Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turn off the TV!
I posted a comment on this article, whose sentiments I heartily agree with, back in October - somehow didn't post the link :) .

NOT on MY bucket list...

Well, my friends, it is official: I am not a roller-coaster rider. I knew this; Steve knew this; but somehow*, today, I ended up on the smallest of Ratanga Junction's roller-coasters, the "Bushwacker". It certainly left me whacked! I still feel a bit naar, 8 hours later...Let us move swiftly on from that sad scene...
Alexander will definitely be Steve's adrenalin-junkie partner in years to come. William tried the roller-coaster, but neither wanted to go again (did Mum's reaction perhaps have something to do with this?!!!) Alexander had the most fun, as he could go on the "kiddie" rides, many of which William was too tall for.
My tip for overcoming that ill feeling, by the way: keep walking. Once I'd mustered courage to get to my feet again, I gradually felt better, although, needless to say, I did NOT watch the Cobra riders scream their way past me!
Will I go again? - certainly! I will go as a non-rider, which will still let me on the boat- and train-rides (sedate); and also allow me to watch my husband and boys having fun!
* A note of explanation seems necessary here. We were all "geared up" for this day, which was a school fund-raiser. I had resolved to try my best on the rides, but NOT on roller-coasters. Steve assured me we would begin with the slowest, and work our way up, in terms of adrenalin/ difficulty (depending whose view it was!) Somehow, this small roller-coaster was the first ride across our paths, and I gaily marched in, determined not to look or think...And therein lay the problem. I should in fact have used my brain and good sense and politely declined!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stretched to the limit!

This week saw both boys at home ill: William all week, and Alexander on Thursday and Friday with his brother. I have a deadline of TOMORROW (Monday) for the first chapter of a textbook I am co-writing - so Friday and Saturday saw me feeling frazzled! On Friday, none of my ususal supports was available; but by Saturday I had managed to bail out of one or two commitments (guiltily), and have more or less finished my chapter. We are writing an Additional Language English Textbook for Grade 11s - "we" being a group of 4 authors and an editor who is like a 5th author in terms of help! I've had to do some fiction-writing for the chapter, which I've enjoyed - putting into practise all I teach.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

swimming in the rain

My own title, before I explain it, reminds me of seeing the musical "Singing in the rain," in the West End in London...I only really recall that main song! Back to swimming: today was a bit overcast, and we got home late, but the boys wanted to swim, save time I let them swim naked, and it was just starting to rain, but the pool was warm (heated, don't you know!) They had such fun, and it is such a delight to let them do out-of-the-ordinary things...So when last did YOU swim, or walk, in the rain? - on purpose that is, not because you had to!
I am gradually taming my Blackberry - it now delivers emails to me, but I haven't yet sent one...I still don't quite understand its interfaces...
I had a hard-working weekend editing a job from Stellenbosch University, all about "service-learning" - community service, in a broad sense. Very interesting, stimulating work!
On Saturday Steve's mum invited me to a fundraising tea, where we listened to a briliant story-teller. She told very realistic, every-day stories about her relationship with God - waiting for rain in the Karoo; being patient with her kids...I could see myself doing something similar one day, I think! (the storytelling that is; being patient with kids is MUCH harder...)
I wish I needed less sleep! - there is so much to do, and learn, and enjoy...

