Twenty Things The Year 2013 Taught Me

Here are a few things I learnt this year which should keep me in check in 2014.
1. A little humility never hurt anyone.
2. It is better to be practical than go hungry.
3. There are many blessings on the pathway to achieving your goal.
4. In dark times you are motivated to discover what you really want to do with your life.
5. Good relationships with family and friends enrich your life.
6. Do what makes you happy today since there is no guarantee of tomorrow.
7. Even a dead-end job can be brought to life.
8. In time, things work out beautifully.
9. Learn from the mistakes of other people, there is really no need to go through their pain.
10. Treat people with respect and kindness. It is vital.
11. Never say you can’t do something because you can always learn.
12. Don’t compare yourself to others. Start where you are, keep at it and you’ll excel.
13. Never stop learning and don’t be too proud to learn from others.
14. Find a hobby that creates an oasis in times of frustration.
15. How people treat you is not a reflection of who you are.
16. Take risks and take them often. Stretch your capabilities and your faith.
17. Don’t try and save the world. Simply contribute your part.
18. Use your experience and your knowledge to create opportunities.
19. Do not limit yourself.
20. Never stop smiling. 🙂

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Kill the Gremlins

I recently listened to a friend talk about how she was made fun of as a child because she was extremely skinny. Today, that kind of behaviour is known as bullying but in those days you just took it as normal. Sadly it was her relatives who were the culprits and not school mates. Their ridicule left an indelible mark and wove a tapestry of low self-esteem, a damaged self image and an acceptance of a ‘lowly state’. Thankfully, she no longer feels that way.

I recently blogged about my personal experience of feeling ugly as a child and as I listened to my gorgeous and super fit friend relay her story, it suddenly dawned on me that there is nothing anyone can do to protect a child from hearing negative things about themselves. There isn’t any magnetic shield to repel abuse and negativity; at least not yet. Of course if all parents raised their children to treat others nicely and speak kindly to everyone irrespective of differences, then yeah, that might work. Although then, we would all live in Oz, Mary Poppins or Fräulein Maria would be our nannies and whilst we are at it, our parents would also be Bill and Melinda Gates wouldn’t they? Alas, we don’t have the luxury of such a peachy perfect life.

That being so, then the issue isn’t what children hear but what they are compelled to accept or believe in the absence of a positive message. Whilst a lot of relatives incessantly felt the need to tell me I was an ugly baby, no one felt the need to tell me I was pretty or at the very least, that ugly was no longer the case. And with my friend, it wasn’t that people ridiculed her weight or lack of it but no one told her that there was nothing wrong with being skinny.

In elementary mathematics, if you increase negative values you just keep getting an increment of negativities. Likewise, the more negative comments you hear about yourself, the worse you believe you are. The feeling multiplies just like when water was poured on a ‘mogwai’ in the movie Gremlins (for those young enough to remember 🙂 ). The only way to cross over to the positive bar line is to increase the positive values.

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I constantly come in contact with people, particularly women, who are down on themselves because that’s all they know. My heart, and often my words, reaches out to them all the time to dispel every negative notion they have about themselves. Alas, I don’t possess a magic wand.

Unless someone is ready to believe that they are beautiful or intelligent or capable or able or worthy or unique or special or deserving; there won’t be a change.

What I can do is ensure that my children hear a million times more positive messages about themselves from me than any negative thing they may ever hear anywhere else on earth. It’s not enough to do things for them, they must hear that positivity reinforced audibly because in its absence, there are too many other voices ready to tell them otherwise.

Christmas Wish

Last year was a very memorable Christmas for me. It was the first time my kids were aware of the meaning of Christmas – presents. 🙂 We had quite a number of family members over so they got a lot more presents than they usually would have.

Leading up to the day, the countdown began. My then six year old son who was able to write, wrote his Christmas wish list. My daughter who was four couldn’t write so did not. My son, who is much more meticulous and takes no risks when it comes to ensuring he gets what he wants, told the whole world what was on his list and wrote several versions of the same list. This year, he started the list in June. That’s how meticulous he is. My daughter, on the other hand is much more …….. let’s say ‘fluid’. Her behaviour is like that of a princess who naturally knows her every wish will be granted. So being more relaxed in character, she kept her list in her head and didn’t really mention it to anyone; as far as I was aware.

On Christmas day, my son got what he wanted from Santa and my daughter got what her parents thought she wanted from Santa. The disappointment on my little girl’s face was comical and disheartening at the same time. Her heart was genuinely broken.

