Guest Post – Cape Town’s burning


Fire is devastating: we had a fire in the mountains above our village last spring. It burned for what seemed like a month and because, to start with, it was in inaccessible parts of the mountain, it could not be effectively fought. It spread and threatened prime agricultural land and vineyards.

So it was with the Cape Town fire which started on the 1st of March 2015.

Cape Town surrounds the iconic Table Mountain – a national park and a wilderness area – something residents often forget and take for granted. I know. I lived there for nearly twenty years.

Cape Town

Cape Town its iconic Table Mountain chain and the national park along the Peninsula

So when the mountain burns, as it must, effectively in the centre of a city, the events that unfold are beyond imagination.

MountainOnFire2015

Table Mountain burns

Although the mountain must burn – the Western Cape of South Africa is part of the most diverse floristic kingdom in the world, arson and human negligence must be ruled out,.  And, while the fire was burning over 5,000 hectares of mountain, with homes and lives being threatened, people criticised the work of the various fire services, many of whom are volunteers, the authorities and the overwhelming outpouring of support.

A crisis teaches one about humanity and community. The good and the bad. So it is, I have learned, in the virtual community in which bloggers “live”. Fiona’s Favourites was started on a whim, and I chose a platform. Little did I know that I had not merely chosen a platform; I discovered a new world and that the blogosphere is a microcosm of any community with all the power dynamics and politics that characterise real life.

The same world in a different dimension

My journey into this new world was precipitated by a very simple motivation: friends asked for recipes after I had posted, on the social media, pictures of dishes that I had cooked. On the back of this, and years of “made-up” dishes that I often couldn’t replicate, with the Husband unsuccessfully suggesting that I write them down, Fiona’s Favourites was born. If I am to be completely honest, the conception of Fiona’s Favourites also coincided with a time of very little work and few prospects. Not a good place to be if one has been self-employed for more than twenty years and if one’s area of expertise is quite specialised. So, what could I do to begin developing a body of writing that was quite the antithesis of my professional life? Trawling the internet and freelance websites all seemed to suggest that a blog might be one way. I might, if I were to find the right recipe, even make some money out of it (that, is still a pipe dream and not really a driving force). More importantly, I was tired of the heavy, intense, argumentative type of writing that is my mostly “professional” voice. Not to mention having to deal with difficult clients.

I have always enjoyed the writing process. Writing, for me, has been both healing and cathartic at different times of my life. Not that any of that writing has been shared – with anyone – it was not written with a reader in mind. So, the prospect of personal writing, was one thing, but how to walk the fine line between personal and private was quite a challenge. The Husband is intensely private and cyberspace, the great unknown, is potentially full of dragons and many-headed monsters. He is also fiercely protective of what he sees as my intellectual property: “You can’t just put your recipes on social media and the Internet – they’re yours!”

My own “website” seemed to be a potential compromise.

My first posts were tentative and quite sterile. Recipes are two-a-penny on the World Wide Web; just typing up a recipe is, in a word, boring. This, and actually knowing, almost all my life, even if they are now in all parts of the world, most of the people I was doing this for, resulted in my, almost sub-consciously writing “around” the food.

Then I ran into a friend in the village.

“I really enjoy your blog,” she told me, “I love the stories!”

I was blown away. I didn’t even know that she had been reading it! Just two weeks ago, a visitor came up to me at the market: “You’re Fiona?”

“Yes?”

“I read your blog. It reminds me of McGregor, when I’m back home in cold England!”

SAM_0826

At the McGregor Christmas Market

Going a step beyond

Knowing that people eat with their eyes, photographs of the food I cooked were important. Pictures also tell stories and in text, they play an important role in breaking up dense material. I have also long “fiddled” with taking pictures and when we moved to McGregor, I began looking at things around me with new eyes. I wanted to capture and share what I saw. So, it was logical that the subject matter began to go beyond food and embraced some of my other favourite things.

Again, I was nervous. Would “my” readers like the change?  Well, again, I learned something – people began commenting and the stats told me what I needed to know – something’s working, so carry on doing it!

Lessons learned

The blogosphere is a virtual village, filled with people and personalities, rule makers, rule breakers, nice people and nasty people – just like in any community. And they scrap and bicker, live and laugh together (or not), just the same. They live in my computer, but come from all over the world to partake of the fare I share. Most of us have blogs; not all of us enjoy writing (let alone write well); we’re all motivated by different things and we certainly don’t always agree. And that’s not just ok, that’s good.

