Tag Archives: family

To my mother in heaven…

Today is Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve. All Saints’ Eve. The day, when where I’m from, we light candles for those we’ve lost because it’s said that the veil between this life and the next is the thinnest, which makes me wonder: if you could have a dinner, inviting any ten guests, dead or alive, who would it be? 

Personally, I’d like to meet my mother, but I’m also scared of meeting her. I don’t really know who she was when alive. She died when I was six. 

One day, several years ago, I suddenly realized I always thought that my mother, if I met her, would have been disappointed in me. The fact that my finances were always a disaster while I was off on some adventure to live my dreams and rescue kids in Africa. That she’d read me the riot act. That she’d see me as the black sheep of the family — the artist, entrepreneur and hopeless dreamer who didn’t have it all figured out. I was scared we’d have nothing in common beyond wanting to heal people. She was a nurse. I almost became an MD. And I still desire to aid people in healing; mentally, physically, spiritually. 

In short, I was scared all my mother would do, was judge me.

I’d gotten so used to being the person everyone wanted to be someone else, I figured I’d just be a disappointment to her. 

Isn’t that a fucked up way to live life? To think that your mother wouldn’t love you because you’ve made mistakes? That she wouldn’t even want to see you, because you’re not like her? 

Today, I’m not the woman sitting on that couch, wondering if my mother would love me. As a mother myself now, I know that all we dream of for our children is for them to find happiness. We do not care that they screw up, we only care about them finding their way again. We do not punish, we love. 

Yes, many of us, as parents, will use punishment, just as we will use encouragement, as a way of making our children follow a path we believe to be right. Be that to brush their teeth, or stay off drugs, but in our hearts, all we seek is their happiness. Their joy. For them to be loved. For them to live a life they love. 

Maybe, if my mother came down from heaven, all she would do, would be to hold me and tell me it’s OK. That my mistakes are alright — that we all make them. Maybe all she’d want would be to see her daughter.

The thing with life, is that none of us were born with a map. We all get lost. Some more than others. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to find our path. Nor does it mean we don’t deserve to be loved. 

In short, I don’t think our loved ones in heaven want to punish us for our sins; for our mistakes; or for getting lost. They just want us to find our way to happiness again; find our path. Because that’s the highest desire you can have for anyone else. And, most likely, they’d want just one more day with us.

I don’t really miss my mother. I was too young when she died. I miss my gran on the other hand. I’d like to take my gran for a trip to Paris and walk around the streets, spending hours talking, laughing and baking. I bake pancakes pretty much every weekend and I know it’s not just because I love pancakes, it’s because when I do that, I carry a piece of her with me. I also listen to French radio to calm my nerves. I find strength in doing the things we used to do together; feel her love when doing them. 

I can’t meet my mother, but I can honor her as a parent, by seeing myself through her eyes; loving myself and supporting myself in finding my path, instead of beating myself up for getting lost.

I can’t go with gran to Paris, but I can go to Paris with someone else who loves me as much as she did and loves doing the things I love, the way she did.

There are many people I’d like to invite for dinner, ranging from Tim Ferriss to Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare. I wouldn’t mind Branson, Jolie, Di Caprio, Scorsese, Mandela, Musk and a bunch of other people to gather around my dinner table. I’d invite half of Silicone Valley too, for good measure. There are many, many incredible hearts and minds in this world. So many. The thing is, by looking for those who are not there, we miss the ones who are. Our children. Our family. Our friends. Our partners. One day, all of them will be in heaven too. Now is our time with them; our chance to honor them by creating beautiful experiences with them.

Or as Angelina Jolie said: “That’s the reason we kind of exist. To give to each other. And learn from each other. To capture the moments of people. So I find it really strange to have somebody ignore the obvious human being right in front of them.” 

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Filed under Death, Inspiration, Inspirational, Love, mourning, Parenthood

Catching a bullet for love…or catching the love bug???

I was speaking with someone the other night. Well, quite a few nights ago now, and he told me he thinks his definition of falling in love is “being willing to take a bullet for someone.” 

Personally, I always separated falling in love from love itself, as in Sweden when you say falling in love you use the word “kär” or “förälskad” and it’s neither the same as being in love, nor having a crush. I’d say it could go either way. It’s simply the person you have butterflies in your belly for (i.e. you’re on a rose colored high), be it that you love them, or not. So basically, falling in love, is not the same as loving someone to me. To me, loving someone is a lot more serious than falling in love. 

At the time we were chatting, I just thought about how we all have our unique definitions. But then, for some reason, this came back to me later as I started thinking about love itself. What is love? 

I, personally, have a penchant for wanting to help people. That means that if someone is sitting wounded on the roadside, I pick them up and care for them. Whether I have the time, the money and the resources, or not. This is often to my own detriment, but it also makes me feel good. Anyway, point being: to me it’s a gut reaction. Just like taking a bullet probably would be. And taking a bullet takes three-seconds. Being in a loving relationship is a lifetime commitment. 

I’ve often said that true love is wiping someone’s ass. Because if someone is old and sick and tired, that’s what you do for them if you love them. Love isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s pretty gruesome at times. But as I said when I was living with my grandmother in a hospice: the only thing worse than being here, is not being here. 

On the other hand, I don’t think love is about giving up your life for someone else. I didn’t — and still don’t — live in Sweden to please neither my grandparents, nor my dad or sister. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, but my father has always been really firm on the “you should live your life” thing. My gran wasn’t like that and I think he told her off quite a few times. He made it very clear that she had had her life, living as she wanted to live. Now my sister and I had our own lives and needed to live as we wanted to. We’re all responsible for our own lives and filling them with love — beyond the family. You can’t just rely on family to be happy.  

