Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Little B

To love someone is to risk loosing a part of yourself

This has been a big week for me...I have finally re-registered at University to complete my degree. I don't care if I have to complete the damn thing in bed, I'll do it.

This week there has also been a major victory and a close to a beautiful chapter. Some of you, who are regular readers of my blog have heard me briefly discuss a little girl only referring to her as "Little B". I have been very vague about this and I am sorry but please know I only did this to protect her privacy. However after much thought and discussion I decided I should share this with you, only because this story is incredible and you will be amazed at the resilience of this child.

Little B is actually my second cousin. Her mother and I were very close growing up. The circumstances of Little B's life and that of her sisters are extremely tragic but I won't be discussing it on this blog. Before the holidays, I made the decision to foster her. I did this because in 2011, Little B was due to start school and we had a BIG problem. Kindergarten/ Nursery school is not compulsory in South Africa ( a little dumb if you ask me), so she was unable to get a government grant like she could for school and there was just no money for her to attend Nursery School otherwise. Now in the area where she lives the standard of education is extremely high- B would have to pass a school readiness test to see whether she was ready to go to school and this is where we had the problem.

Little B is extremely bright but tragically because she had not attended Nursery School or had anyone take time to prepare her for school she was streets behind other kids her age. I am always wary of getting involved with any drama in my family because if you give a hand they will take an arm, if you know what I mean. Watching B's situation was like watching a car crash in slow motion and it became apparent that nothing was going to be done. My Mom and I arrived at their flat one day explained to her what we needed to do and then packed her up and moved her into our house. It was heartbreaking watching this tiny little girl say goodbye to her Mom and each of her sisters. She sat in the back of the car all the way home, in silence tears pouring down her cheeks. Even though she had never been away from her Mom and sisters I could see in the determined look on her face this was something she knew she had to do.

You will be amazed what this child accomplished. Little B had just a few weeks to cover something that took kids two years to cover in kindergarten. The day would start at 7am , we would break for tea at 10:30am go on from 11 until 1pm and then again from 2pm to 4pm. I discovered that B had picked several things up just by observing her older sister but it was jumbled and needed to be put into order. When she wasn't at having lessons with me she was playing games that had something to do with lessons. We decided it would be best for B to go home on weekends to her mother and sisters and give me a chance to sleep.

I will admit I was hard on her but I was frantic and heart sore. I realised with great sadness, that Little B's life now and in the future would be far from easy, she couldn't afford to be model- coddled. I remember holding her when she was just ten days old and thinking how many battles she would have to fight and most of them she will have to fight alone.

But I was not kidding when I said that she was resilient. She took on every challenge I threw at her with a fiery passion. When the time came for Little B to leave she could read and write at first grade level (something that's not mandatory for starting school, but we achieved that anyway) she knew her multiples up to 2, could add and subtract ok, count up to 100, recognise all her shapes...

Once we were over that hill we were facing yet another. It was January, the school year in South Africa starts in January and it seemed as though all the schools were full. I was angry...while I putting this kid through 8 hour days someone could have filled out a stupid form for her to attend a school!. Each school shutting their door in her face was beginning to take it's toll on Little B. She told me that the schools didn't want her, pained rejection written all over her face.

But the law was on our side. schools are divided into catchment areas. Whatever school she lived closest to by law, had to take her. Eventually this school agreed to take her, they had no choice ( but we told Little B that they liked her and really wanted her) but first....the nail- biting school- readiness test. Yes, however unethical it seems if she didn't pass this test she would not be allowed to go to school, even if she was of age.
I had to go see my psychiatrist that day so I couldn't be there. We heard nothing all day and we couldn't get hold of her mother so we went by her work. As soon as we parked I saw Little B and her mother racing across the parking lot. I opened the car door, feeling very shaky and B jumped into my lap.


