your working place.
  • If possible, leave your phone ‘at home’ or switch to silent.
  • Stay at your working space for the time you have allocated.
  • If you have a whole study or office as working space, close the door after you have finished and open it again at the beginning of your writing period. This way you know that you can shut down and have time to do things with your family without feeling guilty, because you have already done your writing for the day.
  • Be jealous about your writing hours. Allow no disturbances, other than real Don’t make unnecessary appointments for those hours and say no to appointments that can be made for another time.

These tips may seem like common sense and they actually are, but we certainly tend to lose our common sense when we get distracted. Keeping to a regular routine and staying disciplined helps to divide between your living and working spaces and may help you to get into the right mind for doing more productive work.

Keep a writing log

I’ve started doing  this years ago, stopped and started again. I make a simple monthly spreadsheet and write down what writing related work I do every day, including reading. (I also keep a separate yearly reading list.) My columns include, Writing, Editing, Reading, Blogs and Other (like time spent updating my Facebook Writing Club page or journal writing). I blot out days that we travel and on which it isn’t possible to write, although some travels can offer wonderful writing time.

Keeping a writing log shows you how many hours per day you effectively spend on your writing projects and it serves as a motivational tool to better your productivity from month to month. It also helps with planning your writing schedule, because you can see how much time you need to spend on certain projects.

Take Stock Every Week, Month and Year

At the end of every week, month and year, evaluate your writing effort. Check your ‘To Do’ list and see what you have achieved. Go through your monthly writing logs and see where you can improve your productivity. Make changes and stay focussed – one task at a time.

Keep a Personal Journal

If you don’t keep a journal I have a question for you: Why on earth not?! Apart from being a therapeutic tool to write down your emotions, problems goals, dreams and feelings, your journal can be a treasure chest of ideas. Many of my journal entries have become blog entries. It also serves as a reminder of the dreams and goals you have and is a place to blow off some steam – as you are the only one who reads it.

You don’t have to write in your journal every day or even every week. Write when you want to, but keep writing, even if there are two-month gaps.

On days that you really can’t get other writing done (for whatever reason) – just journal. At least it will help you to stay in routine and not get rusty. I write in both languages I speak, depending on the reason, subject or mood I am in.

Learn more about journal writing at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/ 

Go forward one letter, word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book at a time!

(OK, the bedroom is not going to tidy itself. Off I go…)

 

© 2016 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt, with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, her friend and two kittens (so far) – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Those Big Small Things in between Facebook Status Updates

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Life is speeding so fast that it can overtake us very easily, leaving us clinging onto whatever we can to survive. And when we are in survival mode, we tend to focus on just that – survival. Sometimes we need to get off the runaway train, stay on the ground and just enjoy the moments of experiences added together that is called ‘life’. So many of us live for our “one day” – that day or days near or farther in the future when all our dreams will be realised into the utopian existences we spend all our free time imagining.

But sometimes we need real life to give us a slap through the face or shower us with the proverbial bucket of ice water to slow us down from our busyness or even to bring us to a halt in order for us to stop and be alive within the actual moment we find ourselves in.

It can happen through the shock of sudden death, the scare of illness, being faced with dangerous situations or just recuperating from something less serious – but as disruptive.

Shock or trauma or failure can sometimes be good for us. It can help us clean our systems, re-organise our priorities and re-evaluate the impossible goals we set for ourselves into obtainable ones and making us pause for a while. Very few things in life can be so good to us than coming to a complete standstill. And I really mean to stop doing what you’re doing and to live in the moment, with no looking forward to the tomorrow that may never be born.e always dreamt of living abroad for a period of time. Due to circumstances that dream got lost for a while, but after some time it found its way back into becoming a possibility and our lives were frozen in their tracks. Everything we did or didn’t do, planned or didn’t plan and decided had to be weighed first against the probability of going away for a few years. It changes one’s whole focus, lookout and pretty much everything you do.

The realisation of a dream can be a horribly, scary affair and takes courage to pursue. (Read my previous blog on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2015/11/10/the-process-of-realising-a-dream-can-be-a-nightmare/)

We only heard six months later that we were going to live abroad. In Egypt. I cried for a day and then my previous positive-self reappeared and I made a pro’s and con’s list and, surprise-surprise, the pro’s list convinced me – not that it was the longest! (How is it that when your prayers are being answered and you get what you ask for that you get confused?)  But the crying subsided and the excitement and frightfulness kicked in. We had a lot to do – easier stuff and more difficult stuff. All the easier stuff had to do with the ‘whats’ in our lives. The more difficult ones had to do with the ‘whos’. My mother lived with us for 17 years and she had to be relocated. And we had to find houses for our four dogs. It wasn’t easy.

Fast forward…

…to living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years.

It takes time to settle into a new environment. And it took me one year an nine months to get so used to the new place to fall into a little bit of a rut – in spite of (or maybe because of) busyness.

Precisely one year and nine months after arriving here, I fell into a not-so-slightly ‘down’. (Don’t worry – it was caused by stupid pains, and although they remained, the depression flew out of the window after a few doctor’s visits. ((And I realised that my ‘depressions’ are always health related.)) And it is a fact that everything seems worse if you are far away from ‘home.’)

Now that the background history is told, I will get to the point. Since that day, three years and three months ago when we first heard that we may be moving, I have learnt to live in the moment. Because of the uncertainty of our situation, we stopped buying unnecessary things, didn’t make decisions with long-term consequences and just started taking every day as it came.

Due to the fact that we came to live in a country where the security situation can be volatile, our circumstances can change at any time and our stay can end unplanned and abruptly. So, I decided to keep living here the way we lived back home for those uncertain fifteen months before we left – in the moment. And I already decided to keep doing that when we get back home one day. But, as I am writing this – even that isn’t a certainty, because that is a tomorrow that is still to come. I pray though that it will happen for us all.

But back again (!) to the reason for this writing. During all these experiences the last few years, I have learnt to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life. Don’t get me wrong. With our current, temporary lifestyle come lots of privileges, which we enjoy and appreciate enormously! I mean, without this experience, my dream to see at least something of Europe would probably always have stayed only in the dream phase. We have cruised the Nile and we are scheduled to go again soon. We have snorkelled in the Red Sea (and fell in love with it)! On a French mountain I have played in the snow for the first time in my life! I attended my first (second, third and shortly my fourth) ball! I have stood in a chamber in The Valley of the Kings outside Luxor containing the petite mummy of king Tut. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. These are memories I will cherish for as long as my mind allow me.

But as it is in life – privileges don’t come free or cheap. And in between these very wonderful experiences are those that don’t reach Facebook status. And they take up way more time than those very wonderful ones. They are the ones that can make or break us. The in-between times when the heat, dust, cultural differences, strange religion, terrible traffic, the thin, sick, hungry street dogs, the stray cats, the tummy bugs, the illiteracy (mine!), the overwhelming crowdedness, the ‘ununderstandable’ customs, the poverty, the dirtiness, the interestingness, the bland food, the overripe tomatoes and all the things you miss from home, make you wonder how on earth did you make it so far and how on earth will you make the rest of the time?

