Out of the blue

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So I was retrenched in December 2011. It was a shocker, yes. It’s one of those things you never see coming, and then *BAM*, it hits you square in the face. I’ve had a little difficulty finding something temporary to bring in some cash while I sit and wait here in South Africa for my documents from Home Affairs (the docs that will allow me to apply for my German Visa!) Once people realise I’m not here to stay, they’re not interested – and those who do offer me anything, offer way too little – not enough to even cover my petrol costs.

This whole situation was making me a little edgy and I fell into the trap of lifting my hands up in anger, shouting…”WHY Lord?!” (I still do that sometimes…)

I decided about a week ago however that I’d just make good use of my time and volunteer at my church. It’s a decision I’ve not regretted and though I still sometimes worry a little about my financial provision for the next few months, I’m happy to be rooted in a place that makes me feel secure, and feeds me spiritually. My days are filled doing all sorts of things – from setting out thousands of communion cups, to inputting information on the church database – whilst at the same time, enjoying Hillsong’s well-known worship songs as they waft gently from the speakers, filling the entire building with magical melodies. I’m also meeting wonderful people, and there’s just nothing that could be better than that!

This morning, whilst clasping a cup of hot coffee in my hands and driving through the beautiful suburb I live in, I heard something on the radio which grabbed my heart, so I thought I’d share it:

“Lifes Lessons” by Paul M. Connors, an Inmate in Texas

I learn, as the years roll onward
And leave the past behind,
That much I had counted sorrow
But proves that God is kind;
That many a flower I had longed for
Had hidden a thorn of pain,
And many a rugged bypath
Led to fields of ripened grain.
The clouds that cover the sunshine
They can not banish the sun;
And the earth shines out the brighter
When the weary rain is done.
We must stand in the deepest shadow
To see the clearest light;
And often through wrong’s own darkness
Comes the very strength of light.
The sweetest rest is at even,
After a wearisome day,
When the heavy burden of labor
Has borne from our hearts away;
And those who have never known sorrow
Can not know the infinite peace
That falls on the troubled spirit
When it sees at last release.
 We must live through the dreary winter
If we would value the spring;
And the woods must be cold and silent
Before the robins sing.
The flowers must be buried in darkness
Before they can bud and bloom,
And the sweetest, warmest sunshine
Comes after the storm and gloom.
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You clever little Bishop you!

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So today is supposed to be the day that people intentionally remember that ‘someone special’ in their lives. I’m sure that for 86.87% of men, it’s the day that the reminder alarms on their phones go crazy – reminding them to go out and buy lovey-dovey stuff for that one special lady.

But who was the original Valentine? Well, waaaaaaay back in time, Claudius II was the Emperor of Rome and he was of the opinion that men who weren’t hitched made far better soldiers than their married counterparts. It was this opinion that led him to making a law that young, unmarried men were not allowed to take the leap of faith into marriage.

Then along came a Bishop Valentine. *Cue ‘saves the day’ music* He felt really sorry for these young men and decided he’d start conducting marriage ceremonies on the sly. But as with any story like this, his secret didn’t remain secret for too long and Emperor Claudius II sent him to jail. (In fact, not only was he jailed, but the Emperor also tried to get Valentine to start worshipping various Roman gods. Valentine’s response: he started trying to convert the Emperor to Christianity. The result: our hero was sentenced to be executed.)

Now in terms of the actual emergence of Valentine’s Day, there are numerous theories about how it came about. The most popular being that whilst in jail, Bishop Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Then, shortly before his death, he sent this lovely lady a note and ended it with “from your Valentine” (as any good man would do…). Those who knew about Valentine found this rather romantic and shared the story with others. He become rather popular and eventually was promoted from Bishop Valentine to Saint Valentine.

After his death, he then became a Patron Saint and was considered by many to be the spiritual figure who oversaw a festival that occurred annually on 14 February – one during which Romans would send out cards declaring their love to those they had their eyes on!

And there you have it – a brief history of Valentine’s Day. Now go out and buy heart-shaped chocolates! (Even if you keep them for yourself! 😀 )

14-2-12

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It’s that time of year again – every second ad on TV is about love and pictures of couples in loving embraces with hearts floating above their heads are popping up everywhere. Yip, it’s Valentine’s Day fever (and we haven’t even hit the 14th yet).

