Gratitude – it’s a verb

Yesterday I dropped Emma off at her BFF’s house – Tyra and Emma have known each other since creche days, probably around 2 years old or so, and even though they’re at different schools now and don’t see other regularly, they’re the embodiment of what true friendships are all about.
I don’t think Tyra’s mom had mentioned Emma was coming around so when I pulled into the driveway and Emma jumped out the car, it was just too much – they give each other the biggest love, comment on how beautiful the other looks and Tyra, without pause says:
“I  am so lucky! Today my best friend’s here and my other friend is coming another day and on Sunday there’s an Easter egg hunt in the complex and next week I’m going on holiday I am SO lucky! It’s like the miracles just keep coming today!
It was at this moment I decided a new to (re)start my gratitude diaryand while most of my entries will be in a journal, today is online because I need to mention a few people in particular. If in this entry, your name doesn’t appear, it’s not because I don’t value you, but it’s more to do with what has happened in the last day or two –
Itumeleng Malatsi – I am grateful that you haven’t only accepted me, warts and all, as a friend, but that you have shown so much love to my Emma and Ben. So much so that in the time spent with you I think they found a new peace within themselves…
Kagiso Msimango – while I sometimes find your NO BS approach a little hard to take, you are also, in your own way, teaching me to take my power back, one small step at a time. Through you, I have learned that saying ‘no’ to something isn’t a personal attack nor is it going to be the death of anyone…
To my hairdresser, this morning, who not only gave me the biggest hug, and somehow managed to sense I’m pretty broke at the moment, didn’t charge me for my fabulous cut
Bumping into Claire Pacariz, by sheer chance, and having an open and honest chat about moms, death, dying and all the pain that comes with it. Thank you xxxx
Buying a pen from Typo, for my written journal, and having the sales lady notice my mom’s old ring I happened to be wearing. Not only did she comment on how beautiful i is, she also acknowledged, when I needed it most, that my mom will always be there
This is a tough one to be grateful for but in a way I am, because it has freed me from relationships that has been so toxic for too many years, but because it’s family, and blood is thicker than water, apparently. It turns out it isn’t.
Thank you for finally telling me what you think of me. Thank you for finally finding the balls to tell me how much of a disappointment I have been, for as long as you can remember. Thank you for not responding to my request for some of mom’s ashes so I can do something for her and I this week, for her birthday. In your selfishness, piousness and ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude I have come to realize that with everything I went through, with everything you put me through, I have come out the better person.
Here’s to finding gratitude in the most unlikely of places…

When the dead come calling 

The older I get the more I know that truth is stranger than fiction. 

Yesterday a rather large moth landed on a cushion on our couch. Mark and Ben suggested it was either Mark’s mom or mine, popping into visit. 

My response, usually far more upbeat, was that I don’t think it’s my mom because I just don’t feel like she’s close to me at the moment. 

And then last night  a friend of mine, and my mom’s godchild, sent me a link out of the blue about the calling cards our loved ones leave when they visit. She thought it was weird that one of the examples used the name Emma and wanted to pass it onto me. 

There and then, once again, was not one sign that my mom is always close by but three. 


What grief really looks like 

Grief is a family standing in a stark hospital room trying to process that a loved one has died. It’s wanting to cry because that’s what people do but you’re in shock and the tears won’t come. 

In order to protect itself your brain goes into survival mode and you simply function on autopilot. It’s hearing your mom has died but still being able to get into your car and drive to the hospital. Alone. It’s arriving at her service and saying a few words that aren’t quite what you wanted to express. 

I still regret my eulogy not being heart wrenchingly sad. I want a do-over so I can bring everyone sitting there to tears. I want to be able to collapse in a pile and have everyone rush over and make sure I’m ok. But my brain doesn’t let me. I don’t get to rewind that day. What the guests at my mom’s memorial service remember is me being cold, distant, aloof, speaking words that would make a pastor look good, a grieving daughter not so much.

I want to redo her service. And make sure that everyone who loved and cared for my mom is there. She was incredibly loved by everyone and I know for who she was and what she did her memorial service was empty. The 40 or so people there did no justice to the lives she had touched, and although very much appreciated the guests present didn’t reflect the life my mom had led.

