Monday, 30 March 2015

Ruined by the Perfect Cappuccino

Quite a while ago, Pomodoro (the restaurant that I work at) sent me on basic coffee training. We don't usually have a barista in the bar, so we tend to make all of the coffee ourselves. This makes training fairly vital to the reputation of our coffee.

The three day coffee shop course by Ciro focused primarily on setting the grind of the coffee beans for the perfect espresso, but we were also taught how to texturize milk for cappuccinos, which is pretty important, too. I absolutely loved learning about coffee, and for the first time, I understood what truly good coffee should taste like. I enjoyed a cappuccino that was so exquisite, that I didn't need to add any sugar to it. This is a problem... Because now I'm very fussy about my coffee.

I'll still drink a cup of coffee that isn't quite right, but every time that I do, I'll be thinking about how it's too bitter, or a little too sour, how it's been over-extracted, or probably been burnt in the machine. Every time that I taste an imperfect espresso, or see a cappuccino with a towering head of foam on top, I feel the need to walk over to the barista, give them a stern look, and then set them straight in the not-so-mysterious ways of coffee. (I have actually done this before. Don't judge me. The cappuccinos at the Hoekwil Café are better for it, and the staff have thanked me for sharing my knowledge. So there!)

Anyway, most of the cappuccinos I've had since that day in training have not lived up to my new expectations, which is really disappointing, because I used to enjoy all cappuccinos. My newfound knowledge and skills have deprived me of a constant enjoyment of coffee...

Of course, the utter contentment I experience when I taste a REALLY good cup of coffee is totally worth it... I appreciate it so much more now.

Topic Change! I have the best Grammy in the world. After reading my post about being interested in doing some short courses to improve my writing skills, she sent me over to The Great Courses and told me not to hold back. I sent her links to this one about storytelling and this one about writing fiction, and she promptly bought them for me! So I now have two courses to get to work on, which I'm very excited about. Thank you, Grammy!

Awww, how cute! Very silly. But cute!

Also, puppies!

No, they're not ours. We don't need puppies, we have a permanent kitten. They're just frolicking around the Café and I'm watching them being stupid (i.e. eating actual mud) while I'm writing this post. It's very entertaining.

I'm going to stop writing now. I have a lovely day off to enjoy, which I'll be spending doing whatever pleases me! Cheerio!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Holiday Plans and Things!

Our tickets are booked! In May, we'll be travelling up to Gauteng to visit the various family members, and to venture with Robin (Francois' brother) to the Drakensberg for a hike up Sentinel Peak.

I can't wait! I've never been to the Drakensberg before, and Francois has told me many things about the beauty of the mountains there, and the intensity of the hike. Yippee! (Yes, I love hiking. Although a less recent discovery than my enjoyment of cycling, this was also a fairly new revelation for me. A younger me would never have believed that I'd like exercising so much.)

Resting in the shade during one of those hikes that I enjoy so much. (Proof!)

Some more specific information for the family and friends who I'd like to see:
  • We arrive in Johannesburg on the 14th of May
  • We leave again on the 30th of May
  • We'll be taking a weekend to do the hike, most likely the 16th and 17th, but maybe the 23rd and 24th. This still needs to be finalised.
  • Most of the time, we'll be staying in Pretoria.

By the way. Our arrival in Joburg will not be by bus. We're flying! For the same price! Thanks to the awesomely affordable new airline, FlySafair, we lowly folk can now afford to travel across the country at a great speed, and no longer have to put up with stinky, crowded, slow-moving buses... If we book far enough in advance, of course. This makes me very, very happy.

So yes, we have some exciting times coming up. I feel very ready for a holiday, and for some contact with certain people that live very far away. This does mean that I need to make extra money before we leave, to make up for the two weeks that I won't be working, but that should be easy enough to do, with my mindset right. 