And it’s true. Your life is your own. It’s your gift from God/the Universe. Your gift. You can do whatever you want with it. And if you don’t cherish it, it’s like giving the middle finger to the powers above (God/the Universe that is). They gave you a gift. Use it in a way in which it serves you and therefore others. Happiness is contagious.  

Destroying your life for someone else isn’t love. And it leads to a lot of resentment towards the person. Sacrificing things along the road is part of loving someone. You have to give up few things, but you can’t give up your entire life. And if someone asks you to do that for them, they don’t love you. They want to control you so that you do what they want you to do. Since when is that love? In short, they’re selfish bastards, even if they think they love you and probably do to the extent they’re capable of doing so. 

I still remember this quote from a book I read in my teens. It was in Swedish but it was something along the lines of: “To love is to free the person frozen in cement and see them dance, even if they’re dancing away from you.” I agree. 

In romantic relationships though, the whole point is to find someone who wants the same things out of life as you do. As the saying goes: you’re not looking for someone to look you in the eye, but for someone who is looking in the same direction you are. You want to create your dreams together. That means you need to have similar goals, as well as values. 

As far as commitment goes, while you should never have to ruin your life for someone else, love is about having 39 degrees fever and still preparing a meal for your child. Love is about showing up when you really don’t feel like it. It’s about getting up in the morning to make someone breakfast in bed when you want to sleep in. Because you want to show them you love them. And I think that, in a weird way, makes you come alive more. It forces you to get out of your own way and actually do something worthwhile. 

That’s supposed to be a two-way stream. You can’t bust your butt for someone who isn’t willing to do anything in return. You can love them. You can love anyone. Love itself is unconditional and I personally think you can love anyone whom you understand. Because once you understand why they are the way they are and see the heart hidden beneath the learned behavior, it’s hard not to love them. But you can’t be in a relationship with someone who isn’t willing to sweat it for you. 

I believe anything in life worth doing requires commitment. Or, as Churchill would have said: “Blood, sweat and tears.” That might make it sound “difficult” but a good day’s work feels good if it’s done for a person you believe is worth it, who does things for you in return. Think about work in general — when you do work you love, or do work for a good cause, even if it’s difficult, it makes you feel good. Like a good workout. It takes effort getting out the door, but once you’re working out it feels effing amazing. 

In fact, I believe a life without commitment (whether to work, people, or even ourselves — it takes commitment to serve your own body for example, through exercise and a healthy lifestyle) is partly what makes people depressed. Firstly, they have no sense of direction. They don’t know where they’re going or why they should get up in the morning. Secondly, it becomes all about them. They don’t have anything else to engage their mind in, apart form their own thoughts. And constantly thinking about yourself doesn’t feel good. Like how good do you feel when you try to analyze non-stop who you are, what people think about you, if you made the right decision ten years ago, if you’re good enough, if your latest Facebook pic is epic enough, etc.? Different people ponder different things, but it tends to be ego focused. Once you start living for something beyond yourself, you forget to obsess about these things. 

It’s actually been proven that charity work makes people happier and increases longevity. A) people feel good about themselves doing good for others B) it leads to social connections. It leads to love. 

Maybe one should also separate romantic love from other loves as there are many different kinds of love. So let’s rewind. I need to summarize my thoughts here…

First, there’s the love you can feel for anyone, because you see the human in them. See the heart in them. The kind of unconditional love you can share freely. And it makes you committed to doing right by them. Acting in a way you believe serves them. It doesn’t mean you like them. It means you understand why they are the way they are and that by acting nicely, at the very least, you have a chance of influencing them for the better. It’s the kind of love you can feel for all of humanity (and the planet at large). 

Then there’s the love you feel for people (usually the ones you grew up with) who cared for you at one stage or another, even if they were completely different from you. They were committed to you. Like my grandmother. If she’d had her way, I’d live in Sweden with a stable nine to five job, 2.5 children and a husband. I’d have been dead inside, but she’d been happy. She cared for me. She was there for me whenever I needed her. She loved me as best as she could. She sacrificed things for me. But she did not understand me. And I loved her. So much. She was one of the best things in my childhood. She taught me a lot about commitment. About being there for someone. But she didn’t have a clue as to what it meant to let people be who they are. And she loved guilt tripping people about who she thought they should be. 

We cared for each other. We were committed to one another. And by caring and being committed we created something beautiful, even though we had little in common.

You may not love them more, but the people who cared for us at some point who also understood us, we felt/feel closer to. Because beyond the commitment to care for one another, we also understood/understand one another.  

Similarly, you love friends on different levels. Some friends are super close, because you gel on so many levels and you’re truly committed to looking after one another. Other friends are somewhat close, because while you do gel on most levels, you aren’t that committed to looking after one another. Yet others, you only have one or two things in common with, but you do have a sense of commitment. A sense of caring; of looking after one another. 

Like if you ask me who I love the most, the answer is without a doubt my best friend. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I love her the most. It’s just I’m the closest to her. She understands me. She is committed to my wellbeing, even when it’s uncomfortable (such as telling me I’m acting like an ass, or need to do something I’m not doing — love involves doing the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable). She shares hopes and dreams with me — we’re looking in the same direction. Always have.