At the core, I’ve had to learn that my blog is all about my favourite things and that’s what my readers seem to enjoy. From this learning, and with advice from bloggers like OM, I have created a set of rules for myself:

Fiona’s blogging rules

I’m a part time blogger. I do this because I enjoy it – when I no longer enjoy the process, or it becomes a burden, I’ll stop.

  • I only claim photographs as my own if they are.
  • If I’m not sure of my facts, I’ll check them and acknowledge the source. If I discover that something I thought was true, is not, I’ll correct it.
  • The stats interest me; they don’t drive me. I’m delighted with every new follower and every comment is appreciated and acknowledged. I love that I have readers from all over the world!
  • I follow blogs that interest me, make me think, laugh, or both! I don’t get irritated if I don’t agree with the blogger’s view, or if a topic doesn’t interest me: I just don’t read that post. No offence intended and I’m sure, none taken. It’s not realistic to read every post from everyone one follows.
  • I comment if I want to, and I’ll share my thoughts. I don’t get mean – there’s no need. Life’s too short for all that negative energy.
  • I don’t blog about blogging – on Fiona’s Favourites – anymore. My readers don’t care if that they’re reading my 75th post or the 175th. Nor do they really care how many likes or views I’ve had. Why would they? I reserve that for opportunities like this, and only fourteen months into it, am thrilled with my 200 “likes” and just over 4,200 views from 80-odd countries.

I couldn’t even begin to pretend to be an authority on blogging.

Life lessons and the blogosphere

I was quite shocked to learn about trolls. Quite naïve of me, I suppose. Still, I don’t get it that people have nothing better to do than to stalk others and to be mean for the sake of being mean. That said, the blogosphere “real” people do look after their own, as we saw when OM was forced to take a sabbatical. People power prevailed and a phoenix is rising from those ashes.

FireAftermath2015

And so it was in Cape Town. Hilka, who took these photographs, and whose home and family were threatened with destruction in the early hours of the morning of 2 March.  She posted this on Facebook:

At the height of the terror on Sunday night, I was wondering whether it was worth living here, considering that this has been the 2nd major mountain fire we have been lucky enough to have survived in the 18 years we have lived in Noordhoek. Any brief doubts I may have had have been wiped away by the amazing community spirit and response to the crisis. People have really pulled together and supported each other and the fire fighting efforts! I love this place! Wouldn’t live anywhere else!

So it already is for the moonscape the fire left on the mountain.  Green shoots are already emerging and in a couple of seasons the beautiful flowers will return in all their glory.

Proteas

Follow Hilka on Twitter @HBirns
The photographs are courtesy of Boesmanskloof Mountain accommodation in McGregor
Share in my favourite things, if that rocks your socks

Guest Post – Can Ignoring How You Feel Help You Achieve Your Long Term Goals?


You may have noticed a lack of posts lately, maybe even a bit of a disconnection with me, its author.

A few weeks ago, I posted a vlog about how to let go of anger, in which I talked about the mountain of stress that had been coming my way. I also spoke about how my emotions and coping mechanisms seem to shut down in order to manage the overwhelming pressure I put myself under. It is like my mind is saying, “ENOUGH, I need a break!”

You see, on top of building this site in order to start living my soul purpose (which as all you bloggers know, is a lot more work than just posting an article every now and then), I’ve also been planning a wedding, started a life-coaching course, am organising a 3 months travelling excursion as part of our honeymoon, and am writing a book (well, I’ve kind of started 3…). We’re also moving out of our house a week before we get married and I’m trying to do all the housework because I feel so guilty over not earning any money.

And I have given myself a timeframe of 4 months.

Continue reading

Guest Post ~Who Loves The Devil?


‘This heart is somewhat jagged, overgrown
With dense debris,
I lost my way so carelessly
Amidst the rampant weeds.
Seldom did I realise
If I had stopped to look, I would have seen quite quickly –
That my soul was off the hook.

This jagged heart-shaped garden is a
Complex little space,
It needs quite much attention to
Reveal its perfect place.
It truly needs a vast amount,
Of rain and loving care, but apathetic actions,
Bring it to despair.

Then I need to find a quiet place, to
Sit and think, and
In this un-kept garden would be
Just such a niche.
Oh but with it overgrown now,
I can only hide, amongst the thorns and brambles
Whose existence I abide.

I weep at how the state of it, has left
Me a recluse.
What should be a vast array of
Peace and tranquil splendour –
Is wilderness, that now presents
A mountain to endeavour .

I really should have, taken time, to keep
it blossoming bright,
I really should have pulled the roots,
Of all those weeds I cut.
Kept the water flowing, on my
Green and lushes pasture, I really should have,
Taken time, to daily keep it checked.