Grief is weeks and months (and years too, although I’m not there yet) later still wanting to phone her. It’s not deleting whatsapp messages and calling her cellphone in the hope that it’s off just to hear her voice (mail message). It’s thinking to yourself you haven’t spoken to her in ages and you really should phone her.

It’s seeing her in the shadows and feeling her just over your shoulder. It’s not about sweet dreams with a smiling image of her but rather horrid nightmares that keep you from falling asleep. 

It’s gaining weight around your belly area because your cortisol levels are abnormally high and you’re in fright or flight mode all the time. It’s being in a state of hyper-arousal, which has nothing to with my libido, but rather that the slightest noise or incident has me literally jumping out of my skin. It’s your hair falling out from stress. And from you pulling it out literally. 

It’s being so tired but not being able to fall asleep. It’s having too much energy to sit still and do something productive but being too exhausted to do it. It’s being happyandsadandangryandirritableandyelly for no reason at all. It’s snapping at our husband when he’s been the only one around and it’s shouting at your kids, who are your only real source of happiness.

Grief is achingly lonely. I’ve read how support is important when someone has just died, but that it’s even more important 6 months later, and a year down the line. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t get the support then and there’s none around now. 

I can count on one hand the friends who have said they’re sorry about my mom dying. I don’t mean on Facebook and via WhatsApp messages, I mean face-to-face. And I don’t need all five fingers to count how many have asked how I’m doing since. 

Grief is everyone moving on because “she had a good life” and “didn’t suffer”, but life standing still to the day you got the call and when you saw her lifeless body under the sterile hospital sheet. 

It’s dreading every celebration because they’re no longer that but rather a very painful reminder of what is gone, and what’s left behind. It’s hoping to speak to someone else who has lost a parent because they’re the only ones who get it. 

Grief is hanging onto every memory you can remember but looking at photos and not knowing the person looking back at you. It’s putting meaning to coincidences in the hope there is an afterlife and that she’s watching over me. It’s people who you thought were friends avoiding you. It’s late night sobbing when everyone has gone to bed because you don’t want them to see just how raw the pain is. 

Grief is who I am.

Six months

The 28th of this month was 6 months since my mom left. I say ‘left’ because tonight I’m pissed off with her for going. For not staying around a little bit longer. For not preparing me to cope with the enormous empty space she’s left. 

Tonight I’m heartbroken. I’m shattered and I just want my mom back. I want to tell her how much I miss her. I want her to know that she is loved, was loved, will always be loved. But I am pissed off with her for leaving me with a dad that’s an emotional cripple. I am pissed off that without her I am absolutely alone. Yes I have my husband, who I love and I have my children too. But my mom was the only one who knew me inside and out. Who, even when I thought she wasn’t ‘in tune’ with me or wasn’t sophisticated enough to ‘get me’, she was. She was the only one who did.

A few days back I spoke to a clairvoyant and she said my mom is happy where she is. She’s pain-free and floating around in her 35 year old body. She’s surrounded by children, including a baby (I hope mine, the baby  I lost) and a cat. I have no idea whose cat it is, or was, we never had one growing up. 

She also told me my mom spends a lot of time with Emma and Ben, in their room, so guess where I’ve been spending time? But nothing will bring her back. An hour session with a psychic isn’t the same as a 10 minute chat on the phone with her. It’s not the same as a whatsapp conversation or a chat over a cup of tea. 

I miss my mom. I miss my life before she left. I’m an adult. I’m almost 45 and I have never felt more vulnerable or alone in my entire life. I miss her. I want her back. My mom was the glue that kept the family together and as f***** up as we were there was still some semblance of kinship. But not any more. I phoned my dad this evening, after a few days of not speaking to him and to be honest it feels as though he doesn’t even like me very much.

Christmas Day was spent with friends, while the rest of my family was together. I mentioned to my dad that it was Ben’s birthday on the 24th of this month. “Oh!” was what I got. At least my mom would pretend he was interested in my children. Now even that facade has fallen. 

