RIP Caden Beggan – a reality check

I am so heartbroken. I’ve spent the last half hour reading through this Facebook page dedicated to Caden Beggan. This 6 year old boy contracted meningococcal septicemia, a deadly disease and this page tells the story from the time he contracted the disease to his passing. Mainly narrated by his Dad, it’s a harrowing yet beautiful tribute to his son. This post is not about the disease, although I did Google it and again I felt sick as I realized that recovery is slim, as your blood poisons your body and your tissues are destroyed by the virus, the scarring turns your body from purple to black and your limbs and extremities may need to be amputated in order to keep you alive. No one is safe from the disease, the cause is unknown and while there are vaccinations for babies against meningococcal disease – they don’t prevent the disease altogether. Anyway, as I said this post is not about the disease…

When something happens to any child, as a mother I always find myself putting myself  in that parents shoes. Can you imagine finding your little boy on the bathroom floor, not quite sure what the problem is? Can you imagine watching his skin turn colour as the illness rips through his body? Can you imagine being told that you have to amputate his limbs if there’s any chance of survival? Can you imagine not being able to take the pain away? Can you imagine the rise and fall of your emotions – your life –  as his diagnosis goes from bad to worse, but ever so often a glimmer of hope as he shows even a slight improvement? Can you imagine having to explain to his siblings that he may not make it? Can you imagine having to deal with the death of your baby?

I simply cannot imagine it.

I love a good reality check. One that really stops you in your tracks and makes you take stock of your life and of your loved ones and of what really is important. At the end of your life, the only thing that will really matter is relationships. How you loved and how you were loved. I doubt you’ll be worried about how much money you made, what titles you racked up or how good you were at your job. Personally, I’ll want to know that I loved deeply and fully, that I added value to the lives of those around me. That my children felt like a million bucks everyday due to the positive impact that I made in their lives. Life is so unpredictable, and the longer I live, the more I realize the value in a moment because you just don’t know how many moments you have left. And I constantly need to remind myself of this, and stories like Caden’s remind me again that you just don’t know how much time you have.

Being a mom isn’t easy, and even five minutes after I’ve written this, I’ll probably be yelling at the kids, but I seriously do not want to be left with any regrets – so after my yelling, I’m going to simmer down and strangle them with a hug. Forgive quickly, forget easily, love deeply.

My heart bleeds for this family. xxx

The ability to forgive and the ability to love are the weapons God has given us to live fully, bravely, and meaningfully in this less-than-perfect world. — Harold S. Kushner: When Bad Things Happen To Good People

I wanna be a billionaire…

Ok, not even a billionaire. Not even a millionaire. I wish I didn’t have to worry about money. I honestly think that a lot of my problems would disappear if I had a lot of money. Everyone who doesn’t have a lot of money says that that is not true, that the rich have many more problems, but I’m sorry I don’t believe that for one minute. I think you’re just trying to make yourself feel better. Ha. Of course the rich have other problems, I don’t think money makes your life perfect. But let’s be honest, they aren’t laying awake at night wondering how they are going to afford school fees, or how they are going to make ends meet with the price of EVERYTHING going up drastically, and salaries going up not so drastically – or at all.

I am not complaining, I totally understand that the majority of South Africans are living way, way below the breadline. I am blessed / fortunate / privileged to live the life I live. The fact that I have running water in my taps makes me richer than more than half the population. Please understand this is not a post about being ungrateful. Perhaps it’s just a whiny post about how I wish life wasn’t so hard all the time. I KNOW we serve a Mighty God who provides out of His riches – this post is not about that, God is good all the time, I believe that He has my best interests at heart, even when I feel like He doesn’t. But please just indulge my little whine – surely we are allowed to have one now and again. This post is more about my humanity (which makes me whiny and annoying and selfish) than about my spirituality (which makes me transcend the whininess and move forward in faith). So here goes, stop reading if you aren’t human.