Clipped and raked and nurtured, but it seemed not
As important
As all that held me back – all that
Kept me thwarted. Amiss
I do now find myself, as I
Seek serenity; I sold it out – My garden – is
not what it ought to be.’ ~ Idiot Writer ~

‘All things that are lovely – think upon these things’ ~ somewhere in the Bible.

How do we think on all things lovely when the world is filled with such sorrow?

How do we close our eyes and not think about the bad things – the things that we see around us happening that should not be?

All the trials and tribulations that our fellow kind sit under, during their lifetimes – should we not think upon such things?

For if we do not – then we have not love –

So we can think on the loveliness of all things and the purity of thought and ‘holy righteousness’ and all the positivity that we can muster, if we have not the capacity to look and see and FEEL the pain – and all that is NOT lovely… how are we to understand and so love without judgement; without prerequisites – without hypocrisy?
I want to know how to do that… whilst not letting all the things other people carry –  crawl under my skin and weigh down my spirit and energy.

I can sometimes. Most often. Other times, walking into darkness and sorrow… brings a heaviness upon my heart that renders me incompetent to move in any given direction.

I need my neutral space for a while … too many hearts I want to hold.

Maybe people who turn to people and pronounce, ‘You don’t know God! You need God in your life….yadda yadda yadda…’ should look a little damn closer to who God is and how He speaks to the hearts of His children where no-one can see within. No-one can understand the mysteries between a man’s heart and God…. could we give people the benefit of the doubt?

I read a sentence a while ago (cannot remember where) - ‘Who prays for the devil?': Perhaps it was not to be literally translated – yet – It has been something on my mind a lot lately – If God is love – He loves the devil just as much as He loves us. Why should we give a shit about the devil with ‘all the crap he has caused’?

Maybe it is not HIM? Maybe it is just us. Maybe we should also tell the devil (along with not damning people to rot in hell with him) that God loves him, instead of scolding him at every turn? He was, according to certain doctrine, Gods favourite Heavenly host. Maybe we/they should be saying, ‘Yo Devil! Come here a minute… you know this dude God loves you right? We, your fallen brothers and sisters, want you to stop all this fighting and bullshit… you know – let’s chill dude…all if FORGIVEN.’

Maybe if we all did that we would put an end the head butting in the world once and for all – they say ‘it IS finished’ so are WE the ones dragging it all out with our idiotic ideologies?

MAYBE just maybe that is Gods final test of our capacity to love as He does ~ to love the one we blame all our shit choices on…

So that’s my thought for this day…

Love and forgive ‘the devil’ – or kick his head in?

What do you think this all loving God would want us to do?

~IW~

 

Guest Post – Do You Do What You Love?


What things do you do, because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to?

There is a difference. There are enough ‘HAVE to’s’ in life.

DO it because you love it – nothing more – nothing less.

This is how.

You can follow the progress of this 12 year old young man, BoB, doing what he loves – bringing rhythm to his life and ours, by following him at BoxOfBananas – WordPress, and subscribe to his YouTube Channel 

~IW~

Guest Post – An open letter to the lady who looked at me with pity and told me I was outnumbered


Dear Pottery Lady,

We were waiting in your parking lot for you to arrive, a few minutes late I might add. My children and I were hoping to enjoy some quality time together painting in your lovely store and just having fun. I had a hellish week at work and was very much needing some down time with my kids. We were also celebrating the end of my 6 y/0 first year of school. What should have been a fun and endearing time with my kids ended in more stress than you can imagine.  My little man decided that he would not cooperate and after I handprinted his hand to a way too expensive plate that I was to paint, he decided that sitting still was not an option. He ran around your store, picking up items, grabbing onto me as I was trying to paint my masterpiece. I was getting up to hand different colors to 4yo and 6yo, and instead of offering to help you sat there watching up while quietly painting your own master piece. we were the only ones in the store. Meaning we were your only customer. It appeared as if you weren’t bothered by it. Needless to say, I was completely over the outing as soon as it began. after cleaning up my kids, and finishing very hurriedly the plate that I was excited to paint pre outing, I went to pay for all of our pieces. Way too much money for the lack of fun that I had. My kids went to the bathroom, yep all three and as I payed you half of my bank account you gave me a look of pity and said ” It seems you are a bit outnumbered”, and gave me my card back! I don’t know your current situation but one thing was for sure. You haven’t had small kids in a long time! And guess what, That was the wrong thing to say!