I remember back home when we had some challenges, we would go for a walk in the afternoons and with my hand in my husband’s and with our son and our dogs tagging along, I felt like the richest person alive! And this, I personally believe, is where the secret of happiness lies: to find blessings and joy and thankfulness in even the littlest things in mundane life.

I have listed just a few of these things that make me happy. Some of them are not so little at all.

  • Reading Bible and praying whenever I want to, because the Living God of the Bible is always everywhere.
  • Mild weather.
  • Walking to the shops.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs in mild weather.
  • Having good Egyptian people in our lives.
  • Eating the last piece of biltong someone thoughtfully brought when visiting.
  • Sitting (in the still mild weather) in our garden, listening to the birds chirping without the competition of the air conditioner sounds (because the weather is still mild and the aircons are still off).
  • Aircons in summer!!!
  • Drinking rooibos tea with my husband and son on a Saturday morning outside in the garden (when the weather is mild) or in the TV room or swimming pool (in summer, when the weather is not so mild).
  • Sleeping through the night without fear of violent house-breaks.
  • Waking up in the morning. (What a privilege!)
  • Having an Afrikaans (my native language) speaking buurvrou (neighbour) in the building across ours!
  • Having even more friends from home nearby and being able to lunch with some of them every week!
  • Feeding at least two of the many hungry cats in this huge city.
  • Watching ‘our’ two cats doing all their cat-things in our garden on top of the parking garage.
  • Taking pictures. Lots and lots and lots of them.
  • Being thankful for every ‘big’ or ‘little’ thing that works out.
  • Being safe after there had been uncertainties.
  • Aircons droning out the muezzin calls.
  • Power coming back on after cuts. (These days they aren’t as frequent and as long as in during the first year. Something to be thankful for – especially in summer!)
  • Experiencing everything with my husband and son!
  • Kissing my husband good night.
  • Kissing my son good night. (That’s probably not something he would like people to read on the Internet ((but he likes it – I can tell)).)
  • Seeing my husband happy because he can watch South African rugby and cricket matches on the satellite TV channels.
  • Paging through the teabags at my Japanese friend’s dinner to find a rooibos tea bag!
  • Having lots of friends from around the world to hang out with, visit new places with and to learn from.
  • Being able to buy the medicine I need and don’t get from home.
  • Being healthy (I hope).
  • Coming home to a haven of safety and tranquility.
  • Having a good landlady.
  • …the list can go on…

These are just a few things and when writing them down, I realise that they are not so little. They are pretty big and important. They are the glue that holds life together. To be in awe when seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or feeling small against the largest of the Giza pyramids is splendid, but one can survive life without it. Of course travelling enriches our lives and I am a big supporter thereof (even if it is just exploring outside of you immediate comfort zone) and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these experiences! But it really is the ‘small’ things that we can’t live without, which makes the mundane extraordinary – which is the difference between letting life get away from you and living in the moment. It is the ‘small’ things in life which brings sustainable happiness.

 

© 2016  – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

The Process of Realising a Dream can be a Nightmare

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To conceive a dream is so easy. You just think it up and if you are passionate enough about it, you obsess over it. You envision every little detail. You see it in that sacred secret place where dreams are pictured in all its splendid tints and facets and glorious results. In that place that has no space and no limits. The place that no-one else can see. You dress it up, colour it in, expand it limitlessly and enjoy the outcome as if it already happened. You feel the magnificent emotions even before you even started doing anything about it. What a sweet, sweet place that place called imagination is!

Sometimes in life it happens that we lose those beautiful imaginary creations of ours – because of circumstances or because of failure. Sometimes the loss is due to our own limitations, flaws, choices or immature doings. Some of them we lose or have to let go, because they were only meant to teach us and to make us braver.

Blog Dreams inserts

But, sometimes we get a chance to transform those imaginations into reality. I know that for the millions of go-getters out there, this is the moment they lived for and waited for their whole lives. It is the moment in which they can grab their dream in both hands and force life into it. Now me, I’m not one of those people. The realisation of my dreams scares die dinges out of me. For me the process of realising a dream is a nightmare. Because this is where two worlds meet – that fantastic world of comfort, no responsibilities and no liabilities and the scary, scary world where you have to face the proverbial music and actually do. It’s a world that makes your tummy ache and your head burst and where you want to faint, turn around and push your dream back in the safety of imagination’s womb and forget that you were ever able of conceiving such a frightful creation.

Because realising a dream is not only about day dreaming. It is about hard work, unpleasantness and vulnerability. The process of realising a dream is much like childbirth. For months a new person grows inside you. You nurture it, dream about its features, character, life. You wait in anticipation as the little human grows and grows until one day it can’t stay inside you anymore and needs to get out into the world.

I am not making this analogy easily. I know that losing a dream can never compare to losing a baby, but writing from the heart also means writing from experience. Loss nestles itself very deep in the human soul. All kinds of loss. If it is the loss of a human who had grown inside your body for a time or a dream that has grown inside your being. It feels. That is what makes us human and how we deal with the loss is what makes us individually who we turn out to be.

Some expecting mothers choose to abort the new life just after conception, because it came as an inconvenience, but doing so leaves a void in their souls that can never be filled. Some moms lose that life – not because of own choice, but because of circumstances or because that life wasn’t sustainable. It hurts. So. Much. Even if you know it wasn’t meant to be or that it wasn’t your fault – and somehow in your heart there always remains a memory of love. And sometimes more than just memories linger. Very real nightmares continue to occur of what could have been but was not. The same happens when losing dreams.

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If so blessed to walk full term, expecting mothers very often experience a lack of sleep at the end of the pregnancy and angst and nightmares before the birth. They know that there is no way around it. The baby must get out – and no fear, angst or nightmare can stop or even delay the process. The little human’s life depends on being born.

In life, when one loses an unborn baby, the law of survival urges us to try again, until that new conception or the next or the next clings to life and grows and lives long enough to see the light.

To survive not only life, but ourselves, we have to try again when we lose a dream. We need to learn to dream new dreams. Dreams that would stick, go full term and burst into realisation when the time for it has come and the expecting ‘womb’ cannot contain it any longer.

We also need to embrace the birthing process like a fed-up, anxious, scared new mother who knows that the baby must be born – no matter what! It is never easy and many, many things can go wrong. There can be complications with the birth or defects that hadn’t been detected beforehand. In extreme cases even a still-birth is a possibility.

Blog Dreams inserts

It can be the same with dreams. A dream is made to be born or aborted. To abort it will always leave an emptiness and a lifetime of wondering ‘what if?’ Of course there is the possibility of miscarriage too. We can take the big step, try and not succeed. Or the dream can be ‘still-born’ and be a failure. From experience I have also learned that failing at something is far more liveable with than aborting or not even trying to do something. The margin between failure and success can be so minute sometimes. But the gap between aborting and not trying is absolutely unbridgeable.