Some days I wish I didn’t have to watch every single penny, some days I wish I could walk into a store and buy something I liked without having to look at the price tag first. But it’s not even about the material things so let me retract that statement, although it’s true. Some days I wish I didn’t have to base every single decision I make on my financial standing – which schools to choose, which shop to do my groceries in, which shop to buy the kids the stuff they need like clothes, shoes, toys, etc. WHAT stuff the kids need versus what the kids just want because they’re kids, what toiletries I use, which invitations I accept or decline, which hair salon I go to, which holiday destination I choose, which plumber to call, which quote to go with after phoning 324 suppliers looking for the cheapest to get the job done, which job offer to accept. EVERY.SINGLE .ONE of these decisions are based on what my bank manager tells me is in the bank. I want to use a certain brand because I like it not because it is the most cost effective. I want to send my kids to a school I love, without having to sell one of them to afford the fees. I want to go on holiday to somewhere amazing, and not choose the budget option every time, I want to be able to do the work I love, without having to worry about the pay cheque. I want to open the Yellow Pages and just call the first number I find to get someone to do whatever I need doing. I don’t want to fight over money. Anymore. There are two main themes to our arguments at home. How to raise the kids and finances. That’s it. I’d really, really, really like to cut one of them out, and let’s face it, we’ll never agree on every single thing when it comes to the kids, so I’m hoping to win the Lotto so we don’t have to fight about money!

I don’t want to live from one pay day to the next. I don’t want end of the month salty cracks! I want to live within the constraints of a budget, but I don’t want to be strangled by it. I don’t want the bank to keep offering to up my credit card limit because they can clearly see that this sucker needs it!

So that’s my human rant for the day. I need to step back into my spiritual mindframe because quite frankly, I’d drive myself insane if I had to keep looking at this with human eyes. Seriously, people are killing themselves over financial issues every day, marriages are falling apart because of money.

So one needs to pray for a peace that passes all understanding and look forward to a prosperous future as God has promised. I’m also praying for some sort of wisdom and a damn good idea on how to make a second income – people if you are relying on one income in these uncertain times, I personally think it’s dangerous. Life hey, it ain’t easy folks.

I heard something funny in church this week, and I’m going to make it my mantra for the next few weeks in order to remain upbeat even amidst the ever decreasing bank balance.

My God is not El Cheapo, he is El Shaddai! God Almighty! As long as He is in charge, I’ll go along for the ride – broke but not broken. Ha.

When you smash someone else’s car.

Now that the dust has settled (or rather the glass has shattered), I think it’s safe to speak about it.

Last week I drove my husband’s passenger side mirror into a pillar that jumped out at me in the basement parking at work. Ashamedly I will admit that I was the first car at work, there were approximately 250 empty bays, and yes I chose the one next to the pillar. I have been driving for well over ten years and have never been involved in or caused an accident, and the day I choose to do something stupid, I was driving the husband’s car. Great.

We both drive normal middle class cars so we aren’t particular about “yours” and “mine.” Whoever’s car is easier to navigate out of the yard or garage in the morning, is the one I choose to drive. We usually travel to work together but on days when I have errands to run or the husband has outside meetings, we travel separately. This was such a day. Thank goodness I was alone because heaven knows how many questions I would have had to answer if Liam was in the car with me.

So I drove into the parking fine, and then realized I was a bit close to the pillar, so I reversed out with the intention of straightening up and well the mirror got in the way. The glass shattered and popped out and I screamed loud and had a little cry. When I got out to assess the damage, I had another little cry because I knew the husband was going to have a mini freak out. I BBM’d him – hey if you can break up over BBM, you can tell your husband you smashed his car over BBM, ok. He didn’t respond for about two hours, although I could see that he had read the message. In the mean time I phoned VW to get a quote, I phoned some other second hand places which my colleagues suggested after they had all but wee’d themselves laughing at me. I phoned our good friend begging him to help me, without telling my husband that I had asked him for help. I was truly panicked.