I politely smiled and said Today it would seem so! But what I wanted to say was Shut the hell up!  You must not know what it is like with kids. Instead of looking at me with disapproval for not being able to contain a one year old, you should have come over and said what can I do to help. Kids are like little grenades and are just like ticking time bombs.  They behave until they explode sometimes and most outings rarely turn out how a mother plans in her mind. Sure if my husband was there then it would have been more manageable. But you know what? Not everyone has a husband who his helpful, so would you have said that to a single mother who was trying to make memories with her kids. I actually like spending time and taking my kids places so instead of making a remark showing clear disapproval of my parenting, or lack of control over a toddler boy, maybe you should be thanking me for coming in and spending my hard-earned money in your store. Moms everywhere have it hard enough just surviving the day without disapproving glances from others, who clearly have no idea what it is like!

The wold would be a much better place if instead of judging each other we helped each other. I haven’t met a perfect mom yet, and even those that I would consider pretty close to perfect would be the first to tell you, that kids just simply have their moments. I thought a store that encouraged the artistry side of children would have understood that.  Thank you for making me feel inadequate at an already stressful moment. I will have to pick up my pottery in  a week, when you glaze it, and hope that I do not run into you. You see, I didn’t tell you how I felt because my children were there  with me. I teach them to be truthful, and teach them self-respect, and to always speak there mind, however. I would not have been respectful in that moment so I kept my mouth shut! The next time, I may or may not have my children with me, and just might give you a piece of my mind. Not because I will still be harboring feelings of resentment, because that is something I simply do not do. but because No one should feel the way you made me feel, and I would not want anyone hurt in that way. We are all just moms doing the best that we can!

Not so kind regards,

April ( the obviously outnumbered mom of three)

http://diapersandtutus.wordpress.com/

 

Guest Post – Physical Discipline is Abusive


Striking another being is abuse unless it is in self-defense. It is a particularly heinous offense when one strikes a defenseless child. Many will say a “pop” on the butt or slapping the hand is fine, it’s a warning. Plenty of adults think it’s fine to bite back (literally) when a child bites them, or pull a child’s hair to teach that it hurts. They do not see this as abuse. They do not understand that children, especially very young ones, do not have the reasoning capability to understand anything other than mommy/daddy hurt me, and now my world has diminished trust and faith in authority.

Pro-spankers (pro-abusers, if you will) say that the reason our country is “going to hell” and criminals are on the rise is because parents don’t spank anymore. If you do your research you will learn that it is the inner city youth, those who are most frequently spanked or punished with physically punitive measures, is from where most of crime emerges. This fact is in total opposition to the proposed idea that spanking more frequently would remove this growing concern.

A common retort to hearing that spanking/physical punishment is abusive behavior (“milder” abuse, of course, but abuse none-the-less) is typically dismissive and derisive. “I was spanked growing up, and I am fine. I learned to respect my elders.” The first sign toward knowing you are not “fine” is the fact that you have been indoctrinated to believe that striking a young child for any reason is an okay thing to do. There are a multitude of ways to discipline (which means “teach,” not “punish”) a child without striking them in some way and causing lifelong damage to a person’s psyche.

We have laws in this country to protect animals from abuse by their owners, but not children. We have laws to protect against spousal abuse, but not children. If you can press charges against a spouse for hitting you, doesn’t it make sense that this should be a crime against children? They are helpless, an adult at least has the possibility of self-defense. If your partner or boss struck you every time you did something they didn’t like, or as a way to correct your behavior, that would not be okay, so how it is okay to use this as a teaching tool for children?

If you want your child to grow up emotionally healthy, one of the biggest ways you can do that is respect that young children are people with sovereign rights over their body. There are no exceptions to this, no reason for mishandling. This doesn’t mean you don’t get to correct their behavior in a physical way, just not in a physically punitive way. If you don’t want your child running into traffic, insist they hold your hand every time they try for a specific amount of time. They’ll catch on when they realize that their freedom means following your rule to stay out of the street.

If you don’t want them touching a hot stove, pull their hand away and say “ouch.” Chances are good your kid has gotten hurt and knows what ouch means if they’re big enough to reach a stove top. Redirect, use time outs, use housework—DO NOT STRIKE a child. Not even a “pop” on the butt or a “tap” on the cheek. You cannot expect your child to refrain from hitting others if you are hitting them to resolve an issue.

As the adult, you are in charge of what goes on, but being in charge does not mean you get to use your size as a weapon against the child/ren in your care. You (presumably) have reasoning skills that your little one does not. Use them. Get creative. You shouldn’t teach through fear, you should teach through respect, especially if that is what you are hoping for in return.

I write on http://autismsuglyface.wordpress.com/