What’s more, even though myself and my best friend are attached by the hip, we can live in different countries. We have our own lives. We are OK not speaking for a month. And while I have no fucking clue what I’d do in a world without her, I still know I have my own life. I have my own friends. I have my own goals. I do things that make me happy. And that’s vital in any relationship. You can’t expect someone else to bring you happiness.   

With romantic relationships, I believe you need to have physical (bodily) attraction, sexual attraction (liking similar things in the bedroom), mental/intellectual attraction, emotional attraction and spiritual attraction. You may not hit a ten in all the different areas, but you need to be pretty high up the scale in most of them. On top of that, on top of “gelling” with one another, you need to have similar goals and values (wanting to build your dreams together), as well as a willingness to commit to one another. To sweat for one another. To make small sacrifices for one another. Because you believe it’s worth it. Because your relationship is worth the work and the sacrifices.

Gelling with someone, being attracted to someone…to me, that’s falling in love. The more attracted you are to them, the more you understand one another and have things in common, the more you fall in love. And while you can love anyone unconditionally because you understand humanity at large and are committed to doing right by people, loving someone within a relationship, to me, is another form of commitment. It’s the act of giving of yourself on a day-to-day basis.

I think commitment is beautiful. And I think my grandparents are greatly responsible for teaching me that. They gave me a sense of security in an unstable childhood. They taught me a lot about the selfless act of loving. Of showing up when you don’t want to, without for that matter giving so much you ruin your own life. 

I think loving someone on a day-to-day basis requires a lot more work and is a lot harder than catching that one bullet. But I also think it’s a lot more rewarding. For starters, you now have a purpose. It gives you direction. It makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile. By caring for someone else, you feel good about yourself. Secondly, you’re around to reap the rewards. Like, say, morning sex after that breakfast you prepared. But then, as my sister says: I got the caring gene. I’d prepare breakfast for just about anyone in return for a smile. I love looking after people. My sister, on the other hand, once tried to kick me out of her flat when I’d just returned to Sweden sick with the flu, because she was scared of catching a bug and couldn’t be fucked to make me breakfast. I refused to leave. She apologized and made me breakfast. That’s family 101. Personally, I’ve had homeless people living on my couch. My sister calls me in a panic if anyone in the family is in hospital, because I’m much better at caring for them. I know what to say. The joke in the family? She’s the doctor, I’m the filmmaker. 

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Filed under diary, Family, Friends, Friendship, friendships, Love, Love-life, Musings, relationships

Shhh, don’t speak about it: mortifying humiliation and bikini shots…

I did something incredibly blonde for my birthday, which involved uploading a bikini shot to my business account on Instagram without explanation, as I fell asleep by my phone. I mean the account where I normally post poetry for my business and refuse to do the “selfie promotion” thing. That. 

You see, the day before my birthday, I went to bed late, as I was up preparing a GoFundMe campaign for my child who has PDA (pathological demand avoidance disorder, which falls under the autism spectrum and he is in desperate need of expensive treatment — you can read about it and watch my video in my birthday blog). Which was well and all, but on my birthday I was tired and got into bed around 8:30pm. But my sister was chatting to me on the phone for a long time and then I was trying to upload this video I’d made for Instagram about my fundraising efforts…and fell asleep.  

When filming the video, I thought no one would click on a blurry image of a windblown person. So I thought I’d upload an image from a birthday two years ago where I’m standing on a beach in Athens, which looks a hell of a lot nicer than the windswept me (wearing a cooking apron to boot — my late gran gave it to me and I needed a moral boost that day while cooking) of the other day. You know, using the nice pic as the first part of the story and using the video as the second part. I also thought it was brilliant as I could crack a joke about this blog being naked and all that and I wanted to link the video to the blog I wrote on my birthday about fundraising.

Now, the problem was that my video was longer than the stories permitted on Instagram. So I realised I’d uploaded a bikini pic and half a video. I immediately pressed delete, then tried uploading it as a regular post instead, so as to be able to keep the entire video — but fell asleep while it was “sending.” 

I woke up this morning to the unwelcome news that 50+ people had watched the story I’d “deleted.” 

I fretted about this for a couple of hours, then I started laughing. You see, we’ve had electricity problems for months and while the City of Cape Town has come to fix it, I think three times now, it’s still not working. As my landlords also pulled out our electric water heater, but failed to install the gas one, I don’t have hot water either.

So today, I boiled myself a pot of water to pour over my head as a “shower,” then legged it as I couldn’t blow dry my hair and my son was coming home and if he were to see me leave, he’d have a meltdown and refuse being left with the nanny. Of course, where we live in the woods, the GPS sometimes gets confused, so my Uber driver wasn’t parked by my home, but at a nearby estate. Fearing my son would make it home in time to see me, I was hiding behind a palm tree outside the neighbour’s (whose address does work on a GPS), with soaking wet hair. 

I think back to the time I walked past the lines into Hollywood nightclubs…or for that matter, standing on a beach in Athens feeling glam…and I think about hiding behind a palm tree, waiting for an Uber, sporting clothes I’d put on without buttoning up properly and soaking wet hair…and I laugh. As I was standing behind that palm tree I found everything amusing, including weird bikini shots on Instagram.  

When I recorded the video for GoFundMe, I felt like I spoke about the problems in our family openly for the first time. Putting it to words yesterday in a blog on here, even more so. It was a big step for me. And honestly, I didn’t feel I could do that until Friday, when a psychologist explained to me what’s going on. Prior to that, I’ve had so much self-blame and felt so embarrassed, that I didn’t know how to phrase it. Where do you start? With him stabbing the wall with a knife when asked to have a shower? With me holding him down and screaming on top of my lungs that he’s never going to hurt my family again? With him trying to teach his almost three-year-old brother that I’m a bitch and a cunt and…? 

