Not So Talkative Fish…

One of my favourite lines from a movie is when Ella in Ella Enchanted confronts the thugs and says, “Look, I think it’s only fair to warn you that I’m practiced in the art of Origami!” To which the thug replies, “Paper folding?” I have no idea why but it cracks me up every time.

I figured this one would be a breeze. I mean, really? How hard could paper folding possibly be? I can fold boxes and those whatchoomacallit doodads that you flick back and forth, check the photo to see what I mean…

I assumed that, naturally, this made me an Origami Ninja and I could fold anything… And once again I was surprised. Friday afternoon stretched out before me… An hour of invigilating, what fun…

So after starting my kids on their test I started folding paper on my trips between the desks… Earlier in the day my favourite design teacher had kitted me out with two Origami books, coloured paper, a ruler and even some scrap paper to practice with (like this paperfolding ninja would need to practice).

I scanned through one of the books (the prettier looking one… confession: I unashamedly judge books by their covers) and decided on The Talking Fish as my first attempt… A few quick folds later I realised that my “talking” fish was more of a sit-in-the-corner-and-rock-silently kind of fish… Fail.

 

My ego took a bit of a knock with that so I decided to set my sights lower and make something less challenging… A party hat! How could I possibly get that wrong? Obviously I underestimated my lack of Origami skills; I kept circling the classroom trying to figure out why my party hat was not coming to the party…

Finally I realised I had started with a square when I should have used an A4 sheet of paper… Still working with scrap paper I finally had my first taste of success! One complete party hat. I then spent the next few minutes putting stars on it and avoiding starting a more challenging project.

On what felt like my 100th time pacing about the room, I settled on making The Angel Fish… Starting with the scrap paper I successfully folded my first angel fish. The sweet taste of success! Victorious I realised I can now fold anything at all. That knowledge was enough for me, I didn’t feel the need to prove myself. So instead, I folded more Angel Fish, lots more, in different colours. And then, because I’m cool like that, I cut out water bubbles from blue paper and did a photoshoot with my amazing school of angel fishies (pun totally intended!).

And on my last trip around the classroom, cutting out bubbles, the time ran out. Their test and my challenge of Origami were over!

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Snap Happy…

I must confess that putting this one on The List was an issue of pride for me… You see, I love taking photographs and consider myself to be pretty decent at it. So when I added “Take 10 photos that I love” to The List it was with the hidden motive of proudly displayed what I believe to be the photos that best show my talents… But God dealt with me (as God does) and I realised the truth is that the photos that I love are not usually the classically good shots. They tend to be somewhat out of focus and grainy… You see, for me, loving a photo is more about the memory that pic brings to mind and that’s what draws the emotional response from me, not the creative composition or perfect lighting…

It was a tough choice picking my ten favourites… Especially when I came across some “special” ones… Like when LJ and JD called us from their hotel room next door and we ran in to find them strewn across the floor, the phone off the hook and beeping next to them… Typical boys!

Or the one from after our “eventful” camping trip where a blue wall was the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photo-shoot

But without further ado, I give my top ten photos that I’ve taken and love, they are in no particular order…

#1 Thirty-five Green Balloons

Our school celebrated its 35th birthday recently and part of the festivities included releasing 35 green balloons into the sky… This was taken with my trusty old Nokia 5130…

#2 The Russian

This friend met Jesus after moving to South Africa and her response coming out of the waters of Baptism was awesome, arms raised in victory as she publicly buried her old self…

 #3 Green Ice Cream

We recently celebrated the Mother’s 51st birthday, complete with Spur’s singing and sparklers. I love this pic cause the Mother never enjoys having pictures taken of her but in that moment she didn’t know and looks like she’s having a blast!

#4 Love at Sea

My Brother met and married an amazing woman… Their special day was a truly special day and this pic is my favourite, complete with a helicopter in the background!

#5 Blue Lagoon

This was taken in Langebaan and was the first pic I took with my first digital camera, a complete fluke, no editing, no filters, no effects… It just happened!

#6 Silver Fox

This handsome guy is my Oupa. What a legend the man was! This pic shows him how he was happiest, next to my Ouma and enjoying the sunshine!