She had passed her test with flying colours. She told me when they said she had passed and could start school, she cried, "Happy tears". I went into town early the next morning to see her off on her very first day of school. Never in my entire life have I seen a kid so excited to go to school. She looked so smart in her new uniform. I took ton of pictures. Her Mom and I walked her to her classroom. She already knew two kids in her class. The whole time her Mom and I had goofy grins on our faces and my heart was swelling with pride. I went to kiss her goodbye and she took my hand and tried to pull me into her classroom but I stopped her. "This is where on you're on your own my love, I can't come in with you". I feared that maybe this is where the waterworks could start but she just shrugged "I've two friends". Then another little girl came and put her arm around her and they walked in the classroom together - I had to hold B's Mom back!- the teacher then shut the door. Her Mom and I stood outside the school crying- how traumatic it is sending a kid to school!!.

I have learnt a lot about love these past few years. It is mostly love that has kept me alive. The biggest lesson I learnt about love from my experience with Little B, is that a lot of it involves selflessness and letting go. Sure I knew that that was all a part of love before, but having B in my life really drove it home that to love someone you risk loosing a part of yourself. I got Little B I had to open up windows in my heart that I had closed long ago to care for her. For a few weeks I was the center of her world and she was my main priority. I taught her, fed her, bathed her, cared for her when she was sick, played with her, watched her sleep, hugged and kissed her tears away. I was tired, amused, in love, frustrated angry, heartbroken, joyful all at once. She was mine for a short while and now she is back where she belongs and treading her God- given life path while I watch cheering for her wanting nothing but for her to be safe and succeed. Of course that is not always guaranteed but I have faith.

I have inspiration: if this child moved mountains the way she did then so can I! On I go to the road less travelled:)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Me gots a blog award!

My dear friend, Wendy and her girls over at Year of the Cats have awarded me with a "Stylish Blog Award"! *blink* blink* blush*. Now it may only be January but this has made my YEAR!. It had me grinning from ear to ear and I actually went to get my Mom (who had just gone to bed) to show her. Thank- you so much Wendy! This was so special and I'm touched that you have honored my blog:).

I found Wendy over at Takashi's blog and her sincere and compassionate advice- never being afraid to go against the tide- made my want to be her friend. She blogs about her two beautiful kitties, Sele and Bella, her life as a Wiccan and being Bipolar. For me visiting her blog is like visiting a gift shop everything is so colourful and diverse and I always feel like I come away with something special. Her writing so beautiful and has had me both laughing my head off and in tears.

I'm going to copy Wendy's tradition as a recipient of a blog award and tell you seven interesting things about myself:

1. Despite being incredibly SHY I have won several awards and competitions for public- speaking

2. I am a descendant of both Captain James Cook and Stonewall Jackson and on Dad's side my great great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian.

3. I have lived in three countries: I was born in Texas, USA, my parents emigrated to South Africa when I was 18 months old (my Mom is South African). I went to live in London, UK when I was 20 for 2 years and then spent 18 months in America. I am now back in South Africa. Phew.

4. I speak two languages, English and Afrikaans and am currently learning Japanese. I plan to learn Spanish in the future.

5. I am a redhead- a bit strange because both my parents had black hair. My sister is blonde.

6. I am doing a degree in Industrial Psychology and Communication Science.

7. I think snakes are cute ( I don't own any though!).

And that's it. For now I am going to hold on passing this award to anyone else- this is because I only follow a few blogs and love them all so I honestly don't know which one to choose and choosing them all would feel a bit insincere.

The topic of this blog is Mental illness- particularly depression. I am aware that it's a topic that makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable. I write on two ends of the scale. I'll write posts like the one before this that is dark and then I will write posts that are funny too. And I don't always write about Mental illness either.

Anyway thanks again Wendy and thanks for reading!.

Children of darkness

Txema Rodriguez

Fiona Coyne was an actress, communications consultant and best known as being the host of Weakest Link South Africa. I remember when a local T.V station sent out a nationwide casting call to find the host for the Weakest Link they wanted someone who was "as tough as nails". In an interview with Fiona after she was cast she very confidently stated "I am honestly not intimidated by people". Man, I envied her!. And she lived up to her reputation on the Weakest Link for her biting comments used to cut over- confident contestants down to size. She was smart with a post grad in Clinical Psychology. But she also had a great heart- being actively involved with charities focusing on nature and education. She sponsored a disadvantaged student through university. She indulged in the finer things in life: theater, opera, travel. Everyone described her as fabulous and feisty.

