Sunday, 17 October 2010

climbing molehills

significantly, this is one of the pictures I used in the publication

Today I finished a huge project which has been dragging on for almost a year...

It was a wonderful project, with inspiring stories to write about incredible people and uplifting initiatives. I wrote about it here, when I first started. So the problem certainly wasn't with the project itself. 

Some of the delays were out of my control, but for the last month or two the delays have been in my hands, and mostly because I had built it up into this huge mountain of work that I didn't have time to finish.

It took an ultimatum to get my bum into gear, and what a relief it is. I feel like a weight has been lifted, not just from my shoulders but from my psyche.

Isn't it amazing how we are often our own worst enemies?
Isn't it amazing what power our minds have to control our lives and our thoughts.

Makes me wonder what else I have built up into a mountain?

What else is shackling me when I should be soaring?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

being a grown up

I have a lot of work to do.

I have a lot of work to do before Monday

Seriously... I have A LOT of work to get finished unless I want to risk getting jumped on by hordes of irate German clients (well ... one, but it feels like hordes) and a rather formidable woman (I suspect just on the outside) who lives in China.

I'm feeling quite motivated to get the work done... having two separately scary clients has that effect.

But it is Saturday, and there is a little girl in the corner of my mind who wants to go out and play.


But, I'll be good and sit in my office and look longingly at the gorgeously cheerful wooden fish my son Ben brought me back from Mozambique. It reminds me that there is life and freedom outside of the work time... and it may not be too long to wait before I can experience both of them.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

happy birthday to "the Arch!"

tenacity and hope in the most unhospitable of places
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"

 I often think of Ghandi's famous words (even if it is not completely clear that it was actually he who said them) and use them as a measure and a reminder for the way that I try to live my life.

I use them as a measure for other people too. For me, professing to be a Christian means that you have voluntarily set the bar that measures your behaviour, your reactions and the way that you live your life, every moment of the day. (Even when no one is watching).

It is a particular joy to come across an individual who actually practices what he preaches. Someone who, like Paul, could say "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ".

For me,  Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who turns 79 today, epitomises that example

He is the elder statesman of South Africa and has been described as the conscience of our nation, but he is more than that. He is a man who epitomises a life well lived. He is a man of courage who is filled with compassion and empathy.

I remember the first time I met him. He had just been elected as Archbishop of Cape Town and had moved into the famous Bishop's Court residence which came as part of the package with his new status. It was a very big deal for many people: not only was he the first black Archbishop of Cape Town, but he was living in a traditionally white, very wealthy area.

I was about 26 years old, with two small sons, and was involved with the End Conscription Campaign that was trying to prevent the conscription by the Nationalist government of white boys to fight against their own countrymen. I don't remember all the details, but one of the events we organised was an outing for children from one of the townships outside Cape Town to Bishops Court.

There were groups of children in their underwear (most didn't own bathing costumes) jumping in and out of the pool. There were other groups, bewilderedly trying to play the "non competitive games" we felt were so important (it doesn't work... children always want to win!). I was packing brown paper lunch bags (all exactly the same, in the spirit of equality and non competitiveness) with a couple of other women. It was only when the Arch came up and gave the woman next to me a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek, that I realised that I had been chatting to Leah Tutu as we worked.

He was filled with the glee that is so much part of his life. He was giggling about the fact that his neighbours had been concerned about him "busing in people from the townships" and here we were, with bussload or two of children, having fun and working together and getting a taste of what a non-racial society could be.

I saw him many times after that, at prayer vigils in the St George's Cathedral crypt, leading marches, filled with grief at funerals and (on television) filled with excitement and hope as Mandela was released and it looked like our dream of a non racial society - his Rainbow Nation - would become a reality.

I saw the television footage of him, breaking down in tears at the Truth Commission as he could no longer bear the desperate stories of man's inhumanity to man.

But in spite of all that he has seen and heard and lived through, he remains what a true Christian should be: courageous, honest, true, compassionate and filled with joy and hope.

Today he officially retires from public life, but he will certainly remain in my heart - and many others - as an example of a principled man and someone who has truly followed the example of Christ.

I wish Ghandi was still around to meet him!