Look at how perfect it is! Buy it!
To help with the extra monetary needs, we're selling Francois' Wacom Inkling. It's a really cool drawing gadget, but shortly after he purchased it, he bought his drawing tablet, so it's gone unused. Feel free to share the hell out of that gumtree ad, by the way. It'd be great to actually sell it sometime soonish. :P

Well, this update is long enough, I think. Bye for now!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Rushed Post Before Work

This is me trying to write a quick, short blog entry, before going to work. While I'm writing this very sentence, I have an hour before I have to leave home. That hour is also meant for getting ready and stuff, so I'd better not get too carried away here.

We still have so MUCH.
First of all, I made even more pumpkiny food last night. We have so much pumpkin, I'm getting kind of sick of it... And yet, the food was still really tasty (pumpkin, chicken, saucy goodness and rice). And it was tasty again for lunch today, because I made enough to have leftovers. (Whyyyyy? Too. Much. Pumpkin.)

Next. Francois is being totally awesome and creating a header for this here blog of mine. He's doing a silhouette of me on my bike and EVERYTHING. I love him. He works so hard, and I repay him with tea and leftovers and back rubs and never doing enough dishes. I'm a lucky girl, to get so much for so darn little. (If Francois didn't do any of this for me, I'd have to pay a lot of money to get it done. Or I'd have to do it myself, and everything would look horrible, and that would be terribly disappointing.)

Next. I'm trying to type up an educational spot of information for the end of my children's poem, but it's proving to be much trickier than writing the poem itself. I know what I want to say, I've typed it up, and I think it's way too long. I think I need to sit down and sum up what I want to get across in a few short points, and make those points fun to read. Too much content there will just decrease interest, and that won't do at all. So that may take a little while to get right, but that's okay... I've got time.

I'd also appreciate some ideas for causes of chronic pain in children, particularly joint pain, but other kinds too. I want to include some examples, my brain isn't working, and google is proving difficult. I will look again tomorrow when I have more time, but any excellent ideas are always welcome. Hint. Hint.

In between writing this, Francois has been calling me over to give him my opinions on the progress of my header. I've been posing for him, and contributing my point of view, and all of those clienty things. Eep! :D

Well, I now have forty five minutes left to get ready for work. It may not be a spectacular post, but it sure was written quickly! It isn't very short, though. Oops! Well done, me... And sorry to all of you if it was horrible to read.

Time to go make money!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Ranting Over Breakfast

It constantly amazes me that so many strangers find it necessary to tell me what I should do with my life. There are loads of people out there who seem to think that it's their life's mission to give their opinions and advice to people who have by no means asked for it. I'm all for friendly, helpful advice when I need it... But then I'll ask for it, thank you very much.

(Note: Certain close friends and family are welcome to give me advice at all times, whether asked for or not. I'm specifically ranting about complete strangers, here.)

A recent example of this rude advice-giving (and this is a recurring event - same advice, different stranger) took place while I was at work a few days ago. A middle-aged couple sat at a table that I was serving, and when I arrived to get their drinks order, they recognised me. Their faces did seem familiar, so I wasn't surprised when they asked if I'd started studying yet, and commented that I was still waitressing at the same place. Obviously, they'd had a chat with me quite a few months ago, and for some reason I'd made a good enough impression for them to remember details about me. Impressive memories, I must say.

Well, when I replied that I still wasn't studying, because I hadn't quite gotten around to it and still wasn't terribly sure about what I wanted to study, they proceeded to give me a lecture. Rather than allowing me to fetch their drinks and send their food order to the kitchen, they preferred to go on (and on) about how important studying is, especially for women. According to them, as a woman, you need at least two or three pieces of paper to your name for anybody to take you seriously. They made it very clear that I MUST study, that I HAVE TO study, and that I MUST do it very soon.