So, my son, when the time comes and the pangs make you fear and want you to abort and you feel anxious and inadequate and unqualified – remember the mother, who in her fear and pain and angst, push through, knowing that life depends on it.

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© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

The Curious Occurrence of People’s Comings and Goings on Earth

http://www.picsflavor.com/quotes/hemingway-quotes-that-make-you-happy/

I am sometimes, actually all the time, a bit flabbergasted by the fact that people, well-known or not, live an extraordinary life – for the good or the bad – and then one day, as if they were mere mortals from the onset, are no more.

I’m busy reading John Baxter’s book, The Most Beautiful Walk in the World. It’s a collection of stories, anecdotes, quotes and by-the-way facts about the streets, corners, buildings, passages, cafes, gardens, restaurants, fashions and people of Paris – from the past to the now. By the way he frequently quote and referred to Ernest Hemingway, one can’t help to think that he must be at least a little bit obsessed with the larger than life (in more than one way) American writer.

I read a book the way I take a walk on the beach or go about my daily chores. I start out with a goal to go somewhere but stop to take a picture of a see-through crab or a washed up piece of wood or I want to clean the toilet, but instead open the cupboard and see paint waiting to change something’s colour.

Although I am not diagnosed with some attention deficit disorder that comes with a long abbreviation, I get distracted easily. It’s not that the books I read are boring (I take care not to waste time reading what I really, really dislike), but because the writer triggers my curious bone, which leads me to visit my good know-it-all friend, Google, to make sure that what I read is true or to learn more than the author was willing or allowed to mention. Maybe it’s because I love knowing as much as I can or maybe it is because I question e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g or maybe it’s just because I’m a naturally curious female person. Whatever the reason, my Google friend is always more than willing to help and a visit there is never a short, focussed or a goal driven one. I turn off at every interesting link, follow even the faintest paths from there and end up at a totally different place than I intended to. But that’s a point for another day’s ramblings.

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Today I visited Google to read up again on Hemingway’s life. And what a life it was! It was busy, full of intrigue, drama, trauma, tragedy, excitement, love, strife, journeying, disappointments, successes and conflict. Relationships were formed and broken often. Some mended after time – others never.

Ernest not only survived World War II, but also a few other wars as a journalist as well as car crashes, two airplane accidents, and life threatening illnesses. It is so sadly ironic that in spite of cheating all these potential killers, in the end he took his own life.

John Baxter lives and walks where Hemingway and Sylvia Beach of the original Shakespeare and Company bookshops, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and Scot and Zelda Fitzgerald lived and ate and created and partied.

When we visited Paris and London and Jerusalem and Amsterdam and walking the streets of Cairo and braving a sand storm at El Alamein in the Egyptian desert, I can’t help to be in awe to think that in a strange way my life somehow ‘connects’ with those people’s lives who lived decades and centuries and millenniums ago. I remembered looking at the Eiffel tower in total amazement knowing that Ernest did too. And so did a lot of other famous and less famous persons from the past and present.

I looked at the centuries old buildings in London and I realised I walk where Shakespeare dreamt up his plays, where Dickens wrote his prose and Churchill maybe had sleepless nights over the nightmare that was the Second World War.

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In Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, I read a young girl’s letters and I could identify with her passion and her dream to become a writer. Anne’s dreams died young, but her spirit lives on, still touching the hearts of people like me when I walk where she walked and try to imagine what it was really like to live indoors and quiet for months to be safe from people who want to kill you just because of the race you were born into.

In the Valley of the Kings the mummified remains of young king Tut is displayed for whoever is brave enough to take on the desert heat. How is it possible that he and I can be in the same room with thousands of years stretching between our births?

My eyes gazed over the hills surrounding Jerusalem and I know that just over two thousand years ago, Yeshua (Jesus’ name in Hebrew) entered the city triumphantly on a donkey as it had been prophesied hundreds of years before and cried over the sins of His people.

When my brother died too young I felt so many conflicting emotions. The feelings of sadness and heartbreak were normal, but for a while I questioned the reason for his existence. Why was he born if he was going to die ‘before his time?’, I argued with God. But of course it wasn’t true. He lived a full life, even though it was shortened. And through him God created more life. Life that still goes on and will go on. Just two months ago our family welcomed his second granddaughter into this world. Somehow he will remain here with us, because his DNA lives in those who came from him and his memory lives in us who loved him.

The memory of all those who lived before us are still alive. Their deeds and the legacy they left are still with us – good or bad. People today still have scars caused by Hitler, Stalin, Hussein and the likes. But others were healed because of a Mother Theresa and the Florence Nightingale who chose life instead of hate and death. Einstein, Bell, Edison and Pasteur and many more from the past slaved away so that the future would be easier, safer and healthier for us. And we still listen to the genius collections of notes composed by the Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven.

Thanks to the many, many graves at El Alamein and other graveyards all over the world, our world didn’t tumble down because of the doings of power hungry dictators. Their bodies are decomposed under the hard, dry, desert soil or in the unharbouring (yes, I like making up words) waters of the world’s oceans, but their sacrifices and legacies outlived them. Some had famous names like Roosevelt, Montgomery, Smuts and Mountbatten, but some were just simple men – sons, brothers and fathers, like my great uncle, Kosie Coetzer.

People live different lives, but we all leave something behind when we ‘leave’. Big or small. Good or bad. Pure or evil. Our lives are entwined with one another. The past is still with us and will always be. We are the future’s past. I wonder what we will leave behind for those coming after us. What will I leave? I hope it will be something worthwhile.

© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Why the Pursuit of ‘Happiness’ as a Goal is a Futile Chase

Pondering on life: Are all quotes quotable?

So many 'happy' quotes -  some about real joy and some about fake 'happiness'?  Think before you quote. Test before you believe.

So many ‘happy’ quotes – some about real joy and some about fake ‘happiness’?
Think before you quote. Test before you believe.

It is absolutely okay to be happy. I know a lot of happy people. I am happy. Not all-the-time- screaming-from-the-rooftop-happy, but happy within myself and especially happy within our little family unit. When things didn’t go so well in life, I found myself still feeling happy most of the time, because I have Someone to believe in and people around who loved me, and therefore I always had/have hope. And when it is going really well, I still have ‘down’ days. But overall – in my heart – I know I am ‘happy’. I think that is pretty average for most people.

Let’s get the Boring Definitions Over

According to Wikipedia, happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness)

Dictionary.com describes happiness as the quality or state of being happy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, joy. And the opposite it states, is misery. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/happiness?s=t)

Preaching the ‘Gospel’ of Happiness

Social media pages are filled with quotes on everything under the sun, but the one theme that probably frequents more than others, is ‘happiness’. Happiness – it seems – is more sought after than most other wants or needs.

There is nothing wrong with being happy or wanting to be happy. I think that happiness is a very basic want and something all (I hope) people want to be – for the right reasons. But sometimes I read quotes coming along and I wonder about the driving force behind it. The quotes about success and ambition and happiness are by far the ones making me think more than the ones on love, caring etc. do.