Then my husband eventually responded to firstly say it was fine. (relief from me) But very shortly after he couldn’t resist in asking me what sort of bad driver misjudges a parking? (annoyance from me) Oh and how did I not see the pillar? (extreme irritation for me) And how could I be so silly? (whatever). And finally, “but as long as you are ok.”

We found a place that will replace the glass for R150. No big deal. But the lesson I have learned is that no matter what car it is or how much you love your husband, it still feels better to smash your own car rather than his (although not smashing any cars would be first prize.) Oh and always be on the lookout for pillars that jump out from nowhere.

Women are from Venus, Men are … Morons

*Disclaimer: Ok this title is a bit harsh, but it got your attention didn’t it?  For the record, I love my husband and no husbands were harmed in the production of this post*

An ongoing problem in our relationship is that my husband says I like to be right, I like to make all the decisions and I think I know everything. So what’s the problem, right? Ok fair enough, I may be a little headstrong in my approach, but that’s simply because I know I am right all most of the time. I’m not one of those people who will argue unless I am pretty sure I know what I am talking about. If I have a shadow of a doubt, I will say so, but still give my opinion. Basically I like to be heard.

Maybe it’s because I am the youngest of four children and needed to fight for my voice to be heard. Maybe it’s because I was my parents’ favourite and all their doting attention gave me a big head. Maybe it’s just because I am so bloody awesome. All I know is, 99% of the time I should be winning the argument because I am right, but sometimes I let my husband win to boost his ego. (Murphy, you know my husband doesn’t read my blog, please don’t let him choose today to have a look-see.)

Ok, so when we moved into our house, we decided that I’d be in charge of the inside of the house, and his domain would be outside. I was willing to relinquish this bit of power, so that he could feel like the king of something. Foolishly I agreed to this, thinking that inside was obviously far superior to have complete reign over, than outside. Rookie error, I admit. So I take care of everything in the house, except stuff like fixing tv’s and microwaves and getting things on the top shelf because I’m short, and cleaning and sweeping because I don’t like housework, and doing dishes because the husband enjoys doing that and taking out the trash. So everything else. He makes sure the yard is neat and tidy, the pool is clean and working, the irrigation system does what it needs to do and the trees, shrubs, verges and flowers look tip-top. He is responsible for keeping the cars clean and working, making sure the bins are put out on dirt day, making sure I don’t get wet between the house and the car if it is raining – outside stuff, you know.

So the other morning, Gentry (the lovely man who looks after our garden) and the husband were walking in the yard, taking stock of the lay of the land, discussing whatever men in the garden discuss. I tried to eavesdrop or lip read to no avail. So I left it. I got home from work and the first thing I see is this big gaping hole along the side of the fence. The big gaping hole which once housed my most magnificent lily bush or whatever that flower was called. I go a little crazy… I’m like “what did Gentry do, that Gentry is going to be in so much trouble, Gentry hasn’t seen my wrath, Gentry you make me so mad” and on and on I went. Enter husband who tells me that HE told Gentry to take that bush out. I think my eyes may have started rolling back in my head and smoke may have come out of my ears – but I blacked out so I can’t recall my exact reaction. But let’s imagine it went something like this… even though it didn’t but this will give you the gist…

Me: Why dear husband would you direct Gentry to pull out that bush?

Husband: Because it was dead.

Me: No it wasn’t dead, it merely needed to be pruned and tended to.

Husband: It was overgrown, the leaves were brown and it hadn’t flowered in two months.

Me: Yes darling husband, this is what flowers do… they flower periodically, NOT CONSTANTLY. The brown bits need to be chopped off and the bush can be trimmed down but it was NOT dead.

Husband: Ok sorry, I’ll buy you a new one.

Me: That bush was well established, it was probably there for years, it was alive and flourishing. You buying me a new one will not fix this.

Husband: Oh well (walks away).