While I agree that studying is important, I don't think that it's a very good idea to study something that you're not too sure about. (I've made this mistake once. It was a very expensive mistake, and not one that I'd like to repeat.) I'm also not convinced that every career path requires a degree or diploma... And while I'd like to do a short course of some kind to do with writing in some form or another (because that's what I'm pursuing at the moment), I don't want to throw my money at something unnecessarily expensive, just so that I can say that I have a degree.

What strange people... Anyway, I managed to escape and get back to work, but I suppose my interaction with them has been on my mind more than I realised. Hence the rant. Aaaaand... Rant over. Sorry about that.

Fun Fact: We go through about
four dozen eggs in a week.
We like eggs. A lot.
On a lighter note, I had a very tasty breakfast this morning. It's something that I make fairly often these days, but I'm pretty sure it'll get quite a few confused reactions: Pap and fried eggs, with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Yum! (My Grammy and Puka taught this one to me.)

Now to have a shower out in the rain (more like drizzle by now, so it's time to just grit my teeth and get out there...) and then visit my Dad for a long-overdue cup of tea. Ciao!

P.S. I'm getting very excited about Carrie the Limping Lion. I've updated things with the help of a few trusted friends and family members, so feel free to swing by and take a peek at the latest version!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Carrie the Limping Lion

(UPDATE: You can now buy 'Carrie the Limping Lion' through my blog, thanks to Payhip!) 

I've been struggling to figure out the format for the children's stories that I want to write. What age group should I target? How do I actually start each story? What happens in each story? All of these are things I've been thinking about and not managing to come up with answers to, until today! 

I've decided how to deliver each story, and that delivery is through simple poetry. I enjoy writing it, and hopefully it's more enjoyable for young children to read. Here's my first draught of "Carrie the Limping Lion". (Yes, she's named after me, Carrie-lion!)

Francois will be illustrating each stanza for me to make things more kid-friendly, and to add to the story a little bit. 

Please give me honest and critical feedback - I need to learn a lot and improve the way that I write these, if I want to expand on the collection and actually have kids interested in the stories. If children find them boring, then they won't learn anything from them, and what would the point be in that?

Well, here goes nothing:

Carrie the Limping Lion

Carrie is a lion cub
Her knees are always sore
Sometimes when they hurt too much
They make her want to ROAR!

Jumping jacks are bothersome
And running makes her squeal
You can't see what makes it hurt
But Carrie's pain is real

Carrie has a lion's heart
Do you know what that means?
She's very brave and carries on
And joins the running teams

Soreness makes her running slow
And sometimes she comes last
But Carrie has a special dream
Of running Cheetah-fast

Sometimes when the pain is bad
Her mom wraps up her knees
With bandages to keep them warm
But sometimes others tease

The tiger cubs don't understand
So they don't play with Carrie
But that's okay, 'cause Carrie has
A cool best friend called Sally

Sally is a panther cub
And climbing is her thing
But when her friend is tired and sore
She joins her on the swing

They talk about all kinds of things
And like to play pretend
So Carrie is a happy cub
Life's better with a friend

*Update #1: At the end of each poem, I plan to include a kid-friendly description of what affects the character involved and how this makes things different for them. Sort of an educational post-script for children who want to read more about it.

*Update #2: Edited last line from "Because she's with her friend" to "Life's easier with a friend". Also, Francois has started illustrating it in the meantime, working on the opening illustration. Yippee!

*Update #3: Panthers are the strongest climbers of the cat family, so to give Sally and Carrie different interests, I've changed Sally's 'favourite thing' to climbing, instead of running.

*Update #4: Had a lovely phone call with my mommy and got some really useful crit about the metre and some of the clumsier lines. Thank you, Mommy!

*Update #5: Daddy pointed out that Leopards are not the fastest animals, cheetahs are... How has nobody caught this yet? Haha! 

*Update #6: If Carrie needs bandages because she's cold, why is she wearing shorts? Changed stanza five from 'Sometimes when it's very cold', to 'Sometimes when the pain is bad', so the poem and illustrations make more sense together. 