I sometimes read a quote and I can’t help to think that modern man had become its own little god. Some of these quotes are all about ‘me’. “Think positive thoughts and get what you want from life”, “Do what makes you happy”, “Avoid people who makes you unhappy”, “Nice won’t get you anywhere”.

And then there are the advertisements. Being rich, being thin, buying the newest phone, tablet or TV, clothes, toys for your children, going on this or that new diet, taking this or that newly developed supplement etc. etc. etc. will make you… you guessed it – happy!

This way of searching for selfish happiness is all about me, me, me and feeds the little god modern-us created within ourselves.

With all the ‘happiness’ that is preached to us via the happiness ‘evangelists’s’ quotes and ads and movies, I am really surprised that the world is in such a state of unruliness, chaos, poverty, violence and… UNhappiness.

‘Case Study’#1

I know a person who is unhappy all the time. I know her for a very long time and this had always been the case. No one she is with or had been with or anything one can do for her could cause her to be in a constant state of happiness or contentment. (Or maybe she is happy, but has an unhappy way of showing it. One must always be optimistic!) Of course she had tragedy in her life, but she also had love and privileges and favour. I think about her well-being – or absence there-of – a lot and wonder if she would ever find something to make her happy. I wonder if she will ever find joy within herself. Sadly, only if some miracle happens very soon, I don’t think she will ever become so happy that she would influence other people’s lives only positively. A few years back I had a conversation with some people close to her and for the first time I really realised how many people get influenced on person’s actions and behaviour – positively or negatively. Although I always suspected that she had quite a damaging influence on their lives, I never thought it to be that destructive. That night, I made a decision again to try to only be a positive influence on the lives of people I have relationships with. This is a daily challenge.

It is impossible for me to ignore this person or cut her out of my life, so those quotes to “Ignore negative people” or to “Surround yourself with people who make you happy”, is not always a practical option. Of course it is better to be around only nice, ‘happy’ and positive people. Of course we sometimes have to make the difficult decision to cut a relationship with a person who really derail our lives or behave improperly towards us, but sometimes we just can’t. Because sometimes, those ‘unhappy’ or negative person is a spouse or a child or a parent or a sibling or a friend who needs a joyful, ‘happy’, positive person (like you and me, of course) in their lives. Or is a spouse or a child or a parent or a sibling or a friend who have a serious psychological illness and needs us to be there for them. To cut my ‘unhappy’ persons out of my life, would be selfish and in the end self-destructive. Because who will be there for me in my unhappy moments if my all-the-time positive, ‘happy’ spouse, child, parent, sibling or friend had also decided to cut me out..?

Just cutting people out, would mean that we care only about ourselves and conforming to the world around us where everything is about me and me alone and what I can get from every relationship and situation I am in. There will be no caring, no reaching out to people who needs us.

“Case Study’ #2

We currently live in Egypt. There is a well-known place close to our suburb in Cairo, called Mokattam. There is a place is called ‘Garbage City’. In there, live people who, for generations, gathers this large city’s garbage, sorts it and recycles it. When driving through there as a Westerner, you see sites that you would never have believed if you didn’t see it with your own eyes. When you dare to open your window, flies swarm into your vehicle and you’re greeted by the very distinct smell of rotten everything. I have seen the thinnest cow there that I’ve ever seen in my life! Yet, I observed something that both surprised and shocked me. I saw men, women and children working in the streets and inside open doored houses, hands halfway into garbage, sorting, working, talking, laughing. I saw children walking home from school, clean and neatly dressed. And I saw something in their eyes that I didn’t expect to see there. ‘Happiness’. What a very uncharacteristic place to find such a thing! But that was exactly what I saw – big, joyful eyes sparkling with light.

At first I thought that I was mistaken, so I didn’t say anything about this observation to anyone. Then as time went on and I have been in conversations about the place, people made the same remarks.

So, how is it possible that you can have two sorts of persons – one who has a relatively easy life and is never happy and the other who has a to-the-eye miserable life and seems ‘happy’? That is one of life’s great mysteries. Maybe it is because happiness isn’t a goal or a destination on its own, but a state of mind that one must find in oneself. Maybe happiness isn’t something to chase after and try to hunt down, to dream about, to ‘find’. Maybe happiness is in all of us, just waiting to be found. Or not.

‘Case Study’ #3

I don’t know Sir Richard Branson in person, but I read some of his books. I admire him for a few reasons. One, is that he is dyslexic and that I have learned to regard persons with dyslexia very highly, because most of the time, they are very clever people. I had quite a few of them in my Writing Clubs in the past and they are sharp and creative and think outside the box. Sir Richard can’t spell and didn’t finish school and yet he had written and published books. My spelling, on the other hand, is above average, I finished school and have a degree and yet I haven’t fulfilled my dream of publishing a book!

Back to the point of being happy. Branson claims in his books that you must just follow your passions in life and “success will follow”. He left school and started a magazine with very little resources. That was the first of his eight billion-dollar businesses (in different sectors). Success indeed followed his passionate efforts.

I haven’t published books yet (okay I have a self-published one on Kindle) and I haven’t made my billions yet. I don’t know if I will ever make billions, and I’m okay with that. But I really, really hope to get my books published. So, somehow, I believe what he says. The Bible teaches us “to do what our hands find to do” and to be “content with what we have”. That doesn’t mean that we can’t work harder and strive for better. But I believe that even though Sir Richard isn’t a Bible believer, he is following this advice.

Take More Pics and Less Selfies

I really believe what “if we do what our hand find to do”, means to use our God-given talents, passions and character traits to fulfil our purpose in this life, and when we do that will find ‘happiness’. And if we use those given passions, talents and character traits to help others, we won’t have to look for happiness, because it will come looking for us.

So, maybe ‘happiness’ isn’t something that we should even worry about or aspire to, but just live our lives to the best of our abilities, do what we can with what we have, reach out to others, give what we can give and don’t be so goal driven to feed our little inner-god.

Perhaps, if we take more pictures of the beautiful creation around us and of other people and less duckface selfies – to use contemporary social media generation language – we may see that we are surrounded by ‘happiness’.

© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to live as a normal functioning human being.

My children’s book, Yeovangya, is available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-Riette-De-Kock-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0

A Final Comment from the ‘Supervisor’ and ‘Principal

 

On the occasion of our son’s graduation from school

It is probably not general practice or accepted for a mother and father to write a testimony for their school leaving child. That is normally the job for a person of reputation in an educational institution who distantly knows about a learner and is professionally obliged to say something good to advance the young protégé’s university or career hopes.

But then, we are not just the parents. We had also been the supervisor and principal responsible for our son’s home education for the past eight years. So, in his case we will ‘only’ be members of a parental unit who happens to know the protégé’s best and worst character traits and can still find words of praise.

We are not public school haters (although I, the mother, have a lot of ideas for how to totally overhaul the education system!). We never planned to do home schooling. It happened by the doing of the One who created our little family and with Whom we write our life story together.

