The Beauty Within

My friend, Jenna, gave me the following brief:

“The Beauty Inside

How about something to inspire us who are not able to see our worth or beauty in a cruel world.”

I have been thinking about this since I first read her comment.  I had a few ideas I was toying with but decided that something unconventional would be the best route to go with this subject.

The Lady Without a Name

She is there on the park bench; the lady without a name

I see her every Friday, like we play some kind of game

 

Her sight is straight ahead – an empty, lifeless gaze

I see something on her cheekbone, it’s clearly a graze

 

She wears pretty clothes, but something’s clearly amiss

She’s a classic beauty, not at all a ‘Miss Pris’

 

Her eyes are dark pools, rich and deeply clear

It’s only when she blinks them, that I notice her tears

 

I wonder what she’s thinking, what’s making her sad

Or is she crying because she’s irate; flaming mad?

 

Excuse me. What’s the matter? Yes, I am bit nosy

Before she can protest, I hand her a posy

 

Oh, Sweet Girl, it’s my husband, you see

He words are cruel and hateful, and he beats me

 

I too have been there, I know her pain

But us women are warriors – rainbows after the rain

 

Tell me what he said, I ask, the reason you’re so blue

Men that treat women badly, they’re a Motley Crew

 

Her lips tremble as she begins to speak

Her voice is so quiet, barely an audible squeak

 

He called me useless: A whore!

He said I’m stupid,

A bad mother

Decayed at the core

 

The tongue cuts deep, a double-edged sword

That I do believe, as it is written in the Word of the Lord

I take her hand in mine, and give it a squeeze

Listen to me now, and believe this, please.

The world may be cruel, dark and dim

But you have a special light, that shines within

You are unique, special and I can sense, kind

Don’t let anyone who can’t see that make YOU feel blind!

It may not be easy, but you have the power to leave

No person should choke your living, disallowing you to breathe
Despite the rank darkness of the world today

You are important, you have a fated role to play

I also know it’s easy for me to talk

I don’t wear your shoes, I don’t know your walk

What I do know is this, we’re women; warriorly fighters

We sacrifice of ourselves all the time, to make others’ burdens lighter

There is beauty in you, and hidden gems too

You work to fill others, it’s what we do

Be hopeful, be happy, choose to be free

Others have done it, you can too!

She rose from her seat, no tear in sight

Thank you, she said, woman of might!

It’s been a year since that Friday, her bench has been empty

But she’s moving and shaking, with good deeds a-plenty

I’ve heard she shares her story, no longer with shame

That incredible lady, without a name.

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It’s Cold, but it’s Good…

I think my spirit animal is a bear. Not a polar one, one that hibernates. Oh, and eats when it is only necessary. Yip, a bear, definitely a bear.

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I’ve always said that if I could have a single season all year round, it would be Autumn- the days are still long and relatively warm and there is a golden hue to everything around me, like an angel’s halo, glowing in the light. The trees dance a gentle waltz to the song of the breeze as their leaves change colour from green to red, red to yellow, yellow to brown, and eventually fall to the ground, their naked branches a stark fortune-teller that reminds us for rebirth to happen, death must occur.

Winter is not my season. At all. The days are short: it’s dark when I get up for work and in the height of the season, it’s dark when I get home in the afternoons, just shy of 17:30. For the most part, I’ve learnt to appreciate the darkness. Many a winter night I will get into bed early, with a hot beverage and just listen to the stillness that only a winter’s night can bring. It’s during these times that many of my troubles come to the fore, but also because of the clear blackness not only around me, but in my mind, I am able to think of systematic solutions. It is also a time when my Creative Muse seems to surface from her den, inspiring me to create something, anything, beautiful.

Just this past Saturday, while under a blanket on the couch at a friend’s place, I got the urge to cook – I’ve laid my hands on quite a few recipes, and am excited about the smells and warmth that will be emanating from my oven, or from the bubbling pots atop. I also unpacked all my cake decorating tools not too long ago too.  More importantly, I’ve indulged my true passion a bit more: I’ve been writing!

Looks like winter may be my season after all… hearty soups, hot chocolate, Port, stunning sunrises (because I’m awake to see them), time for self, time to create and above all, knowing that when it’s over, Spring springs and a cycle of new hope and new life begins.

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Virtues: Chivalry

Continuing with virtues – today’s topic: Chivalry.

