Those Big Small Things in between Facebook Status Updates

20150606_114239More Egypt Chronicles

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.

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The Woman who made me Fall in Love with Afrikaans Words only to Realise that she was Actually Writing in English and was an American

Helen

I remember my pre-school growing up years in two phases – a phase where we lived on two farms, although I actually only remember the second farm. Of the first I only have two memories – one where I received my soft toy monkey and namesake, Fielies, as a Christmas gift around my third birthday (yes, I actually remember getting the present and opening it) and the other where my sister, twelve years older than me, ignored my mother’s instructions and gave me Coke-Cola in a baby bottle, even though I wasn’t supposed to having Coke or be drinking bottle anymore.

Of the second farm I have many happy memories, much of them involving my brother, father and grandfather.

The second phase was living in the neighbouring town. Here my memories contain mostly our house, my brother who was nine years older than me and in high school in the next town during the week – and my grandfather’s shop. (See my blog entry for more on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2013/04/02/my-grandfathers-shop/).

My grandfather sold stationary, fireworks and also gifts and gift cards in his shop. My grandfather and grandmother taught me to read and write numbers and I helped them put handwritten prices on the products in the shop. This made me feel very smart. But what didn’t make me feel smart was that although I could write numbers, I couldn’t read letters. The gift card display cupboard filled with Helen Steiner Rice cards made me realised that. The cards were different than the other cards in the sense that they didn’t only have words inside the cards, but also on the outsides.

I was fascinated by these little symbols that, when put together with other sets of letter combinations, formed words. I was even more amazed by the fact that so many different words could be formed by using those letters. And with that, if you know how, one could make sentences using all kinds of different words. And these sentences became the keys to creating other worlds. Worlds full of stories.

To overcome my frustration I sometimes asked my grandmother or grandfather to read me some of the cards instead of a storybook. I didn’t understand much, because the words confronted emotions and life experience I could yet identify with. But what I did get, was the wonderful rhythm of the rhyme that made those words sound as beautiful as a symphony in my ears. I could just listen and listen. As soon as I learned to read in school, I used Helen’s cards to practice my reading.

Then one day a new order from the big city arrived which got mixed up somewhere and the shop got someone else’s order and to my shock and wonder I found out that Helen was speaking English too! I could now practice my English reading too. It paid its dividends, because my English spelling became very good and my vocabulary grew beyond my second language reading book’s arsenal. I won’t comment on my speaking ability though because in our town no one spoke English. There were Afrikaans, Tswana, Portuguese and Lebanese people living there, but somehow no one spoke English!

Only many years later I learned to my surprise that Helen Steiner Rice (I thought the name was a bit foreign) wasn’t a nice Afrikaans speaking boere antie (boer aunty), but actually a very nice American woman who started writing greeting cards when she took over a greeting card company and she realised the need for cards with feel good messages.

Although Helen was dubbed ‘Ambassador of Sunshine’ at the Gibson Art Company in Cincinnati, she didn’t only know the sunny side of life. Her father died when she was young and instead of pursuing her dreams, she helped her family survive. She married a young business man who lost everything in the 1929 New York stock market crash and was left widowed at age 32 after he took his own life due to depression related illness. But she became a successful business woman and ran the greeting card company for forty years, while keep writing her beautiful poems and unknowingly taught a little Afrikaans girl how to read, first in Afrikaans and then in English. And then to write. First in Afrikaans and then in English.

Thank you, Mrs. Helen Steiner Rice, for unlocking the world of words for me.

HSR 10 Commandments

PS: You can read her story on a website dedicated to her at http://www.helensteinerrice.com/hsrinfo.html.

PPS: I found out today that either Google doesn’t know everything or that I don’t know how to get the information I need out of Google. I tried to find out who was responsible for the translation of Helen’s poems into Afrikaans, but I couldn’t. I also tried to find out into how many languages her work is translated into. I’m still searching. If you have more information on this, please comment.

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© 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 – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Ideas for Clearing your Head and get Ready for a Good Writing Year

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At the end of a year and before the next begins, it is a good idea to spend some time ‘taking stock’ of our lives. During the next few days, get your journal or a notebook, go and sit in a quiet place and contemplate. Then make two lists.

List 1

List the following in your ‘To think about’ list:

  • Difficult choices you had to make;
  • Changes that occurred in your private and working life;
  • Mistakes you made;
  • Names of people you have to ask forgiveness for or to forgive. (Then forgive them.)
  • Bad things that happened to you or around you;
  • Problems you have that is still unsolved;
  • Good surprises;
  • Good things that happened to you or around you; and
  • Things you are thankful for.

Take Time to Think in Between

Take some time to think these things over. If you have gone through an exercise like this last year, go through your lists and mark the things that you wanted to do, but didn’t.

