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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I'm taking a Master's class...into Me. Part 1- Where i grew up

If you follow me on twitter, you will know that I have just been watching a couple of episodes of 'Oprah's Master class' on TLC. And something that Jay Z just said got me thinking about what lessons there are in growing up where I grew up and how it may have shaped my views about myself and others?

Most of my young life that I am cognisant of, was spent in a then leafy surburb in the armpit of Midrand,  Olifantsfontein. In those days there were still more white people living there than there were black families and this was a big deal. I remember the looks we would always get from visiting relatives from Polokwane because we actually had a swimming pool at home. We were called 'Makgoa' because of it and we loved it, because to be called 'white' in our time, was quite the compliment. I cherish the days I spent in those streets, riding around on bicycles with my siblings and group of friends. I had a very girly- pink mountain bike with changing gears and it was the best thing that ever happened to me as a young girl.

On that bike I discovered new streets in the neighbourhood and renamed them 'Sally street' or 'My street', depending on how much I loved the street.There was a particular street, called Smith street. It was one of the quieter streets in the neighbourhood. I can count on one hand how many times I actually saw people outside of their houses in that street. The houses just always looked more beautiful,  more pristine (very Wisteria Lane-like, Desperate Housewives) and I remember there was even a house with an actual picket fence. All white and with neatly clipped green hedges. That became the prototype for my dream house. I imagined a happy family behind the hedges, playing scrabble and drinking hot choclate. It became my little escape. Whenever things got too much at home or I when I just needed to remind myself that I would one day leave Olifantsfontein for something better, I went to Smith street and there I could dream.

If I could have analysed what my obsession with this street was then and could put it into words, I guess I would have realized that what I was after was peace, understated beauty and tranquility. That is why when all the other kids wanted the hustle and bustle of our street, Meintjies street, what interested me was quite the opposite. I liked what they called the 'white streets'. The quiet streets where the occupants had the option to leave the neighbourhood and see the country and the world, instead of just been stuck with the neighbourhood being the most beautiful place that they had ever seen. It is here where my love and need for travel was born. I wanted more for myself. What have the places where you have been taught you about yourself? Have you ever stopped to ask?

Friday, 12 September 2014

I got married... the black way.


I always imagined that my wedding day would be the happiest day of my life. I have been married for six years now, and I can safely attest to the fact that, it was not. There are many reasons for this, and a lot of them had to do with my expectations.

On the day, I got the good weather, the big diamond ring and the handsome groom, so on that account, the wedding day was great. It's the before and after that gave me sleepless nights. I expected near-perfect deliberations between relatives, what we got instead, was a silent tug-of-war between the two families, and mostly from the extended family members, whose agenda most times seemed to be-to sow discord and to make sure that the wedding never happened. I argued many times with my folks about why they were letting themselves get bulldozed by some Malome's and Rakgadi's who they hardly liked themselves and what usually came out of these conversations was the unsatisfactory response of, this was just the black way of doing things. 

My white friends laugh at some of the stories I have told them because they could simply not understand why people who were not paying for the wedding had so much clout. They on the hand, dealt only with nominated wedding planners, immediate families and some of their close friends. That sounds like heaven to me. 

The black way of doing things also involved that very controversial session with the older, experienced gogos and aunties called 'go laya'. The bride sits in a room and listens to the advice of women who have been married for many years. It is a practice that I think may have started off with the greatest of intentions but that has been used over the years to entrench patriarchy and scare women into submission. Nothing traumatized me more than this, and were it not for the fact that we had already gotten legally married the day before, I surely would have bolted. The essence of what I got out of these sessions was that marriage was never designed to make you happy (if you got that it would soon change...but just be happy that you saw it albeit fleetingly). That in fact marriage would just make you strong, test you and keep you on your knees in prayer. What I remember most about that day was that my Mom cried throughout the whole session.)

There is also a lot of secrecy that surrounds some of our cultural customs and traditions which is very frustrating for the modern young woman of the information age- who wants to make sense of things and understand exactly why blacks do the things they do, in the way that they do them. 

