Tag Archives: life

World Rat Day 2014

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From me and my four furries, Happy World Rat Day everyone! ūüėÄ

Happy World Rat Day!

Happy World Rat Day!

To celebrate the joy of owning rats, I’ll be treating Moon, Knight, Mishka and Vodka to some salmon today. That’s always fun¬†ūüôā

I also want to take a¬†moment to say that you’ll probably be hearing less from me for a while, or at least between now and the end of May. Ninja and I are in the process of moving house, and as everyone who’s done it knows ‚Ästit’s chaos!

If I do get a chance to shoot off some quick posts I will, but otherwise please bear with me as I make this transition. I’m sure once it’s all behind us and we’ve settled in, I’ll have plenty¬†new stories and pictures to share.¬†Besides, many of the goals I’ve set for myself can only really come alive once we’re in our new home, so that should kick off an exciting new season for us!

Until then, keep well and keep¬†smiling ūüôā

Zest

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~ Anthony J. D’Angelo ~

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Autumn: a time for change

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Yesterday, 20th March,¬†was our autumn equinox down here in the southern hemisphere. It was a particularly beautiful, quiet and sunny day ‚Äď a welcome treat after all the rain that the Gauteng province has been receiving for most of March!

As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of my favourite seasons. I greatly appreciate the chance to stop and reflect on life.¬†This autumn¬†feels especially poignant for me¬†as we’ll be spending the season wrapping up our lives in our current flat and preparing to move over to our new home. By the time the winter solstice rolls around, Ninja and the fuzzbutts and I should all be happily settled in our new cottage.

I really love that this year I get to clean out the cobwebs (sometimes literally!) at a time when I’m already feeling inclined to make¬†changes. And because of that, I thought that¬†today ‚Äď technically our first day of autumn ‚Äď would be the perfect time to share with you my¬†updated and improved¬†‘101 things in 1001 days’ list ūüôā

As I explained a while ago, the direction of my life has changed so much since my original list (and even my updated version) that I need to redirect my goals to match my new circumstances. So you’ll recognise the first 47 goals, as they all come from my earlier list. But from Goal #48 onwards I’ve added new ideas that relate better to where I see myself heading over the course of the next 1001 days (all else being equal, and Lord willing). I also have a ‘someday’ list that I plan to set up separately (perhaps with a separate¬†blog page of its own) and update and attempt as I’m able.

So here goes…!

PS ‚Äď By the way, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet… Remember that my husband was facing retrenchment at the beginning of this year? Well to the glory of our great Heavenly Father, Ninja has been granted another work opportunity! Lord willing he’ll begin at his new job in April. We are very very thankful for this provision; it certainly changes the outlook for our year ahead ūüôā

Life is not a straight line

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Pied crows 40_cr

I really don’t seem to get the concept of a 101 things in 1001 days list, do I?!

All I know is that these lists are supposed to inspire you to achieve personal goals… but what if your life has changed so much since the time you first penned those goals that many of them are now rendered useless ‚Äď depressing, even?

By way of an extreme example, let‚Äôs say you had a list full of goals relating to physical activity, and then all of a sudden you‚Äôre crippled in an accident. Now what? You can no longer have goals like ‚ÄėClimb Mount Kilimanjaro‚Äô on your list… they would just be an annoying reminder that you‚Äôre not who you were. The only sensible thing to do would be to make a fresh start with new goals for your new life.

Well, in a much more mundane way, that’s where I’m at right now. When I started this list I was a housewife with plenty of freedom to dream big. When I later updated the list it was because I’d moved back into the working world and had to adapt to that busy schedule. And now I’m itching to change the list again, because building a new home and having an ongoing career have reshaped my life once again.

Building a home costs me money, and working outside the home costs me time. Together, these factors limit what I can reasonably do for fun.

For instance, I love travelling. But keeping travel goals on my list for the next two years, when I know that there’s absolutely no budget for travelling, is just getting me down. As I see it, there will be no long holidays or trips over the next few years, because of finances.

Another reason I‚Äôm ready to rework my list is that I‚Äôve recently realised how many of the goals are there for silly nostalgic reasons. Some of these goals I‚Äôve already achieved once or twice before in my life, but they‚Äôre on my list because¬†‚Äď until very recently ‚Äď I‚Äôd been hankering back to my past as if I could recreate it in some way.

It‚Äôs only in the last month or so that I‚Äôve finally come to realise that yes, my past was pretty cool, but my future could be even more amazing if I‚Äôd just face forward and dream again. Sure, some things are great fun and worth repeating… but maybe not if there‚Äôs something new to try instead.