List 2 

Make another ‘To do’ list about the following:

  • Things that you really wanted to do during the last year, but didn’t;
  • Things you want to change – personal and workwise;
  • A few things on your ‘bucket list’ you want to do the coming year;
  • Things you want to do for someone else; and
  • Solutions to solve those unsolved problems from your first list.

Get into Some Creative Action

  • Now that your head is (hopefully) clearer, turn the page of your journal or notebook and write down as many story ideas you can think of if you are a fiction writer.
  • If you are a non-fiction writer, jot down ideas for articles, booklets etc.
  • From then on, take one idea per day from your last list and free write about it.
  • After free writing, tackle one thing on your ‘to do’ list and write down what you are going to do about it. Write down small goals and keep to it. Revisit this list weekly to see how you progress and make adjustments if needed.
  • After you have done this, take time to sit somewhere quiet to think and relax.
  • Spend some time with your loved ones.
  • Make a habit of these four steps by repeating it at least weekly.

Enjoy your time of rest.

 

© 2014

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, almost-university-student 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.

 

Writing Towards a Dream

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I have slowly started to spend time writing again. Now that Michael had finished school I am supposed to have more time, although the functions accompanying Deon’s job here in Egypt distracts me from writing as ‘full time’ as I want to. But, I appreciate and cherish every moment I can use to write. I am working to finish my novel, Change of Heart. It’s at 81000+ words now which makes about 356 typed pages. Not bad, but there’s quite a bit of writing to do still.

I am also reading a book Why Authors Fail by Derek Doepker. (Available from Kindle ebooks at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Why-Authors-Fail-Mistakes-Self-Published-ebook/dp/B00L9GM1RO) I can tick off almost all 17 of the mistakes he discusses. It is tough to realise that I have so many flaws as a writer and worst is that I knew all these things before I read the book. It is as if he just summarised all my shortcomings in book form. So, aside from writing, I would have to work hard to fix those mistakes and inadequacies. But in the meantime, I have more important things to do. Like writing.

One of the questions asked by Mr. Doepker is why is becoming a successful author important to me?I thought that I should do the exercise and write down my reasons. It will also serve as motivation. So, here’s my reasons:

1. I don’t have a choice. I write because I have to – because I love writing. I have stories and ‘people’ living in my head which have to get out. Some I hope are good. Some are horribly sentimental and will never be written. They would always have to linger oh, so sweetly in the matter between my ears. My poor brain! Writing energises me. When I write, I exercise and I cook and get compliments from my family for the nice food they get. It makes us all feel good.
2. I want not only to write and publish a book – I want to write and publish books. I have written a few books and quite a few longish short stories already – it is the publishing part which lack seriously in the picture of my dream job. I want to be good enough a writer to have at least more than ten books published. For that I need to write more regularly. More and regularly. And I need to muster the courage from somewhere to get the first one published.
3. I want to be a successful author because I think I write good enough stories to receive at least some income from it. This will make me feel useful. Not that I’m not. I am a mom, but the boy is all grown up now and I want to ‘redefine’ myself as a wordpreneur who actually sells my words.
4. By being a successful author I will thank God for giving me the talent to write.
5. I want my husband and son to be proud of me. I know they are already, but I want their pride being expanded to the gifts given to me.
6. I want to get my writing published, because it depresses me when I read or watch programs about other people doing what they are good at and succeed and I have still ‘done nothing’ about my dream. I want to live my dream of being a paid writer.
7. I want my children’s story, Yeovangya, made into an animated movie, because every time I see a new animation movie it frustrates me that my movie is not yet out there – and it take. So. Very. Long. To. Make. Yeovangya is available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-Riette-De-Kock-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0. (See, Mr. Doepker, I’m marketing. I’m working on at least one of my weaknesses.)
8. If I don’t at least get one book published, I will feel very disappointed – maybe even a bit like a failure.
9. I must at least try. If I don’t make it, then I know I wasn’t good enough. There will be closure in that. But if I don’t try, I will always feel regret and dissatisfaction. And there’s nothing worse than living a “What if..?” life.
10. If I don’t make it as a successful author of formally published books, I can always keep on publishing ebooks and hope my family and friends love me enough to buy my electronic scribblings for forty Rand or so…

What I have to do now is to do something about the shortcomings listed in Mr. Doepker’s book. And then do my best at succeeding. WOW, this is a very close-to-home confession. Now my big dream is out there for the world (or the few loyal family and friends at least who actually read my blog) to see and hold me accountable.

Eish!

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, almost-university-student 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.

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    

Teach Your Child to Read

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I’ve travelled the world twice over,

Met the famous; saints and sinners,

Poets and artists, kings and queens,

Old stars and hopeful beginners,

I’ve been where no-one’s been before,

Learned secrets from writers and cooks

All with one library ticket

To the wonderful world of books. 