Our son was never disabled or ‘abnormal’ or having special needs. But he was and still is different. Not weird. Not strange. Still not ‘abnormal’. Just wonderfully different.

He doesn’t like the institution of school, but he loves learning.

He is not a genius (we didn’t have him tested 🙂 ), but he is quite intelligent.

At 17 he definitely isn’t a wise adult yet, but I am very sure that one day he will be.

Like most other children, our son, Michael, went to school at the age of seven. He became a well-enough adjusted, average student. He learned to fit in well enough, passed his tests and handled himself according to what was expected of him, but he had always been somewhat of a loner. He did make friends easily enough. Some moved away or classes changed and then he had to make new ones. That’s just life. Some days he came home and told us that he and a friend “helped a grade one/three learner against a bully”.

On asking what his favourite part of his day was, the answer – without exception, every single school day – had always been “break time”. He liked his teachers and they said they liked him. He was okay. But he wasn’t brilliant at his school work. Neither was he ecstatically happy. That’s life too. He (unsuccessfully) regularly faked headaches and tummy pains and every other trick in the book to try and miss a day of school.

We weren’t even considering home schooling before an ‘accidental friendly confrontation’ with the concept. We believed all the negativity we heard other people offered about home-schooled children, like them being isolated from the community and becoming unsocial, dysfunctional and who knows what? Certainly, we wouldn’t even have considered that, with our son being an only child! But somehow, we did listen to our son’s plea, we prayed about it and our Father in heaven led us along this way.

Michael was nine years old when he started home schooling in his Grade 5 year. I secretly hoped that he would go back to school after a year, but it never happened. He enjoyed it. And he excelled. It wasn’t always easy. Some days the daddy would come home to find us both in tears. But, as with all things in life, success and discipline must be taught, modelled and practiced. Finally by the age of twelve, we started seeing the fruit of the big step we took.

In the past eight years we saw Michael grow up to become a young giant – both physically and in heart. He thrived at home. Never ever did he fake illness again – he even worked through a serious illness one time. We saw our shy, quiet little boy transform into a happy, sociable, well-adjusted and daring child.

As an only child we were definitely worried about him becoming isolated and non-social, being home alone, but miraculously the total opposite of what every ‘expert’ warned us about, happened. He made new friends – good, keeper-friends who he still has and he even reconnected with ‘old’ ones from his nursery school days via social networks.

The little boy who was too scared to go to children’s church alone, who would never want to venture out without holding mom or dad’s hand, grew into a confidant young man, eager to learn new things and converse with people of any age, being it his seven year old niece, a ten year old friend, a peer or a colleague of his dad’s.

At age 13, he attended the All Africa School Convention and surprised us by winning two gold medals – one for photography and the other for short story writing. We knew that we did the right thing. Our son’s wings were growing strong.

He loves travelling.

He reaches out to other people easily.

He makes friends effortlessly.

He is strong, but kind.

He has a desire in his heart to help people and to become a peacemaker.

He listens to people.

He has a soft spirit.

He loves knowledge and says his goal in life is to learn a little bit about as much as he can. And he is proving it by telling us useless and useful facts about everything under the sun every minute of every day.

He thinks for himself, although of course, he is still young and must still develop communicating his opinion much more. Obviously his opinions will be tested regularly and it will change and being adjusted as he grows more mature and learns more about life and about himself.

We are sad that our son isn’t a child anymore, because growing up, eventually means leaving home. Hopefully that can be delayed for a while longer. We as parents are sure that we send a kind-hearted, confident young man into the world. We are also certain that he will make mistakes, but we know that he will learn from them. We believe that he is now ‘trained’ in the knowledge that he needs to advance to a university to further study for a career in which he can live out his life purpose. We also believe that he is ready for the ‘university of life’ – the place where he will never stop learning.

We know that our Michael, will live his name – which means ‘who is like Yah’ – and will be a good ambassador for his family and for his God in this world.

Although we are all for home schooling, we are not ‘home schooling above all’ fans. We believe that every family must make the decision about the right kind of schooling only after taking into account:

  • The relationship between the parents;
  • The relationship between the parents and child/ren;
  • The child/ren’s personality/ies and passions;
  • The needs, phase and circumstances of each individual family member; and
  • The current phase the family as a unit needs functioning in.

We started home schooling because Michael wanted to, but we kept going, because we realised that it was the best way of education for him and also for us as a family.

To further prove his ability to adapt and persevere, Michael showed immense self-discipline during his last school year. In November 2013 we moved out of our house in Pretoria to leave for Egypt for a new phase in our family’s journey. As it sometimes happens in life, things got postponed and Michael’s matric year was disrupted in every possible way. We only arrived in Cairo at the end of March and moved into a house again on 1 May 2014. But, he kept calm and showed character in the way he went about his work. He worked through regular daily interruptions to get passports, unabridged certificates and all sorts of administration necessary for the move, done. He worked some evenings to catch up lost time. He also did his schoolwork wherever he had to – in restaurants, at friends’ and family’s homes, in guest houses and in hotels and sometimes even at the embassy.

As the ‘principal’ and the ‘supervisor’ of Olive Tree Home Learning, we are very proud of our learner, but as Michael’s parents we are bursting with pride and we cannot thank our Heavenly Father enough for the privilege of entrusting him to our care.

Thank you, ACE (first Tshwane Home Education Academy and later Queenswood Home Education Academy) for giving us an alternative to ‘bulk’ schooling.

And a special thanks to Erika Du Plessis (Principal) & Lynne Beneke (Administrator) at Queenswood Christian School. They both are examples of people living and loving with passion and who have compassion for the people they work and serve with. Erika is the type of principal every child and a parent can pray for their children to have. We really, really love them and appreciate their effort.

 

Fielies De Kock is also a wife and mom and hope to become a more successful writer of novels in the very near future. She currently resides in Cairo, Egypt, with her family, where they are trying to survive a new language and culture, while missing their family, friends and four dogs and where they are slowly and unwillingly warming up towards the building’s official ginger cat, known as The Cat.

Fielies is also known as Riëtte De Kock. Her first children’s book, Yeovangya, is available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0

On Success – So you Failed with your First (and Second and Third) Business Effort…

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We always tend to read ‘success’ stories when we want to be inspired or learn about being successful. Success stories inspire us, they sound good and we can definitely learn from them. But these stories can also leave us overwhelmed and hopeless when we try our hand at a new business just to fail after a few weeks or months or even years. Many people only try once and when something doesn’t work, they think of themselves as unsuccessful or as failures. When we fail at something we very easily tend tell ourselves that we would never be another Richard Branson or a Bill Gates. We are right. We never will be.

There is another way of looking at our failures. We are all different from another and therefore we do things differently, we have different interests and passions and talents. Being different from anyone else also means something wonderful – every one of us is a unique person. Being a unique person means that each person has a different purpose than the next and that we sometimes fail at things because we aren’t in a business that fits our interests, talents, personalities, passions, characteristics and purposes. Or we may be in the right business, but we don’t have the right ‘tools’ to manage a successful business. In these instances we must forget the failure, dream from anew, plan from afresh, learn from mistakes, learn new skills and try again.