I just want my mom back! 


Angels walk among us

I have a very simple philosophy, based on something I heard years back. I don’t remember exactly where but I am hoping that I’m not basing an entire blog post on Alanis Morissette ‘What if G!d was one of us’.   I like to treat everyone the same, and how I would like to be treated. So if I like the idea of being greeted then it makes sense most people will like that too. Where I can give, I do, because I’d like to think someone will help me out if I should ever need it. I think it’s something I got from my mom. My mom had no airs and graces about her and wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone. To quote a cliche – she thought it would be nice to be important but she knew it was more important to be nice. To anyone. To everyone. Anyone who needed some kindness, my mom had the ability to sniff them out and do what she could.

When she was ill in hospital the gardener, who works next door their house, must have called and messaged 10 to 12 times a day to find out she was doing. He was devastated when he heard she had passed away. That was the kind of person my mom was. I once asked her why she was so nice to everyone and she simply answered, “What if that person’s an angel, checking up to see if I’m a half decent human being?” and from that day on I try to approach people the same way. And the type of person I strive to be each and every day.

Thursday, the day before my mom’s memorial service I went to one of the shops where I get my party things. I had a party on Saturday, the day after her memorial, and I knew I wouldn’t be in any kind of mood to shop on the Friday. As I pushed the trolley towards my car a car guard asked if he could help me unpack, and I said I would love that. As he was unpacking the trolley he asked me how I was, and I don’t know what happened but I just burst into tears and told him that my mom had died,  that it was her service the following day and I wasn’t good, at all. He stopped what he was doing and gave me this bear hug. As small as he was, it felt as though I had been wrapped up in a warm blanket; that’s how comforting his hug was. And we stayed that way for a while. That was Thursday, the 4th of August.

This Friday, almost 3 months later, I stop at the same shop. I run in, grab what I need and run back out, and as I’m pushing the trolley to my car I see the same car guard. He comes over to me and starts helping me unpack, and he asks me how I am. I say I’m fine. And he asks:

“How are you doing? And did your mom’s memorial go well? I’ve kept you in my prayers”

I was stunned that he remembered me. He’s probably seen over 10 000 faces since he saw me that Thursday. I suppose it does help that my meltdown was pretty epic, and chances are that that happens to him often is slight.

I posted this little story on my facebook page and the responses were heartwarming, with everyone saying what a special soul this car guard is. Some mentioned him being an angel and maybe even sent by my mom. I smiled at that, feeling a little closer to her for a moment. And then, Pat, one of my mom’s dearest friends posted a comment:


*the post above is the kind of story I’m looking for you to send me. Nothing hugely personal, but rather those ‘a ha’ moments; witnessing a miracle, big or small, or getting an understanding that brings you peace. The little project has been inspired by my mom and I really want to do this, so please email your stories through to me***



The Time is Write

For the longest time people have told me I should write a book, that I have a great way of telling stories. And I know there’s a book inside of me somewhere, but there’s also a frustrated actress, model and millionaire.

2002 – first psychic tells me I need to write a book

2003 – next psychic tells me to write a book

and so it goes. 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015. All the same messages. All the damn time. But what do I write about I ask one or two friends? Your story they say. [insert profanity] I’m bored of my story. How many times can you tell a tale of sadness, issues of abandonment, infertility, adoption?

Fast forward to 2016. My mom dies and so I start making contact with psychics again.

Psychic #1 – ooooh you need to write a book. Your story will help people heal

Psychic #2 – I see you signing books. You need to tell your story. It will help people, women and children heal.

Back to psychic #1 – sjoe, you really need to write a book. You have an amazing story to tell. 

“Yes. Apparently! But I have no idea what to write about.”

And then I made an appointment with psychic #3 and she said, “I see you signing books. Yisseeeee you’re a born writer.” When I was leaving she said to me that I could possibly write the next best seller, like Harry Potter”Nope,” I said, “I don’t have enough of an imagination to come with up all of that.”

Back to psychic #2 afterwards – your mom really wants you to write a book. She needs you to tell your story. And once again I say “I have no idea what to write about!” and she says “your mom will show you!”

