Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy holidays!

I've decided that there won't be any blogging during the next three weeks - I think it is quite important to really 'wind down' once you are on holiday, not doing the usual stuff and definitely not sticking to your everyday routine.

I'm wishing a wonderfully joyous festive season for you and your loved ones - do stuff that makes you feel good and that you don't ever find the time for during the year. 

My friend shared this story with us during our last book club get-together; I think it's quite special:

Recipe for Christmas all year long

Take a heap of child-like wonder
That opens up your eyes
To the enexpected gifts in life -
Each day a surprise.
Mix in fond appreciation
For the people whom we know;
Like festive Christmas candles,
Each one has a special glow.

Add some giggles and some laughter,
A dash of Christmas food,
(Amazing how a piece of pie improves your attitude ;-)
Stir it all with human kindness;
Wrap it up in love and peace,
Decorate with optimism, and
Our joy will never cease.

If we use this healthy recipe,
We know we will remember
To be in the Christmas spirit
Even when it's not December

Happy holidays everyone - chat again in January!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wake up and smell the roses...or khaki-bush, but smell!

Why is it that we always count the days until the weekend, or our holiday, or to Christmas (like I did myself a while ago)?  It's good to look forward to special events in one's life, but doesn't that imply that we wish that the clock will just tick a bit faster so that we can experience the event sooner?

I try to live in the moment, to apply 'mindfulness' (at least when I actively think about it every now and then), but most of the time I fail miserably, because I'm already thinking (and wishing) for Friday to come, so that I can go on holiday.

But what if today is my very last day, what if this will be my last post, the last thought that I share with a few people?  If we knew when our last day will be (and I know there are many arguments stating that this is a bad idea, which is not necessarily untrue), will we live our life - today, differently?

This is my motto for the rest of December (at least) - to really experience moments in my life, and not only looking forward to the big events.  My dearest friend lost her dad over the weekend, very abruptly.  It seems as if it takes big events (such as the passing away of a loved one) to serve as a wake-up call, although we know so well that life can change in a split second.

It is just me that struggle with these very simple facts of life?  I'm going to make myself a cup of tea, smell the approaching rain outside and embrace what life brings to me today - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is a bad thing to look forward to special occasions, and to 'count the sleeps' until the day finally arrives, but I do think that this should not be what motivates us to get out of bed in the morning. 

Is this a silly resolution (and it's not even New Year yet)?  ;-)

Have a splendid Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS day: what does it mean to you?

We are commemorating World AIDS Day today, as you all will know (the media hype makes it hard to miss).  This hype is certainly a good thing since it is a health and social issue that cannot be ignored.  It's important for us in South Africa and throughout the whole world to take note of the risks and dangers, but also the stories of hope, care and compassion associated with this disease.
I'm thinking about the 'sub-text' underlying the commemoration of World Aids Day - what is it that we really should be thinking about when HIV and AIDS is at stake, apart from the obvious do's and don'ts surrounding AIDS?  

Respect is the first word that comes to my mind - no discriminating acts or behaviour towards any individual, HIV positive or negative. And with that respecting the rights of others - whether I think they are deserving of specific rights or not.  Tolerance is another value that correlates to respect - accepting other's ideas and behaviour, even when it differs completely from my own.  But with respect and tolerance comes accountability - really accepting responsibility for, and being accountable for my own actions - the good, the bad and ugly.

For me World AIDS Day is also about getting involved, not just today, but every other day of the year, and not only concerning HIV and AIDS, but getting involved with vulnerable people in my community - identifying (and hopefully addressing some of)the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those around me.

My plan of action is therefore to Learn, Speak and Give -  maybe starting with the No Violence Against Women and Children campaign and World Aids Day, but not stopping there.

What does World Aids Day mean to you?

Want to read more?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't look away, act against abuse - here's what we can do!

We're already in the fifth day of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.  This international campaign takes place every year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). The period includes Universal Children’s Day and World AIDS Day.

During this time, the South African Government runs a 16 Days of Activism Campaign to make people aware of the negative impact of violence on women and children and to act against abuse.  The theme for this year's campaign is "don't look away - act against abuse".

Want to get involved but not sure how? 

  • Support the campaign by wearing the white ribbon during the 16-day period: A white ribbon is a symbol of peace and symbolises the commitment of the wearer to never commit or condone violence against women and children.