It is encouraging to know that the Bransons & Co. of this world didn’t all succeed at their first try. Some of the most successful business people today and in the past had to try quite a few times before they had any success. Here are few failures to inspire you to be more determined to succeed in whatever your passion is.

chahal dot com

  • Henry Ford went broke five times before the Ford Motor Company became a success.
  • After being turned down for a job at Toyota, Soichiro Honda, started making scooters and eventually started his own company.
  • He invented a rice cooker that burnt the rice and he lost everything, but that didn’t put Akio Morita off and today he is the founder of the multi-billion strong company, Sony.
  • Traf-O-Data was the first flop of Harvard university drop-outs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. We all know what happened when they started Microsoft. Maybe the name was to blame…
  • Colonel Harland David Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fame’s chicken recipe was rejected by 1009 restaurants before someone had the vision to buy it.
  • Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He ended up bankrupt but believed in his ‘no good ideas’. Today Disney’s company is billions worth and still going (and growing) strong.

Not only people in business failed before succeeding in life. Not all scientists, inventors, politicians, great leaders, actors, artist, musicians and writers and sportsmen had it easy either.

  • It was thought that Albert Einstein was mentally handicapped, seeing that he only started speaking at four and learning to read at seven. (What is so bad about that? In our country children learn to read at age six/seven. Maybe there is still a chance for us to become geniuses!) He got expelled from one school and was refused entry by another. Not bad for a genius Nobel Prize winner in physics, is it? Remember that one of his greatest quotes was “Imagination is more important than knowledge…”
  • Another scientist-dude first ‘failed’ at school and then ran the family farm into the ground before becoming a math-genius. His name was Isaac Newton. Maybe this was one of those cases of doing something while having other talents.
  • Thomas Edison was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was also fired from several jobs. We all know by now that we can be thankful to Thomas for not believing his teachers and bosses and that he just pushed forward and tried and tried and tried more than a thousand times to invent the light bulb. In the end he just said that he had found more than a thousand ways not to do it before he found out how to do it! Now, that’s what I call ATTITUDE! Thanks, Mr. Edison for adding a little light to our lives. J
  • And then there were bicycle makers Orville and Wilbur Wright who didn’t give up in spite of depression, family illnesses and lots of broken prototypes, before they fulfil every man’s dream to fly.
  • Although he failed Grade 6 and was defeated in many, many political elections, Winston Churchill just kept going and became the British prime minister at the age of 62 and lead Britain through WWII. He just had to wait for the Creator of History’s perfect timing for him to make his difference in the world.
  • A young man called Abraham Lincoln went to the war as a captain, was demoted and returned home as a private! He went on to start quite a few failed businesses, but Abe hung in and eventually became one of the U.S.A.’s greatest presidents (and an enormous statue). It just shows you again that you must find your niche to succeed in life.
  • Oprah Winfrey was allegedly abused as a child and fired from her job at a television station because she was “unfit for TV”. I’m sure you know who she is now and what she did for the past 20 odd years. Yes, she became a successful television (!) host and one of the most powerful people in the world – even influencing law making in die U.S.A. today.
  • Jerry Seinfeld, actor and stand-up comedian (and the voice of Adam in Bee Movie) was booed off the stage on his first job because he froze, but he went back on stage, tried again and audiences haven’t stopped laughing since.
  • He was told that he didn’t have what it takes to become a star, but Harrison Ford went on and did just that. Who else could have played Han Solo of Indiana Jones but him?
  • Vincent Van Goch died in poverty, selling only one painting in his life. Today his more than 800 paintings bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. I personally don’t understand the fuss over some of the paintings, but nevertheless…
  • Theodor Seuss Giesel or Dr. Seuss, as we know him wasn’t an overnight success either. His first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by 27 publishers.
  • The University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television rejected Steven Spielberg three times before he joined another film school from where he dropped out before finishing his studies to become a director. He eventually went back after 35 years and completed his BA-degree in 2002! How’s that for perseverance? And he didn’t even have to do that because he was already successful in what he did!
  • Although Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the best music composers ever, he died with very little to his name due to depression, restlessness and ‘unfavour’ from
  • Ludwig Von Beethoven was told that he couldn’t compose music, but he went on to compose some of the most beautiful music ever written. If you don’t know Ode to Joy, get a copy and listen to it. On top of all, he did all it being deaf! How cool is that?
  • Elvis Presley was told by an agent “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” We know now that he didn’t listen to that no-good agent.
  • “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” A quote from Michael Jordan, probably the most famous basketball player ever, who was cut from his high school team…

For more failure stories, visit http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/ and http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/05/17/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

Just think about it for a moment; If these people just gave up after the first try we could have been without KFC today! Or some of the greatest animation movies, planes, trains, some of the best music, electricity, the telephone, some very good cars and we would never have been able to enjoy some great books or the talents of some very good athletes. OK, that’s only partially true, because someone else would probably have invented the light bulb, the aeroplane and animated movies, but it could have taken a lot more time. And we wouldn’t have known who Thomas Edison, Mozart or Spielberg was.

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So what do we learn from these people’s failures?

  • If you don’t keep trying, someone else will and ‘steal’ your idea. It really isn’t nice to see someone else do something that you wanted to do, but didn’t do just because you didn’t have the guts to try or because you gave up.
  • Don’t listen to people telling you that “it can’t be done” or that “you’re not good enough” or “you will never make it” or “you are too stupid” or anything like that, just because they can’t imagine what you can. Winston Churchill and Steven Spielberg didn’t believe people like that. Why should you?
  • Learn to know yourself. Think about life. Know what you like and what you are good at. If you fail at something you’re not good at, try something that you are good at and which matches your personality and passions in life.
  • Don’t try to be someone else or do something that others are doing or follow other people blindly. You were made a unique person, with something unique to give to this world. Don’t aspire to other people’s dreams.
  • And last but not least – in spite of what the great and mighty Oprah says: Not every person “can do what they put their minds to”. Of course a person with serious intellectual and learning disabilities won’t be able to become a rocket scientist or a 250 kg girl won’t be able to become an underwear model. So, parents stop telling your children that! Stop setting impossible goals for yourself and/or your children, or trying to fulfil your own unfulfilled dreams through them, because that is the surest way to failure.

Maybe you are ‘just’ someone who started a small business to support you and your family for the rest of your life. That is a very good and noble thing. But just maybe you have something else to give.

By persevering, Bill Gates gave the world something that almost everyone has to use every day. He change the way of how much work could be done by one person in a day! He also changed the way how work is done.

Oh, and back to Mr. Branson. He dropped out of school to start a magazine. Through the years he built up eight billion-dollar businesses in eight different sectors (read an interview with him at http://www.touchahead.com/blog/entrepreneur-leader-richard-branson/). He introduced fun into business. Today he inspires, explores and writes books about business. Did I mention that he is dyslexic? (As some of the smartest people in the world were/are.)