On the 19 August 2010, her housekeeper arrived at her house to find two letters on the kitchen table, one being addressed to her. In the letter she said she was very sorry and told her housekeeper to call the police immediately, she even wrote down the number. When the police arrived they found Fiona's body in her bed. She had committed suicide. The entire country was shocked and in utter disbelief. In everyones mind, including those closest to her she was the last person that would have taken her own life. Not just because she "seemed" to have it all but her very personality didn't seem to fit the profile of someone on the edge. Fiona had planned her suicide to the very last detail. In a letter to her mother she said she had weighed up the positive and negative aspects of her life and made her decision based on this. This story is especially tragic because just two months later, Fiona's older brother Bruce, heartbroken over his sister's death also took his own life. Sibling love can run deep.

This time last year, there was an amazing story of a man who parked his Audi R8 sportscar at the Table Mountain Cable way station and handed his keys to 8 car guards, saying, "It's yours". The story reached the evening news and everyone was curious about the anonymous donor. Generosity rubbed off on the lucky car guards and instead of selling the car immediately they cut a slit into the bonnet where people could donate money to charity. Eventually they did sell the car, four of the car guards were able to return home to The Congo with enough money to support their families for a life time. Two of the car guards used their money to start a creche for disadvantaged children and donated money to Haiti after the earthquake.

But where this story unfortunately ends is with the donor- his name was Rob Taylor and last week he made headlines again when he took the cable car up Table Mountain and jumped to his death from one of the look out points. Sadly this has shed some light onto his donation and the real reason why he gave the Audi away. Some people believe that he even meant to commit suicide they day he gave his Audi to the car guards. He was a wealthy property developer. People who knew him said he always gave to those less fortunate.

Now closer to home. When we moved into our current house a we hired some people to help us. One of them was a lady who had a daughter- in- law. This daughter- in - law was a diabetic. I am not to sure of the circumstances but her husband really wanted children and so she consulted her doctor. But her doctor gave her devastating news that she could not have children. She went home and apparently took every pill that she could find in the house even vitamins. She was only 25 years old. This has rocked the small farming community where I live. Her husband was so distraught over her death he had to be hospitalized.

Her death has also struck an emotional cord with me and not just because it was suicide. I cannot have children and this has made me re-evaluate how I handled this news ( I shrugged it off ) and what this could really mean for me. One, I have felt very guilty for being able to handle this news so well and two I have realised that the real consequences of this are still coming (will save that for another post). This girl had no previous history of depression or mental illness I can only imagine the emotional horror she must gone through in those final hours.

A few months ago I walked down to the cottage by the lake on the farm scoured the the front lawn for a sharp stick, sat down on the grass and began cutting my wrist with the sharp end of the stick. It really hurt and I wasn't really making any progress because the stick wasn't sharp enough. In the end I gave up because it was sore and I was just making a mess. I went home feeling like a caged bird. That night my Mom took me out for dinner and told me my godfather would be paying for a psychologist.

There is no real message behind this post, just self- absorbed pondering: How were all these people able to go through with it?. Why haven't I been able to?. I have been suicidal since I was 11. I remember standing on the balcony of my room really, really wanting to jump. But I didn't. Why didn't I?. I have been at the edge more times than I can count and I have turned back. How?. I don't think the answer is because I really want to live, deep down inside. Maybe I'm afraid of death- I don't know. During those times I  really wanted to be dead, so how can I be afraid of death?. My sister has always declared that people who commit suicide are the most selfish people on the planet. That has always stuck in my mind. The church I grew up in believed you went to hell- something I think is bullshit but I'm ashamed to say I still wonder about.