Please share your views... 

 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

My Afro is not a political statement!

Dear Men

Here is some unsolicited advice- use it, don't use it; women and their hair is sometimes a prickly subject...but black women and their hair is ALWAYS a prickly subject. Compliment it, or just keep quiet! The end.
(Aaah...whoosah! feels so good to have gotten that out there.)

On the real though, I recently transitioned from chemically treated hair to my natural hair. That simply means that I stopped relaxing my hair using these products which contain Sodium hydroxide. I finally did my own research and made certain decisions based on that. So now all that remains is my coiled, kinky-and-very-often kroes-hair and people's reactions to my hair, have been very interesting. 

From my fellow black sisters, it's either, " Oh, you took your braids out, haven't you had time to do your hair?" To which I then answer, " No actually, this is my hair done." and then they give me that look that only black women understand. It is that look that says- "Shame, ha na chelete." The other half commend me on taking the daunting step of day-to-day care of the Afro, and then usually launch into a step-by-step tutorial of how I should look after it, how to get it soft and what products I should be using. (While on this subject, a close friend has started a hair care line for natural hair, so if you are in my position, holler and I will send you her contacts. ;-)..)

Back to this hairy subject, I find the reactions that I get from white people most interesting. My colleagues have either been completely quiet about the change or they have been overly curious to the point of wanting to 'run their fingers through my hair'. I can only chuckle, because 'run' your fingers through is not quite the terminology I would use. My 'fro is tightly coiled, so it is more a case of 'putting' your fingers into the fro and then 'pulling' them out again- there is no fluidity of motion. They seemed a bit let down by this fact.

Here's the group that really gets to me --> the black men They stop me to tell me how proud of me they are, and how they wish that other black sisters would take a leaf out of my page in embracing my African roots. Despite some heavy eye-rolling from me, they will continue to tell me how sad it is that women hate their blackness just because they like to weave their hair...etc etc. Oh please! My Afro is not a political statement. I have not suddenly become more African because I am wearing my hair differently. I like change and I like having choices. So, sorry to disappoint you, but I will most definitely still plait, braid and weave my hair as I please. The reasons? Simply because I like it and two, because I want to. Let's leave the politics out of it...tuu!

To my Jah sisters out there! Salute!! 
  





Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Baggage dump!

I must confess, I come from a long line of hoarders and it is something that I have raged against for many years- and in some ways I have overcome it- but in many others, not so much. 

When I was younger, I remember living with my paternal Grandmother and walking into my Dads old bedroom for the first time and seeing his 'collection' of newspapers. The dusty, yellowing mess went all the way up to the ceiling. I was about six then- and when we moved from my Grans house in Soweto, his collection made the move with us, from house to house and each time it was of course larger. Later, our garage was also filled with all sorts of clutter that included exam papers from my parents schooling days, a nice comparison tool for when my siblings and I wanted to show our superior academic prowess over them, but oh so useless in the greater scheme of things. The clutter also extended to old toys and broken tools and ancient bits of furniture that my Dad swore he could fix up and re-use. Needless to say this never materialized and so the clutter grew year in, year out.   

I first heard about 'hoarding' as a condition, nicknamed the 'hidden illness' while watching an episode of the Oprah show a couple of years ago. In that episode a woman had so much junk and just stuff nje in her house that she no longer had room left to live comfortably, her children were at their wits end. I remember getting the shock of my life, of course I also had a good laugh...but actually it is no laughing matter.

A study done in Britain by a home insurance company revealed that 39% of their respondents admitted that their garages were so full of useful and useless household items, that they could no longer fit their cars in. All of this made me feel a bit better about my family- but it didn't solve my problem, so I resolved instead to tackle my own hoarding skeletons in the garage.

I went through five boxes in the last week and I shocked myself with the things that I had not been able to let go of over the years. I decided on the spot that all my letters from old friends and exes were keeping me bound in the past so it was time for some de-cluttering. It was a mightily satisfying foray into my past and I was in stitches reading old diary posts, but nothing was more satisfying than throwing it all out and feeling like I had taken a giant leap in overcoming my bad hoarding habits! 