Want to see Tutu meet Tutu, the ZaNews puppet? go here

And there is a wonderful interview in Time with the bishop. I particularly loved this quote:

Looking back over your career, what have you learned?
As human beings we have the most extraordinary capacity for evil. We can perpetrate some of the most horrendous atrocities. That would be awful if that was the end of the story. But, exhilaratingly, people also have an incredible capacity for good. People who should have been consumed by anger and bitterness and lust for revenge have shown in so many instances a remarkable magnanimity, a nobility of spirit. That's the chief lesson I have learned. That in spite of all the horror of injustice and oppression, and the sense that those who perpetrate evil tend to appear invincible, the texture of our universe is one where there is no question at all but that good and laughter and justice will prevail. In the end, the perpetrators of injustice or oppression, the ones who strut the stage of the world often seemingly unbeatable — there is no doubt at all that they will bite the dust. (Laughs) Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!"

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2023562,00.html#ixzz11fRTTmsm

Friday, 1 October 2010

of extremes

Next week, October 9 - 13 is National Nutrition Week in South Africa.

I help the Peninsula School Feeding Scheme to get the word out about the wonderful work thay do by writing a couple of press releases for them. I've written about therm before but is certainly worth mentioning them again, especially this week.

Children, like these at a school in Delft outside Cape Town, rely on the PSFA for what is often their only meal of the day. They are just a few of the 233 000 children in 633 schools in the Western Cape who would come to school hungry if it was not for the work this organisation does, coupled with a subsidy from the Department of Education.

October is also the month that includes World Food Day on the 16th, and National Obesity Week from the 15th to 19th.

South Africa has recently gained the dubious honour of being the third fattest nation in the world, and Cape Town has been declared the fattest city in the country. And yet, these children and hundreds who are not as fortunate, can be fed every day for just R370 a year. (about US$30)

If you want to help, call the PSFA office at (021) 447 6020, email info@pfsa.org.za or visit www.psfa.org.za for details.


derring do

Not such a random picture... sometimes all it takes is the confidence to let go and be free


Derring do: Daring or reckless action.
Misinterpretation of earlier derrynge do
misprint of Late Middle English dorryng do, daring to do,


When I read Julie's latest post, moments of perfect clarity: in which she doesn't dare, it really resonated with me. I can identify so strongly with her wondering whether to live off her own creativity or to stay tied to the (often false) security of a job.

But sometimes all it takes is a bit of derring do. A leap of faith that you can succeed, and if you don't, at least you will have tried. A bit of action, that is not always as reckless as the definition may imply.

I remember when I started my own business. It was a jump in the dark, but I did have a bit of a push. The person I had been working for (and who I still respect immensly) had started making unreasonable work demands. The end result was that I sued him (successfully!) and was left with the option of returning to work as a journalist for a daily newspaper or finding a new path for myself.

Starting out on your own is scary. I had worked as a freelance writer before, but I never really regarded it as a proper job, and I always drifted back to the safety of the newspaper, with its fairly regular hours and a guaranteed pay cheque at the end of each month. I think I hold the record for the number of times that I resigned from Independent Newspapers (including when it was still called the Argus Company) ... eight times!

Admittedly twice were because I had babies and there was no such thing as maternity leave then. 

I remember resigning for the second time from the Pretoria News. The then-deputy editor Dennis Cruywagen (who had been a close friend for over a decade) gave me back my resignation letter, saying "Take out all the stuff about why you are leaving. Just say 'I resign' because you might want to rejoin the company!" He was right, and I did, twice more (so far).

I think the difference this time, is that I defined the move as something more than just "going freelancing". I told myself I was starting a business, and I have referred to Of Course Media as "my company" ever since.
And the difference is clear. I am not the only one that takes me more seriously!

Julie's post, and the comments that follow it, made me think about the kind of person that starts out on their own. I remember phoning a colleague after I started my business and excitedly telling him "Vernon, I'm working for myself now!"
His response? "You always were!"

I think that's so true. I was never a corporate drone, and often kicked against the company rules. I always tried to see if there was a "better" way of doing things (even though management never saw things the same way as me!). But perhaps, most importantly, even if we work for a company, we still work for ourselves. We still get up in the morning and do our work as well as possible. We still make decisions and choices about attitude and how we present ourselves to others.

So, now both Greg and I work for Of Course Media (Greg is a pastor too, but that comes with no salary, no financial reward). There is no guaranteed income every month (although I do have a couple of retainers at the moment).

But was there ever really a guarantee before? I think that working for a company gives one a false sense of security. You are still just one pay cheque away from unemployment, as many people learned during this last recession.

And the name of our company reminds us every day... of course you can!