~  Janice James~

 

Reading is one of the most important things we ever learn to do. If we can’t read, we won’t know God’s Word. We won’t be able to write – not even signing our own names. We won’t be able to feed our children or read the labels to give them the right dosage of medicine when they are sick. We won’t be able to read cautions to prevent ourselves and our families from danger. We won’t be able to learn or have the privilege to read all the wonderful stories that other people write. This is the reality of many, many people in South Africa and the world today.

According to www.100people.org 18 out of every 100 people in the world can’t read – that means 180 000 out of every million people on earth! That is way too much. Closer to home, it is estimated that 50% of the matriculants failing their Grade 12 exams, could have passed if they were better readers. That is a shocking statistic.

Given this, it is obviously important to learn to read and to read well. Here are a few pointers to help you as a parent to get your child reading.

1              Set the example for your children. Be a reader yourself and tell them about the awesome and interesting things you have read about. That may probably encourage your child to read too.

2              Read for him from the time he is a baby. Use your voice to speak like the different characters, show him the pictures – act out the scenes if possible. He may laugh at you, but he will start associating reading with fun.

3              Since you know your child best, read stories to him and let him read stories that he is interested in. Don’t read a boy a boring love story if he would prefer an adventure.

4              Start a story and let your child pitch in to finish the story. It will be great fun and maybe encourage him to explore story books for himself.

5              If your child doesn’t like reading long books, give him cartoons or shorter children books with pictures. At least he will read something.

6              Encourage your child to read the Bible. They might find it difficult at first, because of the older language and the not-up-to-date sentence construction, but the spelling is correct and the words are everlasting – literally. Start by letting them read the ‘Old Testament’ stories first and also chapters like Ruth and Esther, before moving onto the ‘heavier’ stuff. (And be ready to answer a lot of questions.)

7              Cartoons/comics are wonderful reading tools. They are normally colourful and funny, short and – boys especially – love them. They help to get a child from not reading at all to getting interested in reading. It also written concisely – something that will help the child with his own writing.

8              When your child outgrows children’s books, start with tween (10-12 years old) literature. Those series we read as children are popular at this stage – Saartjie, Trompie, The Hardy Boys, The Secret Seven etc. (Trompie and Saartjie had been re-written into more modern Afrikaans, so that it is more digestible for our modern children – although my son still found it hard to identify with the Trompie setting and characters.)

9              Help them read their first longer book by taking turns to read aloud. You can start half a chapter and he can read the second half. Start out by reading only one chapter per day or in the evening in bed. That way it is easier to read a longer book and they won’t feel overwhelmed by the many pages awaiting them. It is wonderful to reach the end of a month or two months or even three and see that satisfied little face when he realised that he did it!

10           If your older child still doesn’t want to read books, buy magazines or subscribe to a specific magazine that he or she would be interested in. Magazines as a rule are very well edited; therefore your child will learn correct spelling without even knowing it. The more they read, the easier they will remember the words and the better there spelling and the sentence construction will become – without you even nagging or trying too hard! There are various teen magazines available these days – just scan the content before you give it to your child. For boys or even girls with and interest in engineering, cars and the world around, Popular Mechanics is a good choice. For smaller children there is NG Kids (National Geographic). The Reader’s Digest doesn’t only have good articles, but is also a good source for facts, feedback on new developments and sometimes even helps with speech topics. And they love the humour. So, take your child to the nearest news agency and choose some magazines for them to read.

11           Remember that boys love non-fiction, so encourage them to read books and magazine articles with facts if they don’t like long books of fiction.

12           Internet surfing under supervision would also help them to at least read something. Just keep in mind that content can be incorrect and that there are lots of spelling and language mistakes on the web. But, if it gets your child reading, why not? And he will even learn something. Let them research NASA and National Geographic pages or let them look up information on careers and hobbies. Caution: Make sure your child surfs safely!

13           Join the library and regularly take out books for the whole family. It is cheap and a good way to develop a reading routine within the household. Make an outing of the trip to the ‘bib’ and give your children time to sit there and page through the books and magazines before taking out their books for the next two weeks. Libraries also have great holiday programs and encourage reading through various other initiatives.

Remember, our children are different from us. They live in a different world than we grew up in. There is an overwhelming amount of entertainment competing for their attention. They live partially virtual lives. Each child differs from the next. They are unique individuals. They learn differently from us and they each learn at their own pace. Appreciate, respect and embrace those differences. And have patience. In time, they will get there…

© 2010 Riëtte de Kock

I am trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellent wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful entrepreneur and freelance writer all at the same time! I share a living space in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband, son, mother, four dogs and sometimes the neighbours’ cats – and my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters.

Visit my website at www.thewritingclub.co.za and buy my children’s ebook, Yeovangya, on Amazon Kindle athttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0

My Afrikaans blog is available on my website – or just click on this link: http://www.thewritingclub.co.za/writingclub/index.php?option=com_lyftenbloggie&view=lyftenbloggie&category=bloggies&Itemid=66