Yesterday, I started seeing the comedy in it all. Now that I know the most likely diagnosis. Now that I know he doesn’t hate me, nor that he’s not psychotic, or mean. Now that I know that there’s hope for him to be the kind, loving, child that I love. Now that I know that it isn’t my fault that he’s aggressive. Now I can speak about it. 

And when you think back to all those times…him crawling on the floor in supermarkets, him turning the doctor’s waiting room upside down, him breaking the flowers at my favourite coffee shop, him swearing at random strangers… All those times I felt mortally humiliated…they are funny. The suffering he’s been through — the reason he’s behaving like this — is not funny. Nor is the damage he’s caused to people emotionally, or the amount of furniture he’s broken. But, I’m sure you can see the humour in trying to explain to some hot guy why your child just had an absolute fit in their shop. 

My former principal at drama school, Sam Kogan, used to say that when you can see things through the lens of humour, you know you are no longer affected by them emotionally. When you can crack a joke about the trauma you’ve been through, you are free. I used to think you couldn’t crack jokes about the bad things in life. That you had to take them seriously. But, by the end of the day, when you see your own ghosts and ghouls that haunt your mind as hilarious, instead of frightening, or sad, apparitions, you are, in fact, free. You are no longer dictated by them. I’m very thankful Sam taught me that.

I’m not saying I will never again be mortified by something my child does. Most likely I will. But if I can learn to let go of how society thinks he should act, if I can learn to have sympathy for his condition, instead of being frightened of what others will think, then I will be all that much stronger dealing with it. We have a long road ahead where he learns how to handle his condition and overcome the anxiety and emotional misconceptions holding him back, but there is light. There is hope. And there’s me in a bikini on Instagram. 

(Update: yesterday he had a really, really bad fit with the nanny which resulted in him taking it out on himself in the most destructive manner possible and I was mortified. Once again I didn’t know what to say to people. But I explained. And they understood. And we got help. Because it’s all quite understandable and logical once you understand his condition. Now the emergency plan is being put in place for his treatment. And thanks to friends and family donating funds, we may come out it without financial disaster.)

Image Source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/507780926731818628/

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Filed under autism, autism spectrum, blonde, Comedy, diary, Family, Humor, Special Needs Children, Thoughts

Dirty nappies and jalapeño sauce…

There are things in life that we all experience, but don’t necessarily speak about. Take dirty nappies for example — they’re part of every parent’s life. That doesn’t necessarily mean we start a conversation at the next cocktail party saying: “You know last night, I got poop all over myself when changing my toddler’s nappy.” Or: “My toddler peed all over me when changing a nappy the other day.” (True story.)

It’s natural not talking about poop at a cocktail party. After all, we go there to forget about it. The poop I mean. We have enough of it at home and it wouldn’t look good with our little black dress and high heels.

There are other things we don’t speak of for fear of what others would think, or because of our own sense of shame, guilt, or whatever it may be. Personally, I’ve been avoiding the topic of one of the children I raise for ages. I have mentioned it sure — my kid with behavioral issues. But did I speak about the day he took a bottle from a car guard and peed in it? Or when he last assaulted me? Or broke a window in a fit of anger? Or when I called a friend in exasperation saying she had to come round because even if there was me and the neighbor working to hold him down, I was about to have a breakdown myself.

You have a child who swears at you, attacks you, doesn’t want the kindness you give (every time you say something positive, they turn it around)…and in the end you end up feeling like a horrible person because your nerves are frazzled, you’re grumpy, you bark at the slightest irritation and you have no idea of how to get out of bed the next day.

My situation may be fairly unique in that I raise three kids that were practically born into drug dens. Their first few words were likely unsavory. Their idea of manners just as unsavory. But I’m not alone in raising a kid on the autism spectrum who is suffering from PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance Disorder). I’m not alone in dealing with someone who doesn’t understand emotions the way the rest of the world does. I’m not alone in fighting a furious fight to find help for a child I love. A child I know can be wonderful, but who has, as of late had anxiety attacks coming out as aggression so much so that I’d almost lost hope.

I didn’t know what to say about it, because I was unclear about it. I was told he had symptoms of ODD, ADHD and PDA. I was also told I needed to be firmer. Fiercer. Set boundaries. And the fiercer I became, the more I held him down during outbursts, the more I started seeing it as a behavioral problem, the worse he got.

As the situation derailed I spoke to therapists, psychiatrists, the ER, the parenting centre, social development…the list goes on. I was lost looking for solutions until last week when the Neurodiversity Centre in Cape Town told me that my child isn’t lost forever — he’s suffering from PDA gone awry and he can get better. After speaking with the psychologist there I felt like I could breathe properly for the first time in months. I went and sat down in my favorite coffee shop and as I looked out the door I could see the sun. I wasn’t stuck in a bubble. I was there. Because for the first time I saw a way out of the hell that had been going on where it seemed the only options were to detain my child somewhere or keep him at home dealing with aggressive meltdowns at all odd hours of the day. Neither option was one I wanted to pursue.

I still don’t know how to speak about this. The reason I have gotten as far as I have is thanks to friends and even strangers telling me I was amazing, inspirational and generally wonderful. I didn’t feel wonderful. I felt like an awful person failing my family. I felt irritable and snappy, angry and sad. But those comments — and random prayers — kept me going. They made me believe I had a spark in me. They made me look at myself in a different light. They gave me hope.

