In Pursuit of my African Dream – My life is a reflective garden

Christmas Bear

As the year slowly draws to a close, I am in a reflective mood. Listening to the sounds of the Boney M Christmas Collection CD while driving in my car, my mind goes back 30 years when we, as a family, ventured out on our first camping trip, caravan in tow behind us as we listened to the very same music which was, of course, on cassette tape at the time and not on CD.

It took me back to sitting around a camp fire at night in a caravan park in Knysna – friends and acquaintances made, memories of a holiday romance that never went any further than being just that – a holiday romance. I think of “him” often and wonder if he still remembers me and the good times we shared? I know that “he” is happily married with two children (last time I heard), hence the reason why I will not give in to the urge to try to find “him” even though I have a pretty good idea of where I can find “him”. I am reminded of how various people we meet along life’s journey help to shape us into who we are now.

Maybe life is like a garden, is what I’m thinking right now. Maybe relationships are cultivated like flowers or vegetables. I like to see things as growing, flowering and producing.
What makes a garden? Can you walk into a shop and buy a ready-made garden? I don’t think so. You need to grow them . . . everything that grows, starts off as a tiny seed hidden from view. This leads me to asking myself three questions:

1) What seeds have already come to life in me?
2) What seeds remain hidden in me, waiting for the right time to grow?
3) Are the current conditions in my life the right conditions for some more seeds to start growing?

Gardens need water and sunshine. These are gifts which cannot be bought and cannot be demanded, but we can recognise and receive them. Where does this water and sunshine come from?

• The love of a friend?
• Time alone in a special place?

Gardens need pollination by insects, birds and the wind if they are to grow and flourish, so, within our personal gardens, there must be movement . . . exchange – how does this happen?

• By talking and listening to friends?
• By taking part in a group?

Gardening involves preventing infection and attack to protect what is growing. This can be hard work and does not always go according to plan.

• What might damage the growth in me?
• What needs protecting and who can help me?

Gardens need both cultivation and wildness. A garden which is too wild may not be too hospitable or practical. A garden which is too cultivated loses its connection with the rawness of nature.

• How and where do I find the balance in my life?
• How can I change this for the better?

Gardening involves cutting back and taking out. Sometimes the action seems drastic and we wonder if we have gone too far.

• What needs pruning or shaping in my life?
• Are there things I regret having cut out of my life? Why?

What type of garden do I have at this point in my life?
• A neglected garden – overgrown or healthily wild?
• A kitchen garden – full to overflowing, producing food for many?
• A formal garden – impressive, providing space for others?
• A suburban garden – both beautiful and practical?
• A cottage garden – modest, but with the potential for abundance?
• A secret garden – a place known only to me?
• Another type of garden, perhaps?

Which of the following statements make sense to you as you read this?
• I want to be hospitable, to bring people together
• I know I want to take these fences down but I’m not sure I can
• There is a part of me which will be amazing when it flowers
• I want to play and be full of joy
• I was excited about one bit but then it got damaged
• Some parts are not growing well, but I don’t know why
• I was going to sort out this bit but something else cropped up
• These parts are growing fast and will offer much food

As I continue to reflect on my life and this past year, I am reminded of the poem “Life is but a weaving” (also known as The Tapestry poem) by Corrie Ten Boom which goes like this . . .

Life is But a Weaving
Corrie Ten Boom (The Tapestry Poem)

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
(Corrie Ten Boom often used this poem as she described a Tapestry that hangs currently at the museum. I challenge you to read, “The Hiding Place).

In Pursuit of my African Dream – Time, like the wind, those are hurrying by and the hours just fly . . .




A song which was a hit in the period 1965 – 1969 sung by John Rowles called “If I only had time” is what sprung to mind when I thought of writing this blog this week. The song goes something like this . . .

. . .  so much to do, if I only had time, if I only had time. Dreams to pursue, if I only had time, they’d be mine.

Why is it that some people think I always have an endless amount of time on my hands? I always make time to answer SMS messages, e-mails, Facebook (and other social media requests)? I’m the “walking yellow pages” for some and the endless event co-ordinator/organiser for others? Whenever my brain is “picked for ideas or contacts for a whole range of things” I can always come up with something in terms of an idea or contact – even it I have to get back to the person later.

On the other hand, when I ask for information or help (which happens so seldom I can count it on one hand and only if I cannot find the information or item anywhere else), nobody seems to have the time to respond?