I never enjoyed V Day – probably because I spent the majority of them alone, doing one of two things: (a) contemplating sending chocolates and lovey-dovey gifts to myself, or (b) remaining defiant and swearing that “actually I don’t care…I’m totally unphased by Valentines’ Day! I’m happy for all the couples out there…”

Now you would think that since I have a significant other, I’d be looking forward to V Day – but really, it’s a little sucky because I’m in South Africa and he’s all the way in Germany. And you’d think that since we’re now legally married, we’d get to spend our first V Day together…apparently not.

So there won’t be any candlelight dinner, no popping of champagne, no cuddling on the couch with a DVD, and definitely no chocolates packaged in a heart-shaped container.

And so I have to say, theoretically Valentine’s Day this year is on 14-2-12…but I say, mathematically, 14-2-12 = 0. Therefore, Valentine’s Day is cancelled!

(Though actually…Mani’s taken the night off from rehearsal in honour of said V Day…so I have to admit, I’m excited!!! YAY ME! :D)

 

 

My real-life rockstar

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A friend of mine pointed something out to me tonight: I’m living smack-bang in the middle of a dream girls normally have…I’m the wife of a real-life rockstar. I don’t think that ever occurred to me…perhaps because I’ve been so concerned with what that means for me – late nights without my husband at my side; dinners alone; Saturdays spent alone while he’s rehearsing…I’ve focussed completely on the unglamorous part of it all.

Tonight Mani has a gig and it completely infuriates me that I cannot be there (as his number one groupie!), cheering him on, watching his performance with starry eyes, feeling like the most important girl in the crowd of many. But what’s made it easy to get through not being there to share this with him, are the random sms’s I received tonight in which he reminded me that at some point, he’d sing a song for me 🙂 (Yes…romantic, I know!) Whilst many girls merely dream of having someone in their life who can write a song that’s all about them, I actually have that guy! And tonight, he’ll sing the song he wrote with me in mind:

 Long Distance

Verse 1:
Ten Thousand Miles from here
confusing mind that cannot rest

She’s got the strength to rise
The voices, in her head won’t stop

Her heart’s been dragged through the mud
Compassion fills the space inside

The world is between us
Love devours all of our shame

Our souls – groan – for
breakthrough – falling in dismay
It’s all – wrong – when
bureaucracy just takes her away

Verse 2:
3000 days apart
yet somehow we are of one heart

3000 lies will steal
a wounded soul takes time to heal

Chorus:
Long Distance, far apart
she’s left with a bleeding heart

Long distance, anxious mind
where truth is hard to find

Persistance in this trial
hold on for another while

Long distance, in this mess
When hope still carries rest

Bridge:
Oh she cries
When she’s alone
It’s just her and her weaknesses

Oh she’s crazy
My blue-eyed daisy
She will make it through

Verse 3
Her heart’s been dragged through the mud
Compassion fills the space inside

The world is between us
Love devours all of our shame

Our flame proclaims affections
haunting, it’s haunting me

Attachment, close affections and passion
haunting, haunting me.

Yip, indeed, I couldn’t have wished for a better partner in life…I guess I have to be someone’s crazy, blue-eyed daisy! 🙂

Trust your fiancé?? Never!

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Carmen – super mad ninja organization skills.

Mani – super mad ninja procrastination skills.

Add the two together and you have a recipe for disaster. But hey – opposites attract.

So I’ve been on Mani’s case about designing our wedding invites because I need to get them out to people. In true Carmen style, I’ve planned things way ahead in advance and need everything to run in the order I’ve planned it. Only problem is – some of my planning requires Mani to set aside his love of all things delayed and actually do what I ask him to do (or…lately…what I have to beg him to do!)

Last night I entered another pleading-sighing-pulling-my-hair-out stage, begging Mani to work on the invites. (*Note: the ‘deadline’ for completion of the invites was yesterday…..they’re still not done. End of note). Eventually, he said he’d send over what he’d already designed to see what I think. This is what I got…

Yeah, never get a Mani to do a Carmen’s job 😉

And there was more!

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So the 23rd of January was my birthday, but I tell you what – as the week progressed, I was more and more blessed!

Firstly, I was treated to all-you-can-stuff-in-your-mouth sushi with my friend Susan – something which made my heart skip a joyous beat, because – I LOVE SUSHI! 😀

This rather fuzzy picture is just a sample of my first plate of glorious sushi (and there were two other plates that followed. Though..I have to mention, I couldn’t get through the third!) But not only did Susan bless me with one of my favourite meals – nope – she also gave me this!…

A lovely, lovely, lovely necklace with a lovely, lovely, lovely cross on it! 🙂 I remember us discussing the fact that I’ve always wanted a necklace with a cross, and she remembered that conversation and decided to make my wish come true! Thank you Susan!