Anyway, my green thumbed mother advised me to dig in the dirty black backs of garden refuse and get the bulbs and replant them. Eeuw. I’ll pass thanks. I’m now looking for something that will grow quickly and wildly and close up that hole so that I don’t have to be reminded of it every day. Any suggestions? THIS is why I need to be in control of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING – inside the house or outside, because if I am not, then stupid things like this happen. Going forward, nothing happens without Sergeant Major’s (that would be me) approval, NOTHING.

Please take a look at this.. I’ve entitled this image “From Hero to Zero” – yes my “dead” bush produced these flowers just a few months ago. Go figure.

From Hero to Zero


My son, the extrovert

Liam is a born extrovert. Even as a baby he would go to anyone, didn’t have separation anxiety, settled easily into new environments and routines, took to school like a duck to water, and started talking pretty much from the time he realized that sounds could come out of his mouth. Seriously, my friends can attest to the babbler that Liam was. I have never ever met another baby who did this thing that Liam did. He would babble endlessly with all the lilts and pauses of a regular conversation and look you in the eye and babble as if he was talking perfect English to another person. He would pause to let you speak, and then respond back in babble. You would know he was asking a question based on the lilt of his babble, and he would expect you to answer. He was like a grown person talking in another language basically. It was very cute.

In the years that followed, we’ve seen Liam grow into a very confident little so-and-so, and although he isn’t overly adventurous (he still doesn’t like the toy machines that move when the coins are inserted), he is quite happy to sit back and chinwag for hours on end with anyone who will listen – from his family, to complete strangers. So he isn’t much of a dare devil, but he sure knows how to talk.

Last Saturday evening, we were in Durban for my husband’s grandfather’s memorial and a bit of a family reunion. My social butterfly was in his element – introducing himself to all his aunties and uncles, and long lost cousins. Asking them what cars they drove, where their mommies and daddies were (this question to some people who were well over 60 years old), what their names were. He was in the middle of the dance floor, doing forward rolls (his breakdance move) in the middle of the circle. I think he came to me twice during the whole evening to say hi – and that was as much as I saw of him. People were coming over to me to tell me what a wonderful little boy I had, and how bubbly he was and “wherever does he get his verbal diarrhea from because we know Byron isn’t much of a talker” wink wink nudge nudge.

This warms my heart, it really does. My heart does break sometimes when he encounters a child and sometimes an adult who are jolted and put off by the frankness of his questions or by his gregarious nature. Not everyone finds his enquiring mind as precocious as we do, which is fine, sometimes even I find his incessant talking overwhelming. So I hope that his little bold self, isn’t put off by the negativity he is sure to encounter from his peers and others as he grows. I hope that he never loses this childlike curiosity or his confidence to just do and say whatever he feels. I can learn a lot from this kid, when he isn’t crying or throwing tantrums, he really is a joy to be around.

I collected these pictures from various people’s BBM profile pictures, Facebook pictures and from Twitter. My child with all his lady friends from Saturday night. I am going to have to monitor this little Lady’s Man very closely, me thinks.

Metro Police – you suck.

So today we are driving from Johannesburg to Durban. The police presence on the road is astounding, in a good way. They are littered over the N3 like flies on a carcass.

Then we get pulled over. My husband isn’t a fast driver, but he does go ever so slightly over the limit now and again. I’m not sure that he was speeding when we got pulled over, but he could have been. The female cop comes to the window and tells him to get out of the car with his license. The only thing I say to my husband is “take the ticket and do not give a bribe.”

Out of my passenger side mirror I see the driver in front of us, who was also pulled over, getting out of the passenger side of the police vehicle. My husband is told to get in. This in itself is against procedure and I can smell this rat right on my nostrils. Liam is yelling in the backseat, “is daddy going to jail?”

Husband comes back about three minutes later. This officer of the law told him that he was due a R2500 ticket or alternatively, how about a Christmas box? He was travelling 5kms over the speed limit. He opened his wallet and showed her his R200 and told her it was his last and he had to get to Durban. She then told him to get out of her car.

