Why can there be only one?

Hello Blog,

I just watched an interesting Ted-x Talk, Larry Smith on Why you will fail to have a great career. I’m not sure how I feel about what I just saw, I feel conflicted. It seems as though he was presenting the idea that passion for one thing excludes everything else. That you need to choose between having a career or being a great parent and human relationships, that you can either have accomplishments or relationships.

I think that idea makes me profoundly uncomfortable. In fact, I am pretty sure that I think that he is wrong. Why is it that we are only allowed to be passionate about one thing. We can either choose this or that, why can’t we embrace the complexity of life.

In fact, writing this now, I think that he has definitely gotten me thinking, but I think he is wrong. Perhaps we have one main passion, but what I have noticed in my self and in some others, is that by becoming passionate about one thing I become more interested in other things…perhaps I gain this interest in order to see how it can enhance my passion. But I think we are far more expansive and we are big enough to be able to have many passions…and perhaps we are able to grow with them and put some on the back burner. For now, my main passion is parenting.

It is interesting to take a moment to look at the definition of the word passion. According to Wikipedia, passion:

Passion (from the Latin verb patere meaning to suffer) is a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something.

Passion originates from the word suffering implying a tumultuous and difficult journey. It also implies that passion has control over us, and not us over it. I can understand using passion as a driving force but I think I am at heart a believer that we are made for more than just one thing.

I remembered that Matt Mullenweg (the co-creator of WordPress) had a very apt quote on his blog explaining that a person should be competent in multiple fields but I was unable to find the quote, but I came across this one instead:

Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.

And I think that is something to aspire to in the future. At the moment, I am a full time mom. And boy, it is the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done. So for now, I guess I need to just figure out what is my overall general goal, and see how I can fit that in it to the shape of my life at the moment.

Love and confusion,

UPDATE: Hugh MacLeod wrote an interesting post about this exact same video. And he says:

Yes, raising a family and having a career makes both pursuits more difficult, and yes, there will be compromises – nobody is perfect.

But at what point do we start using family as a convenient excuse, a socially acceptable way to cover our own fears?

Most importantly: are we taking away our kids’ chance to dream big, when we set the wrong example?

Which got me thinking again. As time goes on I want Lucas to see me following more pursuits than just momming, but for now I think momming is a very full time job and it is okay to be looking at having help with the momming in order to engage in a career.

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Unexpected similarities

The last hour has been surreal. I am not even sure that it has been that long. A friend of mine sent me a message: Did you hear about Pratchett. I hadn’t. Sir Terry Pratchett has taken Death’s hand. I hope that he had the death that he wished for. Among family and friends and with good music playing on his iPod.

We knew this day was coming. That one day the embuggerance would claim him. But knowing that something is coming does not necessarily mean that it is easier when the event occurs. I had warned Riaan that when I learned of Pratchett’s death I would be devastated.

But, I am surprised by how it hit me. The same hollow feeling in my chest that I felt when I learned of my mom’s passing. I did not expect that.

I began to explore Sir Terry’s world when I was a teenager, and I believe that I am a better person for having travelled there. My encounters on the Discworld have helped me become a kinder, more gentle, compassionate person.

When I decided to come out with my mental illness his words that:

Before you can slay the monster you must be prepared to say its name.

kept going round and round in my head, helping me find courage.

The world was a better place for him being in it, and he will be sorely missed.

Love and grief,

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Real life isn’t edited

I read this interesting article about what what it means to put yourself first as a mom.

What taking care of yourself really means, is giving yourself permission to be wherever you are and to do whatever you’re doing—without guilt and without pressure to do more or be more or have more.

I think we often take it for granted that we should take care of our families, but often we forget about taking care of ourselves. And when we do, we feel guilty. (Or is that just me, from what I have heard from other moms it does not seem to be so).

What I find really interesting is the wording here: giving ourselves permission to be ourselves and to be doing whatever we are doing. I often struggle with the concept of “ought”. My picture of mothering has been largely influenced by books, where the characters have been edited and cleaned up, and I am trying to hold myself to the standard of re-writes and edits, and author’s reflection. But we don’t live in an edited world. We live in a world of constant first drafts. Yes, we are able to re-create ourselves and reflect but every moment is a first draft, and perhaps we should cut ourselves some slack about this.

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Why I want to raise my son to be a feminist

Ideally in a future not far from now, feminism will not be necessary. 

We have not managed to achieve equality yet. And the word yet is why I want Lucas to grow up to among other things be a feminist. 

So, I suppose we should start by looking at what feminism actually is. It is a really simple concept it is the belief that women and men should have the same rights, obligations and opportunities.  Of course,  professing the belief is not enough.  It is necessary to act accordingly as well. 