I‚Äôve also learnt a lot about the ‚Äė101 things in 1001 days‚Äô list since I first began. I‚Äôve realised that it would be much more realistic if I had two lists: a ‚Äė101 things‚Äô list and a ‚Äėsomeday‚Äô list. The someday list could record many of the places I‚Äôd love to travel to and adventures I‚Äôd like to have, but which seem too large, expensive or impractical at this particular time in my life. They‚Äôd still keep me motivated, but without the pressure of a deadline. Then the 101 things list could be for the more achievable short- to medium-term goals, which rightly deserve a deadline.

My mom always used to say, ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs a mind if you can‚Äôt change it?‚Äô, which drove me batty as a kid because I was usually the exact opposite: sticking boringly, tenaciously, stupidly to one thing until I‚Äôd completed it ‚Äď even if the task had long since lost its usefulness.

Well, now it‚Äôs my turn to draw on my mom‚Äôs idiom and change my mind about some of my goals. So in the next post I‚Äôll take a look at some of the goals that I think definitely need to go…

Quick pics

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Hello there! It feels like an age since I last posted here… life’s been getting in the way a bit lately ūüėČ Summer has hit Johannesburg at last and the heatwave has¬†been¬†surprisingly draining. Ninja and I have been¬†very¬†busy with everything from work to trying to get fit for my first 5km run.¬†My to-do list is overflowing, and often that’s meant that blogging drops down a rung¬†or two. Sigh.¬†I do miss my days at home when I was a full-time blogger, baker and bookworm!

Anyway,¬†for now I have a moment to share a few recent pics of our ratties. They’ve been here for almost¬†a month now and they’ve taken over the home :mrgreen:

Open that cage door and a mass exodus ensues

Open that cage door and a mass escape is inevitable

I’ve tried taking a few nice photos of them and have entered a few into a competition hosted by our rat club ‚Ästwhich means I can cross off Goal #64: Send in a photograph to a contest ūüôā Would be so great if one of my shots got picked! But for the most part I have dozens of not-quite-awesome-yet-still-quite-cute pics…

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

Knight greeting Robert the Rat

It’s not easy getting good pictures when the rats¬†are on the go all the time, so¬†I also try to catch them unawares for sweet sleeping shots. Here are some of my favourites:

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon and Knight: heads hanging over the edge of the cage level

Moon: rolled into a ball

Moon: rolled into a ball

Knight: absolute innocence

Knight: absolute innocence

So far it seems our first impressions of the boys were pretty accurate. Their personalities are quite distinct and a joy to discover.

Moon (nicknamed Rover)¬†is still the¬†curious adventurer, who’s often awake when the other three are asleep and vice versa. He’s gentle and fast but in some cases still a little unsure of his place. You know how in big families you¬†often find the one quiet kid who’s easily overlooked in the mayhem? Sometimes I think Moon is that kid, though his odd circadian rhythms do make it easier for us to give him special attention ūüôā

Knight (nicknamed Tiny) is still¬†very sweet; he’s bold with his brothers but gentle and trusting with humans. He only has one fault: he is sooooo squeaky!! He squeaks for anything and everything, be it a¬†thorough grooming from his brothers or an unexpected poke from a playful human. It’s definitely not pain related ‚Äď it’s all attitude and noisy protest from the baby of the bunch ūüėõ

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Mishka and Vodka with rawhide shoes

Vodka (nicknamed Voddy ‚Äď I know, it’s lame, but sometimes the good¬†nicks only come after a while)¬†is the bright spark: I’ve been teaching the rats to leap from the open cage onto my shoulders when I ask them to, and Vodka was the first to catch on and make the jump. All the boys know two commands already: ‘Up’ for standing on their hind legs to receive a treat, and ‘Jump’ for leaping onto me or whichever surface I tap.

Mishka with a banana chippie

Mishka with a banana chippie

Of all our lovely rats, Mishka consistently steals the show. Not only is he the biggest and boldest; he’s also the only dumbo so he keeps catching our eye with expressions we’re not used to after our succession of standard-eared ratties. My friends¬†go all mushy when meeting him and even Ninja¬†admits there’s no denying Mishka’s charisma.