So that was Tuesday – but it didn’t end there. Nope! I met up with my friend Lauren for a coffee-catch-up and after blessing me with an awesome hug (I miss those from her!), she blessed me with an exciting hamper!

Yes, how lucky can one girl get?! A hamper full of some things that just make me smiiiiiile! Chocolate, muffin mix, chocolate cookies, wasabi rice cake biscuits, pasta sauce, white chocolate coffee sachets, and a copy of Good Housekeeping (I reckon she purposefully included this last item as a way to get me off reading the You magazine!) Thank you La!

Then later in the afternoon, I received a notepad and purple pen from Karrie, much to my delight. I can’t add a photo of this, because it’s in my car and already has many, many scribbled notes on it! Thank you Karrie!

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, I went out to dinner with my (looney) friend Tara, from London, who’d been in Cape Town on business. The two of us crack one another up and it was lovely to be able to see her while she was visiting – there’s nothing quite like a good ol’ catch-up with a friend! Thank you Tara!

So yes, though Mr De Pro is still hanging around a bit – wanting to poke and prod me – I’ve been quite positive this week! I think what’s helped is the fact that I’ve avoided plonking my arse on the couch in an attempt to feel sorry for myself. And also – this week has just proven to me how important friends are and how they really can make such a difference to your circumstances, even if they don’t realise it… 🙂

I want to be a…: Tang yuan

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Yes, a Tang yuan is what I want to be. That’s the thought I had today. Well actually, the original thought was, “I want to be like a glutinous rice ball” – and then I thought about it further and did some research and learnt that glutinous rice balls are called Tang yuan.

So why on earth would I want to be like a glutinous rice ball? Well, these little fellas are rather resilient let me tell you! You take them out of the freezer and they’re really unappealing. If you didn’t know they were glutinous rice balls, you’d mistake them for round pieces of chalk – not appealing at all. But these little suckers are exposed to boiling water and instead of disintegrating, they become softer and more interesting, as they gently float around in the pot.

Not only does their outer consistency change, but so do their contents. These balls are sometimes filled with (very yummy!) fillings – my favourite being red bean paste. The result is that when you lift these little darlings out of the boiling water, blow on them to cool them down, and then bite into them – there’s a burst of sweetness that makes you shut your eyes and try your best to savour the moment forever!

But this still doesn’t explain why I’d want to be one of these little curiosities. Well, I think they’re remarkably brave, and for a little thing that goes through so much heat (boiling water is hot you know…) – to simply just rise to the top and then actually be changed into something better by the heat – is awesome!

That’s what I wish to be like something that – through heat and pressure…circumstances that may not really be great – still manages to come out the other side in a gloriously magnificent manner – even better than before! It’s a challenge, but it really is my wish for myself.

I wish not to disintegrate in the midst of trying circumstances, but rather, to use said circumstances to my benefit – as an opportunity to become even better than before. Easier said than done, I know, but at least I have the right intention 🙂

Birthdays and bars of soap!

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Yes indeed, so 23 January has rolled on and I’m feeling kind of special. Why? Well, yeah, it’s my birthday…but besides that…I just feel completely blessed by all the birthday wishes I’ve received. Has it made me all warm and fuzzy inside? YES, it has!!!

The day started off with my parents picking me up and taking me out to a very yummy breakfast! I realised, however, as I got ready to go out with them, that I wasn’t feeling too well…nonetheless, we went out. Besides taking me out for breakfast, they loaded me with yummy veggies, 2 minute noodles (LOVE THEM!), and peaches. Perhaps an odd gift some may think – but for me – one of love! (And one that’s much needed, being unemployed at the moment and all 😉 !!)

As the day progressed, I realised I must have eaten something dodgey in the past few days, as I really started feeling worse. I eventually got home, put on my pj’s and spent the rest of my birthday on the couch with the telly on. I didn’t watch much, because I was passed out, but I guess it was good to rest! And besides, all my friends were busy anyway, so it’s not like I was missing out on a huuuuuge birthday party!

I also received some luciously lovely nail varnish and nail products from a dear friend who’s visiting from the UK – and these were even wrapped and tied with a purple ribbon – much to my heart’s delight! What also got me smiling ear-to-ear was the fact that these travelled in her handbag aaaaall the way from England – lucky me!