Monday, October 10, 2011


today, I am thankful for normality. There have been no "downs" in my day; and quite a few "ups" - enough to make me smile, and laugh, and think, "This has been a good day!" I have succeeded, as on so few days, in focussing on what is good and positive and right...the sun and cool wind; Alexander's smiles; satisfying work reviewing essays, and revising poetry with a student; a tasty meal to cook with meat in it; an afternoon where William didn't get too cross or upset; time to write...I haven't shouted, or been shouted at...(Yes, gentle friends, I do indeed shout!) Life is good. Even better, God is good - and he is good all the time, not just when life seems to be going well! That is indeed a rock-solid thought.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I nearly titled this "Significant birthdays", but realised every single one has its own unique meaning...The week has bee filled with birthdays: Steve's dad Danny, and our friend Elizabeth/ Granny H, and our friend Rex, all on Wednesday 5th; then the Archbishop and his controversial birthday guest, the Dalai Lama, who appeard via video conference link in the end...Last night, Friday, saw Rex treating some of his friends to dinner at Henri's - what a pleasure! The gracious old house has been tastefully painted and decorated and there are (electric) candelabra in the windows, whose glass is still leaded. The drapes are rich embossed silk, the wooden tables a deep shiny brown, while the cutlery appears old-fashioned and feels it too: strange but satisfying to hold a heavy knife and fork, the fork with long tines and a good curve to it! The dinner was elegantly presented, and in "elegantly sufficient" quantities! We had our own waiter who hovered discreetly with the wine...The atmosphere was relaxed, yet formal enough to feel speciall but not so formal as to overwhelm. We're looking forward to the next decade or four, Rex!
Oh dear...I've just finished reviewing some essays, and find myself reading my own work in the same way, looking for punctuation errors and other faults! I really am grateful, though, for all I've learn through the reviewing process; especially the wonderful stories and insights as people share their life-histories with candour and a real zest for life!
Yesterday saw me in an all-day workshop at Oxford University Press, discussing the development of a new textbook for Grade 11 English Second language learners. We came from all angles: the lecturer running intervention classes for both teachers and learners in under-performing schools; the teacher with a full class load and time to run workshops for SADTU; the managing editor with a wealth of successful publications behind her; me with...well, the skill of writing, and following given parameters, and not much else, or so I feel in that company!; the education specialist who has delved into theory and used it to run programmes in farm schools; and the publisher who gently reminds us of our focus, and has firmly in mind the specific aims of the book...We had such an enjoyable time! Needless to say, I will now be working at quite a tight pace to meet the even tighter deadlines...
And in the midst of that, my precious (little-er) boy is coughing in his sleep with the usual hay-fever, so I am off to administer honey and try not to get the pillow sticky! Goodnight...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Learn to Earn

Ihave always had the means to "learn to earn", whether from parents, scholarships, or my own funding...Many don't have this opportunity - so how apt it is that, in my own process of "learning to earn" via magazine writing, my first "proper" article, published this month, is about a project called Learn to Earn. Some serendipity there, methinks! Do go to the website and read the magazine, Indwe - you will have to log on, but it's worth the read, overall.
I've been encouraged by those of you who have noticed the long silence - I intend to blog regularly, once more!

I have just ventrured into the world of cell-phone contracts, thereby acquiring a Blackberry. I didn't realise that it is a small computer, all by its purple self (yes dears, purple - couldn't resist!). I'm having a frustrating time getting it not to want to change my name, when I sign off an sms, from "Keren" to "keen" or "Karen"...Ho hum. Technology is not always that useful...
Please take a moment to look back on your own "learn to earn" journey, and give thanks for where you now find yourself. Maybe I should write your story!

Friday, March 18, 2011

information overload

A poet wrote, "The world is too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending..." - and that was in the 19th century... I have been trying to find out more about the effects of video gaming on the pc; looking for woodwork projects for William online; getting sidetracked into garage organizing; and marking online essays...There is just too much information out there, it seems! In the midst of this, I heard a radio report that the European Union Human Rights Court had ruled (on appeal) that crucifixes should be allowed in Italian schools as they did not infringe on their right to secular education. The Italian government's clinching argument? - they are historical, simply pieces of art that have always been in schools...Well, I hope God might surprise a few children who have perhaps never seen a crucifix...

Apart from all of the above, I am reading "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and trying to apply it, rather sporadically and ineffectually. It has helped me understand myself: now I must absorb the Martian part and put it to work! I also managed finally to buy a book recommended to us, Sheet Music, which looks to be pretty straight-talking about sex in marriage. True bed-time reading, I guess! But even with time to READ any of this, where is the time to PROCESS it?

I have been reminded this week of what lack of sleep feels like; but also how positive and boosting a good night's sleep is; so I think I will go off in search of the latter, now. Echoes of Pooh Bear, I think...