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin

They taste kinda like popcorn.
Lookie here! I roasted the pumpkin seeds, just like I said I would. And contrary to my initial prediction, I did take a picture of the finished product, EVEN THOUGH they were fairly darn tasty. (I did them in coconut oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, if you're interested in that sort of information. I roughly followed this lady's method.)

Also, they're really filling, so we still have some left. Knowing Francois though, they'll be finished by the end of the day. He seems to enjoy them a lot more than I do. I think they're a little too tricky to chew, which puts me off a tad. I'd like to try doing this with seeds from a sugar pumpkin or something similar - apparently it works a bit better.

While nibbling on the seeds, I decided to whip something up that I thought about making last night: A pumpkin smoothie. After defrosting a segment of pumpkin and microwaving it to cook it through nicely, I scooped up (and accidentally shredded) the fleshy contents and plopped them into my smoothie jug-thing. I wouldn't be able to tell you how much pumpkin I used, but I can say that it was a LOT. I added a banana, some cinnamon and nutmeg, honey to sweeten it a little more, and yoghurt and milk to dilute the flavour and thin things out a bit. Here's a picture of the result:

Oh yes, that prediction about not taking
a picture of the yummy seeds in time?
That happened with the smoothies instead.
Sorry, Francois decided that he needed to get all of you with that hand-sign thing. Also, you've now all lost the game. Sorry. Again.

I'd suggest using cold pumpkin and a frozen banana if you decide to try this out. We had ours luke-warm and it was rather tasty, but I get the feeling it would be ten times better if it was icy-cold. Crushed ice is also a good idea if your blender can handle it... Mine can't. :(

The segment of pumpkin that I defrosted and cooked for the smoothie still has loads of flesh stuck to it, so there's definitely more pumpkin on the menu in the very near future. Maybe pumpkin crumpets, or pumpkin mug cakes, or some more pumpkin soup... I'd definitely like to try pumpkin mug cakes. That could be very interesting.

Darn it, the power has gone off. Hoorah for load shedding! I'd better stop typing now and upload this article before my battery goes flat. If I'm lucky, though, my tablet will stay on long enough to write up a short story. Time to get cracking!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Quick, Slightly Boring Update

Francois and I were planning to do a proper cycling trail in Saasveld yesterday, but we decided against it for now. I'm still not able to stand and cycle at the same time, and that would make the extra-bumpy trail particularly painful to experience.

Cycling along the driveway, just so Francois can take
a picture of me... Proof that I really can ride my bike!
Instead, we went for a ride around Wilderness. It was really relaxed, and gave me the opportunity to learn how to start cycling from a standing position (as opposed to starting with my bum on the seat). I enjoyed navigating the sidewalks, dodging people and dogs, trying not to scratch parked cars and narrowly missing various poles (most of the time).

Me again! Still in the driveway. But cycling!

Well... I enjoyed it after the initial extreme nervousness, anyway.

Unfortunately, after the cycle, I was so kaput that I couldn't bring myself to write anything for my blog. So I skipped a day. :(

What I did do was make really yummy pumpkin and spinach soup. We bought a HUGE crown pumpkin for R30 from Fruit and Veg City, which Francois massacred artfully using his manly muscles. I wouldn't have been able to tackle that pumpkin... It was ridiculously hard. So we had fresh pumpkin (I used less than a quarter of it), and spinach that I bought for R15 from the local veggie-selling hippie in Wilderness (which I used about a third of). Woo! Cheap, ridiculously tasty soup!

It looks weird because spinach makes things
look weird. But I promise it's delicious!
I'm going to roast the seeds that were scooped out of the pumpkin to make a crunchy snack. I might post a picture of them here when I do... But that may not happen, for two reasons:

1: If I fail miserably and burn them or something, I won't post a picture out of sheer embarrassment and depression. (I'm kidding. I probably will, because it'll be funny.)

