Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘Relationships’

Hanging up the cape


My world right now feels like one giant, endless white desert, and every horizon – as far as the eye can see – comprises nothing but the word TIRED in large, 3D letters. For some reason, I can move freely through these letters – and I do. Despite seeing the desert clearly through the letters, they seem solid enough. But walking to – and through – a word, shimmers it like a mirage, moving it so that it always fills utterly the sum of my view.

So tired, the very word brings me to tears.

Shaking with stupid, soundless sobs.


And my back hurts.

It seems even more contemptible in words than it does swirling round in the vortex of energy draining my brain, as if someone pulled the plug at the base of my hypothalamus and let it all out.

Adrenal Fatigue is the official diagnosis. The cause? Years and years of intense (and mostly self-inflicted) stress, far too much coffee, and way too little sleep. I don’t know when it all started, but I do know that I was well and truly entrenched in this lifestyle by the time I was 14 years old.

That’s a lot of life.

The treatment is a simple, three step programme:

    1. Sleep
      Apparently I need to plan on getting at least 9-10 hours of sleep every night for the next two to three years. (Looking wistfully to her right, she sighed slightly as she suppressed a mirthless snort of laughter. Sleep. Oh how she laughed).
    2. Drink less coffee
      Again, ha ha ha. Coffee is fuel. I need it more than oxygen. It’s not a beverage, it’s a personality trait. I have been instructed to cut back to no more than 2-3 cups a day. Please, hold the applause while I announce that I have actually succeeded at this so far (today is day four). I feel awful, and it turns out I really do have absolutely no personality without coffee. Duller than ditchwater, me. And you thought I was dull when I ditched the vino. *Snigger*. All I am now is a bag of well-padded bones with a sleep-deficit and a self-deprecating bent that went out of style in the ’80s.
    3. Exercise – moderately!
      I started exercising on Saturday. Have I mentioned how much I love to run? I do. I love it. And I haven’t run in at least eight months. Why not? Well, we’ve recently had a spate of crime that kept many of us runners off the roads in the wee hours of the morning. And I have been VERY busy.So I ran. Not far or long – at all. I really am VERY unfit, as it turns out. And now my back hurts, and it’s hard to walk.

Wow. That is some pity party.

Superwoman? Not so much.

Superwoman? Not so much.

Okay, I’m done with that bit. I’m going to start a series on uncovering the basics of adrenal fatigue. But for today, I’m just going to start with the first thing: the implications.

For a long time, my goal has been to have it all. I want to have a career – and business – that changes the world for the better. I want to have an amazing relationship with my well-rounded, brilliant children who have all the input they need from me, loads of crafts and adventures, and a balanced education. I want a welcoming, perfectly decorated home, always brimming with fresh, allergen-free edibles, ready to welcome weary travellers. I want to be useful and supportive in my church, helping ladies draw nearer to God even as I do the same. And of course, I want to be the world’s best wife. Ever.

In short: I want to be Superwoman.

To my enormous disappointment, my body and mind are not on the same page as my will. And, to my horror, my will has lost. I need to face the facts, be realistic, and lay the cloak aside.

Interestingly, this message has come from a number of different places in the last few weeks, and really brought home the fact that it’s time to be realistic, and get some rest.



The Joys of Nothing Doing

Doing nothing is always better when you've got someone to share it.

Doing nothing is always better when you’ve got someone to share it.


InconceivableI knew I was a Cystic Fibrosis carrier. I’d known since I was 6. I knew what it meant, and what my life would be like if I had a CF child. I knew my spouse would need to be tested before we had kids. I knew hard choices would need to be made.

I didn’t expect that my husband would be a carrier too. He was, and in retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were counselled not to have children. We were counselled to abort if we did “have an accident” (never an option for us). For months, my pain flooded down my cheeks in unguarded moments. My every hope of being a mother was dashed, and all I knew was endless emptiness. No one could understand. Those who knew our situation felt we’d made the right choice. We were brave, noble. Wise. It was best.

I was alone.

My friends – one single and one in an unhappy relationship doomed to fail – didn’t even pretend to understand. In my haze of misery it was clear they felt nothing, cared nothing.

I was alone.

We agonised for months, weighing our options, certain that children would never feature in our lives – at least, not biological children. We decided to adopt. We’d always wanted to (we still do), and we believed this was what needed to be for our family.

One day the adoption papers arrived in the mail. It was time to start becoming parents. We agreed. We felt, in every part of our beings, that it was indeed time to start becoming parents. We just couldn’t shake the desperate craving, deep within us, to become REAL parents. It was foolish and rash. We had no idea, in those halcyon days, what it meant to love a child. We could imagine it, but we could never comprehend the depth of that love, the pain of it. We could never grasp, then, the ever-present fear of loss.