Monday, March 14, 2011

40th birthdays and other fractures

During a relaxing lunch yesterday with Steve's family, we were discussing birthdays and realized that my young(er) husband will be turning FORTY this year. Shock horror. This led of course to speculation about what to DO to celebrate this momentous event... His older sister reckons a quiet weekend away; I am more inclined to a gathering of his favourite friends and heroes. I also spent some time, while writing here, imagining the logistics of being delivered to his office door in a box/cake and emerging in fishnets and a top hat... All suggestions will be gratefully received!

I do pray that turning 40 will not be too much of a hurdle; it seems anyway that 50 is the new 40, so perhaps I won't make too much of a fuss. A fuss IS being made, however, over proposals to mine for gas in the Karoo: a process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for short. If this sounds slightly rude or obscene, it seems that in fact it is: at least, I'd consider it very rude and unfriendly to pump millions of litres of water and chemicals into the underground rock (shale) so that it splits and releases the valuable gas--and leaves behind polluted water, by the sound of it... Watch this space for further rants and useful information about fracking.

Have you discovered yet that you sometimes need to know the answer in order to ask the question? This thought struck me yet again when Gary told us yesterday that a caterpillar has 280 muscles in its head. This was apropos of how amazing God is; but led me to wonder how on earth Gary KNEW this. What encyclopedia did he consult? What words did he Google? From what list of other trivia did he choose that particular gem? I will certainly never look at a caterpillar in the same way again...
May you find wonder in many things.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Today I completed the crocheting part of a shawl I have been making. It still needs edging and lining, but it is 99% complete. It has taken me a good year to finish, and I am proud of the way it has come together, all the colours I visualised working their magic, joining into a jewel-box whole.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Captain's Log...

Have just spent a happy half hour finding out more about blogging (reminder: that's short for "weblog"). Some frustrating bits, but some pleasing bits too! You'll see there is now a collage of assorted Hoys and hounds (and a rainbow, with our house at its end!); and also an ADVERT!!! Shock horror. Yes indeed, I have signed on to earn...We will see what appears there, and if you or I don't like it, I will unsubsrcibe with all due haste.
We had a prayer meeting for the Kids Work at church today - great time of worship, then prayer in several short sections. One section revolved around various words/ prophecies received over the years regarding Kidswork, and this picture really fired my imagination: people, including kids, on a mountainside. They formed a line up to a treasure-filled cave. They were passing handfuls of treasure - gems - down the line, down the mountain, into the dark valley below. There, the gems glowed with light that soon began to lighten and fill the valley... What a wonderful picture of the treasure we have in Christ, and in God's word! I plan to get a few bucketsful of semi-precious stones, and let our Rockets kids (age 4-7) look for their favourites, and then connect their choices to verses/ themes in the Bible, so they can take home concrete representations of the treasure that is in God's word!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Design Indaba 2011

Our two hours at the Design Indaba 2011 filled me up to overflowing. It leaves me energized, motivated, satisfied...My mind will dwell for hours to come on all the wonderful ideas we saw. There were felt toys, and hats; animal skin cushions (beautiful!--flower designs sewn onto the cushions, and from Pietermaritzburg!); flower jewellery; teaspoons with handles cast in metal and originally moulded from twigs; complex glass lights like miniature rain-forests; furniture that was functional yet deeply satisfying to the eye... Just an outpouring of creative talent, innovation, use of natural materials, colour...and all SOUTH AFRICAN! One perceptive stand (for Visi magazine) had jars of sweeties from which you could help yourself while browsing thier back numbers--the boys got handfuls of jelly tots, and nearby stall-holders were also dipping their hands in... So many deft, creative touches to the stalls themselves too--one jewellery stand used old wooden display cases, hangers, and even microscopes to display their pieces... Watch this space for more memories from this wonderful experience!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dry days

It is embarrassingly long since I have written. Dry days. Busy days. Days of tunnel vision, working, organizing, doing homework, making meals, getting to bed, getting up again...Some brightness-es along the way: an inspiring dream in which a friend just went out and rented a shop for the two of us to run, to sell bright and beautiful things, and good books... In another dream we went shopping!
May I make a book recommendation? "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" has been quite a revelation, with plenty of insights, "aha!" moments, encouraging "oh yes, we do that" and sad "If only I'd known this sooner"... Lots to be gained.
I will try to write much more regularly - permission to alert me if I fail in this is hereby graciously granted...