#7 Sharing a Cuppa

Sunshine, sisters and tea… Winning combo! To steal a turn of phrase from a friend, “Happy Heart Times”

#8 Sister Time

Sister time is an important part of our lives and we always end up having loads of giggles together

#9 Don’t Worry, Be Happy

We set out for a family picnic and spent the morning under, instead of on top of our blankets, shivering in the mist and icy cold… But diehard picnickers that we are, we wouldn’t let a silly thing like bad weather stop us from having a ball!

#10 The Love Shot

I said they’re in no particular order and they’re not but this one is my all-time favourite. Taken while driving along the N7 Highway on the way home, this was the day we met our Sunshine. God knit our family together before the foundations of the earth were laid but this was the day that He let us in on His plan… This beautiful girl is a delight and is our blessing from above.

A picture speaks a thousand words apparently… I agree!

Bubblegum-Plastic…

Work smart, not hard is the motto in my classroom… Perhaps not the best motto for a teacher hoping to inspire learners to persevere and do things the right way but it’s my motto nonetheless… So when it came down to having only 18 days to go till The List must be complete I decided it’s time to start working smart and not hard…

Watching an entire season of a series in one day… Challenge accepted! Due to my pitiful state after the “walk” up Lion’s Head I was restricted to my bed and had only the use of my mind and my hands… Solution, shrink The List a little more by watching a series.

I checked the hard drive to see what we have. I must explain though that when plans involve watching movies, my response is generally, “Is Hugh Grant in it? Colin Firth? Sandra Bullock? Richard Gere? Julia Roberts?” By this you may have guessed that I find my viewing pleasure in the bubblegum-plastic-romantic-comedy genre, and you’d be right!

Life is dramatic enough for me to avoid drama movies and as I explained to my best friend’s husband, if I wanted to see political scandal, I’d watch the evening news… So it’s safe to say that I’m not a particularly discerning movie connoisseur. I walked out during Contagion as I heard the buzz saw going through Gwyneth Paltrow’s skull as they performed an autopsy on her yet I also went to watch Titanic in 3D, all three hours of it… A movie I’ve seen many times and loved it.

When scrolling through our series selection I found that everything I would like to watch I’ve already seen… so no Glee, New Girl or the like for me… This severely limited my choices… I had a new season of How I Met Your Mother but by the end of season four Ted’s whining just got to be too much for me. I’ve always enjoyed Greek Mythology so I figured Spartacus filled with Roman history would be a great choice. I hit play on episode one and in seven seconds saw more fake blood spurting across the screen than I can handle. That was the end of that!

So back to scrolling, a name caught my eye and I remembered a tip from an Americano friend… Sherlock. Only three episodes per season. Snap! That sounds like working smart, not hard to me! Ok, so each episode is about an hour and twenty minutes long but with only three episodes, I could get that done before lunch time!

It was ok. My apologies to all the fans out there but when it comes to the genre of crime type shows (my sister loves them so I generally end up watching some with her) it wasn’t anything special. The lead actor looks like a cross between Josh Groban and the guy from Smallville. And dresses like someone’s grandfather.

He’s not convincing as a genius problem solver… I much preferred Cal Lightman’s character in Lie To Me and found that series to be way more clever than Sherlock. Sherlock’s insufferable arrogance makes Dr House seem like a preschool teacher.

Sherlock has a ridiculous dependence on nicotine patches to help him think and says things like, “This is a three patch problem.” In episode one, he correctly diagnoses and cures John Watson’s psychosomatic limp. Not a particularly realistic show. Plus every scenic shot of London looks like it was filmed through a dirty lens with smudges all over it. I kept checking to make sure that the smudges weren’t on my glasses.

I sat through almost four and a half hours of crime drama and not once did I hear the legendary, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Disappointing stuff. The one funny thing was that in the scary bits I didn’t jump at all like I usually do, only because my body was physically unable to jump.

One thing I will say for it is that the cliff hanger at the end of season one had me quickly find the first episode of season two (of which I watched a mere 2 minutes) just to see how things played out. I have no desire whatsoever to watch the rest of the show.