When you’re walking through hell, keep walking. So they say. But it’s a hell of a lot easier when you can see paradise at the top of the mountain. When you’re lost in the fog, having no clue if you’ll ever find a way out, you don’t necessarily feel great.

Today is my birthday. Today I’m speaking about my life. The real life. Today I’m raising funds for my son for his much needed treatment.

Oh and tonight I’m eating jalapeños and chocolate cake, while drinking wine and laughing with my family, who isn’t perfect, nor always well-behaved, but whom I love very, very much. Probably, I’m also changing nappies.

GoFundMe Campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tyreke039s-treatment

MY BIRTHDAY WISH! This year my birthday wish is a little bit different from other years — I’d like some help saving my son. He’s on the autism spectrum and suffers from what can only be described as acute PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance Disorder). That means that something as simple as having a shower can lead to a complete meltdown due to his anxiety. He says no to doing things he loves if he perceives them as demands, he can get angry with things like the rain thinking it’s against him, he can’t read or write, he has little concept of time and so forth. He doesn’t understand emotions the way most people do and the problem with that, is that it’s left him anxious and the anxiety has caused aggression. And recently, I was actually losing hope. I have been around the block with therapists, psychiatrists, the psych ER, social development and, even, in a bout of desperation: a police inspector I know. The psychiatrist literally told me I could prepare myself to give up my child and the truth was: I was no longer coping at home. Our family was falling apart. His baby brother having recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness put further pressure on the situation, especially as Tyreke does not necessarily know how to treat a two-year-old in all situations and was desperately jealous. To make matters worse, the only mental hospital for children in Cape Town has recently been demolished. For the past few months, I’ve basically been running around town knocking on doors and getting nowhere. However, a friend of mine mentioned the Neurodiversity Centre where psychologists work with children on the autism spectrum. I knew I couldn’t really afford them, but I called and emailed them anyway, because I was desperate. And even if social were to remove Tyreke from the family, I knew I’d need a long term plan where he got the help he needed — whatever that may be. I had my first consultation with them on Friday. After reviewing a lot of information and previous assessments of Tyreke that I provided them with, one of their psychologists explained to me that Tyreke has PDA that’s gotten way out of hand due to his background (the emotional trauma of being raised in what can only be described as a violent drug den and me having visa problems and coming and going). The good news? If I can stick it out for the next three months, he has a very good prognosis. We do need several consultations and help in the home to rebalance the family though as everyone, including his twin sister, have suffered from his meltdowns and aggression. When Tyreke isn’t having a meltdown, he’s one of the most caring kids I’ve ever met. He’s funny. He’s great with art. He’s a drama king. He’s an awesome chef. And he’s incredibly sweet and loving. On the phone the psychologist told me that’s the real Tyreke. And I can have him back. I cried for half an hour. If you’re a parent who has ever felt like you failed your child, or been so desperate you’ve called social services to beg them to do something, you know how painful it is. I can’t even put it in words. For the past few months, I’ve been a wreck. The reason I’m still standing is much thanks to friends and strangers alike — from nurses I’ve met to close family friends — having faith in me. And showing up to help me when I was falling. So please, if you want to give me a birthday present, help me raise funds to the child I love and desperately want to see happy again. In the past three days, just implementing some of the things the psychologist said, I can already see a change. It’s a long road ahead, but for now, I have faith. And that’s one of the best birthday presents I could ever get. In fact, I feel like I can breathe again for the first time in months. You can support his treatment here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tyreke039s-treatment

My boys…

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Filed under Family, Parenthood, Parenting, special needs

Final goodbyes…

Friday I got the message I’ve been waiting for: “It’s time to come home to say goodbye to grandma.” I’ve been waiting for that message and yet it took me an hour to book the ticket because it freaked me out so much that once it’s booked that’s it. That’s the final goodbye.

A few months back, Liezl’s sister, Jess, died and I wrote a letter to Jess that I gave to Liezl. I wrote that letter because I wanted to help Liezl and I wanted to say goodbye to Jess in my own way. Below you can see an excerpt.

Liezl always tells me that she knows when I’m hurting, because she can feel it. Well, I know Liezl is hurting now, because I can feel it. So please, let her see life as a puzzle of moments made up of experiences with those we love. We only get so many puzzle pieces with each person. We never know when they will leave for another world. It feels so unfair when they do, especially when they are young, or when we have lost many people we love, but that’s life. We can’t change it. All we can do is treasure the moments we have with those we love. The ones who are here. And carry the wisdom and love of those we have lost in our hearts.

In a few months I may have to write another letter to my extra nieces in Cape Town, as their father, Tony, is dying. And I promised him I’d be there for them when that happened. Liezl and I plan to take them to see the stars — to look at their dad.

About a year ago Tony had one of his bad spells and he took the time then that he was entitled to live in a hospice for a few weeks. That he has survived till now is a miracle, but when he was in hospice I sat with Liezl and another friend of ours in the little chapel they have there. We were talking about grief. About mourning. And I felt so happy that I had those two women next to me. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I think when people die, what we need is something that anchors us to life. We need to feel love. We need to feel the joy of life. We cannot allow ourselves to be bitter about what life is: a limited period of time. Instead we need to cherish what little time we have and make every moment with those we love special. Because it is special. Every single moment you share with the people you love and care about is special.