Like Thelma and Louise, we gripped each other’s hands and drove off the cliff and into the unknown. We decided to have children “of our own”. We started “trying”, as it was euphemistically called.

Trying. How very accurate that term turned out to be.

We tried. And tried. And tried. We read books. We took vitamins. We did exercises. We visited doctors. We attended workshops. We measured temperature and painted nurseries. And we cried.

Well, I cried. In those days Papa Bear was even more circumspect about his feelings than he is now. And he was always very zen about the process. Without a womb of his own, lying barren and fallow month after month, he couldn’t fully engage in my pain. He reminded me that adoption would always be on the cards (and it always is). But in the end, whether the baby he held in his arms one day grew in my tummy or someone else’s made little difference.

I imagine it was a foolish and whimsical thing to mind. But I did mind. I wanted to be a mama. I couldn’t be a mama.

Each month, the dreaded cycle would repeat. Each month, the proud badge of womanhood would taunt me more fiercely than the month before, mocking my efforts and showing me up for the worthless human being I clearly was. Every month I’d be reminded that I’d failed. I couldn’t even do this one thing properly – this one thing that illiterate peasants could do without a moment’s conscious thought. I couldn’t even be a woman. Simple. Natural.


I failed and I failed and I failed. The more my husband loved me, the worse it was. I was failing him. I was failing me. I was failing our parents and my own empty arms. No amount of logic could assuage the guilt. The doctors had warned me (ever so gently) of the damage I may have done to my body. I’d read the books. Now I’d married the perfect Daddy (carefully selected for that very trait), and I couldn’t give him the missing ingredient of his fatherhood: a child.

At length, after many months of debilitating periods and blank pregnancy tests, we gave up. Our doctor advised a course of fertility treatment, and we decided to consider that in a year’s time, when we’d both settled into the jobs we’d just started. I had surgery for endometriosis, and we dusted off our adoption papers. We started a work out regime and got serious about our eating plan.

It was after an early morning cycle ride that I came home and went straight to bed, too sick to go to work. My mom called and told me I was pregnant. And she was right. The year of agony was over as we stared a terrifying, wonderful new adventure. While the threat of Cystic Fibrosis loomed over us for many months, the hole in our family would soon be filled.

While our story had a happy ending, I know many that haven’t. We are blessed beyond the words we have to explain our happiness. But we knew that pain – I felt that searing agony – of not knowing for sure if parenthood would ever be an option for us. Those empty years were by far the longest of my life. If you’re facing that now, or have ever faced it, I can’t really offer anything except my compassion, my love and my prayers. There is peace to be found in the pain, and healing in the heart ache. There are over 2 million children in South Africa right now, waiting to be adopted. I am going to be part of the solution for at least one of those children, and I hope you’ll join me in that adventure. If that’s not your path, just know that you’re not alone. There are many of us here, willing and ready to listen, wanting to care for you. You are so deeply loved.

Musings on the nature of love

“I’ve got a little list!
I’ve got a little list!
Of people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face!”
– ‘The Mikado‘, Gilbert and Sullivan

How a little list saved my lifeWhen I was about 14, I made a list. It described the attributes of my perfect man. I hid it away, ready to pull out when (if) I ever met someone who I thought could be marriage material. I wanted to get it right.

Five years later, when I did finally meet someone who seemed to be Mr Right, I must admit that I rushed in and accepted his proposal before I even remembered that there was a list to be checked. I found the list when I was packing up my life to go and be his wife. Amused, and utterly convinced that I’d made the right choice, I compared Mr Soon-to-be-Mine to the Mr Right I’d concocted in my youth.

He ticked very box.

He even met criteria I thought no one ever would, and which I’d left off the list as being “too much to ask for”. (Honestly, can you really hope for a MacGuyver-type who does a killer John Cleese imitation AND knows all the words to every episode of the Goon Show? Yet that’s what I got! I’d have settled for “has once heard of the Goon Show.”)

In retrospect I may have put other items on my list which I could never have imagined as a teenager. Things like “loves doing dishes” or “picks up after himself”. I imagine I’m not alone there.

My point, though, is that I knew what I wanted, and I recognised it when it stood in front of me. Before I accepted Papa Bear’s proposal, there had been other contenders for the role. I’d nearly settled for a trainee teacher (I love academics) and a wanna-be fireman (brave!). I was diverted by a banker for a while, and even considered and actor/veterinarian. I didn’t really think I’d ever get everything on my list, and in a way that list was an insurance policy. Because I so adamantly did not want to get married, the list gave me a way out of every relationship. And then it didn’t.

We’ve been married for 16 and a half years. Of course we’ve had our share of trials, but we are still in love, and our relationship gets stronger all the time.