2: If they're amazingly delicious, we'll probably eat them all before I can grab my camera. (I'm not kidding about this one.)

Okay, I think I'm done with this post. Hopefully I'll think of something more interesting to write about tomorrow... Any brilliant topic ideas are always welcome, by the way. :P

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Pros and Cons of Showering in the Great Outdoors

Our  bathroom is like any other bathroom. It has a toilet, a basin and a bath. What it doesn't have is a shower. Where we live, if you want to have a shower, you need to walk outside, go around the house, and step behind a screen that Francois and his brother built to create some privacy for us... We have an outdoor shower, and we love it! So, for your amusement (and mine), I've decided to break down the good and bad aspects of outdoor showering in a nice list.

This is our shower!
Lovely Thing #1:

Space! You don't get many showers bigger than ours... And yet, somehow, we still manage to bump elbows if we're showering at the same time.

Horrible Thing #1:

Wind Exposure... On a particularly breezy day, the screen does a rather limited job of stopping the cold air from giving you goosebumps.

Lovely Thing #2:

Nature! While showering, we have a view of the forest. We wash our hair and clean our feet while watching birds frolicking in the trees, and examining pretty spiders making their webs.

The pretty, pretty view from our shower.
Horrible Thing #2:

Nature. Our shower is under a fig tree. On the one hand, the huge leaves protect us from rain when the weather is a little moist, but on the other hand, the tree tends to drop leaves and unripe figs into our shower. The leaves make an awkwardly soft shower floor as they rot, and the figs attract fruit flies, which take flight as soon as you turn the tap on, and hover around you while you're soaping up. This leads me to my next horrible thing...

Dead leaves and rotten figs
and tiny icky FRUIT FLIES.
Horrible Thing #3:

Maintenance. Regular sweeping and de-fruiting of the shower is required... Though we don't adhere to that requirement very often. Proooobably should.

Lovely Thing #3:

Maintenance again. We never have to worry about a blocked pipe, a leaky shower, or digging hair out of the drain.

Lovely Thing #4:

A lack of steam. Most people like having hot, steamy showers. I like hot showers, but in summer, too much steam makes me feel really funny, and enclosed showers have a way of trapping that steam and suffocating you with it. Outside, the steam dissipates so quickly that it never becomes a hazard to your breathing...

Horrible Thing #4:

Dirty feet. This is easily solved by wearing slops while showering. The ground under the shower is concreted, with pretty pebbles and what not, but the trek from the shower back to the house is a rather muddy one. Francois doesn't really care about this as much as I do.

Lovely Thing #5:

Feeling fresh after a shower. That lacking steam mentioned in the last lovely point really contributes to this one. No matter how hot and humid the weather is, a shower leaves me feeling clean and fresh. In the past, using indoor showers in the heat of summer, the bathroom would get so steamy that I'd start feeling sweaty and icky very soon after getting clean.

Horrible Thing #5:

Unexpected visitors. This one is really irritating. Garden services are supposed to come every second Friday to cut the lawn... Sometimes they come on a different day without any warning. Once, I was showering when they arrived... This was before the screen was built, by the way. Aaaah!! Luckily, Francois noticed them arriving and chased them away before they saw anything saucy. I hope.

So that's five points to each side, ten in total... Honestly, the good outweighs the bad for me. The outdoor shower is one of my favourite things about this little cottage, and I'm really going to miss it one day when we move back to a place with a boring, conventional, shower... Though I won't complain about the increased level of privacy. Hehe.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Sci-fi Story Concept

What you're about to read is an idea for a science fiction story that I came up with quite a while ago. This concept led to some brainstorming with Francois, and we thought about creating a comic called "The Last Apple Tree" together. I ended up being horrible at creating content for him to work from, and it got put on a back-shelf for later... Now that I'm writing more regularly again, I'm going to try my darnedest to churn out some interesting adventures for our sci-fi characters to go on, so watch this space! 