I think I’ll stick to my bubblegum-plastic-romantic-comedies in future…

Anyone keen to grab a movie sometime? It’s guaranteed to have Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Colin Firth, Sandra Bullock or Richard Gere in it!

She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain…

It’s not a walk. Not by a long shot. It’s a scramble. It’s a hike. It’s a climb. It’s a stretch. It’s NOT a walk.

I enlisted the support of an incredible guide, the uber fab Baby J and then started recruiting fellow travellers via WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook and Twitter. Our group of adventurers met at 8am on a sunny Sunday morning in the Mother City.

Set to conquer a mountain, it was only as we stood in the parking lot looking up at Lion’s Head that I thought I may have bitten off more than I can chew… A lot more… Twenty minutes and a prayer session later we started off on a journey neither I nor my body will forget in a hurry.

It took less than 7 minutes for me to start sounding like an obscene phonecall, heavy breathing, no talking. Anyone who tried to start a conversation with me on the way up was met with hand gestures that were hopefully interpreted as “I cannot reply now as I am using all my mental ability to focus on getting air into my lungs”

I hope I lasted at least 20 minutes before I stopped us for our first breather but I’m not convinced. When I realised that most of the photos I would take that day would be of the rear view of the group, I appointed Baby J the official photographer (she was only too happy to oblige with her fancy schmancy new camera phone). I must admit though that at one point when everyone was admiring the view I ran a few metres ahead so that in at least one picture it would look like I was leading the pack!

 

The gravel road soon gave way to rocky steps which then gave way to rocks. Each time the path started getting uncomfortably close to the edge, the rocks got scarily rockier or I brought the group to a halt for yet another breather, I was overtaken by someone either under 7 or over 70 years of age who was doing a much better job than me.

But the group kept encouraging me to press on and push through. There came a choice of two different paths to take… The sign said, Left – recommended route, Right – use at your own risk. Comforting when the crew you’re climbing with takes the risky one. This was no Robert Frost type choice. The physio could be heard saying, “If I get a choice, I’ll take short and adventurous over long and safe any day” or something to that effect. Uh oh. It was when I grabbed the first chain that a friend urged me not to let go but there was a lizard to my left… I don’t handle creepy crawlies very well.

It was also right about this time that my infrequent fear of heights started kicking in. I really didn’t prepare myself at all for this adventure. I did however make it to the top of the chains section without hanging on, paralysed in fear, sucking my thumb and calling for my mommy. No small feat in my opinion.

From there to the top I was pretty much on all fours most of the way, spurred on by shouts of “100 more metres,” and “just a little bit further, Sarah…” It didn’t feel like a little bit further…

Lungs bursting, heart pounding, I was given three seconds to compose myself before officially summiting Lion’s Head.

One small victory cry later, I lay on the ground to catch my breath before being able to appreciate the view… But when I could breathe again… Wow! What a view it was! Spectacular views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles and the Ocean in all directions… Incredible.

Once all had recovered it was an impromptu photo session, some chatting and a bit of parkour from the crazier part of the gang. And a slightly off key “happy birthday” to me!

Eventually though we had to start on our way down… I was pleased to find that this came a lot easier than the uphill had for me! I can tell because I managed to keep up a loud and steady stream of conversation all the way down! Telling anyone who would listen that it was my first and last time up this mountain and asking why anyone would call it a walk.

I overhead the triathlete (hike/swim/eat breakfast – sounds legit?) state that, “Brave is what stupid people call stupid people.” I concur. I also swear I heard someone say, “You know what? You could show me a photo of this same view and I would feel the same as I feel seeing it for myself…” Oh no, she didn’t! Yes, she did… Confession? She is me. But in my defence, beautiful photographs draw an emotional response from me…

We got to watch a paraglider launch from the side of the mountain on our way down and after an incident free journey, one unlucky traveller tripped on the last step and ended up with a minor cut on his hand and scrape on his back. Finishing with a flourish.

All this effort deserved a reward… A trip to Seattle Coffee Shop was a well-earned treat for all!