On Tuesday when I poppped in to see my dad, there on the dining room table, were the piles of books there have been there since we started packing things up and away. But in the middle of all the piles, there was one book, on its own. I don’t want to say ‘lit up’ but if it were a movie there would be dramatic music and a glowing light around this book, simply called ‘Cup of Comfort – Classic Edition’.

I started reading through it and I just knew. It’s a collection of beautiful stories that tell of miracles that are found in the smallest places, and the tiniest ray of hope where you’d think it was all but lost. It’s written by every day people and compiled by the ‘author’ with a bit of editing along the way. This is the book I can write! 

I sat down on the chair next to my dad that Tuesday and told him I had found the book I was going to write. He asked me where I had found it and I simply answered “mom left it on the table for me!”

You see, as a fairly ‘in touch’ 44-year-old I know my strengths and weaknesses. Often the weaknesses more so. I am not a creative writer but I am good at taking a situation that has actually happened and rewriting it in an engaging way. I could never come up with enough engaging stories to fill a book but I can take your story and rework it in a way that touches someone else. 

And that’s what I’m hoping to do. In my mind this is the kind of book that will heal. This is my way,  with your help, of helping others. It might be a fly by night idea and just a silly spur of the moment thing but like a friend of mine said ‘there are no coincidences’.

So if you feeled moved to share your story with me please do so. For now it will be safely filed away and should I collect enough and be able to put a book together I am hoping to offer you, for your story, a small monetary fee, and an author credit. 

I am so looking forward to receiving your mails. And I think my mom is too. 

My email address is Just write ‘my story ‘ in the subject field. 

My mom’s final gift to me

It sounds strange to say but we always thought my dad would pass away before my mom. He was in a horrible accident  when I was in standard 6 and the aftermath of that has been with him ever since. In fact, the doctors had said if he hadn’t lived such a healthy lifestyle – no smoking, no excessive drinking – he wouldn’t have gotten through all the surgeries way back then.

He did. But recently his age has caught up with him and earlier this year, when he had a health scare, I was convinced he wouldn’t be around very much longer. So much so that I was talking to my brothers about where my  mom would stay once widowed, whether we should build on at our house so she could move in or start looking at retirement villages.

But my dad got better and my mom and the universe had different plans. My mom died end of July this year, leaving my dad on his own. I’ve been saying to anyone who cares to listen that it would have ‘been easier’ if my dad had died first. Only in that my mom would have been able ‘to carry on’, albeit with difficulty, she is more social, has a bigger circle of friends and keeps herself busy with loads of little hobbies. My dad, not so much.

He’s always been quite anti-social. More so now. He’s never suffered fools gladly and certainly suffers them even less. My mom was his link to the outside world because all he really needed was the comfort of his own home and the love of my mom. They have been together for 47 years and in that time have spent very little time apart.

And now he’s alone. Straight after my mom died he stayed with my younger brother and his wife. They’re also in the south of Joburg, which is closer to my dad’s house (is it feels wrong to say ‘mom and dad’s house but it also feels just as wrong to refer it to as ‘his house’) and the hospital, where he goes for dialysis twice a week. Where my mom died.

I’ve been going to their house often to pack my mom’s things away and have invited him out with us a few times. He’s agreed once. But other than that he’s turned down my offers. I get it. It’s a long drive from Bassonia to Fourways, he doesn’t like leaving his doggie alone and at the moment I think he just wants to be in his own space.

It’s been hard seeing him like this. Losing my mom, his wife, has left him a broken man and he’s literally aged 20 years. On Monday I didn’t see him. It’s dialysis day. But I popped through on Tuesday and my heart just sank. Without him having to say a word I could see he had moved back home and was staying alone. I cleaned up where I could, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms. I made his bed, making sure I left my mom’s side untouched. As I moved through the rooms I could hear him quietly sobbing from the lounge. He does this a lot.

Later that evening I called to see how he was and said I would pop through the following day. My dad would always say traveling from my house to them was unnecessary. That it’s too far. That the traffic is horrible. Even when my mom was in hospital he would put me off going too often. But this time when I said I’d see him the next day he simply said ‘ok’.

