Cake For Breakfast

Yesterday I turned fifty, and it was a day of many blessings. There was no huge party, no great announcements on Facebook and social media. It was just a quiet morning to reflect and be grateful.

I am lucky, and grateful, to have my mother greet me on my 50th birthday and celebrate with me virtually. As a gift she sent me long-forgotten, and blurry pictures of my childhood.

I am grateful that my child made me a birthday card, self designed, and adorned with a our picture, and Happy Birthday in 50 languages.

I am grateful that cousins and aunts sent me birthday wishes, some sang me Happy Birthday in English, German and Arabic, and one aunt drew my portrait, and sent it on Whatsapp.

I am grateful for friends who sent messages and virtual flower bunches, who commented on my old pictures and who just connected with me.

I am grateful that I could bake an ugly-looking cake that tasted heavenly of chocolate, coffee and spices.

At the end of the day I know that I am loved and remembered. Most of those who love me are in Germany, and those are the dependable family and friends whom I know and expect to care. Some greetings came unexpected from people I do not often think about. Two people who particularly wronged me at one time congratulated me, and I am grateful that I can let go of my grudges against them. I wish them well, although they can no longer stay in my heart.

The one person I missed most yesterday (as I miss today and every day) is the one who does not want to remember me. But even for him, I am grateful.

And my cake ? I can have it for breakfast today, because it did not pass the taste test of my chocolate monster. Too much coffee and too much spice, he said. So it is all mine, and I am also grateful.

A Great Holiday

The holiday with my folks was too short but we all had a good time. On the 27th of September we celebrated the birthday of my mom, a great woman to whom I owe my life and lots more.

I connected with a former co-worker and we telephoned many times. She sent some books and presents for Robert to my parents address.

I met again, one of my very classy and good-looking cousins, she is a few years older, but looks younger in her photos.  As always meeting with any of my beautiful well-presented cousins makes me self-conscious and insecure, and this more the case now that I am parent of a toddler.

We got to do some limited sight-seeing. We went for walks, taking in the beautiful autumnal landscapes and the rain. We went shopping. On sunny days there was the playground, with younger and older members of my family.

And Robert was always busy with Oma (as Oma was busy with him)

I just spent a wonderful time getting the love of my family and healing the wounds of my failed marriage. We talked, we gossiped, we argued and we made plans, most of which will perhaps never materialize, but still it was great to be part of a family again, even for a short while.

While I was away pieces of my life still came through to me via email.  I received occupational rental for the house, and some communications with the lawyer. I also got a new job assignment which I will have to start immediately on my arrival in Cape Town, and of course there is always the trouble of work and having to arrange for someone to look after Robert when I get back to work and before he attends day care on a regular basis.

While I was with my family, all these problems were set aside and they now loom larger than ever in front of me. But I am sure once I set foot in Cape Town I will be happy to be back.

The long journey was worth it.

Surprising My Mom

Yesterday Robert and I set off before sunrise from our little flat. The trip almost started with a mishap when the taxi I ordered sat for ten minutes in front of the wrong address a block away. The problem is that they do not call the customer and their head office is off duty at the ungodly hour of 04:30.In the end it all turned out alright and we found each other and arrived at the airport in good time.

Getting on the flight was no problem as I expected. I had already listed myself on standby for the day and SAA staff gave me a bulkhead seat which is right behind business class, and so Robert and I had three seats between us, and I was close to the toilet for the inevitable nappy changes.  Being a nervous flier at the best of times I was a little bit concerned over the long trip and how Robert will take it, but the time somehow passed, and people took interest in the little baby, talked and played with him and generally took his inquisitiveness with humor.

Getting on the flight from Frankfurt to Berlin gave me a few white hairs. It was the last scheduled flight for the night, and was obviously overbooked. The airline staff did not seem concerned though and I thought they would not leave me behind, baby and all. I was right and I got on the flight sandwiched between two passengers and with Robert on my lap.  My next passenger was a very interesting gentleman from Vancouver BC of all places and he was flying to join his German girlfriend in Berlin. We chatted up a storm and my little boy, probably lulled by the familiar Canadian accent went to sleep for the duration of the short flight.

My aunt was waiting for us at the airport. It was a good thing that I called her on the weekend to tell her we are coming because she thought we would be only showing up on Friday for my mom’s birthday.  That would have been quite funny to arrive disoriented and tired an hour before midnight and try to figure out how to get to my parent’s place using after midnight transport..