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Could it be that we, as modern-day women believe that chivalry is indeed dead? Or is it that we’ve become so jaded (or as we often prefer to label it ‘independent’), that we don’t notice that some gentlemen still exist? Or do you not associate the adage of Manners maketh the man to be chivalry? I’m going to use practical examples from my life, but I’m curious to hear your views, so please leave a comment, if you’d like.

Me? I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, and a giver. A believer of idealistic fairy tales, with their proverbial knights in shining armour.

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As a result, I’ve been burned, more times than I care to admit and honestly, cynicism and bitterness had crept into my heart, but I had two choices – allow it to poison me and become hateful or continue to hope and believe that not every man is a bad egg. So, when my friend, Frank replied to my Facebook poll that chivalry is an underrated virtue, it struck a chord the starry-eyed dreamer within me, because I actively started looking for chivalry in my day-to-day dealings with the men in my life – whether family members, colleagues or friends.

I’m ashamed to admit, that I experience chivalry every day but that I hadn’t noticed it because of my own unrealistic idea of what it should be. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a hearts and flowers girl, because I am. I want those tokens of romance, but I’d much rather have a man walk on the outside of the sidewalk when I’m with him to ensure my safety (because if you know me, you’ll know that I trip over thin air and am likely to get hit by a real car!), or help me carry my parcels when I’ve been grocery shopping.

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Most of the senior management at the company I work for, is well, senior, and male. Whenever any of the female staff walk out of a room, one of the men will open the door and they will all wait until the ladies have exited the room, or if one of the ladies has been asked to make coffee for guests, and is carrying the tray, our management will stand up and one will take the tray from us. That’s a chivalrous gesture, not so? Also, in the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve not heard any of the men talk to the women in a disrespecting tone of voice.

For a short season in my life I had a friend, William – eleven years my junior, the eldest of three brothers, from good stock. Whenever he would come to visit, or we’d go out, he would make a point of pouring my alcoholic beverages for me, because, as he’s been raised, a woman doesn’t pour her own booze, and she doesn’t ever pour booze for a man – her husband or not.  Even his youngest brother, a high school junior abides by this rule. It was something tough for me to deal with, because I am after all, capable of unscrewing a bottle cap, finding ice in the fridge and pouring my own drink, but in their book of chivalry, that’s not the way it is supposed to be. One thing that he never fails to do (which some of my guy friends also do) is open the car door for a woman.  Even when I’d visit at his parents and everyone would walk out to the car to bid me goodnight, he would take my car key, unlock the driver’s door, and open the door for me. Again, a small gesture, but chivalrous nonetheless, and one that gets noticed when it no longer is done, as if often the case when the guy has got the girl, and feels there is no longer a need to impress her.

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One of the sweetest, most chivalrous gestures in my book is a man helping a lady into her jacket, or if she doesn’t have one at hand, offering her his when she is cold. I personally almost never have anything warm with me, because I don’t get cold, but when offered a jacket, I will graciously accept, because it shows that the man I’m out with is more than just well-mannered; it shows that he is willing to sacrifice his own comfort for mine.

Almost every year, a friend of mine from Cape Town, Jack, comes to visit for my birthday if he’s in the country.  He’ll pick me up, open the car door for me, take me out for a meal at a restaurant of my choice, where he’ll pull my chair out, and we’ll have a good catch-up.  At the end of the evening, he will walk me to my door and see to it that I’m safely inside. Again, no ostentatious gestures, but small things that are kind and gentlemanly.

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I will also concede to the gallant gents out there, that women (and I know I’m generalizing here, ladies – don’t get your panties in a twist) don’t always make it easy for you either. To give a practical example: Who pays the dinner bill when you’re out, whether as friends, or more? The reason I pose this question is because I have been in relationships where I’ve pretty much fit the bill every time, and as a result, I’m super-mindful of not wanting to be that kind of person. I’m also aware that some of the guy-friends I go out with, earn more than I do, and are happy to pay for a meal, or drinks, but on some level I want to reciprocate. Maybe it’s misguided pride from my side, I don’t know, but it is who I am.  I’ve had this discussion with my mate, Charlie and he gets it; he appreciates that I’m willing to put my hand in my pocket, but to some men, it may be perceived as an insult.

In closing, I think a great deal of the ‘problem’ with us as women, is that we often expect huge, grand gestures, instead of seeing the little things, which are the ones that in fact matter the most.