As for me, well… this boy is rapidly achieving ‘heart rat’ status. I always said Muesli was my heart rat, as he was my first, but I’m learning that the heart is big enough to hold more than one special furry¬†object of affection ūüėÄ

I think what gets me about Mishka is that he has different sides to his personality. Ninety percent of the time he’s the big forceful alpha rat who ‘power grooms’ his cagemates and shoves human hands aside to get to what he wants. But then there are those odd moments when he suddenly¬†turns¬†sensitive. He’s really earned his nickname of Teddy Bear.

Mishka's heart-melting look

Mishka’s heart-melting look

The pic above was taken after I’d disciplined Mishka for nipping my fingers instead of taking the food from them. From the look on his face you’d swear I’d whipped him with a cane or something! All I did was squeak at him and tap him on the nose (trying to¬†mimic a ratty way of saying ‘That’s enough!’)

Well, it crushed him. He backed up immediately and shot me this devastated look. Flattening his ears against his head, he dashed upstairs and leapt into his Sputnik. And there he stayed, refusing to be comforted or bribed with treats; just¬†giving me the ‘Mommy how could you?’ look for over an hour. Oh my goodness! How to make¬†a rat mommy feel like rubbish! LOL

So that’s the kind of thing that’s been keeping me busy… but I do hope to have more opportunities to blog more regularly. I’m itching to bake something new or take a day trip or do something creative again. As soon as I do, you can be sure I’ll share it here ūüôā

Two thoughts

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Eagle

‘But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…’ ~ Isaiah 40:31

Have you ever been somewhere in public and been convinced that all eyes were on you, only to look up and discover that, in fact, not a single person was looking your way?

Welcome to my life.

For the longest time, my¬†life has been dominated by¬†low self-esteem and a gnawing concern that there’s some lofty¬†standard I’m not meeting, some ideal I’m not reaching ‚Äď and that the world is daily¬†watching me fail at it.

What the heck, right? I mean, my rational mind knows that that’s just silly. I am a blessed, beautiful, healthy and smart woman. I have so much going for me. I have a side that is full of zest and light and joy.¬†I am normal and balanced and sane and all that.

And yet.

And yet there’s always been¬†the lurking suspicion that I don’t measure up. I’ve felt clumsy all my life,¬†as though¬†I’m not at home in my skin. Put me in any situation, and I’ll be sure to drop something or bump something or do something wrong; I’ll be the one blushing for no reason, saying the wrong thing, and constantly feeling like I’m out of my depth.

My expectations are stratospheric, so there’s no possible way I can succeed. In fact, I’m pretty sure that not even God’s standards for me are as high as the ones I set for myself! He gives grace, but I’m merciless towards myself (and unfortunately, often¬†towards¬†others too).

But I digress.

What I wanted to share with you today were two thoughts that I’ve had on this topic.¬†Two thoughts that have become two principles for me to live by as I actively try to¬†challenge my ridiculous self-concept and¬†worldview.

First thought: No one is watching you.

No one. No one is watching you. The other diners in the restaurant, your colleagues in the office, the strangers in the mall and the other drivers on the roads ‚Äď not one of them is watching you. Don’t flatter yourself, Zest. No one has the time or inclination to watch your every move. They are all too busy with their own lives, focused on their own highs and lows.

I (and dare I say, we?)¬†pass up so many spontaneous opportunities for fun because our first thought is, ‘What will other people think of me?’ We can become so wrapped up in others’ opinions of us, without stopping to check¬†a) whether those opinions even exist and b) if they do, whether they’re even valid.

Sometimes this can also¬†lead us to do things we don’t actually want to do, but that we believe others expect us to do. Such as losing weight. Or¬†buying the latest goods. Or having¬†kids.¬†Or taking drugs. Or getting into negative relationships. If your self-esteem is low and you think it can be remedied by pleasing other people,¬†you’re headed down a path of¬†empty striving and pain.

But¬†what of those times when you do look up and happen to catch someone watching? Or what if it’s someone whose opinion does carry weight with you? Well, then be sure to live in such a way that whoever is watching is learning something good¬†from you ūüôā

For myself at least, I know that this issue is linked to pride and a fear of man, both of which the Bible warns against. If I am going to change the way I think of myself and of others, I will have to confess these man-centred sins and ask the Lord to put my focus back on what does matter.

Which brings me to my second thought: Someone is watching you.

Someone, the only One who matters, is watching you. And me. And every person on this planet.

Years ago an unsaved friend boasted to me of a late-night¬†tryst with her boyfriend that had taken place ‘where no one could see’. I remember cringing at her boldness, thinking, ‘But you’re wrong…¬†Someone could see!’ She thought she had gotten away with a daring sin in the darkness, not considering that the blazing¬†eyes of the Most High God had¬†witnessed everything.