I want Lucas to know and act with the certainty that a woman has the right to exist without worrying about harassment,  without having to fight the assumption that her knowledge is lacking based solely on her sex.

I want him to know that consensual relationships based on open communication are far more romantic than the prince assuming that the princess needs to be rescued, especially from herself. 

Basically, I want Lucas to behave decently to women and men.  To call out uncool behaviour.

And so I want Lucas to take the view that inequality is not right and nor should it be normal and that is why I want him to be a feminist. 

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Why I chose to vaccinate

Parenting is tough. There are no guarantees that you have made the right decision. And there is only one guarantee, and that is you will be judged.

One of the most hotly contested parenting choices is whether or not you should vaccinate your child. Before Lucas was born I went on a quest for peer reviewed studies that were not sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. I was not able to find any. I was actually able to find very little quality data about vaccination. In fact, the entire debate about vaccination comes down to a huge collection of anecdotal accounts on both side. With both pro and anti-vaxxers saying “If you do this (vaccinate/ don’t vaccinate) your child will either be terribly scarred or die a horrible death.”

The truth is that vaccines injuries do occur. It is also true that many lives are saved by vaccines. It comes down to deciding what decision that you can live with. For me, after spending hours looking for quality data and not being able to find it. (Don’t get me wrong anecdotal data is valuable too, but it was not what I was looking for).

When we were discussing vaccination, Riaan eventually turned to me and said that I had done the research, and he would go along with my decision. So, no pressure there. I actually talked to him about being okay with the rare (but not unheard of) vaccination injury and helping me forgive myself if that occurred.

Lucas is now ten months old and he has had all of the recommended vaccinations to date (In South Africa, on the current government schedule the 9 month vaccination is for straight measles not the combination MMR. It is the MMR that I am unlikely to allow to be administered to Lucas before he enters puberty. Not because of the claims that it is linked to autism but because I am unconvinced about its efficacy.)

Lucas did have an unpleasant reaction to the pneumococcal vaccine which led me to decide to have that vaccine administered separately from any others in the future. Due to a discrepancy on the vaccine card it turned out that the pneumococcal vaccine is administered at nine months which I did not realize, so Lucas did actually get it in conjunction with his measles vaccine. A simple misunderstanding for which the nursing sister was most apologetic, and I got the resolution that I wanted which was to ensure that this misunderstanding did not occur again.

At the end for me it came down to the fact that I could live with the consequences of a vaccination injury but I could not live with the consequences of a complication of to a vaccine preventable disease. So I guess for me it came down to that.

I just watched an absolutely fascinating YouTube video describing some of the psychological phenomena at play when it comes to deciding whether or not to vaccinating your children.

While watching it I did wonder whether my decision to vaccinate was influenced by the fact that one of my primary (elementary) school teachers had lost the use of her arm to polio as a child.

The bottom line was I came to the conclusion that I could live with the consequences of a vaccine injury (a relatively small statistical risk) but that I could not live with the consequences of a complication from a vaccine preventable disease.

Love and parenting choices,

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And when I get to the wizard, I’ll ask for courage

I think the Universe is trying to tell me something. A while ago I sorted through a collection of my mom’s books that my dad had put aside to be passed on. I simply kept one of the books with no hesitation because it contained an inscription in the front cover.
“ To Kay, August 1972 from Susan B” From this I inferred that the book had been given to my mom from her dear friend Sue  for her eighteenth birthday.

Today as I walking past the bookshelf I noticed that there were two pink flags sticking out of the book and so I was curious as to what my mom had flagged, and so I opened up the book and found myself reading a section entitled: “Courage & The Conquest of Fear”.

It’s interesting to note that over the past while I have been reading a great deal about courage and vulnerability. I just finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer where she shares her reflections and connections that she has made about relationships and connection. At one point in the book she says that Brene Brown in Daring Greatly basically wrote her book from an academic point of view, and so I have started re-reading it. (Not that I really need an excuse to re-read Brene Brown). But any way, at the moment I am battling to let go of control and just trust.

I have a dear sister in law who is quite similar to me (if you believe in astrology it might have something to do with the fact that our birthdays are 4 days apart) but any way, she so similar that if she does something that annoys or irritates me I need to think really hard about whether it something that she did or it is something of myself that I am seeing and not liking. (It is sometimes useful, sometimes a pain, but always what it is). But either way, I digress, she wrote a blog post about leaving things behind and in it she included the serenity prayer, which I find interesting because in my mother’s copy of light from many lamps she has a flag (one of only two in the book) on the page which includes the passage:

“Dear God, give us strength to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed. Give us courage to change the things that can and should be changed. And give us wisdom to distinguish one from the other.” – Admiral Thomas C. Hart

At the moment, I am struggling to find the courage to accept support and accept that my occupation being mom is enough and that I am not a drain or a burden. That there is value in what I do, that even though I am unsalaried, I am not unemployed.