Not all of my friends are so lucky, and I recently found myself contemplating the nature of love. I believe that a big part of why we’re good together is because we’re a good fit. And a big part of being a good fit is intentional planning. The men I didn’t marry didn’t meet some key criteria that, to me, were non-negotiable. There were things like, “he must be able to spell”, “he must love to read”, “he absolutely may not demonstrate violence”. Those things might seem obvious to you, but each of the men I turned down (except perhaps the vet) barely read anything, couldn’t spell, and demonstrated violence in subtle ways. And as soon as those things became apparent, I lost interest. It wasn’t a rational act as much as a visceral reaction.

My less fortunate friends find themselves married or involved with men who are distant, unkind, uninvolved, and even violent. Men who don’t read or even value the written word. Men with little clue about what parenting involves or that it ought to involve them. I am astonished that they could have chosen those men in the first place, as I would have run a mile in the opposite direction from that kind of attention. I actually did. They kindly point out to me that they didn’t choose. They fell in love. It just happened.

How could that just happen? This single “fall” has the power to create a lifetime’s worth of joy or bring a seeming eternity of lonely misery. How can we leave something like that to chance? How can we let willful, capricious emotions – possibly created in a moment’s intoxicated weakness – take charge in such a critical aspect of our lives? Is it not far too important to allow a few months of chemical reactions to set us on a course for the rest of our lives??

And yet – didn’t I fall in love? Didn’t Papa Bear and I declare our intentions within days of our meeting? Didn’t we get engaged barely a month after we met? Wouldn’t we have been married a whole year earlier if the law had allowed it? And here, at last, we reach the culmination of my musings. Could it be that I rewired my brain when I made that list? I don’t know what I would have selected without the list, although the near-misses give me a fair idea. I knew my training and experience had set me on a course for self-destruction. I wanted better than that. And I got it. I got better than I dreamed, and better than I ought to have had.

I believe that marriage is hard work, and that any two people willing to put in the effort required can make any marriage work. I also believe that we foolish humans self-sabotage, and if we don’t take thoughtful and definitive steps to identify and circumvent our own personal brand of sabotage, we will be powerless against it. So my musings lead me to think that that little list of mine saved my life, and laid the foundation of my children’s happiness. I wish I could give them more, but I can give them love, safety and security. And that is more than most.

How about you? When looking for a mate, do you base your choices on how he (or she) makes you feel? Or do you know what you’re looking for? And how important is knowing when it comes to falling in love? Do you think you can programme yourself to make smart choices? Please tell me what you think.


Date night on a shoestring

Even Google wished me happy birthday!

Even Google wished me happy birthday!

Today is my birthday! Huzzah! Birthdays are supposed to be fun. It’s a day all to yourself, on which you get gifts and people spoil you and your husband take you out to dinner. When times are tight, however, it can be tempting to find the celebrations less than fun. It’s not hard to feel, sometimes, as though stuff = happiness, and if we can’t afford the stuff, we can’t buy happiness.

That is half true: you can’t buy happiness. You have to find it, and you need to invest time in doing so. All the marriage experts advise us to “date our mates“, but sometimes it’s difficult to imagine how to go on a date when you have kids, and very little else ;).   So, here are my

Top 10 Tips for a FABULOUS Date Night

– no matter how tight your budget is.

  1. Sleep overs rock

    First things first: tonight is about you and him. Whether you’re staying in or going out, having a reliable, trustworthy person watching your angels will make the night a lot more fun for you. If you choose your babysitter well, the kids will be so excited to go, they’ll think it’s all about them! Everyone wins. We often call on my loving sister, who adores the girls and also gives them a night of fun and laughter while we’re out.

  2. Eat in

    You’re making supper anyway, right? Add a couple of candles, some flowers and a little music, and it’s a date. Turn off the TV (and put away the computers), and spend some time reconnecting with your spouse.

  3. Take out

    We always eat less when we get take-aways than we do when we sit down in a restaurant. In fact, my very favourite way to spend Date Night is to split a Chetty’s Chicken Curry with my man – at home.

  4. Coffee shop it

    If you can run to it, it really is fun to get a little dressed up and go somewhere nice. Coffee shops often have a lovely ambience, and for some reason bought coffee always tastes nicer, no matter how good my at-home brand may be. There’s no need to order a bang up meal with cake and lots to drink. A cup or two of coffee (find a pace that does bottomless!) provides a sense of luxurious leisure, and a stress-free zone to catch up with your man.

  5. Desserts: stressed spelled backwards for a good reason!

    Perhaps you could just go out for a piece of cake (if you’re not gluten intolerant 😉 ) or some fruit salad. Frozen yoghurt or smoothies or good, old-fashioned ice cream. “Date” doesn’t have to mean “dinner”. And let’s be honest, aren’t desserts the whole point, after all?