A few months ago I sent an SMS to a few people asking for something specific – to date, nobody has responded. Today, I saw one of the people I sent this SMS to and she said “I know I have not responded yet but I’m still working on what you asked – is there still time for me to respond?” This information was required for something specific with a specific deadline . . . 

I recently sent out an SMS to one specific person (again, for something specific having a specific timeframe), the person responded saying they would give it to me later, then silence. I sent a reminder, an apology followed with a request to send them a reminder the next morning (which I did as per the request) and still nothing has been forthcoming. I’m giving up on this request now and, as usual, will make an alternative plan – which is generally what I do.

Are people really genuinely so busy, they cannot respond? We are all given exactly the same amount of hours each day i.e. 24 hours. Granted, some are wives/husbands, mothers/fathers but being single with a full time job and studying part time does not mean I have any more time on my hands than anybody else. The time wives and husbands spend on household chores and family responsibilities, I spend studying which makes us about equal in terms of free time available, I would think – or am I delusional?

I have been told on more than one occasion that when you are married and a parent, your priorities change. This I understand completely – my priorities would change too but remember, working full time and studying part time, my priorities have changed too!  Yet, I try to keep my family and friends included in my life as far as possible – even if it has to be via SMS, e-mail and social media. I do my utmost to still be the daughter, sister and aunt I am expected to be.

Parents usually have to wait until after 8pm to catch up with chores, bills, preparing for tomorrow and hopefully, spending some quality time with their spouse. I, working full time, by the time I’ve done one hour of gym, had supper etc it is after 8pm when I can “hit the books”.

I also have deadlines to meet in terms of assignments which need to be submitted timeously. I also have bills to pay, budgets to calculate to ensure that I have the money to pay the bills, exams to prepare for etc. so I’m still trying to find out how come I supposedly have more time on my hands than anybody else?

Oh, I also forgot to mention that I also do voluntary work for a group called Women Demand Dignity ( and I’m also part of a Disabled Women’s Leadership Development Programme (DWLDP) which runs for three years (2011- 2013) being trained to become a leader and facilitator which involves assignments which takes up a lot of my time. When I’m studying I usually only get to bed at around 01:00 and have to be up at 05:00 again to leave home at around 06:30 otherwise I would never get to work by 08:00. I am at work for 8 hours per day, I’m on the road travelling for 4 hours – 2 hours to work and 2 hours back home. That’s a total of 12 hours of my day gone already – need I say more?

In spite of being single with a full time job and studying part time, I am also a daughter, sister and aunt which means that I also have family responsibilities. I’m expected to spend a certain amount of quality time as a daughter, sister and aunt (whether weekly or monthly is not relevant) and this is in addition to my daily responsibilities. I make the occasional telephone call to keep in touch and physically visit from time to time to keep the physical aspect of relationships going. I try to attend as many functions I’m invited to as I can, when I can summon the energy to actually go anywhere. I make the time to come up with ideas for personalised gifts for everyone as often as I can so I break the cycle of giving “another bottle of bubble bath or shower gel”.

I started reading a book in 2007 which I desperately would like to finish but keep putting it down because there is always something more important or urgent to do. I invested in a laptop and an Android phone so I can multi-task while watching TV which is usually the only time I have to work on my social network connections, respond to e-mails etc except for when I decide to “steal time” at the office doing this during office hours.

I read just about every article I can find on time management and organisational skills to find better ways of doing things, I spend a lot of time on the internet doing research either for my studies or on ideas I have or look for sources of suppliers who can fulfil my desire for personalised gifts for everyone.

So what exactly am I missing here? Is there a big chunk of my 24 hours that I just cannot explain?

Going back to the song I started with earlier . . .

. . .  so much to do, if I only had time, if I only had time

Dreams to pursue, if I only had time, they’d be mine.

Time, like the wind. Those are hurrying by and the hours just fly

Where to begin, there are mountains I’d climb, if I’d time.

In Pursuit of my African Dream – I am fascinated and intrigued!

Adult Angel

The human brain continues to fascinate and intrigue me. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by human behaviour and have always been intrigued by why we do the things we do. Growing up as an only child until my sister arrived at the age of 14, I spent most of my time observing the adults in my family – especially at family gatherings and social occasions.

A few weeks ago (3 weeks now to be exact) an aunt of mine “suddenly” had a stroke. I say “suddenly” because I am sure that there were warning signs that nobody noticed or chose not to notice. This is an aunt who religiously took her blood pressure medication every day, tried her best to exercise in some form or other each day and carefully watched her diet. Yet, she had a stroke. Why?