We decided that it was best to crash at my aunt’s place and only call my mom in the morning. It was late by the time we finally put our heads down, and my little one was so disoriented, tired and unhappy, he cried for almost half an hour before finally dozing off on my breast.

Today my aunt did not go to work and called my parents with the flimsy excuse that they should pay her a sick visit… My parents live only a few minutes away on foot and my aunt and them visit each other all the time, so they do not need much convincing to come over.

The look on my mom’s face as she saw us sitting there in my aunt’s living room was worth traveling 10,000 Km. I was so happy I made the effort.

I am now home with my family and can enjoy to be a child again.

Random Musings / Taking the Fun out of Blogging

The past few days have been a mixed bag of happy, scary and thought provoking events. On Friday my friend Britt took us to the Aquarium, and she gave me a year’s membership card as a present, which I thought was pretty generous and thoughtful. It is sad to observe that I got to see precious little in my previous life as a married woman. My social life, which was dismal during my marriage years might be even improving. My ex is probably doing better as he hangs out with the DINK crowd ( Double Income No Kids) but I have my own circle of mom friends, and we can all swoon over the latest antics of our little ones.

Aquarium was great, and I hope to spend more time there in the future with Robert. He was very taken with the colourful displays and the movement of fish and other creatures. Our first visit was somewhat rushed because we had to chase the little firebrand Demi around. We then met up with Trish and her two little girls, the younger one is a fresh rosebud, only a couple of weeks young. As much as I would loved to have another baby, I do find mothering two or more children a very challenging job. It is the ultimate multi-tasking feat, and I am not sure I could survive it. So maybe it is just as well that I am not likely to have another child. As mother of one, I had some time to look around and take in my surrounding, something that both my friends weren’t able to do very well. There is also the added advantage of my single status; I do not need to be home to for my husband at a specific time. Even divorce has some perks, I can say.
Robert and I had a quiet evening at home, we had supper and then a warm bath. I must have looked away for a split second after I finished putting on his pijamas and getting him ready for bed, and in that split second he tumbled from the changing table right in front of me. I caught him just before he hit the floor, but I was still petrified that I hurt him. I must have checked on him a dozen times during the night.

Saturday went uneventfully at work, and I came home to a very happy baby, I am so lucky to have Lucy. My phone camera has decided to quit on me so I cannot put any recent pictures of Rob’s latest antics. He loves to do what I call the “bench press”; he stands holding on to the bench by the door and squats up and down, especially to the beat of the music. I have noticed also that his repertoire of sounds and syllables has increased dramatically. He doesn’t stop now at the bland: ma-ma, ba-ba, da-da, but adds on complex and guttural tones, such as ag and ach. His latest vocalizations are: whooping on his indrawn breath, and smacking his lips. Jackie and I aren’t yet sure whether the latter is a kissing noise or just a random noise he newly discovered. I think he will soon master a form of a Xhosa click as well, yes perhaps I am exaggerating on that one.

Apart from losing the visual component of my posts, a few things happened on the weekend which sort of took the fun out of blogging for me. Firstly while reading my blog roll I was referred to this article (Writing about your daughter’s toilet-training misadventures could net you $40,000 a month and a legion of fans) in the . The article discusses -and questions- the latest trend of parent blogging, throwing it into a very unfavourable light. The article portrays parent blogging as an exploitation of children and a violation of their privacy. The article quoted some famous parenting blogs, and among them Don Mills Diva, which I read regularly. It was claimed that some of these bloggers are cashing in on their writing and thus exploiting their children for profit, while violating their privacy. The reaction to the article was even more shocking. Some readers commented that parents who blog must get a life, and concentrate on parenting rather than writing about it, others accused parent bloggers of being sick to write about mundane stuff such as toilet training, reflux, and colic. Readers even questioned the sanity of people who such stuff. I know I am not in the league of any of these famous parent bloggers, but I found myself getting indignant on their behalf. I do consider myself normal, and I love reading bloggers’ musings. I also think that some of these dissenters must get themselves a small dose of compassion and humor.
We write about our small children because we are painfully aware of the vulnerability of our memory against the swift passage of time. My baby is growing and changing every day. As his face and personality develop, there are little bits of him that get lost forever. I want to hold all these little bits and preserve them in little snapshots. When I hold my son today, I hold a robust 9 month-old baby, and my helpless newborn is nowhere in sight. Tomorrow, my little baby will make way for a toddler, who will then turn into a young child. My love for my child will grow and change as he grows, and I want to capture its evolution as well. this is – or was- the purpose of this blog. I don’t understand how anyone will find such an activity reprehensible. That said, I am still disturbed by what I read, and I need to question who this blog is written for. Nine months ago it was for Robert, for me, and for the family. Today it is still for Robert, and for me, and I have to keep that in mind. I am free to write what I want about myself, I can relate incidents that make me look like a fool or like a bad mother. Recently I have been writing things that speak of my anger, resentment and hurt. I have to be careful how my child will interpret this writing one day, because I do not want it to colour his judgment. This is the argument for keeping it bland, sticking to safe subject and understatements, but to me this spells dishonesty and censorship, precisely what a blog shouldn’t be.
People like me read blogs and subscribe to them because they help us relate to our mundane and difficult lives. Honest mothers writing about their post partum depressions, their struggle with toilet training and the urge to scream or shake a small baby after a long colic fit help us put our own struggles and failures into perspective. It makes us feel that we are not alone, we are still normal even when we are almost driven off the bend… This could be the little reassurance we need to keep our sanity. When I read a blog I do not want read a sugar-coated version of reality, I want to see what real people think and feel. Real people have real problems, their living rooms aren’t always tidy, they have gray hair and wrinkles, they deal with shy or autistic children; but the bottom line is that they survive, they love their children and find some sort of happiness. Life on parent blogs is not a Disney movie, but it still works, and this is what I want to know.