Friday, February 4, 2011


Steve's plane should be landing as I write - he's been in Jo'burg for a few days. He no longer has his own private pilot's licence, which I think is very sad - but he says it's not such a big deal. He is enjoying flying his new model aeroplanes, made of very light foam-like material. I've also been "touching down" in this past week in terms of some forgotten dreams and ideas...One that I have resumed is singing in church again - we had a practice last night, in sweltering heat! It was great to share ideas and catch the enthusiasm of a diverse group of musicians. Another is to perhaps tread the boards again, or at least do some radio or voice work...
Yesterday's weather was amazing: real Natal weather, with oppressive, humid heat all day, culminating in a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. We were with friends, and all the kids were in the pool with cold rain pelting down - they loved it! We did get them out when the storm was close by. My friend Barbara had to sweep out a few gutters for the rain, a very odd task for the middle of the hottest summer month!
It is such a treasure and delight to see William and Alexander discover and enjoy things for the first time, like swimming in the rain. What a privilege to be part of the building of someone's chidhood memories...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

month-end post

I write this while half-watching Star Wars over Steve's shoulder, so excuse any lapses in continuity! - blame the Dark Side... The boys have been watching some of the movie with Steve, over several days, but it just gets too dark and too violent for either of them, so Steve is finishing on his own.
I've been busy planning the lessons and rosters for the Rockets Sunday School team (ages 4-7/Grade 1) - it's very rewarding being welcomed by a young child's hug and smile, and I realize they've all crept into our hearts, even though we only see some children once every 6 weeks or so... We have a very solid foundation to work from, in terms of set-up and systems; but also some new input from Sarah, who is my co-leader and ideas-person, and from a whole group of enthusiastic teens who seem to have sprung from nowhere! Of course, God knows about them and has been working on His plans - and I'm sure we have some prayer warriors to thank for their appearing...
My dear Steve's health remains up-and-down, but it does teach us to really appreciate the "up" days, like yesterday and today. And he braaied today, only about the second time ever in our 7 years in this house with its TWO fireplaces (outdoor, plus indoor built-in braai, in the lounge - the previous ownere was obviously a regte Suid Afrikaner!). The boys LOVED the whole experience of watching Dad chop wood, lay and light the fire, and braai the meat and sarmies.
Here's to a few braais with friends in the near future...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bothered and bewildered...

...but not by love or you, as Sinatra sang! I find myself with a distinct lack of concentration and follow-through at present, forgetting what I've come into a room to do, or forgetting to complete a mundane task. However, everyone has been fed and has clean clothes, no pots have been burnt, and no animals have been harmed in the writing of this blog, so I guess it's not as bad as it feels! Ever burnt a pot?--simply forgotten you had something cooking? I once managed to burn a pot so badly it was warped--it ran out of water and just kept cooking... Ho hum. There's probably a book or at very least a magazine article in there somewhere...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back to school