Maybe I'm a coward- I won't kill myself by slitting my wrists- it hurts. I hate the smell of petrol so gassing myself in the car is out. I won't jump off something high because being on something high without a barrier tends to paralyze me, and I hate that "falling" feeling. Drowning I know, I just know I will come up for air before I loose consciousness and a dead body in water is...yuck. I don't own a gun and the idea of my Mom being confronted with bits of brain is just cruel. That leaves overdosing but even when I have made the decision to swallow all the pills I have...I. just. don't. do. it.

It seems to be that I am the most picky cowardly suicidal punk that ever walked the planet. I'm too scared to go through with it. So I have been living my life in a rut- not being able to stop being suicidal but unable to actually go throw with it. I know it sounds weird but the people I have written about seem incredibly brave to me.

I'm not sure how to end this...I will still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next.....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

For the love of a bunny

 In rememberance of my two precious furballs whole gave me so much joy in the short time they were mine:                        

 Basil at 2 weeks old- I thought he was a girl at first and named him Cornflower!

Wabbits in a box: the day I got Buttercup & Basil

My Mom feeding Buttercup some cabbage

Buttercup always saw Basil as her own personal cushion, here she has her feet propped up on his back. He never seemed to mind though.
Haha...Basil...such a character!

No, I did give my bunnies wine!, I put them on the table to clean their paws. It's amazing that my Mom allowed them to climb all over her furniture.
Buttercup after the labourer brought her back the first time she went missing, she was covered in dirt and oil. I carried her around all day and she just slept.
Buttercup says "Merry Christmas"
The Bible and the Bunny: I was doing some Bible reading (yes I do do that occasionally!) and I accidently took this picture while playing with my phone. Ironically it's the last picture I took of Buttercup and was taken just hours before she dissappered again:(

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


 There is so much going on with me right now that I will write about later. But for now- if you believe in the power of pray- I ask you to join me and many others in praying for this child- his story is the most heartbreaking story I have had heard in a long time. Pray for mercy, pray for LOVE.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sad news from Rabbit Land.....

We have been experiencing a massive heatwave over the past few days. Temperatures have soared up to 45C (113 F ). Add humidity to the heat and you get...a very unpleasant situation. I am in a very irritable mood. I have got Little B back with me and trying to get this kid caught up so she can start school in time is beginning to feel like pulling teeth. I haven't been feeling well- there is a heaviness on my chest that won't go away. On top of this I have had to listen to my grandmother calling, shouting, screaming mostly my Dad's name ( who she thinks is her husband ) I think it's the mood I've been in that has a lot to do with  what happened.

So....the rabbits. With all the holiday stuff and other important topics coming up I never mentioned that last month both Basil and Buttercup escaped from their pen. Rabbit's cute and cuddly facade makes us forget that they are actually wild creatures and once they have tasted freedom there is no going back. The last time I saw Basil I was looking at him from a window upstairs. He had just come out from the bushes in our garden and was standing up on his haunches. Then suddenly he raced across the garden and behind the house, I had never seen him move so fast.

We found Buttercup later that day and were able to catch her and bring her back, the pen was unreliable so we put her upstairs on the landing. You would have never seen a more miserable bunny, she sat there for hours not moving or reacting to anything. The next day I was really sick and really down, my Mom came to me and went on and on about how sad and lonely Buttercup was and said we should either let her go, outside the farm or find a sanctuary for her. My Mom had the best of intentions but her timing sucked as it REALLY wasn't a good time for me to hear that. Racked with guilt, I took her outside and let her go.

For about two weeks different people saw her here and there. No one could get within ten feet of her. I was grieving. I saw her one day in the grass up by the workshops near our house, sniffing around the grass. But one morning one of the labourers managed to catch her and brought her back to the house. My Mom opened the door to see this guy holding her by the ears and her kicking and struggling for dear life. When my Mom held her she immediately calmed down. She brought her up to my room- I was still in bed- she came to me without a struggle and spent the next half an hour lying on my chest while I stroked her ears.