  • Join the Cyber Dialogues initiative: The Cyber Dialogues facilitate on-line discussions amongst people to discuss issues related to the abuse of women and children, share experiences and propose solutions.

  • Volunteer in support of NGOs and community groups who support abused women and children: Many organisations need assistance from the public. You can volunteer your time and make a contribution to the work of institutions. Help plant a garden at a shelter, sponsor plastic tables and chairs for kids at a clinic or join an organisation as a counsellor. Use your skills and knowledge to help the victims of abuse.

  • Donations: You can donate money to organisations working to end violence against women and children by making a contribution to the Foundation for Human Rights. The Foundation receives money raised during the campaign and distributes it to non-governmental organisations. There is no minimum or maximum amount set for your donation – it is up to you! Tel: 011 339 5560/1/2/3/4/5.

  • Speak out against woman and child abuse. Encourage silent female victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help. Report child abuse to the police. Encourage children to report bully behaviour to school authorities. Men and boys are encouraged to talk about abuse and actively discourage abusive behaviour.

  • Let's all commit to at least one activity / plan of action in the fight against abuse - and more importantly, let's continue with the campaign even after the 16 day period is long forgotton. 

     What is your contribution?  Please share your ideas.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    A time for giving (and receiving)!

    In only a month's time we're celebrating Christmas - can you believe it?  I know that we've all been talking about how time is flying but it just struck me today, only 36 days and then we're greeting 2011!

    I know that Christmas is, and should not be about splashing out on expensive gifts, but I also know that it is special to receive a package (or two) on Christmas Eve, as is our family's tradition, or to wake up on Christmas Day, knowing that something is waiting for you under the Christmas tree. 

    Celebrating a Merry Christmas is, as we all know, more importantly about giving, about sharing, about being kind.  Although many of us have aspirations (and hopefully some of these aspirations are implemented) to be involved in charity work and projects, these ideals are not always realised, whatever the reason(s) might be.  So let's start with sharing something of ourselves this Christmas season -  be it our time and effort spent on people that is not part of our usual circle of loved ones or by simple gestures of kindness, thereby making a difference in our own small way.

    But, if you're like one of my best friends who will always give a thoughtful prezzie on top of her time, effort or act of kindness (and she gives this as well, may I tell you) - local community markets are ideal places to search for creative and funky gifts. 

    Make a date this weekend to visit one of these markets in Gauteng - you'll find a gift with a twist (and maybe one or two must-have items for yourself as well) - definitely worth your while:
    Please share your creative Christmas gift ideas!

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Mindfulness: the key to happiness?

    Every now and then someone claims to have found the 'key to happiness' - that special ingredient that is often absent in our daily lives, the missing link that prohibit us to enjoy and experience life to the full.

    Many scientists are of the opinion that mindfulness - truly living in the present - might be the golden egg we're all looking for.   Bishop, Lau, and colleagues (2007) offered a two component model of mindfulness in Wikipedia:
    "Mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. Mindfulness further involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance".
    Although I don't think that there is, or ever will be one key element that will guarantee happiness I do think that an awareness of living in the present moment - truly experiencing what you are currently busy with - might bring you a bit closer to a feeling of contentment. 

    Most of the troubles and difficulties that occupy our minds on a daily basis are concerning events that happened in the past already (and that we cannot change) or regarding events that might happen in the future - it is not reality, therefore.  If we can practice living in the present moment - truly experiencing only the good (or the bad or the ugly) of this particular moment - worries about the past and/or the present will occupy its righteous place (in the past or the present).

    Is mindfulness the key to happiness?  I don't think so, but it might bring us one (or even a few) step(s) closer to really living life to the full.

    Read more on Mindfulness and Kindness:  Inner sources of freedom and happiness by Jim Hopper, PhD. 

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Surviving silly season

    We're in the midst of  the 'silly season' and I'm sure no one wonders why this time of year is labeled as such.  Year end parties, projects at work that need to be finalised, family get togethers and last minute holiday planning are on everyone's to do lists, and yet it seems as if these lists are neverending!

    I remember that very last paper of each exam on varsity - it usually was the subject that needs the least studying for but I always dreaded writing (or rather, preparing for) that last one.  Why?  Simply because it's the final round of the race - the end is near but still seems so far!