Lizbeth's just a regular human being, and that's her problem - nobody's regular these days.

What's worse? She can remember being better, and every now and then she re-lives it again, when her faulty implant decides to wake up and jump back into action.

Most of the time, when it doesn't work, she can barely do the tasks required for simple physical labour - her normal human physiology isn't fast enough, her normal reactions not quick enough, to work with the machines of today. 

Even worse, she can feel her stupidity. No, not her regular intelligence - her actual stupidity. She fights to learn more every day, she struggles to think better... But after so many years - so many generations - of relying on the implants, human beings (and Lizbeth) have stopped exercising their own brains.

"We've evolved too quickly with technology," she realises, "and we've devolved without even noticing it..."

Lizbeth has heard rumours that a huge electro-magnetic flare will be coming soon. Apparently, there have been safeguards put in place, and nothing will be affected. "That's good," Lizbeth supposes, but she can't help but wish that something would go wrong... Maybe afterwards, she wouldn't feel so alone. Maybe afterwards, she'd be the better one.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

A Balancing Act

Potholes are a pain in the ass. This is not a recent revelation - it's terrible to hit one while you're in your car - but I'm speaking literally here. When you're riding a bicycle, every bump that you hit hurts your behind. During my cycle with Francois yesterday, I really started getting nervous about the big bumps in the road... Because the longer you ride, the more sensitive you are to every stone that you bounce over and every hole that you drop into. I was starting to hurt.

I have a comfy silicone seat cover...
Not comfy enough!
Once I started paying proper attention to the deeper holes in the road, I tried lifting myself off the seat just a little bit to minimize the impact, but I couldn't lift up enough to make too much of a difference. That's when Francois suggested that I figure out how to stand up while riding my bike. He showed me how to position my feet, explained that I should lock my knees into place for better balance, and waited for me to give it a go.

Well, I tried, at least. A few times! I didn't give up too easily. But for some reason, I just couldn't lift myself up and balance nicely on my pedals. At first, I thought that my legs were just too tired, or a little too weak, or that I just needed a lot of practise and would get it eventually. They were all logical assumptions. But the answer was actually in my bicycle.

Because I'm still very uncertain with my bike and have only recently figured out how to ride, I've left my seat fairly low down. This allows me to climb onto the seat, balance with one foot on the ground, and then push off on the pedal with my other foot. I start with my bum firmly on the seat every time. That's all good and well, until you want to stand up on your bike... My leg doesn't straighten completely when I push the pedal all the way to the bottom, so standing automatically becomes a much trickier feat to accomplish. Without that straightened leg helping me to balance and then distribute my weight between my two legs, it became nearly impossible to lift my body weight.  There we go, it suddenly all made sense!

The pesky pedals that I need
to learn how to stand on...
It would be perfect if I could tell you that I adjusted my seat, started riding and 'voila!' managed to stand and cycle. One problem, though... By the time I realised how to fix things, I was super tired and just wanted to make my way back home. No seat adjustments, no victorious standing on pedals, none of that. I made it home, flopped onto the grass defeated, and gave up for the day.

It's still all positive, though. I learnt quite a few things during that ride:
1: That I had a problem. (My sore bum!)
2: What I need to do to fix that problem. (Standing up while going over bumps.)
3: How to adjust things so that it's actually possible to achieve my goal. (Raising my seat. Obviously.)

When we go for another cycle on Monday or Tuesday, I'll change the height of my seat and give the whole standing up thing another shot. Hopefully, with my new information and adjustments to my bike, I'll manage to perform the balancing act that will save my behind from certain doom.

P.S. I was going to point out the way that this relates to other aspects in life, like balancing work and leisure and things like that, but Francois said that he'd tease me about it if I did. So I didn't. But I kind of did, by telling you about that in this Post Script. So yeah... Balance is important and stuff! Okay. I'm done now.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Exercising Forgotten Muscles

Oh my goodness. I'm exhausted. Today Francois and I went for a ride around Hoekwil for my second ever proper cycle. We went a total distance of... (Drumroll please...) 9.3km! That sure feels like a lot, I tell you what.