Now here’s my opinion. I am highly irritated, I am completely disillusioned and I am quite embarrassed. If these policemen on the N3 are stopping cars with the sole purpose of fattening their purses, it is indeed a sad state of affairs. I know this is nothing new, but each time I am faced with this sort of bribery or I hear of someone who was, it makes me not like South Africa just a little. I have always said I will not give a bribe, ever. Give me my ticket and your name and let’s both be on our separate ways. But I will not be implicated in giving South Africa yet another tarnishing blow to her already rusty trophy by selling out.

None of us are earning millions, many of us are just about surviving on our salaries, what makes you think you can earn a second income by preying on people who, yes, may be breaking the law, but are being made to fork out early Christmas gifts for your kids? You give the law a bad stinking name. No wonder we haven’t got faith in you, no wonder communities take the law into their own hands against criminals, no wonder there is just general lawlessness in South Africa.

Please can I urge you to take a stand. Don’t offer a bribe, if you were in the wrong, take your punishment, but don’t allow these dirty cops to get away with this. It sickens me. I wish I had taken her name and the registration number of her vehicle. But where would that have gotten me anyway hey?

Living the South African dream. Ya right.

The one about medical aid

I know and understand the value of a good medical aid. My father is a senior manager at Old Mutual, I know about insuring your life to death (literally and figuratively), insuring anything and everything tangible, and how you can’t put any monetary value on receiving good medical treatment. I get it ok. Totally. BUT with medical aid prices increasing dramatically year on year, while the benefit decreases or stays the same, one has to question how much “aid” we’re getting for our buck.

Granted my company is paying 55% of my monthly instalment, I still feel the amount I’m spending on medical aid is exorbitant for the benefits I am actually using day to day. This year, I can count the number of times we, as a family of four, went to the doctor, on both hands. Other than the doctor, Liam and I went to the dentist once. The rest of my MSA was spent on OTC medication “just because” – on things like head ache tablets, cough syrup, pain and fever meds for the kids and vitamins. Our savings ran out this week, which in itself isn’t bad, with only a month to go before the end of the year (don’t you dare, Murphy’s Law, don’t even think about it). Although MOST and I mean 95% of the families are know, ran out of savings in the first quarter of the year and have been paying cash PLUS their monthly instalment, desperately trying to close the self payment gap. It’s CRAZY!

It’s this time of year when your medical aid starts sending you advisories about next year’s plans and price hikes and I got speaking to some of the moms and dads at work. Many of them  have been successfully surviving on a hospital plan WHILE putting away that additional instalment they would have been paying to the medical aid on a higher plan. This means that they pay cash for medicines or doctors visits if and when the need arises from the funds which they are diligently putting away, and in turn are making a huge saving on the months where no medical attention was required. I did a rudimentary tally of our doctor’s visits, including possible medication, added in three specialist visits – all at the cash price and let me tell you, I’d save thousands a year if I did this.

I’m not trying to be a scrooge, putting my kids health at risk because I don’t want to pay Discovery. Not at all. However, in these current economic conditions one has to be savvy, and we need to be looking for ways to cut back in every area. I’m currently looking at hospital plan options; surprisingly you can get a decent hospital plan which gives you access to any hospital nationwide, without huge co-payments at a very reasonable monthly fee.

NOW here’s the crux. How disciplined am I? The saving here is not instant. I will still need to set this money aside for day to day medical expenses AND have enough to cover any specialist visits. Based on our current trend, this is easily doable but who can tell what next year holds? (Or if I won’t spend the money on shoes.) When I look at the amount I am paying every month for medical aid, this would cover doctor’s visits, and the usual meds and then some. When I consider that there are sometimes months when we don’t go to a doctor at all, this would even out the need for a specialist visit, if need be. I mean people are doing it, and saving, so why can’t I get a piece of that pie?

This weekend I am meeting with my Dad to discuss this issue, to get his professional opinion. Of course I have my reservations, without wishing ill health upon my family people do get sick, someone just has to sneeze on your kid and they need an antibiotic. What do you think? What’s your medical aid like? What do you think of the rates versus the benefits? Are you happy? Would you consider this?