This week has been quite hectic, with William and Alexander back at school, me back at my usual occupations, and a new dog too! The dog first: she is called Candy (we changed from the "Angie" given by her original owners.) She is a Welfare special, with bulging eyes and forehead, a long body, and huge ears. Her pretty blonde colour somewhat makes up for this strange combination of body parts! When we walk her she bounces along and doesn't pull at all, a nice change from Penny.
William is now in Grade 2 and has a teacher whom everyone describes as kind. She is also head of the Foundation Phase (G1-3) and obviously knows her stuff. We had a parent evening tonight, which yours truly attended while Dad babysat. Interesting talk from child psychologist about discipline, boundaries, choices, etc. Don't make threats ("I'll leave you behind!") but always follow through with promised consequences... Everyone laughed and winced - all guilty of doing the former and neglecting the latter! Need to re-establish weekday routine after the holidays - William cried buckets because I said no TV when he arrived home. I then later allowed them to watch a movie (Asterix) on the computer while I worked...Hmmm...not sure of my consistency there. I don't think the psychologist would approve.
the online marking has begun with many timed essays, which means there are no essays to do, so we log in and click every 5 minutes to show we are there ready to work. A pleasant way to ease into the year; got lots of filing done in between clicks! We also have a somewhat revised review-process, which I put into practise today with a few essays. Seems easier and QUICKER!!! That also seems like a good note on which to end for today.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Holiday update

This blog began in part as a journal of planning a trip to Natal...That idea fell by the wayside almost immediately, but I persisted with the plan for a family holiday. We considered the game parks, but many are quite a distance away ("Are we there yet?" starts after about half an hour with our two...); and expensive. I then set my sights on "close by" and "affordable" - and we are going to Mossel Bay for 8 days over Easter, with Steve only needing to take 3 days' leave, due to all the public and school holidays! So hurray for dreams and ideas, and hurray for practicality and persistence; and blessings on the lady who is giving us such a good rate that we can have a long family holiday...We are all buoyed by the thought of it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lazy days...

 A gap of a few days in this blog...Steve still on holiday on Monday, so we went up to the Helderberg Nature Reserve. Last year Mom and Steve and his sisters scattered Donovan's ashes there, so we went to find the spot. The boys came too, and I explained to William what we were doing. He and I had to race off to the loo (the kind of things they never do in movies!) and by the time we returned up the path, the others had found the bench and come back down to the dam to feed the geese! We dodged lots of scurrying black ants on the hot, hard-baked path while returning down to the others. The dam was calm, half-covered in great green lily leaves; we even saw two terrapins in the muddy water between the geese's feet.
Yesterday and today were spent getting things done (leash for Penny, TV licence, etc), playing with the boys, crocheting, and swimming...I have a shawl I've been putting together out of crocheted squares, all autumn colours, and I'm now finally sewing it all together! Very satisfying and pleasing.
I'm busy cutting down on the anti-depressant I've been on, so feel a bit switched off - I can feel the old brain is not very fast at times! But it's going very well on the whole, much easier than I expected.
I am expecting a very positive and fulfilling year!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Putting off the good to achieve the great

Actually, I'm not sure that quote is the right way about: is it "putting off the great to achieve the good"? I think it's from Mary Pytches, who is a counsellor and whom I heard speak about 20 years ago in the Presby church in Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg. I probably still have the notes somwhere! I know Gwen and her mum gave me one of Mary Pytches' books, but a quick scan of my shelves reveals it has been lent out and never returned...Now there is a chapter for another day! - books that have never found their way home, for various reasons. My mum is good at buying books for others; so is Stephan; and Gavin and Susan lend books they've enjoyed or found helpful...Years ago I used to keep a book-lending book, a record of where books went off to.
Back to what I really wanted to write about: I so enjoyed singing in the band/ worship group this morning. Quite a few people said it was good to see me back; and Erica gave encouraging feedback. The problem I now face is choosing between leading Rockets, the childrens' work, and rejoining the worship group, as it doesn't seem practically possible to do both. How do you choose between two things you enjoy and are good at and effective in? My usual solution is to write a pro's and con's list, so I guess that will be my next step!
Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Steve's brother Donovan, from whom Alexander gets his second name. Tomorrow we hope to go up to the Nature Reserve and find the place where Mom and the children scattered his ashes this time last year; Mom has been unable to find the exact spot. It ought to be lovely weather, cool like the last few mornings. We have been blessed with some lower temperatures and cool evenings, after the heat of early last week! (Is there a synonym for "cool"?)
Lastly, I went and bought a baobab tree today...Well, just a wire one, but truly a work of art. I saw it on Friday and went back to the roadside artists today to get it. I fell in love with them on our trip up to Messina in 2001 to watch the solar eclipse; now I have one of my own, about 50cm tall!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Foggy beach morning