  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Moment of epiphany


I got this thought provoking email from my Father. It really got me thinking. I hope it does the same for you.


It goes like this.... One day all the employees reached the office and saw a big advice written on the door.

Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. You are invited to join the funeral.

In the beginning, they got sad for the death of one of their colleagues, but after a while they got curious to know who was the man who hindered their growth.

Everyone thought: Well at least the man who hindered my progress died!

One by one the thrilled employees got closer to the coffin, and when they looked inside they were speechless. They stood shocked in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul. There was a mirror inside the coffin and everyone who looked inside could see himself.

There was a sign next to the mirror that read: There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth...It is you. You are the only person who can influence your happiness, success and realization.

Your life does not change when your boss friends or company change.....your life changes when you change...you go beyond your limiting beliefs and you realize you are the only one responsible for your life. Its the way you face life that makes the difference!

If an egg is broken from outside force....life ends but it is broken from inside force life begins.

Great things always begin from our inside.



Thursday, 15 May 2014

Who were you yesterday?
Think about that for a minute...hey that was not a minute.
Okay, now who are you today?
Hopefully,  there is one thing you did today that you didn't manage to do the day before.

I think if I keep this up for at least a week, eventually it will be a month, and then another month and so on.

And then I won't get to the end of the year and realise that I didn't manage to do anything that I planned to do at the beginning of the year. Sounds simple enough...here goes!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A note to my daughter on self worth

I love nothing more than to watch you sleep. It is in these moments where I pray for your future, a future I pray to share with you...God willing.  You are too young to read any of this now, but I know how quickly time passes. So while I still remember to tell you, please read this note from your Mom.

My dearest Tumi

When you were born, I used to panic about what I could possibly teach you about self worth, self confidence and being assertive, when I struggled with all of this myself.  I thought if I could just be a little more perfect, a little more assured- then I would be ready to be your Mother...but I've finally accepted that it isn't my job to be a perfect Mom. I can only promise to be present, loving and honest.

People think that just because I have been on TV since I was 14, it automatically means I have oodles of confidence or that I am used to people complimenting me and telling me how much they love me. Quite to the contrary actually; I grew up around people who thought it would be better for my character if they pointed out my faults and failings, rather than emphasise my achievements because they believed that this would prevent me from becoming big headed.

As a result of this,  I trained myself to shrink back and blend in. I deliberately dressed in a way that would ensure that I never stood out, I never raised my voice or my hand in class. I feared my own potential and I even pretended  that I didn't have an opinion about most things.

I  promise to do my best to teach you first to love yourself; second to not pursue perfection, it is a fallacy and third to know and truly believe that nobody can define your life, you define that for yourself.

You are destined for greatness.

Love Mama.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

lights, camera...Red carpet!

Behind the beautiful veneer of the Colgate smiles , picture perfect makeup and gleaming gowns is; the scary, scary behind-the-scenes business of getting red carpet ready.

You may or may not know that the past weekend was SAFTA's weekend.  It's supposed to be the biggest night in entertainment, much like the Oscars, because this is where we celebrate the best of the best on Mzansi's big and small screens...and boy do people make sure they look their absolute best.

Designers and stylists (who by the way, do not come cheap for those of us who actually have to pay them for their services), they have their pick of the litter and it's only a select few starlets who have designers falling over themselves to dress them for these occasions. For the rest it means spending your hard earned cents on a dress that will be so photographed- you'll never dare wear it again, not even to your friends brother's Bar mitzvah!

And then there's the cash dropped on makeup, hair, jewels and the shoes. This of course,  is nothing compared to the weeks of sleepless nights worrying about the moment when you'll actually step onto the red carpet; Are they going to like what I'm wearing? What will Shwashwi say about me? Or, what happens if someone has worn this hired dress before?

...and all of this happens unbeknownst to anyone. As one graciously smiles and poses for journalists and bloggers calling out your name...