I had more days of ambivalent feelings towards my ex. He was looking after Robert on Sunday, and around two in the afternoon I got a call from him, where he said there was a problem. I cannot explain the fear and the dread I got when I heard this phrase, so when I found out that someone broke into the car and stole Robbie’s baby bag I felt some relief. Even though the bag contained things that I won’t be able to replace: The jacket I hand knit while I was pregnant, a vest from Mountain Equipment Coop, and a book from Rob’s auntie. There was also an extra change of winter clothes, a sweat-top, a sippy cup, a sun hat and a few toys. Dad did what he could and replaced the essentials (the milk bottle and the sippy cup). Now I have to try and replace the rest. I don’t know how this is possible since I am restricted to walking distances.

My ex apparently also wrote to my family, explaining everything and nothing. Now I am in the unenviable position of being judged and reproved by my own family, as they analyze the mistakes that I must have made in the relationship. I might have made some mistakes, but I wasn’t given the chance to correct them in a professional manner. My ex was never interested in counseling. I am damaged goods now, I believe that marriage is completely overrated and I doubt that I will ever be in another relationship. The only hope I have is to protect my son from this conflict, to let him grow unbridled by my feelings of inadequacy and resentment. I still think that moving away from my ex is the best solution. Maybe then I can have some charitable thoughts about him.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Hit Me Where it Hurts

I think my brother-in-law is an idiot. But then again there are so many of his kind in my old country.

Recently, I lamented in this post the plight of women in my country of origin. The piece was brought about by what I think of as my sister’s digression into blind submission to the dictates of society. This submission is well-disguised as Islamic morals, values, and mostly dress code (wearing the headscarf or Hijab).

Today my good sister’s husband came up with another gem from my erstwhile people who have been dozing for the last thousand years. He splashed a “funny” post all over Facebook’s “Funwall” and forwarded it to his numerous friends – most of whom are WOMEN if I may add.

I am translating it from the original Arabic:

Behind every great man .. a woman

Behind every prisoner.. a woman

Behind every problem.. a woman

Behind every war.. a woman

Behind every traffic accident.. a woman

Behind every fight between neighbours … a woman

Behind the demographic imbalance… a woman

Behind the corruption of young men and their depravity.. a woman

Behind every mother and father who were thrown into an old age home… a woman

I want to know who was the stupid ox who called them the fairer sex.

End of gem.

Given my current situation, I am not very good friends with the male fraternity at the moment. But this particular post would enrage me even on a good day, and I do not think it is funny at all. It simply illustrates the male (and especially the Middle Eastern male’s) attitude of passing the responsibility of EVERYTHING onto a woman’s shoulders. Men get away with this because we women have broad shoulders, and can carry everything the guys throw at us: The groceries, the kids, and a good portion of the home-loan to boot. We do it with love, then we smile and ask for more of the load.

Yesterday I drew up a list of items I bought in the last two years and gave it to Mr. Negativity. I did that because in the settlement he stated that I will be getting X thousand Rand’s worth of household effects. I annotated the items I would like to have and added them up to come up with the amount HE said I would get. His response: “I don’t want to go into nit-picking”. Of course, it is nit picking, because I am the one who is asking for stuff. In contrast it is not nit-picking when he demands that I throw petrol in the car on the rare occasions I dare to use it, or when he makes me pay for his son’s passport applications.