So I made it up and back down a mountain, surrounded by incredible friends, great conversation and many laughs. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and encouraging all the strangers on the path were… As we walked past each other we were greeted and cheered with urgings of, “You can do it!” and “You’re almost there!”

I was not so pleasantly surprised by how much more difficult it was than I had imagined it’d be! It was an even less pleasant surprise taking my tired muscles to bed last night only to wake up with aching, painful and protesting limbs. I got up early just to get dressed for work and when I tried to put shoes on realised that I wasn’t going anywhere today. And so I have not gone anywhere today. As far as possible, I have moved only my hands and fingers as they are the only part of me that understands the messages my brain is sending to my body.

Both my boss and my uber fab guide thought this was funny… painfully so!

I went to get a glass of water earlier and couldn’t work out why the lounge was tilted at such an awkward angle… Am I living on a ship? And then I realised it was only because my body had developed its own system of walking, not unlike a combination between a crab, giraffe and a tranquilised rhino just before it falls over… Attractive.

With the beating my body’s taken from an easy “walk” up Lion’s Head, it has me wondering… Am I turning 30 or 60?

A big high five to all the crazies who came along to help me scratch this off The List! Here’s to more adventures!

No Pain, No Gain…

It’s always been a no-brainer for me… as soon as you can, you do. Donate blood that is. We aren’t all called to be doctors, nurses, paramedics or superheroes (yes I do consider them to be in the same category!) but provided you’re over 16 years old, weigh more than 50kgs (no problems here) and are in relatively good health you have the opportunity to share a precious resource that is used to save lives.

I firmly believe that only Jesus saves, but sometimes He uses blood transfusions in the process. Like the time He saved my mother’s life almost 30 years ago when internal bleeding nearly took her from us, and when He rescued my brother in the accident that took my Father’s life.

Each time I donate blood I try to imagine the recipient’s family… Is it a newborn like I was, a little boy praying his big brother will make it through, a husband trusting that the mother of his children will be restored to good health… It’s for them that I spend 20 minutes at the WP Blood Transfusion Service every couple months giving back.

Just like the rest of the population, I’m not a big fan of needles but if I didn’t do things that scare me sometimes life would get pretty boring. I gave my first pint of blood at 16 and do so every opportunity I get. My dad was a regular donor and a few days after my 16th birthday he took me along to donate.

The whole process is not as bad as people think it is…

For me the toughest part is the questionnaire… I live in constant fear of saying yes to the wrong question… Why yes I am pregnant (I’m not) or yes I am a nurse who has had contact with blood (I’m a teacher, not much blood involved most days), or yes I do operate heavy machinery (I drive the smallest car any tall person ever owned) or yes I do have malaria (I spray more mosquito repellent than deodorant!)…

The next stage, the prick on the finger where they test your iron levels hurts more than the actual needle! I feel like a big baby when they squeeze that tiny drop of blood onto the slide for the machine that tests it (that would be the professional medical term yes, blood testing machine thingy). Sometimes my iron levels are lower than they should be and on those days they won’t let me donate but I never let that stop me from trying again…

Once my iron levels have passed the test I choose a seat… Little secret, I always donate at the permanent clinic in N1 City Mall… No, not so I can do a bit of shopping after, although that helps… It’s because they have the most comfortable chairs ever! Like big lazy boy recliners, awesome. Last year I went to donate in the middle of my exam marking and actually feel asleep while donating! The nurses rushed over to check on me, I opened one eye and said, “I haven’t fainted. I’m a teacher and need sleep.” They laughed and let me enjoy my brief snooze.

The whole process from questionnaire to biccies and juice after takes about 20 minutes. It sometimes takes me longer than that to find a parking at Canal Walk! This is 20 minutes well spent, I reckon. 20 minutes spent in the service of others, strangers that you will more than likely never meet!

I did not venture there alone. My family, aka The Meyer Ladies, were my cheerleaders.

The little sister is ten years too young to donate…

The other sister had recently had bronchitis and was not allowed to donate…

But the Mother was a legend!

First time donating in over 12 years, she was a trooper! Despite feeling nervous and scared, she did it with a smile on her face!