    “Mummy Santa didn’t get me what I wanted” she wailed.
    “What did you want” I asked.
    “A snow globe” she replied.
    “Who did you tell” I asked.
    “No one” she replied, holding back tears of distress.

I tried to explain how Santa only responds to what he hears, blah blah blah. My explanation fell on deaf ears and she spent the whole day being forlorn and dispirited in between the glee of opening other presents, eating and playing with her brother and cousin. We have a tradition of opening presents after Christmas lunch. Cruel you say? Yes I know but we do it anyway. 🙂 We might appease them a little or rather keep them quiet by letting them open one in the morning but generally all presents are opened after the meal. So it was finally present opening time. Amidst the ripping of wrapping paper and the squeals of thank you mummy and daddy, thank you aunty and uncle, a screech over powered the noise. “Mummy! Mummy! I got a snow globe”. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend, whom we had never met, gave her a snow globe and a doll. Of all the presents in the world to give a child, she picked the very one my daughter had asked Santa for.

Call me mushy but I was almost in tears watching the glee on my daughter’s face and the sheer simplicity of a wish granted. A year after, I still marvel at how uncanny that was. Despite the inability of her parents to read her mind and no one else knowing, some how the universe had conspired to grant her wish. What are the chances of that? It almost got me believing in Santa. 🙂

So here’s hoping your Christmas wish comes true and that the year 2014 is much more glorious than anything you could ever ask or think.

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Jesus Is Love

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)

Breakfast in Car

Tea at the Ritz, Breakfast in Bed, and now introducing “Breakfast in Car”. Don’t know about you but I hate the early morning rush with my kids and the pressure of the school run. Getting my kids to finish their breakfast in time before we jump in the car; correction, getting my daughter to finish her breakfast (as my son is quite quick) is usually an uphill struggle.

One day last school term, I decided I couldn’t stress anymore; simply for my mental well-being. No matter how much I yelled or threatened or counted to ten; it was the same result!

Truth be told, breakfast in the car began as a way to let my daughter know she couldn’t get away with not finishing her food. However, that punishment has now worked in my favour as now I don’t even bother thinking breakfast will be had at the table. Once it’s time to leave, they pack up whatever is left of their breakfast (which by the way they can now make themselves – wooo hoo) and we make it to school on time. I’m not stressed and we’re not late.

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I’m distinctly a aware that I won’t be smug forever. They’ll be something else to overcome next school term but I am grateful for breakfast in car. It’s been tried, tested and proven. It works!

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Mandela Lit The Spark In My Bonfire Heart

There have been many eulogies, many tweets, many quotes and, no doubt, many blog posts over the days that have passed since Mandela’s death.

There’ll be many of us inspired and grateful for the sacrifice he made to humanity but there will be very few of us who end up being a light like he was. Many of us will go back to our ‘normal’ lives and resume our ‘normal’ jobs and ‘normal’ existence. Many of us would prefer to talk about him; very few will be challenged enough to lead like he did.

A line in Jame’s Blunt song Bonfire Heart resonates strongly with me –

everyone wants a flame, they don’t want to get burnt.

I find that line so profound. This is the legacy Mandela left me. He was willing to get burnt. He was willing to muddy his hands. He was willing to die. He proved his ideals and his words by his actions.

His death, for me, means that the cloud of witnesses to living for a cause swelled up. Witnesses to the extent that human beings will go to in order that the truth may prevail. Witnesses watching to see who else will be bold enough to join them. Bold enough to arrest the world with their beliefs. Bold enough to fight against inhumane acts, injustice and atrocities around the world.

We are surrounded by many ‘Mandela’s. Not all of them are celebrated on the world’s stage but they exist. They exist down the road from us in different walks of life. They exist in every day life. No one else has to know we are a ‘Mandela’ but the people we affect, the changes we instigate, will feel the effect. The benefit of our rising up, out of being normal, into being light bearers will be felt that many.

Mandela’s light is burnt out now. Other lights need to be lit in it’s place. I pray and hope that I am one of them.

Excerpts from Bonfire Heart
[Verse 2:]
This world is getting colder.
Strangers passing by
No one offers you a shoulder.
No one looks you in the eye.
But I’ve been looking at you
For a long, long time
Just trying to break through,
Trying to make you mine

Everybody wants a flame,
They don’t want to get burnt
Well, today is our turn

[Chorus]
Days like these lead to…
Nights like this lead to
Love like ours.
You light the spark in my bonfire heart.
People like us—we don’t
Need that much, just some-
One that starts,
Starts the spark in our bonfire hearts