Yesterday I was speaking with Liezl on the phone and at first I was rambling on about how this just wasn’t happening, because I needed someone to hug at night. My gran couldn’t die, if I didn’t have a man whose heartbeat I could hear through the night. I needed to know I had life next to me. But as I spoke to Liezl we spoke about the kids I raise, about the kids I mentor, about our friends in the township, about Liezl’s family and about all the plans we have for Little Angels and Malaika. And somewhere I started smiling and I didn’t stop.

My phonecall with Liezl anchored me to life; to what I love. The kids I help raise are the most important part of my life and Little Angels is the part that’s brought me the most joy.

When I got that message Friday I was overwhelmed by memories from my childhood. I was petrified of losing the one home that’s always been my safe haven — my grandparents’ flat. It’s where I lived for part of my childhood. It’s where I ran to away from my stepmom. It was my haven. It was where I built the dreams of the future.

My grandparents taught me that love is real and that the reality of it is commitment. In a family you don’t always see eye to eye, you don’t always understand each other, but you are always there for each other. You take care of each other.

My grandparents also taught me to look after what you have. You take pride in your home. In your clothes. In your being. You look after what’s yours.

When my mom died my grandparents on both sides became substitute parents. They were always there. It made me realize that family, really, is just simply the people who show up. When I moved to South Africa and started looking after children I did that because I believed all children should have what I had as a kid — someone who’s there for them. A rock.

I am coming to terms with now having to create my own haven. I need to find my own footing. I need to be my own rock. But the truth is that none of us are a very good rock on our own. We need each other. We need life. We need the sound of the heartbeats that we love.

Cherish those hearts. And commit to look after them, because that’s what family does. I’m a firm believer, as my life is a testament to, that family is the people you care about, not the people whose blood you share. My family is part South African.

I feel like I’m losing a part of myself right now. A part that’s always been there. And I keep bursting into tears. But I also know that there will be many more parts to my life; many more blessings in the shape of human beings; in the shape of beautiful souls. And together we will go on adventures and create moments filled with love and laughter.

It’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view. – The Greatest Showman

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Image source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/349943833533018228/ 

 

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Why wiping someone’s ass should be a dating priority…

I was speaking to my ninety-one year-old gran last night and her body is falling apart. Quite literally. She has breast cancer which came back and now her body, apart from being old and frail, is struggling with coping altogether. It was a harrowing phonecall.

It’s not that my gran is at the ICU at the moment, or in a hospital bed. She was at the ER yesterday though, because her body is filling up with fluid and she has diahorrea. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty damn horrific.

I was with my gran a year-and-a-half ago when she was first diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. I was raised partially by my grandparents and I’ve seen gran and her body in some of the most compromising positions you could imagine. I’ve also seen her struggle as she got older. Struggle to walk, struggle to get dressed, struggle to stand up… Her body is old.

My other gran, before passing away, became senile. With her I saw the struggle of remembering things, as well as fighting demons from the past. I got phonecalls about old lovers and heard of bitter regrets. I was there to help her use the bathroom. Ever since I’ve said that true love is wiping someone’s ass when they can no longer do it themselves.

My grandparents were my saving grace when I was a child. They were there through mom dying, through the bullies, through evil stepmoms, through teenage depression, they were there through it all. They were the place I ran to. They were my safe haven.

That doesn’t mean that my grandparents and I have always agreed on things, or understood one another — far from it. But I grew up with them serving me by raising me, so I always wanted to give the same back. Protection and care. And I think that’s the bottom line of any relationship. If that kind of commitment isn’t there, you have nothing.

We inherit the best and the worst from people. My grandparents brought me life, security, artistry, creativity, smarts, asthma, cold sores and vericose veins. I’ve never disliked my body, nor have I ever really understood if someone has loved me, or my body. Because, you know, I have flaws. I couldn’t breathe properly as a child, how’s that for being flawed?

My childhood had my self-confidence obliterated, save from the confidence I had in my skills. It’s taken me a long time to rebuild that other confidence; the part of me that’s OK to just be a human. It was only when I pretty much had nothing going for me in South Africa that I started to realize that I needed to learn to live anyway. You know, really live. Breathe in the moment and have fun.

In my battle for visa and adoption rights I’d pretty much lost everything I had — there was a business in limbo, no money in the bank, no social life, no career successes, no nothing. There was just me and what looked like a hopeless situation fighting for the children. And somewhere I decided to take responsibility for that situation and kick life in its balls.

It worked. Wasn’t pain free, didn’t provide immediate solutions, but it worked. I still have nightmares pretty much every night about the children, business, finances and visas, but I learnt to be happy in the face of it all. It hurts with the kids. It hurts to high heavens and back again, but I let it go and I live. I cry too, but I live. And I keep fighting. I just make sure to live too.

Feeling like you’ve fucked up your entire life can be a really good lesson in learning to live and love. Love yourself.

Now, my point with all this, is that we all have a choice to take responsibility for our lives. We also all have bodies that will one day fall apart. We face events that will, at some point, break us. We make mistakes that we regret with bitter tears. And sometimes we face pain in ways we never thought possible. Like being separated from a child, or losing a husband, or getting arrested for a crime we never committed.

But the only way to conquer that is to learn to live in the face of it. And slowly climb the mountain to overcome it. It doesn’t happen over night, but it is possible. Your wrinkles, your flaws, your current pissy situation, none of that is an excuse to hate yourself, or stop finding moments of happiness. It might feel impossible, but you can and will love yourself and your life, if you just decide to do it. Little by little. So if it’s only finding one moment of belly deep laughter.