So after about 900 ml of Meyer blood had been collected we were rewarded with juice, bottled water and biscuits. And in 56 days time, we get to do it all over again!

Stretch or Starve…

“The family that eats together… Eats together?” Or something like that.

So maybe I’m not great at finding suitable quotes for every occasion but when it comes to eating together as a family, I haven’t found the perfect quote because nothing can really adequately describe the Life that there is at our table when it’s meal time… elbows on the table, knives and forks on the wrong side, spaghetti slurped inelegantly (or heaven forbid, all cut into tiny pieces), The Little Sister talking with her mouth full and being told not to, The Other Sister messing on her shirt (without fail, seriously), days discussed, jokes made up (usually bad jokes), laughs shared, salt passed, stretching across the table, talking over each other… Wow! It makes us sound like barbarians, we’re not, I promise, but meal times in This Family are full of life. There is a strong connection between family and food in my memory… I remember there always being more than enough to go around, even when unexpected guests arrived. Back to this weekend though…

We got a rare opportunity to get away for the weekend… After weeks of not seeing The Sister as she has been lovebombing Cape Town (you can read more about that here) it was just what The Family needed. Time away, together. Bonus, it was a 4 day long weekend. Bigger bonus, it was The Mother’s birthday.

We packed the cars (a much better attempt than when we went camping) and headed out to Fish Hoek. We took a lot less than last time and did not need to fight off any deranged baboons as we were comfortably ensconced (big word for a Tuesday) in a house made of brick and mortar.

Friday night was the not-so-perfect storm. The heavens opened and a deluge of water fell to the earth in a night long flood. The occasional lightning (timed perfectly for when you were just about to fall back to sleep) lit up the house like the fourth of July (only less colourful).

The Lovebombing Sister slept through it all while the rest of The Family alternated between awake, moderately awake, sort of awake, not really awake but I am walking around, and what-the-heck-was-that awake.

Saturday morning’s arrival was heralded by Emile Sande singing, “Next To Me,” as my alarm told me to get my butt outta bed at 6:20am. You have to get up really early to beat The Mother. It was The Mother’s birthday.

Hustling The Sisters out of bed, Travel Size Sis wrote her super-beautiful message in the card while I put the kettle on. The mother was woken up with a truly awful rendition of Happy Birthday (the Von Trap family we are not!). We enjoyed birthday coffee, hot chocolate, gift unwrapping, card reading and Tim Tams in bed… Family Meal of the day number 1.

Not in any great hurry, we slowly got layered up to head out into the cold for breakfast. Fish Hoek Spur was ready and waiting for us and our awesome waitron, Florence lead us to a table with a great view of the play area much to The Rugrat’s delight. Lattes and juices were ordered followed by the bacon and egg fry up that Spur is famous for!

The Mother was treated by the staff and patrons to a sing-along of, “I don’t know but I’ve been told, Superlady’s getting old,” complete with sparklers and green tinted ice-cream (for the record, it was supposed to be green).

Around the same time, The Lovebombing Sister was carefully colouring a picture of Shrek, an accomplishment she was proud of! So ends Family Meal of the day number 2.

When the weekend stretches out before you and there’s nowhere you have to be, what do you do? In This Family, we drive. Anywhere. So we set off on a drive around the coast, at each point deciding to go just a little bit further… Delighting in glorious views of a stormy sea, mischievous baboons (not so delightful) and a visit to the spot where The Brother and The Sister in Law said, “I do,” Scarborough beach.

Eventually the slow meander took us back to our starting point where we found a hole in the wall that produced incredible fish and chips… piping hot, we stowed our bounty and rushed “home” where lupper (somewhere between lunch and supper) was devoured around the kitchen counter amidst much chatter and laughter. Hello Family Meal of the day number three…

A quick trip to Pick n Pay, a couple of cracked eggs, sliced lemons and condensed milk tins later, a lemon meringue (correctly pronounced ma-rin-goo) was baking in the oven. This was later set ablaze (flaming lemon meringue anyone?) with candles as we sang one final, awful chorus of Happy Birthday to The Amazing Mother that we have been blessed with. Candles were extinguished, meringue was cut and large slices of it were washed down with big mugs of rooibos… Cue Family Meal of the day number 4…

And just like that, the list decreased but The Family bond increased. What are meal times like in your family?