If we are going to live without concern for others’ opinions of us, it must be balanced with a healthy respect for God’s opinion of us. The Bible tells us that ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good’ (Prov 15:3). We have it all wrong when we’re more concerned about unflattering human opinions rather than¬†our standing¬†before God.

But of course none of us can stand before God as we are. He is too holy and we are too lowly! That’s why we need Jesus Christ as our mediator.¬†He took our rightful punishment so now¬†the idea of God watching us brings peace instead of fear to those of us who are saved.

I believe that if I can practise these two principles ‚Ästletting go of what I think people think¬†of me, and clinging to a biblical view of¬†how God sees¬†me through Christ¬†‚ÄstI will have the¬†perfect practical remedy for my low self-esteem and silly self-consciousness.

What a freeing way to live! :mrgreen:

In memory of my granny

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Friday this week marks one year since the passing of my precious little German granny.

Googie

My granny

We called her Googie, and she was my penpal, my¬†friend, my role model and my strongest link to my German heritage. In honour of her, here’s a short memorial¬†(my German is a bit rusty, sorry for any errors).

Googie¬†war ein liebevoller Mensch, und ich bin sehr dankbar da√ü sie meine Gro√ümutter war. Ich vermisse sie sehr. Aber ich bin froh, da√ü ich sie¬†im¬†2011¬†besuchen konnte. Googie war sehr schwach und gebrechlich zu dieser Zeit, aber sie wu√üte noch, wer¬†ich war. Wir hatten ein Paar Stunden zusammen die von unsch√§tzbarem Wert waren. Wir sa√üen zusammen im Sonnenschein und redeten langsam √ľber unsre Zeit in √Ėsterreich, als wir dort¬†vor zehn Jahren¬†eine Cousine Googies¬†besuchten. Ich hatte auch die Gelegenheit, sie zu sagen, wie sehr ich sie liebte und wie dankbar ich immer sein w√§re, da√ü sie ein Teil meines Lebens war.

For Googie

For Googie

My dear granny reached out to more people than anyone I know. She could strike up a conversation with anyone, and made a point of learning a few words of as many languages as possible so she could engage with people from different backgrounds. She was endlessly writing to, visiting or telephoning people she knew and loved.

As a young woman she had been a school teacher, and I remember being amazed that some of her pupils still kept in touch with her over six decades later! She had that effect on people: she could get along with shy little kids and grumpy old men; she could bring out a smile on the toughest face.

I gained many blessings from being one of¬†Googie’s granddaughters. Although we lived with the¬†length of the whole country between us for most of my life, we kept in touch with letters from the moment I could hold a pen. In this way she also introduced me to other relatives and friends of hers that I began to correspond with. Even though I only spent time with¬†Googie in person a handful of times, she was one of the people I felt closest to; I could pour out my heart in my letters and she would always respond in kind.

One of my favourite memories of my relationship with¬†Googie centres around my birthdays. I must have inherited my love of birthdays and gifts and giving from her. When I was younger, the anticipation for my birthday was always heightened by the arrival of a large parcel from my gran,¬†wrapped in brown paper,¬†tied with string and sealed with red wax. Inside there’d be a collection of interesting items… cards, stickers, stationery, dried fruit, trinkets… and usually themed around whatever I was ‘into’ at that stage of my life (such as kittens, or horses, or collecting old perfume bottles).

My granny never forgot a birthday (or any other special occassion) because she had a thick notebook filled with peoples’ names, numbers and important dates. I remember being impressed with that and wanting to make people a priority in my own life too. We also shared a love of reading and of languages.

One of the¬†loveliest things about Googie was that she¬†rarely complained.¬†I love¬†the story of how my gran touched the heart of one of the doctors who was¬†caring for her towards the end. She was very¬†frail and¬†ill¬†then and could barely see, but when he asked her how she was doing she¬†sweetly replied, ‘Life is beautiful, doctor.’ And if you knew Googie, you’d know she meant it.

It’s hard to think about the gap left behind by this very special person. I know there are¬†dozens of¬†people in countries around the world who will miss her letters and phonecalls and presence. I am so grateful to have had her in my life, and I pray that I will take the good from her example and continue her legacy of living life¬†with her arms wide open, welcoming other people and looking for the best in them.

There’s so much more I could say, and then there’s only this:

I miss you terribly, meine kleine Großmutti.