I am not sure what the message is that the universe is sending me, perhaps it is a gentle reminder that not all acts of courage roar, that sometimes the act of showing up and doing the mundane over and over is actually an act of courage itself.

I paged back to the beginning of the section on courage. I guess in someways courage will always be hard. Courage is the antidote to anxiety. Courage is letting go of the need for control and just actually doing something.  The first story recounted in this section is titled “This, too, shall pass away”. It tells the tale of an ancient eastern monarch who called upon his wise men to invent a mantra that must be wise, true and endlessly enduring, words by which a man could be guided all his life, in every circumstance, no matter what happened, and the mantra needed to be concise enough to be engraved on a ring. Eventually, the wise men returned to the monach with the words:
“This, too, shall pass away.”

This story inspired Paul Hamilton Hayne to write the poem: This,Too, Shall Pass Away.

Art thou in misery, brother? Then I pray
Be comforted. Thy grief shall pass away.
Art thou elated? Ah, be not too gay;
Temper they joy: this, too shall pass away.
Art thou in danger? Still let reason sway,
And cling to hope: this too, shall pass away.
Tempted art thou? In all thine anguish lay
One truth to heart: this, too, shall pass away.
Do rays of loftier glory round thee play?
Kinglike art thou? This, too, shall pass away!
Whate’er thou art, where’er thy footsteps stray,
Heed these wise words: This, too, shall pass away.

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Meeting Amanda Palmer: Melktert and Unspoken words

So on Saturday I went to Amanda Palmer’s book signing at Exclusive Books in the Mall of Rosebank. (It has been beautifully revamped and is now an absolute delight of a shop). It was amazing despite the fact that I had one of the worst panic attacks that I have had in ages when I was trying to buy her book. (Long story short I had left my wallet in the car, had less time than I thought and I thought that I had lost my wallet and driven to Rosebank without a license.  Incidentally FNB wins over Standard Bank for allowing you to get money from an ATM without a card, and using Standard Bank’s website on a mobile phone is close to impossible…the Standard Bank has still not downloaded on my phone since I tried installing it before 12 o clock yesterday. But I digress.)

So after I finally managed to get money out of an ATM through Riaan’s help, I rushed back to Exclusive Books. The queue for the signing was insanely long. And the reading had already started. I bought my copy of the Art of Asking and reclaimed my platters of mini-milk tarts. I initially stood in the queue for the signing while Amanda was reading but then decided to rather go and sit on the carpet up close. It was amazingly reminiscent of childhood storytime. It was intimate and amazing to find out that I was not alone in my admiration and connection towards this woman. I am an insatiable crowd watcher and so I sneaked glances around me, and perhaps my favourite person to be sneaking peaks at was one of the kitchen staff who was shyly leaning out of the kitchen and listening to snippets of stories.

After finishing reading, Amanda got up onto the counter at the coffee shop and played ukulele for the first time in the mall (fittingly and by request she played ukulele anthem). On Facebook the other day Amanda had mentioned her new love affair with rusks and had invited people to bring rusks along to the signing and the gig the night before. I had responded that I would bring milk tart (when another fan had said we should turn it into a South African tea party).  I walked up towards where Amanda was and one of the event milktartco-ordinators asked if the milk tarts were for Amanda and I said yes and for her fans.  The co-ordinator had said to just put them down next to Amanda but kindly Amanda said that by the time people get to the front of the line they are pretty focused and so Amanda grabbed a milk tart and said into the mic that milk tart was coming down the line and so I got to connect with a whole collection of Amanda’s fans. It was interesting and intimate, and I did not feel rejected when anyone said no thank you. I got to share lots of little collections of South African happiness with my compatriots. And my milk tart has now been endorsed by a rock star :)

I then joined the queue and spent about 2 hours with my new friends, sharing stories and book recommendations. Finally we reached the front of the queue and then…

I managed to stammer out a Thank you to Amanda, but I did not manage to say all the words that I wanted to. I did not manage to tell her the stories that I would have liked to. In a way she is really intimidating…not in a bad way. But in a way where in that moment she is giving you all of her attention and it is intense. It is not bad attention, it is far from it, it is just really intense Jedi like focus, that in that moment where she is holding you in her gaze there is no doubt that she is truly seeing you, and when you have made it a practice to be introverted and blend in, and the art of avoiding being seen, it is  disconcerting to be looked at so intensely.