It’s Not Funny: An Apology of Sorts…

3 blog posts in 2 days? This girl’s on a roll! A toilet roll that is… I’ll explain in a bit, but first…

I apologise for the lack of hilarity in the last two posts, I tried to make them funny but just couldn’t. I figured sometimes life isn’t funny but that doesn’t mean it’s not still good. I’m not convinced I believe that… I’m the kind of person who laughs at everything, even when it’s not appropriate. Heck, especially when it’s not appropriate! As a teacher I spend many formal assemblies biting my lip to keep from laughing at some hilarious pronunciation (like free firty instead of three thirty) or unintended innuendo.

Most people would consider this kind of behaviour immature, I agree. I can however do nothing to stop it. I crack up when my local store abbreviates the word assorted and tries to sell, “ass cupcakes”…

Or a local business owner is the victim of witty vandals who turn his business into one offering “fibre ass repairs”…

That said, I do apologise for the unfunniness of the two previous posts and can only offer the reason for this post as some form of explanation or excuse.

I said earlier I’ve been on a roll, a toilet roll… Well, little did I know that my ridiculously pathetic immune system would help me shrink The List.

Being the overachiever that I am, I have not spent A day in my pyjamas… Oh no, not one, not two, but THREE long days spent in fluffy pink pjs! About three weeks ago, a splitting headache and dodgy cough sent me to my local MD. A ridiculous amount of money and a long wait at the pharmacy later I had an antibiotic set to cause the offending bug to cease and desist.

The white flag went up about 24 hours later but on closer inspection it proved to be a decoy. The white flag was just some old long johns and Mr Bug was growing fat in spite of the supposedly killer drugs I was taking.

As a teacher, sick leave is more of an urban legend than a contractual reality in our lives. A colleague of mine recently came back from the doc with the following quote, “I told my doctor, and ‘It’s so cute how you think I can actually take sick leave’”. Well said.

So I pushed on through hours of invigilation*, endless marking, departmental (definitely mental) admin and work and finally made it to the end of term. Sick, but still standing.

*For those who aren’t teachers… The reality of invigilating exams… Check watch… 11:41. Walk around class 7 times, 3 of which you pretend to be on a tightrope… Count all blondes, brunettes and redheads, twice… Count all left handed learners… Hand an extra sheet of paper to four different learners, whether they need it or not… Read graffiti on three different desks, look confused because you don’t understand one, blush because you do understand the other two but wish you didn’t…. Stare down the pigeon sitting on the window ledge, feel proud because it blinked first… amble slowly back to the desk to check the time, feel excited at your constructive use of what must be at least 35 minutes… Check the time again… 11:43…

So three weeks after the original doctor’s appointment I admitted defeat and dragged myself back to the doctor’s office. A stern lecture and a large amount of money later, I was armed with superstrength-nothing-will-survive-these-suckers antibiotics and painkillers. And the doctor’s orders included a strict three days in bed clause.

When I wrote the list originally, I imagined my day in my pjs would be spent ironing my hair, watching DVDs and chatting with friends.

Instead, I have spent three long days up to my elbows in snotty tissues and trying desperately not to cough up a lung. Dreadfully inelegant. Sorry, is snot a politically correct term or should that rather read mucous?

I have spent the last three days averting my eyes from all mirrors in an effort to avoid the Sarah Sick Face. Not pretty. Since all meals are eaten in bed, Sick Sarah is a crumb laced, snot faced, messy haired creature.

That hacking cough and inelegant sniff are unwelcome at even the most ill-mannered of tables.

Today is day three. In about 2 hours and 45 minutes I plan to vacate the bum shaped hollow in my bed, shower, wash my hair and join the ranks of the well. The doc said three days. Time’s up. I will take yet another dose of those ginormous pills that he prescribed and some extra painkillers, change out of my pyjamas and face the world, not as Sick Sarah, but rather as Almost Well Sarah, a brighter version of her former self.

Maybe I’ll even feel well enough to do some more damage to The List! What do you think I should do next?