Buttercup in a weird way seemed to be happy to be back. We set up a place for her on my parents balcony and she the run of the house. She liked to hang out with me when I was either on the computer or watching a movie or reading. She slept with me in my room sometimes- normally she would get a pillow thrown at her for trying to eat my books. And this rabbit would win any staring contest- she would stare at me for ages as though she was figuring out some great mystery about me. Everything told me that, despite episodes here and there of boredom ( come on I couldn't entertain her all the time), she was a very content rabbit.

But then my Dad started to work on me. He never liked either of the rabbits and I think that it was because rabbit was considered to be a Christmas Lunch or something when he was growing on me. Also, while my body was still trying to get used to Amitriptyline I was out of it and my Mom had to do most of the rabbit work ( eg cleaning the balcony, emptying her litter) for me. At first he tried to talk me into giving Buttercup away which I refused- she was my baby and things were going well. Then he demanded that I get rid of her, unfortunately my Mom had also grown attached to Buttercup and ruled him out on that one. So he began to use his secret weapon on me, one that has always worked- guilt. He began to reason with me that she was a wild animal and that I was cruel for keeping her in the house. He said if I really loved her than I would set her free and if she came back to me she was mine, if she didn't then she never was. When he said that to me I almost asked him why he hadn't done the same thing with my Mom. All this over a rabbit?

Yes I began to feel terrible and horribly horribly guilty again. The worst thing someone can do to me is to pull the guilt trip on me about somebody or something I love. I will start to see things that aren't even there. My Mom told me that Buttercup was a happy rabbit and she loved being with me but she had an instinct that took over when she was in the wild. I really began to believe she was unhappy and that I was being cruel. Last night we were having supper outside and I couldn't bear to leave her in our dark sitting room, so I opened the door to see if she would come out and go back inside. She came out and raced around the garden, her eyes alight and she seemed to delight in the fact that she go inside the house and go back outside. Then when it started to get really dark I noticed that she was heading outside the garden and toward the road. I turned quickly to put salad dressing on my salad and (stupid) when I turned back she was gone.

I have no idea where she could have gone- we searched all around the area last night and got up early this morning to look but it's as though she has evaporated into thin air. My Mom has offered a reward for anyone who brings her back. But I just have a feeling that she's gone for good this time. I hope for her sake she headed toward the forest and not toward the orchids or labourer cottages. It was only afterwards that I realised what I did....I let guilt rule my head and listened to my Dad's crap and set a rabbit, who didn't know any better, free during a heatwave, on an apple farm where they spray the orchids daily with pesticide, where there are dogs and people that would see her as a great pot roast. Now it might seem ridiculous that there is all this drama over a rabbit but if you are smart, you might see that the rabbit is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beside feeling like the worlds biggest fool, I feel like I have failed and like I have been rejected all over again. Something as simple as this can re- open old wounds from the past. Not even a damn rabbit wants me. It has also made me realise once again the power that my father still has over me. His words have shaped who I am now and like a fool I let him continue to define who I am. He has an extremely low self esteem and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to strike out and make someone else feel like crap. He is also addicted to the power the parenthood has given him over another person and he has used it cruelly. He was powerless when he was growing up and he is on a lifelong mission to take it back. When will this cycle be broken?

I shall miss my precious bunny. kissing and stroking her silky head and feeling the kiss of her little nose and whiskers on my face. I loved her bunny ears so much and I hope and pray that she will be safe.

I wish I was in a country right now with Arctic weather. It's easier to get warm than it is to get cool

Sunday, January 2, 2011

10 (really funny) questions asked about South Africa

First post of 2011!!. It's been a very lazy new year for us. I am just enjoying the calm before the storm.