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A man offering you his jacket every time you’re out, and it’s cold, is worth way more than a bunch of flowers once in a blue moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtues: Kindness

Many years ago, when I was doing my novel-writing course, my tutor, Alex Smith, said that if a character needs a bit of development, I should use this Proust questionnaire as a starting point. Every so often I take it out and have fun with my friends, “interviewing them”.  It’s also fun to look back at what original answers were vs what they are now.  Some things change, some things stay the same.

One of the questions that always fascinates me is “what is the most overrated virtue?” It is a question that, at first glance, seems easy to answer, but in reality, it isn’t, because not everyone has the same understanding of what a virtue is, nor do their moral compasses face the same True North.

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So, instead of working it from that angle, I’ve opted to discuss what the underrated ones are – in my misfit opinion, but also in the opinions of others who opted to reply to a post I put on Facebook in an attempt to research more about the topic.

To start, I’ll talk about one of the virtues that ranks really high on my list, but that is very often disregarded by others (whether intentional or not, it doesn’t matter): Kindness.

What has become my motto in life is this quote by Ian Maclaren:

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Face it…  Every single one of you reading this post has had it tough at some stage of your life.  Would something as simple as a smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend, an encouraging word from a colleague, or a gentle squeeze on the hand from your spouse have eased the trial, if even for a fleeting moment? I believe so. I’m not in any way trying to say that kindness is the key to solving the problem, but merely that it lightens the burden, if only for a short while. It opens the door for other virtues, like hope and perseverance.

Do I fail at being kind? Sure, I do.  I’m not infallible. Honestly, I fail at a lot of the virtues that will be blogged about during the course of this month. My creativity sometimes leaves for months on end; I can sometimes be selfish instead of selfless; sometimes I am conceited, instead of modest…

In closing, I challenge you to be kind to everyone who crosses your path today, bearing in mind that kindness, like every other virtue, does not require a grand exhibition of self, but a pureness of heart and a humble spirit.

House Hunting: A Nightmare in the Garden Route

I’m a member of various FB groups in our region – mostly to market my Herbalife sideline business, but also to stay in the loop as to what is happening in the area, because I live under a rock most of the time.  I don’t buy the local rag because it is more ads than news and with social media being reported in real time, by the time the paper makes the round on a Friday, most of the news is old already anyway.

One thing I have noticed on many of the groups is how many people are looking for accommodation, yet they can’t find because of limited availability and for those who do manage to find something available, the places come with ridiculous rentals and the owners are very particular about no pets.  Some even state “no children”, which I think is cruel – and this coming from someone who is not a parent.

House Hunting

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It’s the price of living in the Garden Route, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem fair.    It brings that Roger Miller tune, King of the Road to mind.

One member pointed out, “How am I supposed to afford a house with a rental of R8K when between my wife and I, we’re only bringing home R11K.  We have accounts that need paying, kids that need to be fed, clothed and schooled, and then some…”  Some replies were, “If you can get a house for R8K you should count yourself lucky” and “if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find accommodation here?”  These statements are true, but it doesn’t make the reality any easier to deal with for those who are struggling to make ends meet, because in many instances employers in this area are still pay their employees way-under-market-related-salaries.  Every morning I say a prayer of gratitude because I work for a company that not only remunerates its workers well, but also allows for both professional- and individual growth.  Add to that great colleagues, and it’s a recipe for success.

Besides the supply vs demand for accommodation in general, another topic came up for discussion: In December many people were left out in the cold as their landlords put them out to rent the places for the summer holiday at rents only the Northerners can afford.  There are two sides to the argument of course – as a tenant of a furnished flat, the first thing I did when signing the lease was to check that I wouldn’t have to vacate the property during the summer holiday, because my brain said, “where will I go?”  I wanted the assurance in writing that I would have a roof over my head during the busiest part of the year, and I got it.  I will say too, that the couple that owns my home, are amazing lessors.