I arrived in the morning and made my way inside, put my bag down and walked towards the rooms to start cleaning, but my dad said “just sit a bit”. And I did. We sat like that for ages. Occasionally talking, occasionally not. Him doing his soduku, me reading a book of my mom’s I had found. We’d chat about something arbitrary and then sit quietly again. He asked me about work. And about the kids. He asked about something else. Every now and then his eyes would well up with tears and I would fight back mine. But for the first time in forever my dad and I just spent time in each other’s company, my mom not there to buffer our interaction.

And then it hit me. My mom’s last gift to me was time with my dad. We have never been very close. His very being doesn’t allow for that. Few people get my dad, including me. I’m just too sensitive around his rather brash ways. But I suddenly understood that where it would have been ‘easier’ to have my mom around as a bereaved wife, my relationship with my dad would have been as distant as it has always been.

My mom, in her wisdom, knew I didn’t need time with her on her own. But this time with my dad has been precious. Time I wouldn’t have had with him. Time I wouldn’t have given him.

I miss my mom. With every part of me. I miss her from the time I open my eyes to when I put my head on my pillow at night. But I am so grateful for this, her final gift to me. A gift I didn’t even know I wanted.


*the post above is the kind of story I’m looking for you to send me. Nothing hugely personal, but rather those ‘a ha’ moments; witnessing a miracle, big or small, or getting an understanding that brings you peace. The little project has been inspired by my mom and I really want to do this, so please email your stories through to me***

My little project 

I’ve been inspired to do a little project and how people respond is going to determine whether my little project is successful or not. 
I would like you or someone you know to email me any true life situations and stories that you’ve experienced and how you’ve come out on the other side, whether you feel like you’ve been through hell, met the devil, and made it back again: how you clawed your way back from the brink of despair and are now a living, and loving testament to miracles, big and small. 
Heck even if it’s a story of absolute heartbreak I’d love to hear how you got through it.
Please pass onto as many people as you know who might have a story to share. Depending on the response I’ll keep you updated with what the plans are going forward
Please send emails to with subject – my story 

You can remain anonymous if you like and it doesn’t have to be local. Let’s go global 

True or false…teeth

There’s a little something that my mum would probably kill me for sharing with you, but she also loved my habit of over sharing information, so here goes.

I’m doing the decor for a stand at a big trade show tomorrow and the theme is that of an old fashion bakery so I popped out to my favourite salvage store to see if I’d able to find a few things. That’s today.

Rewind to the day my mum had her surgery. Actually, we need to rewind even further back. I can’t remember if it was while she was pregnant with me or my older brother, but due to a calcium deficiency my mom lost all her teeth, and ended up the proud owner of dentures. For a long time I was petrified of her dentures. Remember that tv show with the rabbit? I think it was Oscar and his nemesis was Knersis. That show gave my mom’s teeth a life and personality of their own, and I often imagined her hanging her teeth up at the end of the day.

The day she was going in for her op, her teeth were in a glass on the table next to her bed (please forgive me mom for sharing this) and she was so pissed off with the nurse who had put them there. I joked with my mom and said that I was just about to take a big glug of water but thankfully I saw her teeth. She asked me to move them to a less conspicuous place, which i did. But before I left I reminded her where I had put them and I also told the sister on duty.

After she died I was packing her things up I found sets of false teeth everywhere. In jewelry boxes, in knitting baskets, in old shoe boxes, everywhere. In fact, there were so many dentures in so many places I actually mentioned it to Mark plus another friend or two.

Fast forward to today. So at the second-hand shop and salvage yard I was looking for bits and pieces to put together a look for an old fashioned bakery. I was looking at things eye level; old mixers, baking trays, etc and then I bent down to look at the old jars and containers, and in one was a pair of…you guessed it. Teeth. I did take a closer look and they weren’t the real ones, I don’t think. They looked more like the hillbilly ones you buy at dress up or party stores, but there in amongst baking items and other trinkets were dentures.