Everyone in my family with exception of my sister is well travelled. My mother spent 18 months in her 20's travelling around Europe and she has travelled exstensively through Africa and America. My Dad has been everywhere from Japan to Cuba. I have lived in three countries and travelled to a few more. You will not believe the questions we have been asked about South Africa. And while they are genuine questions asked by people just trying to satisfy their curiosity, it most has us in fits of laughter. We were talking about this today and I thought it would be a good idea for a post. So here are 10 questions that either someone in my family or I were asked about South Africa while abroad:

Are there white people in South Africa? (The most asked question when I was overseas...mostly by *ahem* Americans)
Yes.....actually there are about 4.5 million of us....having been colonised by Dutch, German and French settlers back in the 17th century.

I would have thought Charlize Theron and Dave Matthews would have put this rest.

How is the traffic with all the lions and elephants running around/ do you have a pet lion?
The best way to see lions and elephants and other wild animals is to drive 8 hours (from where I live) to the Kruger National Park, sit for another 5 hours in your car until you see something that kinda sorta looks like a lion or hyena through your binoculars. Whatever you do....STAY IN YOUR FREAKING VECHILE, some people have actually died by walking up to a lion in order "pat" it. Oh and it is illegal to own one as a pet.

Do you have to hunt for your food?
I have my very own spear! I call him Danger. Whenever I'm hungry I make sure he's nice and sharp....then I hold him in a horizontal position and then I go running through the bush like a bat out of hell and then...........NO.

So I guess Tescos/ Walmart must be very new to you? (asked by an American while I was living in London)
There is talk that  the folks at Walmart have taken pity on us and decided to grace our shores with their presence......not that we need them since we already have Pick n' Pay (very much like Tescos), Checkers, Shoprite, Spar, 7 Eleven, Woolworths.....the list goes on.

Can you speak "African"
Sure, which one of the HUNDREDS of languages spoken in 54 countries ( covering 30.2 million km² ) would you like me to speak?

South Africa has 11 official languages and of that I only speak English and Afrikaans (most people here can speak at least 2 or 3 languages).

Do you guys get electricity?
No, we watch T.V in the dark :)

OMG! You're from Africa! Did you come here ( to the U.S ) to get treated for AIDS?.
This was the worst question that I got and by the time I finished with this guy, he walked away about 3 feet shorter. Normally I am very patient will all the curiosity about my country, no matter how dumb it seems, but there is certain ignorance that I have no tolerance for. Firstly you NEVER ask someone, even if they are from an African country, if they have AIDS- it is the same as asking a stranger if they they have genital herpes. And don't just assume that everyone from Africa has AIDS!. Those people who have chosen to speak out about their AIDS status have done so on their own terms. But there are millions of other people who see it as an extremely private and sensitive matter.

I saw Blood Diamond!.....I'm so sorry!.
For what? Firstly, the sole plot of Blood Diamond is actually set in Sierra Leone during the civil war. The story of the film is pure fiction however, the brutality portrayed in the film is accurate but does not depict the daily occurrences in South Africa. Special attention should be paid to the child soilders in the film- a tragedy that still continues to this day. Several African countries actually have resources that could ( in my opinion) make them very wealthy but because of war, greed and power the are plunged into poverty. Blood diamonds are diamonds mined within a war zone and sold to fund a war lord's activities (usually illegal). The meeting that took place at the end of the film was real- the Kimberley Process Certifcation Scheme is designed to ensure that rough diamonds come from sources which are free of conflict. Take a look at that sparkly ring on your finger....where does it come from?

By the way Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon are the only actors who've managed to conquer the true South African accent.

Is South Africa a country?
Yes! Yes! YESSSSSS!!!!. We are a democratic republic and.....we even have a president!!!! ( Jacob Zuma). One guy actually got annoyed with me trying to convince me that I was from AFRICA just the Southern part of it.

An e-mail sent to me through this blog asked me a number of questions just like the ones above. One of them was: Do you have internet in South Africa?

If you have any questions you want to ask me about South Africa, I can't promise that I won't find them funny but I will answer them honestly. Consequently there are South Africans ( mostly poor) who have asked me if there are really flying cars in America. One guy saw  iRobot and thought that was the way everyone lived in America!. So you see the only way ignorance can be conquered is by learning:)

Baie dankie almal, lekker week :)