So, the question begs, did these people that were displaced not know about the requirement to vacate, or did they merely not bother to procure alternative accommodation in time?  Or did the property owners merely shaft them?  It’s anyone’s guess.  The plight of the tenants left stranded has now been raised to the point where the legality of such rentals is going to be investigated.  A good thing, I believe because there is clearly exploitation of a loophole somewhere. Whether it is intentional or not is irrelevant.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the investigation is.  Guess we’ll have to just wait and see…

Triple F – First Fabulous Friday…of 2013

Woke up this morning to cool weather!  What a blessing after the extremely hot days we’ve had recently – and no, I’m not complaining about the heat, because if it hadn’t been so hot, I wouldn’t have got to go to the beach…in my sassy, new, blue bikini 😉

Now, many of you know that I lost 15 Kg (33 lb) last year when I wrote this post.  Well, I’ve lost a few more Kg’s and it was finally time to show off my new curves at the beach.  Not only am I looking gorgeous (okay, granted, I need to work on the tan a bit), but I’m also feeling so great.  Like I said, in 2013 I am going to be more positive.

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I did get a bit of colour (mainly on my shoulders and back), and for it to last, I can’t stay in the sun for hours, nor be in the sun every day, so that’s why I’m thankful for the cooler weather…so I’m not tempted to overdue things.

Later this afternoon I’m off to have coffee with Carmen and another friend of ours, Mary, whom I haven’t seen for ages!  She is back off to varsity early next week, so this catch-up is going to be fabulous, I just know it!  It’s the last weekend before I go back to work, so I’m going to make the best of it (and finish James Patterson’s Zoo (it’s one of the books I bought last year.  Yes, I’m already working on my 2013 bucket list).   Monday it’s back to the routine (which I’m glad about too, I haven’t been in the gym as much as I’d have liked while I’ve been on holiday, but I have to drive past there on the way home from work every day, so I don’t have an excuse NOT to go…) I’m looking forward to going back to work, to seeing my colleagues – after all, they’ve become special friends too.

Whatever you and yours do today, make the best of it – be grateful for everything and don’t forget to smile!

Seriously?! W.T.F? Senator says Single Mothers Contribute to Child Neglect and Abuse…

Okay, so I’m not into huge political debates and the like, simply because I think most politicians are overpaid dimwits.  I also don’t profess to know anything about the political system in theUnited States, but I do have some amount of common sense.

A friend of mine, Alistair Jameson, has started an initiative called A Mother of a Ride where he and a number of other cyclists will be covering over 6000 Km across South Africa (about 10000 miles) on bicycles to make people aware of domestic violence, and what can be done to break the silence against it. He posted this article (if you can call it that) on Facebook this morning and after I had read it, a myriad of emotions went through me – the biggest one being anger, quickly followed by mouth-agape-disbelief.

What on God’s green earth is this Senator thinking?  Or wait, let me rephrase that – did he have a bowl of stupid for breakfast, with a dash of the dark ages on the side?  He has never been married (I wonder why), nor has he had kids.  What does he honestly hope to achieve with this legislation?

I would like to pose some simple-common-sense questions to him, as he obviously can’t think further than his nose.

Senator,

  1. By effectively “penalizing” single mothers (note, not single fathers), you are stating that it is better for a woman, and her child, to stay in a (possibly) abusive relationship.  So, as long as the family is a nuclear unit, to hell with what the long term consequences might be.  Is that right?
  2. You mention unwed, single mothers – what about mothers in common-law marriages, effectively they are unwed.  Or doesn’t that matter, because there is a man in the equation?
  3. How will your legislation impact single mothers, who have become “unwed” by losing their husband to death?  How long will they be “allowed” to be single mothers before they too are penalized, or are you expecting them to be in front of the altar with another man before their husband is even cold in the ground?
  4. What of mothers who become single through divorce?  Even more so, what of mothers who become single through divorce because their husbands filed the suit? 

Let me tell you something Senator – I was raised by a single, unwed mother for a great deal of my formative years.  My biological father was a drunk, gambling, pot addict, who would often disappear for weeks on end when the mood grabbed him.  He abused my mother physically and emotionally and he abused me (and some other young girls) sexually.  It was my mother who sold up and left, who saw to it that I was well looked after, while she often went without.  She eventually married a wonderful man, who treated me like his own flesh and blood – but that very easily could not have happened.

One thing I’m quite sure of – no woman wants to be a single mother – it’s hard, it’s demanding and sometimes disheartening, but she will if it means she can give her child a better life.  I’m sure too, if my mother had to do it again, she would. 

Maybe if you had children of your own, you’d understand.

 Oh, and one more thing – when you sit down to have breakfast tomorrow, try a bowl of reality with a dash of empathy.  It’s way better than a bowl of stupid…