Lol, it's a tough game this... and some just fare better than others at it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

'Happy' to have met you

Every morning when I drive to work, I drive along the traffic-thick Jim Fouche to get onto Beyers Naude just before I join the highway. If anyone is familiar with this route in the mornings, you may have noticed a particularly chirpy young man selling newspapers.  I first noticed him late last year, so he hasn't been there for so long.

Daily and without fail, you will see him waving at every passing car, with such honesty and earnestness, that it will just warm your heart- and this is whether you happen to buy a newspaper from him or not. I must confess my mornings don't feel complete until he's flashed me one of his megawatt smiles.

I don't know if I am just becoming particularly soft the older I get, or if I am just simply becoming more and more aware of the random acts of kindness from people around me, because it's a welcome change from all the violence, pain and despondency we see all around us.

So this morning I decided that instead of just giving him some coins, I'd speak to him to find out more about him. His name is Happy (a special name to me because that's also my Mother's name) and he comes all the way from Daveyton every morning to be on Jim Fouche before 05h30. I was shocked to hear this, so I asked him what time he had to wake up to be at 'work' on time? His answer brought a lump to my throat. He said, "Eish, sister if I tell you it will ruin your day. So let me rather not say. "

Not a lot is written about the other Happy's out there, I tried to Google more about their working conditions, how much they get from each newspaper they sell etc...but they do account for approximately 15% of all informal non-agricultural employment nationwide, so do help them out when you happen to pass one by.

If you are ever in my hood and you happen to drive past my boy, please say hi to him. I think he also gets joy from spreading his!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

That thief of time...procrastination

"Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun,  until you get the bill"- C. Parker

R. Kelly once sang that he wished he could turn back the hands of time, and at the time we all sang along to it because it spoke to something within us. (Well, it did for me...even though I'm pretty sure I sang it off-key every time. Hahaha)

For so long, almost every year I have put ; 'be more proactive' or 'stop procrastinating' on my list of resolutions and yet at the end of every year, there were still things that I had started but did not see to fruition. I plan for that to be different from now on, and I've been doing it with small but significant things, this is also teaching me to start celebrating small breakthroughs.

Like I finally started those drumming lessons I've been threatening to do, and even though I'm a long way from playing a full melody that sounds like a song, I'm enjoying channeling that kid in me, who was never afraid of learning something new. (I bought ear-muffs for my drumming teacher so no need to worry for his ear-drums.)

I read a cute story that illustrates very simply the dangers of procrastination.
"When the ship, Stephen Whitney struck on an Irish cliff and clung there for a few moments, all the passengers who leaped instantly onto the rock were saved. Those who lingered were swept off by the returning waves and we're engulfed forever."

I'll always keep this in mind , because all I keep thinking of is how much I would have hated seeing people jumping to safety, while I waited to be saved by someone else. I believe that the more we leave things to chance, the less chance there is for us.

"Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible. "-George Lorimer

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Our wedding...Their wedding!

There are a few things in this world that are funnier than the planning of  'the African wedding'. I don't know what it is about our weddings that make our parents and extended families lose their minds.

I was the first (of my generation) in our family to get married, and I think I still break out into a sweat just remembering how I did not recognise my parents at all during that process. My  usually level-headed Mom was like a wedding planner on steroids, she completely and utterly took over in planning and even sometimes in the decision making, leaving no room for hubby and I to have our say. Both of our Dads on the other hand, may as well have shouted from the rooftops that all were invited.

As a result of the parental-excitement what started out as a small wedding (my plan), soon became like a community imbizo (their plan, their wedding).  Hahahaha!

I am thinking about all of this now because we are in the throes of planning my little brothers wedding now, and oh boy! is it like deja-vu. Not only has the parent-hood already convinced him to change the wedding date, but they have also seen fit to weigh in on matters such as the Makoti's attire.

I walked this road almost 6 years ago, so I am chuckling at every step. My brother has no idea what is about to hit him...it is their wedding, best he make peace with it now...it is only the beginning!