I did manage to stammer out about how when I am having a crisis of confidence I channel my inner version of rock star Amanda Palmer and that helps. She reminded me that it was bullshit and just as insecure as the rest of us. (I don’t think I managed to explain how that is why it helps, by seeing her be brave I am able to be brave too). I did not manage to tell her how by living and loving so openly she has given me the courage to be vulnerable and to become gentler with both myself and those around me. I did not manage to tell her that by living openly she gave me the courage to come out about my mental illness, about living with depression, and so have people share there times of darkness with me and know that they are not alone. I did not tell her about the fact that ukulele anthem and a bootlegged version of her Cat Steven’s cover of if you want to sing out, sing out were on my birth playlist (which I never used during Lucas’s birth, but that I have played countless times since) or that it was once part of my morning ritual to put on that same youtube video while we were living Costa Rica while waiting for the kettle to boil on the stage. (Incidentally she has a photo of that gig as the parting shot in her book). I did not manage to tell her about how by her living openly and making mistakes she has given me the courage to make my own. But you know what, the encounter was intense and amazing and in some ways, I think she saw at least some of the words that I did not manage to say.

Love and melk tert,

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A suggested day trip on the West Rand, Johannesburg/ Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africa

If you are fortunate enough to come to my neck of the woods in beautiful Johannesburg (the largest man made forest in the world) and have only one day to spend touring this is what I would recommend you do:

Start your day out at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind. It is a beautiful and world class exhibit.

Get your fix of wildlife at the Rhino and Lion park (You can have a meal at a restaurant that overlooks the giraffe enclosure.)

Meander through the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. (Take the forest path as you walk to the Witpoortjie falls). Walk back along the main path and have a look at the geological garden it is quite a display.

Heading back into Johannesburg stop in at the Constitutional Court – it has an amazing collection of art. (There is a free evening tour on the last Thursday evening of each month).

Go to the Carlton Centre and have a look at the amazing views. In fact just take advantage of the hop on hop off city of Johannesburg tour.

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Dear formula feeding mom:

An open letter from a mom whose kid has only ever had breastmilk.

I don’t know why you are giving your kid formula. I don’t know if you struggle with your supply. I don’t know if your little one battles to take milk from the breast. I don’t know if you had a traumatic birth that left your body riddled with infections and you are supplementing with formula. I don’t know if you are taking some medication that contra-indicates breastmilk. I don’t know if you just want to give your baby formula. Quite frankly, I don’t care either.

The reason why boy has only had breastmilk is because it has been the most convenient for us, he got the feeding thing down pat pretty immediately. (Having said that, Riaan and I did say we wanted to aim for six months of exclusive breastfeeding, which we managed). On the odd occasion that I have sorted out a bottle (of expressed milk) for him I have found it to be a schlepp.

So now I am going to slaughter some sacred cows and give my opinion on some of the most common arguments that I hear against formula feeding.

  • Formula feeding can help you bond with your baby just as well as breastfeeding (and in some cases better). I do know a couple of moms who struggled with breastfeeding and once they started giving their baby’s formula they were able to relax. This relaxation allowed them to connect with their babies and in my eyes, the less stressed version of themselves became better moms.
    What matters is that you are able to connect with your child not how you are giving them sustenance.
  • Formula feeding can be dangerous. Yes, this is true. If you do not have access to potable water giving your baby formula can be problematic. But a lack of access to clean consumable water is a problem for everyone not just little babies. (If you don’t have access to drinkable water chances are you will have problems with milk supply if you are breastfeeding in any case).
  • Breast is best. All things being equal, maybe this is true. But in my experience as a mom things are not equal. They are in a constant flux even while in routine. So while it is true formula does not replicate the exact composition of breastmilk, it is far from the dangerous substance it is made out to be.) Interestingly enough, formula fed babies are not at risk for a vitamin D deficiency due to the composition of formula unlike their breastfed compatriots.
  • Breastfed babies are smarter, healthier and more developmentally advanced. Once again based on personal observations (which is actually all that we have when it comes down to distinctions between children since there are too many uncontrollable variables) I am calling bullshit. From what I have seen the babies who are formula fed are just as healthy, intelligent and at the same developmental stages as their cohort.

So I guess the point of my rambling rant is this.  The only thing that matters is that you feed your kid with love, and you have at least one breast feeding mom in your corner.  (And I am sorry you have to put up with nonsense like this)

Love and venting,

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What’s Happening


Thank you all for your love and support and well wishes. I really appreciate it.

On Saturday morning I got hold of my regular therapist who thought that I might also need to get my meds adjusted in addition to increasing my therapy and just getting some sleep. So I moved my appointment with my psychiatrist forward and she ordered some blood tests since all of symptoms could be attributed to a thyroid malfunction or a Vitamin D deficiency.

The results are in and the biology causing these symptoms is a combination of a borderline vitamin D deficiency combined with an underactive thyroid. So part of the doctor’s orders is to get some daily sunlight.

So we’ll see how things go but things are getting better.

Love and updates,

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