With a cool fog rolling in, we decided to visit Strand beach at a spot suggested by a friend. It was the ideal weather: warm enough for costumes, but without the sun baking down on us. We spent a pleasant hour searching the rock-pools, seeing many hermit crabs scuttling along and even a few small, freckled fish. The crabs close their front door with their large claw, while the fish quickly spotted us and darted under overhanging rocks. The boys didn't really swim, but waded in the warmish, shallow water. They also clambered on the huge, ochre rocks that have been placed as a breakwater. We watched dogs splash after balls, brisk walkers and chatty ones, and fishermen perched out on the rocks, now exposed by low tide. Alexander in particular was intrigued at how the water went further and further out.
From the beach we went to visit Granny and Oupa, and found Florence and Derek there too. An hour went by swapping stories about kids, Mom and Derek's childhood, and Derek and Flo's new home.
Late in the afternoon Granny June joined us in her pool - a warm family time. Today (Saturday) was also a family day, as we spent the morning with Mum and Dad - Steve doing some fixing, the boys swimming, Mum and I talking about the possibility of their moving to a smaller home... We are about to go back there for supper together, and maybe some stargazing. More about that tomorrow!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sing to the King

Finally made it to band practice tonight! It had to be the hottest night of the season so far, literally, and the church building very stuffy; but it felt solid and "right" to be back behind the microphone. I found Elmarie's leading very relaxed yet direct. I can't quite place her husband Alfred yet - left him to do the harmonizing. Not much communication from him, so I watched Elmarie for cues. I won't be able to watch her on Sunday morning though, so much...

Poor Steve has spent the day at a very boring test match, and developed a nasty cold. His new small RC plane has arrived though, and tonight he was able to try it out as there was no wind. It's called The Beast and is bright red and looks fantastic as he does loops and rolls and other manouvres. The boys and I managed to watch for a few minutes as we went off to band practice.

The boys were very good at practice, playing with Dawid's two girls and generally entertaining themselves without disturbing us! The three of us had a quick swim at about 8.45, when we got home. Alexander especially was thrilled by the novelty of swimming at night! We have so many blessings to count...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


At dinner last night the idea of visiting Natal in December was pretty much squelched. Steve had spoken to a colleague who lives there and reckons December is no time to visit, what with humid weather and crowds of holiday-makers (do people still use that word? - it probably dates me terrribly!). Kevin, here for dinner, agreed. He has also heard that parts of 'Maritzburg are not what they used to be - Church Street is now "down-town" due to a new mall on the outskirts that has attracted all the big stores and shoppers with plenty of money (read "white" in our socio-economic terms). I felt quite lonely and misunderstood as to my desire to visit agian the places of childhood and coming-of-age - it's not about "doing", I guess, but "remembering"; and this is not really the stuff of family holidays...
I still have a notion just to do the trip on my own - what do you think?

We are now setting our sights closer to home, and earlier in the year: the long Easter weekend, followed by May Day, when the schools are also having a few days off. Even the National Parks seem out of reach of our budget, though, with costs of at least R800 upwards per night for our family. So it's back to the drawing board, or map book... We have agreed to spend time tomorrow night trying to agree on where to go, what to spend, and what to do!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Birthday inspiration

Friends remind you of your dreams, and then nudge you on as you take steps towards those goals... What better way to celebrate a birthday than with two close friends, as we caught up on husbands, children, friends, important debates, and dreams. Jackie hadn't forgotten a remark I once made about beginning a blog, and together over tea she and Rachael and I plotted how to make this a reality - with plenty of digressions along the way! Last night I set up this page, and now here it is: my first post!
One goal for the year ahead is to visit Natal, where I grew up and went to both school and varsity. The goal date is December, so part of this blog will be an account of how that trip takes shape. Blog and trip will complement each other, as each grows and fulfills its own purpose. I feel the energy and excitement of this new venture already...and I look forward to sharing it with you, as you comment and give input and encouragement.