And what did I get from Mani?! Ah yes, well! I couldn’t resist, and I did some poking and prodding of his gifts…and I managed to correctly guess what they were – but I was still so very pleased with what he got for me!

Firstly…some lovely earrings!

Ah but not only did he get me them lovely earrings…nope…he also gave me a gift card from Woolworths (score!) and a bar of soap. Ok let me explain, because really…who gives someone a bar of soap?! Instead of the gift card simply being handed over in a little envelope, it’s presented as part of a little pack, which includes a lovely vintage-looking Lemon and Verbena soap – yaaaay!

Oh I’m happy! Even if I am at home feeling a little sick…I know tomorrow I’ll be totally fine again and besides – some people wissssh they could just spend the day on the couch! It’s been a good day (though it’s not over just yet!); and receiving messages from family and friends in South Africa and Germany has just made it all the more special!

Almost a happy birthday

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It’s my birthday on Monday – I’ll be a whole 28 years of age. Am I looking forward to my birthday…I’m not so sure. I don’t have that childish excitement that lingers in anticipation of a birthday. It’s not because I have a fear of getting older – not at all (or at least, not yet…), but I think it’s because my mind is so preoccupied with other things. Perhaps some of these things are things that my mind shouldn’t be preoccupied with, but nonetheless, these things have slipped through the gaps – and now they’re lodged in my brain.

The one thing about Monday that I’m looking forward to though is getting to open the gift that Mani left here for me. It’s been placed on a table in my living room and I’ve been given strict instructions not to touch it, shake it, or manhandle it. This has been particularly hard for me because I love fiddling around with gifts, trying to figure out what they are. (I still haven’t learnt my lesson – manhandling = guessing = guesses are generally correct = disappointment).

Perhaps my birthday will bring along other presents…some unexpected surprises from above! Oh if only! 🙂

A road of solitude

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I guess it’s sad to admit, but there are so many things in my life I wish I could have done, or handled, differently. It’s only been recently that I’ve been so closely faced with the complete imperfectness of my humanity – with the reality that I am not, and will never be, perfect. And this is hard for me to accept. Not that I want to be perfect (because…really…what is perfect?); but rather, I want to know that the percentage of things I do right is greater than the percentage of things I do wrong. Come to think of it, even this post could be a wrong action – mainly because it’s borne almost solely out of hurt and confusion. I guess it’s my heart’s way of lashing out like a whip of words.

I sometimes want to hit my head against the wall so hard that all the faulty bits contained inside have no choice but to fall out – and fall out they will, because I choose to believe they’re not as strongly routed as the non-faulty bits. Yet still, my imperfections and faults gnaw at me like a rat gnawing at a rope in the dead of the night, in the hope of releasing something. But then I need to remind myself of this concept that I will fail again…and again…and yes…again. And perhaps, the sooner I accept that those times will come, the sooner I’ll be able to deal with the concept and it’s consequent actions more appropriately.

I believe though that part of my tendency to hold on to my past mistakes is the desire to want to undo any hurt I’ve caused. How can I undo any hurt if I don’t somehow stick countless numbers of plasters over the wounds that have been inflicted? Oh but how my soul cries out in desperation for those nearest me to simply understand that my intention has never been as bad as the actions, the words, or the deeds. In most cases, they’ve been mere cover-ups manifesting from a place of wanting to protect myself, guard myself, make sure the wound is not inflicted on me. But the irony of the situation is that at the end of the day, it is indeed me who is wounded. Over and over again. And the cycle of running around trying to fix things just starts from the beginning and ends the same way.

In the past while I’ve faced the darkest time of my life. Perhaps it has seemed to be the darkest, because I have a different insight into things and I can understand things on a different level. Before, I may have just glossed over things and not really understood their magnitude – but lately, the disturbing verocity and magnitude of actions, words, thoughts, feelings, compulsions and intentions have hit me squarely in the face. I can say that I’ve done well to still be standing in the midst of all that’s happened – and I don’t think a single person could ever understand just exactly what has transpired and how it’s felt or affected me – and for that reason, when I close my eyes at night I really can tell myself “well done…you’re getting there”.

It seems to be too much to ask others to be a little more introspective – to examine the things they do or say, to make sure of their intentions or the effects of what they’re about to do. This makes for a road of solitude at times – a sad reality I guess – but reality nonetheless…