  6. Movies at home (or YouTube)

    Movies are loads of fun. Papa Bear and I love a rollicking action flick or a side-splitting comedy. We often play something light in the background while we work at night. Date night is an opportunity to engage in the movie (and each other) a little more, without the distractions of work and kids and technology. If you have the bandwidth, look up comedians on YouTube and explore new territory. Enjoy laughing together, holding hands and just being together.

  7. Picnics and outings

    A picnic costs nothing. Well, nothing more than lunch, which you were going to have anyway. There’s little in the world to compare to the happy ease of sitting outside, enjoying the gorgeous weather and just being.

  8. Board games

    Scrabble. Cranium. 30 Seconds. The art of combat is ignited, battles are fought and won (by me!) and in the process we laugh and chat and reconnect.

  9. Volunteer

    Is there something you both feel passionate about? Why not take a couple of hours to make a difference in your community, and at the same time get closer to one another? It’ll be fun!

  10. Date your mateEvery night could be date night

    We’ve found that any night that sees the kids in bed and us together – maybe on the couch sharing a cup of cocoa, or sitting at the desk together while we both work, with comedy on in the background, can be “Date Night” if you choose to see it that way. Quality time is a love language because it really is a way to express love – even if not a word is spoken.

The real key to having successful dates on a regular basis is to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. View the challenges as part of the adventure. View the easy patches as a welcome (and deserved) reprieve. Above all, laugh together, and enjoy one another.

And don’t forget to DATE YOUR MATE as often as you can.

Lots of love,


What your Mama should’ve told you about marriage (but didn’t).

A very good friend of mine is getting married in just over a month. He’s nervous, understandably, and has been asking me for advice. His primary concern is that, since they’ve been living together for a number of years, that initial “spark” has fizzled.  He’s worried that if he can’t reignite it before the wedding, it could mean that he’s making a big mistake, that they’re not meant for each other, and that somehow he’s “fallen out of love” with her.

Here’s my response:

It’s a trick!

In fact that initial spark is utterly fake. (Watch the video below) The initial spark is pure chemistry: your body and her body flood with hormones for long enough to allow your brains time to connect and identify a potential relationship partner. Science shows that this chemical reaction NEVER lasts more than 2  years (even 18 months is long), and everything after that is what it’s all about. Love is NOT a feeling. It is a decision. You decide to sacrifice your preferences and needs for someone else’s. In an ideal world, she decides the same thing. Then you lay the ground rules as a foundation for your relationship (eg: no cheating, no hitting, no badmouthing, no leaving), and you both apply a WORLD of plain, old-fashioned GRIT, and you work at it every moment of every day of your life.

Excellence requires EFFORT

Love is a VERB

Love is a VERB

To be good at ANYTHING requires hard work, practice, effort and determination. If you were aiming to be an Olympic athlete, you’d expect to train long and hard, for months and years on end, just to have a HOPE of success. In marriage, we should try to be the best spouse we can possibly be. We need to commit to training long and hard, disciplining ourselves and making an effort – for months and years. The key difference between marriage and Olympic sports is that in marriage these factors ALWAYS guarantee success, whereas on the sports field they only guarantee a CHANCE at success.

Failure is the result of expectations

The reason marriages fail is because people don’t realise these two things: love is an ACTION, not a feeling; and marriage takes lots of consistent work. It is worth it, but you need to go in with your eyes open.

Consider the cost

The only way to get that fluttery feeling back is to get it with someone else. And that costs so much more than you can quantify. True love in a committed marriage is DEEP. It lasts. It supports you when you feel that you’re facing the world alone. It comforts you when you’re at your lowest and rejoices with you at your highest. It supports you on the journey from low to high, and inspires you to get that. It knows you, understands you, cares for you. One day you’ll be old and infirm, and if you’ve traded your life of committed bliss for a few moments of feeling amazing, you’ll be alone. But if you’ve taken the plunge to be the person someone else needs in exchange for them being the person you need (whether they do their part or not, you NEED to do yours), you’ll be rewarded with contentment and a deeper version of love than you can even begin to fathom now.

Romantic love is a chemical addiction – Helen Fisher on TED

What do you think about marriage and love? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The world needs all kinds of minds – Temple Grandin (TED Talk) – watch this!

Please watch this. It’s fascinating. It answers a lot of questions – and unlocks a lot more!

Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

Through groundbreaking research and the lens of her own autism, Temple Grandin brings startling insight into two worlds.

I love this:

Temple Grandin: ” … who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. And if you were to get rid of all the autism genetics there would be no more Silicon Valley,and the energy crisis would not be solved. “

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