I miss my mom so badly, and contrary to how I thought it would be, I miss her more today than a week or a month ago. It’s more definite now, if you know what I mean. The reality has sent it. She’s not coming back but I think, and I hope, in her own way, she’s leaving me little signs, letting me know she’s close by and looking after me.

I see stupid people…

And even though their intentions are good, they sometimes can say and do the stupidest things. 

Let me start off by saying I get it. Not everyone is comfortable around grief and not everybody knows what to say or do around someone who’s grieving. I get it. So even though the title is a little jusgemental, this is more of a guide of what appropriate responses would be if you happen to bump into someone who’s recently lost a loved one. And I use the word ‘bump’ on purpose. 

It seems a lot of people think sadness or death is contagious and instead of carrying on a friendship like normal they just disappear. And that’s why I use the word ‘bump’. People you considered good friends, or at least close acquaintances, suddenly stay away. No phone calls, no spontaneous visits, no messages. Nothing. Let me put your mind at ease. You will not catch my grief. 

On the other side of the spectrum are the friends you still see, as you normally would, but they don’t ask how you are. Not once. It’s like they’re thinking ‘if we don’t mention it it means it hasn’t actually happened.’ These are friends who know your mom or dad, who would ordinarily ask how they’re doing, but now…nothing. It’s as though the person I loved the most in the entire world, the reason for me being, just never existed. I promise you can ask me how I’m doing. Besides been acceptable it’s also just good manners.

In case you’re getting bored, I beg of you that you just read this next point. And then you can:




All of the above 

You know the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing”? Well the same applies here but it’s more a case of “if you don’t have anything intelligent / kind / empathetic to say then say nothing.” I know this sounds awful and is possibly the reasons you stay away or don’t ask how we are but here’s a tip. You know how when you ask your partner if your bum looks fat in a pair pants, or if he thinks the cute little blonde standing next to him is prettier than you, he instinctively says “no, of course not!” That’s a learned response. A very clever one. One that has probably saved many a relationship and a life. If he were to elaborate he’d probably dig his own grave, so ” no, of course not!” is where he should stop. Same with someone who’s lost a loved one. 

If you don’t feel equipped to say ‘all the right things’ then just say “I am so sorry” and leave it at that. That’s the smart thing to do. If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of death and dying do not feel you need to elaborate with things like:

Well they were old so at least they lived a good life (if a parent has passed away)

At least they didn’t suffer (if anyone has passed away)

The upside is you can have another one (if you’ve lost a child)

You’re young enough to find someone else (if a spouse or partner has died)

Shame man, you’ll feel better soon

It was God’s will (if anyone had died)

They’re in a better place (if anyone has died)

These are often standard responses but in case nobody has told you, let me be the one. They are stupid responses. They leave the grieving person feeling worse than before. 

On Friday I went to have my haircut, and the woman cutting my hair asked me why I look so tired. She also asked why I had eczema on my head. I answered that I wasn’t sleeping well and that the eczema was probably from stress. She asked why I was stressed. “The usual stuff I suppose. It’s almost the end of of the year. It’s been a long one and my mom recently passed away!”

Granted she’s from the Ukraine so her English isn’t great, so I can forgive her slightly, but she then went on to say:

Ah, the old age? (I’m assuming from the way I look she thought my mom was ancient)

No, not really. She wasn’t that old. It was sudden and we weren’t expecting it. 

Ah, an accident? 

No. She passed away in hospital

Ah at least she died in a hopsital. With people around her. It would have been horrible if she was on her own!
Before I stabbed her with her own scissors I asked her if we could change the subject and chat about something a little more upbeat. Which we did.

My best moments since my mom died have been: 

Friends messaging me with a beautiful quote or just to say they’re thinking of me 

Friends who didn’t know my mom but acknowledge her and my pain. And openly talk about it 

Talking to friends who have a lost a parent because they just get it. They understand the desperate void left

Friends who meet me for a cup of coffee and we sit and talk crap for an hour or so and don’t visibly cringe if I mention a moment that happened to include my mom

 Hopefully this will be of use to you. If not, delete it and move on. At your own peril.