    I often relive those exam memories during November.  And I've concluded that the best way to stay motivated and energised (okay, let's stick to motivated and leave 'energised' for the January edition) is to keep life simple and limit my exposure to stressful situations as far as possible.  That means declining invitations to events where I don't have a special interest in and saying no to people that I'm not particularly fond of.  It could also mean saying no to people - period.  I create me-time where my sole objective is to do something that I enjoy and which makes me happy. I do feel quite creative, strangely enough, and get these wonderful ideas in the middle of the night, but I will implement these (well, hopefully one or two of them) as from January 2011. Not now.

    My strategy for the next four weeks is to 'hang in there' - it's nearly time for relaxation and rejuvenation! I do realise that this is not the reality for all, but I also trust that those who won't be able to take a break during December did so during the year ;-)

    Most self-help articles will tell you that the best way to combat stress and fatigue is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, to drink loads of water, to ensure that you get enough sleep and....exercise.  And while this might be true November might not be the best time to be exposed to this 'winning recipe'.

    Do make sure that you surround yourself with optimistic people and be on the look-out for the humor in everyday life.  I'm sure many of you have seen this video before but then you'll also agree that a good dose of laughter is guaranteed - enjoy!

    P.S.  What is your 'tips and tricks' to survive silly season?  Please share ;-)

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    There's always something to be grateful for - (even on a blue Monday)!

    I feel blue on this particular Monday - not a baby-blueish variation of the colour, more to the likes of a midnight blue shade - unmistakably blue.  There is always a couple of reasons for this 'state' (as you all will know), but today feels as if I'm not only experiencing a blue Monday, I feel blue myself (how does that song go - "I'm blue ta da die da da da dey" ;-)

    My sister sends me an article by Maretta Bellingan (Sunday newspaper Rapport columnist): "Wees liewer dankbaar Pappa dra nie 'n bra nie" (Rather be grateful dad's not wearing a bra).  We so often complain about  how boring and monotonous our lives are and how we don't have enough time and money but more than enough work and weight around our tummies.  

    Fact is - if these are our major concerns at the moment, we don't have something to complain about.  We should actually thank our stars for only having to put up with one (okay, there might be a handful) wacky family member(s), having to listen to another mind-numbing weekend replay from a colleague and having to sit through our fair share of Christmas parties.  At least dad is only wearing his favourite rugby short and two-tone shirt - not a bra (your guess is spot on, dad is the leader of the wacky family pack).

    Click here to read Maretta's article - you'll have a laugh! 

    P.S. We can actually do something about the too much work and weighty matters and too little time complaints - what does Trevor Noah say, the power is in your hands ;-)

    Have a good week!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Support 'To Write Love On Her Arms Day'

    To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

    To Write Love On Her Arms Day is a day where anyone can write the words love on their arms, to support those who are fighting against depression and those who are trying to recover.

    For more information and to support this great initiative, go to!/event.php?eid=279693068238

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Elegance is an attitude

    I'm reading this week's issue of Time Magazine and the back cover catches my eye - Kate Winslet is the 'ambassador of elegance' of Longines Swiss watchmakers.  She is beautiful as ever, but what really attracts my attention is the single sentence on the entire page - "Elegance is an attitude".

    I'm going to try my best to believe this, no - really believe this, since we so often believe that a perfect 10 figure, flawless skin or the most amazing hairdo (or preferably a combination of the three) equals style or grace.  How does the saying go?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - elegance is in the attitude of the bearer.

    Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the ambassador of elegance in this pic.  A picture does say a thousand words!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    To blog or not to blog, that is the question...

    Blogging has been on my 'to do list' for nearly a year now, and here it is - at last, my first blog post! Doesn't it happen oh so often that we promise ourselves to do a specific thing but we just keep on procastinating? And then we like to talk in general terms - we say people, we, they, but we very seldom refer to me, myself and I?

    But when we (read I) decide that we're going to put our money where our mouth is we experience a feeling of freedom, liberation and self-worth.

    So on this Wednesday afternoon I'm going to hold on to this feeling and give myself a pat on the back for actually starting with something that I've decided to do a long time ago. No ifs or buts - congratulations little miss mentor!

    I hope this is the first of many meaningful posts. Please join the discussion by sending your comments or remarks - I'm looking forward to cheerful chats ;-)