His latest antic: I am not allowed to use the car for moving my few belongings to my friend’s house down the road, no more than two kilometers away. And of course it is too much “effort and expense” for him to drive me there. Yet, he wants me “out of his hair” sooner rather than later. Perhaps I should do a sit-in protest on top of my boxes, and wait to see who will break first. Believe me, I want out as well, but I have put up with this crap for nine years, what is a few days more?

The History that Brought us Robert

Looking at my son I cannot help think about all the history that contributed to his presence with me today. I think about all the choices grandparents made to bring him about, and all the mixture of genes and traits that shape his every characteristic.

This post is in memory of my grandmother, who left this world thirty years ago today. If she had survived, she would have been only 85, and she would have been a wonderful great granny.

My grandmother Gerda was born in Berlin. Sometime during WWII she met my Syrian grandfather Abdul, and she made a choice to leave her war-torn country and start a life with him in a foreign land. She lived in Syria for the rest of her life, and was laid to rest there in 1978. Unfortunately, I did not get know her well enough or speak to her as an adult. I can only cherish my childish memories of her; the Christmas treats and bakes, the Easter egg hunt on her terrace, playing tic-tac-toe, and filling up pages and pages of colouring books. My siblings and cousins do not have even these lovely memories to hold on to, she was taken from us all too soon. In her short visit to this world, she touched the lives of many people, with generosity, laughter and integrity. I bet she also had a great mind, and would have been one heck of an interesting person to talk to.

Her mother Anna survived her for a few years. Every year without fail she used to send me a birthday card, with old fashioned pictures of little girls, birds and bunnies. They were inked in her graceful cursive German script. Great grandma married relatively late, her husband Opa Erich was a WWI veteran. Grandma Gerda was their only daughter.

The next generation includes my mother; the middle of three sisters. A Libran by birth, she stands for balance and symmetry. She is definitely the anchor of our family, and neither me nor my sister can hold a candle to her. Again, the paths of my mother’s life have diverged and twisted for decades; we swapped countries and homes many times. Through this all she remained the pillar and the heart of our family. Above all she is a great mother, who loved us and taught us well. Oma Gerda would have been pleased to know that her daughter now lives in Berlin, the reunited city of her birth. In honour to my grandma we all speak German, and I would love for my little son to speak the language too.

One day I will tell Robert about his great grandparents, I owe my existence to their courage and love. Perhaps my grandmother’s adventurous nature filtered down to me, and made me also follow my heart into a foreign land and choose to be with Robert’s father. It is nice to think that part of my grandmother will be left with Robert to pass along.

The chain of women has been broken on our side of the family. My mother doesn’t have any granddaughters yet. My cousin Lara has to carry the tradition to her own daughters and perhaps she will be able to tell them a little about the history of the women who have –directly or indirectly- given birth to her.

The Joys and worries of Motherhood

Robert and I spoke to granny yesterday. Through the video stream of Skype my mother’s love to her little grandchild is palpable, and my dad asked when we were coming to visit. I never believed it was possible, but being a mother to Robert rewarded me with a special tenderness towards my parents, especially my mother. Every time I bathe my baby and wash his smooth back with baby soap, I think that my mother must have done the same for me, and it fills me with wonder and brings tears to my eyes.

I am content to sit at home the whole day with Robert, and watch him grow and learn new tricks. Before he came along I did not realize the depth of love I was capable of, and the extents that I would go in order to see him smile. Loving him made me love my life more and view it from a different perspective. The balance has shifted, and somebody else is now the centre of my universe. For this brief space in time, I am also my baby’s main focus, and I am enjoying it while it lasts. Soon enough his world will expand to other people, other places and other interests. Until then, I will have a second chance at reliving my childhood, to cherish the good times and avoid mistakes of the past.

More food for thought comes from this blog post:

Having a child is not for people who like to play safe. In giving birth, we give the universe the power to enrich our life immeasurably or shatter it irrevocably”. Yes, I am also grateful every step of the way. I pray all the time, in gratitude and in hope. Mashallah, “There but by the grace of god go I”. I share this journey of joy, and worry with every mother on the face of this earth. But most of all, becoming Robert’s mother connected me emotionally with my own mother. Because there is a deep bond of unselfish love that passes on from one generation to the next, and you can only truly appreciate the love you received, once it is your turn to pass it on. I love you mom.