No, you probably aren’t perfect. Nor is anyone else. And everyone will annoy the hell out of you at some point, hurt you and make you mad as they come. But if you are committed to loving them and loving yourself, I think you have a fair chance of living a happy life. Even in the midst of all the chaos, unfairness and everything else that is life.

So do it. Go have fun. Because you can. Because you’re not ninety-one years-old and falling apart. Because you haven’t yet reached a point where there is nothing you can do about your regrets and failing memory. So live. Live a little.

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Gran and I. 

Want to see an inspirational woman embracing her body? Watch this! http://video.allure.com/watch/dispelling-beauty-myths-disabilities (Unfortunately WordPress wants me to upgrade my account to be able to share the video with you directly — so hence the link.)

 

 

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To all the gorgeous people in my life…

The only way to allow someone to come home is to set them free. When I was younger I didn’t realize that. I thought that you had to have promises, or guarantees that if someone went for a walk they’d come back. And if I was in a relationship I wanted to know that they’d focus one hundred percent on making it work. I guess I was frightened of what would happen if they didn’t. Today I see it differently. If someone wasn’t one hundred percent focused on making it work I would be the one to leave. I also think promises are valid only up to a point. Life keeps changing.

A friend of mine was dating someone for a while. Every day when they met they would look each other in the eye to see if the other person was still there and seek out who they truly were. I thought that was beautiful.

It’s easy to get stagnant in life, or in relationships. A friend’s friend invented a game filled with questions, just because he wanted to remind himself that whenever he thought he knew his partner, he was wrong. He wanted to always keep searching her mind, body and soul for what he didn’t know. That too, to me, is beautiful.

This year I have met so many different people, old and new, that I have connected with in so many different ways. There are people whom intrigue me, there are people whom I always know when they will contact me, there are people whom I have discovered in ways I never thought I’d discover, there are people whom I miss dearly…there are just so many different connections. One thing I learnt this year is that there is indeed a “type” of men I have been known to fall for. Six pack, outgoing, charismatic, charming, cheeky, life of the party type of guy. Yet, I was talking to a friend the other night and suddenly realized although there have been flings and love interests in the last few years there’s only one guy I actually cared for, the rest I was attracted to. A true connection with someone is very different from pure attraction. And true connections aren’t necessarily flawless stereotypes. Love is an interesting thing.

To all my wonderful friends and family out there – thank you for an interesting journey, you make my life in so many ways!!!

People are like a box of secrets…yummy delights…

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Love and my gran’s clogs…

Chanel

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Yeah, I know…the headline doesn’t start with “Let’s do the doggie, do, do, dah-dam tralalala…” or some other sexy thing. Give it a go though. You don’t always have to enter the backdoor to have a good time, or what do you think?

I went to see my gran a few weeks ago, she is in a ward for senile people. I was trying to read a book to her, a book that I once bought her, called “Home, Sweet Home.” In it there are quotes about home and pictures of cute animals to accompany them. It’s hard to have any kind of conversation with her, as her attention span is very, very short. The quotes were usually short enough to get her to listen though. Some she still struggled to understand, but as I said “Home is a place where you can say anything, as no one will listen anyway,” she shone up, laughed and said “That’s kinda true.” To see a reaction was beautiful – to find that a tiny bit of her is still there.

My gran said a few other things – usually relating to things that have nothing to do with her current life, constantly asking about my granddad, talking about the household chores she has done, or is yet to do, long dead relatives, etc. From time to time though, she would get something we said and reply as she would have when she was well. One thing she said was “We get along kinda well, you and I.” That, too, was such a “her” thing to say back in the day – stating the obvious with a dash of irony and a smile. One of her favorite things to tell me and my sister were: “You are like my daughters. Do you know how I know it? I can yell at you.” She had a great sense of humor, amongst other things.

My gran keep teaching me about love and life, even when she is in a state of oblivion. To cope with the fact that in front of you sits one of the people that mean the most to you, but she’s no longer fully there…is….well, it’s a journey from complete despair to understanding/acceptance. It’s also an interesting journey into questioning what a human being truly is? I loved my gran for her personality. Who I am today, is probably partly a mirror of whom my grandma once were, which I have never truly thought of that much before. I mean, sure I knew she inspired me and taught me things, but I never quite got how much like her I turned out to become – from my greatest traits to my insecurities. (Nor did I realize how much I became like my adopted TV mom…Dr Michaela Quinn, until I re-watched the series last summer. I was laughing and cringing at her, as she did well…what I would have done in her position.) Yet, whom my grandma is today is…a broken record player and one that can’t add any new tracks at all. It has made me question how much of us are a manifestation of our soul, our true center and how much is icing on the cake. I mentioned it the other day, but it seems to me most of us are record players, playing the tunes we have been taught, and very few of our own original tunes come out. It’s one thing to believe we have a soul when we are alive and well, but when someone’s whole personality falls apart, you wonder what happened to the soul? Is it trapped inside us, not being able to live fully?

I have talked before about how my gran’s disease taught me that what she always gave me and that I forgot to give myself, was unconditional love. Apart from baking pancakes and gingerbread cookies, doing my hair up and conjugating French verbs, cracking witty jokes and wearing mini-skirts, what she really taught me was just to love. She may have made me into a household Goddess with a taste for business and adventure, but above and beyond all she taught me what it means to have someone who always listen and supports you through it all. I believe we need that. When we have good love around us, when we are taught to love and respect ourselves, we won’t go running after all the other crazy things in this life that really don’t matter much.