Just maybe you have something like that in you too. If you think you have, never stop dreaming and never stop trying. And never listen to people trying to stop you from trying.

And that’s pretty much what I have to say about learning from another people’s failures. I’ll end from a quote from Winston Churchill himself:

Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in – except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. (This is the original version of the popular ‘Never, never, never give up’ quote, by the way.)

 

Fielies De Kock is also a wife and mom and hope to become a more successful writer of novels in the very near future. She currently resides in Cairo, Egypt, with her family, where they are trying to survive a new language and culture, while missing their family, friends and four dogs and where they are slowly and unwillingly warming up towards the building’s official ginger cat, known as The Cat.

Fielies is also known as Riëtte De Kock. Her first children’s book, Yeovangya, is available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0

 

Article on Writing: Journal Writing

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I never travel without my diary. One must always have something sensational to read on the train.Oscar Wilde

(Read the previous blog – Thinking about Life – entry before this one at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-thinking-about-life/.)

People keep journal for different reasons and therefore there are various kinds of journals, such as spiritual journals, therapeutic journals, ideas journal, memoires, personal memories, research journals, journals keeping track of illnesses, art journals, travel journals, thank you journals, etc.

Why do People keep Journals?

The function of journaling is to keep record of information (or statistics/thoughts/memories etc.) regularly for later use.

The difference between journals and diaries (according to the website http://42explore.com/journl.htm) is:

A journal is a continued series of writings made by a person in response to their life experiences and events. Diaries contain a description of daily events. A journal may include those descriptions, but it also contains reflections on what took place and expresses emotions and understandings about them. It doesn’t matter what you call your writing, either a diary or journal, as long as you see the distinction between these two ways of writing.

Different journals have different styles. In some journals, like that of a researcher, a therapist, or a traveller, the writer must be meticulous about recording facts accurately to write academic papers, truthful articles or medical reports later on. In other journals used to record memories or spiritual growth feelings, emotions and thoughts play a more important role.

Examples of Journals

One can almost record anything in a journal and although there are more types of journals, we will look at only a few.

Spiritual Journals. Prayer requests (and answers) and notes on one’s personal spiritual growth, conversations with our Father in heaven and life lessons learned, are the basic aspects recorded in these journals.

Therapeutic Journals. Psychologists and patients can both keep record during therapy. Therapists will write entries about their patients’ progress and treatment, while patients will write down their emotions and thoughts and also about their physical wellbeing and/or symptoms.

Ideas Journals. It is a good idea if you are/want to be an artist, inventor or a designer to keep a journal where you can dot down your ideas. Painters or song writers find this extremely helpful. In today’s busy life, we tend to forget easily, but when you use a journal, all those wonderful ideas you have won’t go to waste if it is penned down immediately. These days, digital devices such as cell phones, laptops, iPads and tablets have memo pads, voice notes and apps available which come in handy to quickly type or record a thought for later use.

Memoires. Many people, especially famous ones, want to write their memoires or autobiographies in the future. Keeping a journal helps one to preserve important memories. (Keep in mind that there is a difference between autobiographies and memoires.)

Research Journals. Scientists, archaeologists, journalists, statisticians, mathematicians etc. normally keep journals wherein they record their research and findings for later use.

Progress Journals. Teachers, scientists, project managers etc. use journals when monitoring the progress of projects.

Medical Journals. People who are seriously ill use journals to keep track of symptoms, treatment, reaction to medicine, etc. Doctors do the same when monitoring illnesses or researching new treatments.

Art Journals. Artists use journals to plan paintings, write down ideas for art pieces etc. It helps them to plan projects which they cannot work on right away.

Travel Journals. Journaling helps travel writers (or just for-fun travellers) to write down important notes while travelling, on detail such as routes, costs, contact numbers, addresses, web site addresses, names of people and places etc. They can also use their journal to keep track of pictures taken.

‘Thank You’ Journal. Some people like keeping a journal of the things they are thankful for. It is a wonderful way to learn to write regularly and it also helps a writer to always be on the lookout for something to write about and a good way of learning to be thankful for what you have.

Dream Journal. Some people record their dreams in their journals just after they have woken up. Some dreams have meaning and it helps people to write down their dreams before they forget them.

‘Diary’ Journals. It is a journal containing daily events, thoughts, feelings, dreams and sometimes, even secrets and is normally the first step in journal writing people start at a young age.

Tips on Journal Writing

  • Make your own rules. If you want to write every day, it is up to you. If you only want to write in your journal twice a week or whenever you feel like it, that’s okay too. You can write long, thoughtful pieces at a time or only two sentences. You can write, draw, design, glue pictures in it or do whatever you like. You are a unique person and only you know what you want to preserve in your journal.
  • Always keep your journal and a pen/pencil/phone/tablet near – in your backpack, schoolbag etc. so that you can write down an idea when it pops into your head. If you don’t write it down, you will probably forget it. Otherwise know how your cell phone’s memo pad and voice recorder works.
  • Write the date at the beginning (or end) of all your entries. This will help you especially if you need to write factual pieces or even your memoires later on.
  • Don’t stop if you haven’t written for a few weeks. Just keep on where you left off. Remember, you make your own rules! I have moved from writing in a notebook to keeping a journal on my computer and I don’t write every day, but I keep writing. My current digital journal is almost eight years old and include my thoughts, struggles, experiences, travel log and even world events, because they also influence our lives.
  • Don’t try to impress anyone in your journal. It is a personal thing and it is about your personal growth. You don’t have to try to perform when writing in your journal. Be honest with yourself and write from your heart. Write about all your fears, emotions and your losses in life, as well as about the things that make you happy and the dreams you have for the future.
  • If you keep a spiritual journal, provide space where you can later come back and write down answers to prayer, i.e. write on the one side of your journal and keep the other open.
  • As already mentioned, you can also keep your journal on your PC/laptop/iPad/tablet/smart phone. Just make sure that you make back-ups regularly (preferably in the cloud, rather than on a disc you can lose or that can break) and keep an extra notebook to take with you wherever your computer can’t go with you.
  • You don’t have to let anyone read your personal journal.

You don’t have to limit yourself by having a separate journal for every different aspect of your life. You can use only one book to record all the different facets of your life. I have two journals – one for my personal thoughts etc. as mentioned above and another that I use as a notebook for writing poems, jotting down story ideas, planning dinners and recording admin. That way I only grab one book when leaving the house and I don’t need a trailer to transport all my journals every time I go somewhere.

I also have a WhatsApp group with myself (with my phone and tablet names) where I write when I have no other way. That way I can transfer my thought electronically to my journal when I get home without having to type it again.

Did you Know?