According to her GP, the stroke happened exactly one year after she stopped getting medication from him, yet she took medication every day which leads to the question – where was she getting her medication from? Was she being supplied by a pharmacist who was not insisting that she provide an updated prescription every six months? Well, let’s get back to my fascination with the human brain.

The aunt I’m referring to here – the stroke occurred on the left side of the brain which means that her right side is completely paralysed and she has lost her speech – she cannot speak at all and only makes grunting noises when she cries or tries to laugh. She is unable to swallow and is being fed through a tube which goes through her nose all the way down into her stomach.

The first week after her stroke she was extremely emotional and cried like a baby for no specific reason when she saw her visitors. As suddenly as the crying started, it stopped. She would stare at us for a few seconds before indicating (by the look in her eyes) that she recognised our faces. It was as if you could see the brain ticking over as it dawned on her who she was looking at.

Trying to have a conversation with her was difficult because you could not be sure how much she was able to understand or comprehend. Not being able to speak at all, made things even more difficult because there was no verbal response. Nonetheless, we continued believing that some of the words spoken would get through to her.

From the second week there was less crying and more evidence of recognition – as we approached the bed she would attempt to smile indicating that she was happy to see us.

This week (the third week) she was so proud to show us how she can manage to pull herself up into a sitting position in bed all by herself (with her left arm only), still not using her right leg or arm. When she kept sticking her left foot out from under the covers, I pretended to play the piano on her toes and she giggled – a response, yay! When I spoke about the weather, I indicated using my hands that it was windy and my hair blew all over the place, again a giggle (response). At the end of visiting hour, I left her with a challenge – the next time I visit, I want her to chase me down the passage (me on crutches and her chasing me from behind) – again, a giggle. All in all, I would say she was not only a lot more responsive but there was also a lot more comprehension of the spoken word in just 3 weeks which is absolutely wonderful as far as I am concerned.

What I find fascinating is that her brain still does not seem to acknowledge the right side of her body. When we move her right hand, arm or leg, there is no sign of acknowledgement that we are on that side or that we are moving that side of her body. When we raise her hand/arm into her line of vision, she stares at the hand and arm as if she is asking “what is that?” Even when she was showing off her skills of pulling herself up into a sitting position, there was no indication of her brain actually acknowledging that she had another arm or leg she could use to help her achieve her goal of sitting up in bed. When her hospital gown fell off her right shoulder and we pulled it back up, she looked at what we were doing as if she was asking “what are you doing?”.

I have heard some people say that the brain is so marvellous that when one part is damaged, it is able to re-route instructions to another functioning part. I have also heard people say that when a person recovers from a stroke, their first conversation is usually a repeat or a continuation of the last conversation they had before the stroke.

How true is this, I wonder? My aunt was alone at the time of the stroke – my uncle was home but was in another part of the house. By the time he found her, she was already non-responsive so we have no idea exactly how long it was between the time she actually had the stroke to when my uncle found her. I mention this because with her being alone at the time of the stroke, I wonder what the last conversation was that she will recall once she recovers from the stroke.

I have read that with a stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain, it is normal to have some memory loss. How much memory loss my aunt will have we have yet to find out. I read a blog recently of a man whose wife also had a left hemisphere stroke and he had to start teaching her the alphabet all over again by using the ABC song usually taught to those in kindergarten. He then slowly progressed to little words like C-A-T spells CAT and so forth. He also suggested in his blog that when asking a recovering stoke patient a question, you ask one question at a time and not two questions at once because this is too much for the brain to handle at once. For example do not ask questions like “what would you like for lunch?” the question is too broad, the patient will not know how to answer the question and will cause a certain amount of stress/anxiety which is not good for a recovering stroke patient. They should be kept stress and anxiety free at all times so rather ask “do you want something to eat?” if the patient says “yes”, then ask “would you like a sandwich?”, if yes, then ask “would you like cheese?” and so forth. Always only ask one question at a time – never do a this/that or either/or questions.

I will be following my aunt’s progress very closely because I am really fascinated by how the brain recovers from a major trauma like a stroke. Will my 70something aunt now have to be re-taught like the kindergarten children she used to teach? How much memory will she lose and how much memory will remain after the stroke? Will she remember the last conversation she had before the stroke? Will she just pick up from where she left off or will she have absolutely no idea and start all over again?