As I sit here in NYC, I wonder partly if I’m crazy? I have set out on this journey to conquer the world with my businesses and movies, but what matters most to me is people. Of course, my everything is always about people, for people, but I keep traveling the world, being away from people. I don’t have a kitchen that is mine forever. A kitchen that is filled with spices, teas, crooked china, the smell of gingerbread and most importantly: people. As with everything else though: one without the other wouldn’t make me happy. I love America. I love France. I love business. I love movies. I love traveling. I love home life. I am what I am. A funny mix. What matters most to me now is to be all that I am in a way that honors it. That honors me.

The day after visiting my gran I was visiting my granddad. I put on my gran’s clogs and walked to the beach. For the first time I wasn’t sad. I knew I was OK. I knew she had taught me all I needed to know. I was wearing her clogs. It is time to wear them not just when I visit, but all the time. Wear the trust and love she felt for me.

Let’s conquer the world. In a pair of clogs and with gingerbread cookies. In a Chanel suit and with pancakes. In me and with love.

My gran always gathered newspaper clippings of Jöback for me…he has the most beautiful voice! God knows how many times I listened to his songs dreaming about making musicals….dreaming about living life. Dreaming of America…



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I don’t wanna talk…

…about the things we’ve been through. Yeah, yeah, I’m quoting Abba…I know, I know…blonde Swede by the wheel. So let’s talk about sex baby…or not. Let’s have sex. No, let’s talk about it. No, let’s have it. No let’s talk about it…no…yes…no…fuck you. What? Yes, fuck me. No. Yes………

I’m going to do something very forbidden right now – I’m going to generalize (why do I suddenly see a bunch of angry people marching against me shouting tasteless blonde jokes???…).

Women are accusing men of being sex driven and men are accusing women for being baby (and, therefore, relationship) driven. Now if you are a man, imagine that women see babies the way you see sex…and can’t help it. Women, imagine seeing sex the way you see babies (and relationships) on the worst days. Of course, women only have baby drive for certain days per month/periods of their lives, but it leads to some women hunting guys like…well, like men hunt women. They are both “drives” that we can learn to control, because let’s face it – babies aren’t always a good idea and sometimes sex isn’t either. By the end of the day both drives lead to the same end result – a life. Only we don’t always realize this when we are hormone high and just following instinct (and have a condom at hand)…on the other hand, it’s pretty damn good sex with two people who are letting their desires lose…

Women are accusing men of being cold and only care for sex and men are accusing women of being needy. Men were made to spread their sperm, women were made to raise babies and to do so, having a man around to hunt for some food is useful as babies take up time. Of course, it’s a very practical thing to have a rational man around and a woman to bring care. It’s harmony, but when it goes tits up it’s…not so harmonious… (“Why were you flirting with the woman at the petrol station?” “Why do you need to sit at home nesting and being all lovey-dovey?”)

Another amusing aspect of this is that men always freak out about women bonding (no not bondage…but they wish…) with them too early, they are too emotional, etc. Women are built like that – for the sake of the baby, we need to love you men. Happens every time. Even with the jerk we dated before you and the Prince we will date after you, should you dump us or we have enough of you. That’s why women need to be careful with whom they shag, because hormones go flying. We are built to get addicted to men (ouch, I hate this shit…yep…I’M INDEPENDENT FOR FUCK’S SAKE…yeah, yeah..). Women on the other hand find men cold at first, because they were built to being addicted to sex. The weird thing is that apparently, once a guy falls for a gal, it can take him three to five years to get over her. YEARS! Women have to act faster as they have a biological clock. We only waste a month or two in mourning. Doesn’t mean we don’t remember and (don’t…because we don’t…lol) compare everyone to that one guy that won our heart for some weirdo (or not so weirdo) reason…and that we wouldn’t shag him did we have a chance…but we don’t get stuck on one guy to the point of not allowing others in. We move on. We have to.

Women for some reason need to explain everything and have everything explained to them. Men only need to decide (in a quiet place, alone, strong and independent) and then they act. Women feel disrespected as they aren’t explained why the actions happened. Men get irritated as women are so complicated, needy and irritatingly close, trying to get them to actually SPEAK to them. Biologically I can’t figure this one out, but when action meets emotion, when hot meets cold…wahowahwooom…explosion…could be good….).

Another thing is, as a woman, I believe we contemplate having sex with everything that moves just as much as a man…but if we are talking biology – maybe a woman thinks beforehand as she will have to raise the kid and needs a dependable father. A man can always leave, but before contraception and abortion existed, a woman was stuck with the baby. Therefore we think relationship before we think sex. We have learnt to control ourselves. Ahem. Sometimes.

A woman needs to be convinced to get involved in the first place. A man needs to be convinced to stay. A woman needs to feel safe. A man needs to know he got The Queen Of The World, or else, why would he not keep spreading his sperm?

I also think this is why babies change relationships. If she realizes she was in it due to her baby drive (which has now been satisfied) and he realizes he agreed without thinking she’s The Queen Of The World, he just got a bit…excited…there’s trouble ahead. On the other hand, if she picked Mr Fabulous and got a baby with Him…and he picked The Queen Of The World…a baby will bring a lot of pleasure to them both and bond them further.

I may be absolutely wrong about all the above, but yin and yang people…when we wear each others’ shoes, when we learn to understand…how much of our biology is actually about each other – that we were created for each other….maybe then relationships will start to get a bit more…sexy… I mean, we are all looking for each other, we just don’t seem to get it….and playing with fire is dangerous unless you know how to make it work….but don’t we all love fire? And men on motorbikes…or what was it again???

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