  • Journals had been used to record history. Many famous as well as unknown people had kept journals, recording important historical events and so preserved history that otherwise would have been lost.
  • Some journals had been published as books (like Anne Frank’s).
  • Secrets in people’s diaries or journals had led to crimes being solved, lives being saved, conspiracies brought to light and it lead people in love to each other after years of being apart…

Famous People who Kept Journals

  • Louis Tregardt, (yes, that’s how he wrote his surname in his diary) Voortrekker leader. He recorded how the Voortekkers trekked and the battles they fought.
  • Anne Frank was a girl who lost her life in WWII. She called her diary ‘Kitty’ and had various ones. Only ‘Kitty’ diary was later found and published by her father.
  • The famous author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (alias Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) kept quite a few diaries of which some had disappeared.
  • The English novelist, Virginia Woolf, was another keen keeper of journals.
  • Most U.S.A. presidents kept journals, including George Washington, John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, one unique diary belonged to Harry S. Truman, who wrote in his diary constantly, recording notes on and even his feelings about every appointment he had during each day!
  • Even fictional people like the TV character, teen doctor Doogie Howser, wrote two sentences in his diary (on computer) each day. So did the movie characters, Bridget Jones, Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries) and Indiana Jones, who recorded treasure maps and notes about important artefacts in his.
  • Song writers are keen on journaling. They write down songs that sprung into their heads at strange times of day (or night). One of them is Jessica Simpson.

Who knows, maybe one day, I will add your name in an updated version of this blog…

Creative Writing Exercise

Write a 10-minute journal entry in your current journal or in a note book if you don’t have a journal yet. Write from your heart. You can write about something you did or about something that you feel sad about or something that makes you very happy or something that you are thankful for or all of the above! Or write down your love story, or write about your dreams, places you want to visit etc.

Some Last Notes

Remember to write the date with every entry.

Try to make at least two journal entries per week from now on. Schedule a special appointment with yourself on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon and one week morning/night.

Happy journalling!

 

(Read the previous blog – Thinking about Life – entry before this one at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-thinking-about-life/.)

 

©2007 Riëtte de Kock   

 

Article on Writing: Thinking about Life

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*  This blog entry is introductory to next one about journal writing. Read it at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/

To be a good writer, one must have a ‘writer’s voice’. To have a ‘writer’s voice’ it is important to have opinions about lots of things in life. To have opinions one must spend a great deal of time thinking about various subjects and issues.

We are Spirit within a Body

A human being is not only a piece of meat filled with bones and blood and water. Man consists of body, mind and spirit and soul. We are complicated beings. We must understand that we don’t just have a body to look after, but also a spirit/soul/mind. Not only needs our body to be fed with food, but our spirits also need food. Most people are religious and believe in some or other god. I for instance, believe in the Living God of the Bible. So for me to become a whole human being, I need more that only food for my body. I need to learn of and communicate with God in order to feed my soul/ spirit. We are spiritual beings in fleshly bodies.

Making Sense out of Life

Sometimes things happen that don’t make any sense to us and true to our human nature, we want to make sense of it. Sometimes we talk to a trusted friend about it and sometimes we keep it to ourselves. It happens to every person at some stage. It is good to talk to someone about our problems and worries and concerns. But sometimes there isn’t anyone to talk to. Or we don’t want to talk to anyone about certain things. What to do then?

Dreams and Goals

Apart from experiencing things and having fears and problems, we all have dreams and goals in life too. Those dreams and goals will not just happen without us doing something to make it happen. Therefore it is good to think about the things we want from life and write it down – because when we write things down, they start to become real in our minds.

If you don’t think about life and what it is that you want to do, then you will probably end up doing whatever comes along and not what you are supposed to do with your life.

We all have different dreams, talents and passions. Unfortunately, there are many people today who don’t know what their life’s dream is, because they never take the time to think about life and to learn to know themselves. Don’t let that happen to you.

It is therefore important that we learn to know ourselves – our dreams, talents, passions, short falls and behavioural patterns. Just as a sportsman have to practice every day to become fit and to master every bit of skill there is to master in his sport, so we have to ‘practice’ every day to become the best we can be.

Only you can be you, so be the best you you can be.

(Yes, I know it sounds cheesy and I don’t know if someone else had said it before.)

How do we go about Becoming the Best we can be?

By thinking – thinking about ourselves, our behaviour, the way we handle things and the way we don’t. By thinking about things that are important to us, things we don’t like or things that we do like. By thinking about what we want to do for others and for ourselves. And by thinking about our points of view on different issues we hear about on the news, such as global warming, abortion, human rights, world politics etc.

Make Time to Think

These days we seem to be too busy to think. We have school or work, sports, chess practice, piano or violin lessons, extra maths classes and then we still have to watch TV and DVDs, listen to music, go to the movies, keep up with our Facebook and Twitter friends and do homework. It’s exhausting!

We don’t have time to become quiet and listen to ourselves. That way we get used to other people thinking for us and making decisions on our behalves. Teenagers wear what Hannah Montana wears and listen to Justin Bieber because they are told to listen to him.

Children make their parents buy them toys they can’t afford, because the TV ads say that everyone must have them. But do all girls really like to look like Hannah or like to listen to Justin or do children really need those expensive toys?

Most children today don’t know the answer to these questions. They just do as they are told because they don’t know what they really like, because they don’t think for themselves.

The same applies to adults.

Introduce Yourself to Yourself

I want you to make a stand and change all that today. I want to encourage you to start thinking for yourselves.

Make time every day to spend thinking. It can be early in the morning (if you are an early bird) or in evening before going to bed. Or somewhere in between. Go to your room and switch off everything so that you can hear the quietness. (And leave your cell phone in another room.) Or go outside and sit or lie on the grass or sit on the porch. (And leave your cell phone inside.) Just be quiet and allow your thoughts to flow naturally. Eventually you will start thinking about the things that are important to you. Keep a notebook or your journal close and write done things that you don’t want to forget.

A Few Exercises to get you Started

  • Make a list of the people you love most.
  • Make a list of the people you don’t like hanging out with.
  • Make a list of the things you like doing most.
  • Make a list of the things you really don’t like doing.
  • Make a list of your favourite subjects at school/favourite tasks at work.
  • Make a list of your least favourite school subjects/least favourite tasks at work.
  • Make a list of five things you want to do in life (like climbing Mount Everest or run the Comrades Marathon, writing a book etc.)
  • Make a list of ten places in the world you want to visit.
  • Make a list of your five best character traits.
  • Make a list of your five less attractive character traits.
  • Make a list of five things you think you should become better at.
  • Write down five nice things about every person in your immediate family. (Yes, everyone.)
  • Write down five jobs you think you should like to do/ had done.
  • Write down five things you like about your best friend.
  • Write down five things that you would want your friends and family to say about you.

Creative Writing Exercise

By doing a few of these exercises you will be ready for the following blog entry on journal writing. Read it at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-journal-writing/

  • Take a 20-minute thinking session on your bed or outside in the garden. Take a notebook with you.
  • Do at least two exercises on the list above in your writing club journal.

For more writing related articles, follow The Writing Club / Die Skryfklub on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thewritingclubdieskryfklub/?ref=bookmarks

 

©2007 Riëtte de Kock