The Host

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Well, I had a whole bunch of good intentions for starting off the week yesterday, but life isn’t always a straight line. The trick is learning to adapt to the curveballs instead of getting frustrated by them.

I started strong, kicking off my day with cleaning and grocery shopping. But around midday¬†our power and water were both cut off! I couldn’t do any more¬†of the washing, cooking or cleaning that I’d planned.

Rather than sit around doing some proverbial thumb-twiddling, I used the sudden gift of¬†free time to check off another goal on my 101 things in 1001 days list: Goal #89 ‚Äď Go to a movie by myself. At least they had electricity and running water at the mall!

I went to see The Host, and¬†enjoyed it… it was kind of like a girly romantic sci-fi. I’m not usually into sci-fi all that much, but Stephanie Meyer has a knack for making otherworldly plots appeal to gals too ūüėČ

Anyway, yesterday also showed me God’s grace and perfect timing in my life. For the first time ever, I decided to split up¬†my shopping. My plan was¬†to¬†first buy all the dry goods and¬†take them home, and then later go back to the shops to purchase all the perishable items such as frozen fish, meat and fresh veggies. My reasoning at the time was that if I could get these items straight from the shops into my cooler bag and into my fridge as quickly as possibly, I might avoid them going bad (I think bad frozen fish ‚Äď and not the Easter feast ‚Ästwas actually¬†what nailed me¬†with food poisoning¬†a couple of weeks ago).

So I did my dry-goods shopping at a normal pace and brought home all the goodies. After I’d finished unpacking the grocery bags, I took a breather for five minutes and¬†got ready to leave¬†to buy¬†the perishable items. Then, just as I was about to leave, the power and water were cut.

My first reaction was natural¬†frustration, but that quickly turned to amazement at the¬†divine timing of each event. If I’d bought all the shopping at once as usual¬†without coming home, or if I’d left five minutes sooner for the second round, I would have had hundreds of rands’ worth of perishable items sitting in a fridge that couldn’t stay cold. The¬†electricity and water¬†only came back five hours later ‚Äď that would have been long enough to defrost and ruin my frozen fish and other delicate items.

Many may see that as a lucky coincidence, but to me it shows clearly that I have a loving Father who’s involved in the smallest details of my life. As Proverbs 16:9 tells us, ‘A man’s heart¬†plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’ I’m grateful the Lord directed me to do something out of the ordinary and mercifully¬†prevented me from wasting a lot of money and good food ūüôā

'Direction' © Sunshine Scrapbook

‘Direction’ ¬© Sunshine Scrapbook

Who’s building your house?

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Sorting through some¬†documents today, I came across a notebook in which I’d written my random thoughts when I was younger (back in my varsity years I think, though the notes weren’t dated).

One of the lists I wrote was based on the¬†metaphor that our lives are like houses, and various people and principles are the architects we allow to help us¬†create our homes. It made me smile to read through my ideas, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Kind of architects I want to build my life-house…

  • People from all walks of life; I want to befriend rich kids and poor beggars
  • People who have built their own houses well (as far as I can see)
  • Mature people; experienced, older, sensible architects
  • Architects who help me to apply God’s blueprint plan
  • Quality building materials like good books, magazines, movies, proper media
  • Loyal, interesting, kind, humorous, nachdenkende Architekten (architects who consider how they build)
  • I want a roomy life-house, with plenty space in my life
  • I want colour, light, freshness, design, creativity, warmth in my house
  • I want to reserve the right to keep certain people out of my house
  • I want to be able to lock up my house safely when I go out
  • I want to collect 1000s of things to decorate my house
  • My place isn’t going to be just one style or stereotype; I’m not going to have all the rooms identical, but rather have influences from all over
  • I don’t want to compartmentalise all the different aspects, but I do want to harmonise them at least
  • I want nothing shameful in there; I want no room, cupboard, drawer or file filled with dirty secrets
  • I picture a bright, light, sunny house, filled with God’s light and life
  • I don’t want stupid, angry, bitter, foul or evil architects working on my life-house
  • I want my architects to be friends, family and strangers
  • I only want to bring good, clean, lovely, bright things into my house, where I’ll keep them and regularly appreciate them and use them
  • I want to be a respected house in the neighbourhood, but a friendly and open one where neighbours feel welcome and¬†can come and go regularly
  • I want to be sure I’m leaving behind a clean, beautiful, interesting house when I leave/die/move on

Which architects ‚Äď which people and¬†influences ‚Ästare you allowing to build your life? ūüôā