Francois calls this pattern of burn my 'wings'.
I got a little too much sun and my quads are rather tired, but what I didn't expect is that my shoulders are very sore. Oh yes, that's right, I have ZERO upper body strength. Most of the time, that doesn't affect my day-to-day life at all. I'm strong enough to carry trays full of drinks and heavy plates of food to tables while I'm waitressing at work, and I only have a little trouble carrying the full laundry basket up and down the stairs, even when the laundry is wet and extra-heavy. However, on days like these, I remember that I can't even do one proper push-up. My arms are that stupidly weak.

So, balancing on a bicycle (which requires a certain amount of pulling and pushing with one's arms) for 9.3km makes for a ridiculous work-out, and very sore shoulders.

Today, I exercised muscles that I didn't even think were important. Correction: That I didn't even think about. At all. I'm sure that strengthening these muscles will improve the way that I do other non-cycling-related things as well, and I probably won't even notice the improvement in those areas of my life (carrying drinks, doing laundry, all that fun stuff). It feels like a good reminder that exercising other kinds of 'muscles' is also very important, even if it is so easy to forget about. Writing more often can improve my ability to communicate with those I love, can broaden my mind's ability to think about things from different perspectives, can help me to improve in my poetry and my singing, and who knows what else.

Practice, practice, practice... It's so important, and something that I keep forgetting to do.

We're planning to do another cycle, about 8km long, on Monday or Tuesday. It may be shorter than today's cycle, but it'll be quite a bit trickier thanks to the hills and what-not (It'll be an actual, honest-to-gosh, cycling trail. In the forest and everything! Yay, shade!), and hopefully I'll conquer the trail with pride (or only just manage to make it back to the car, that'll do fine, too). Perhaps, after a few more cycling expeditions, I'll find that I'm able to do an actual whole push-up... Maybe.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Different Collection of Children's Stories

(UPDATE: You can now buy 'Carrie the Limping Lion' through my blog, thanks to Payhip!) 

There's an idea that I have for a collection of children's books. Basically, I want to write about children who are different, like I was (Or should I say "like I am"? I don't think I'm a kid anymore...). Now, everybody knows that I'm different from most kids. I'm a complete weirdo, after all, which is apparent to many people. The simple fact that I only just learnt how to ride a bicycle is a huge indicator of my weirdness. But that's not the kind of different that I'm talking about here.

What makes me different is that I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I'm one of the very few lucky people who are currently in remission, so you don't need to get all worried about me all of a sudden. Sometimes my knees or hips hurt, but that usually only happens if I'm particularly stressed out, or overworked... Which is a big part of why I currently live in the Garden Route (so calm and pretty!) and only work four days a week as a waitress (which is actually very easy and stress-free). However, that's not the way that it used to be when I was a child.

Back in the day, when I was but a wee lass, I was very sore - very often. I wore bandages around my knees to keep them warm when the days were a bit too cool, and I couldn't take part in a lot of sporty activities with my friends. During school assemblies, I didn't sit on the floor with everybody else, because it bent my knees too much - so I'd sit on a chair with the prefects and teachers, which drew a lot of attention. So few children understood why I couldn't join them in their games every time, and it might have made things easier if they knew more about Arthritis in general... Which is what gave me the idea for the children's books. Really short, nicely illustrated stories about children who are different, and how they go about their daily lives.

Children with Arthritis (like me!), children who need glasses, children who are deaf... Children with all kinds of differences. My brother, Benjamin, calls children (and grown-ups) like this "diff-abled". We're still able to do most things that other people can do, but we're forced to do them in a different way. By the by, Ben has recently discovered that he has Asperger's Syndrome, so he knows what he's talking about when it comes to being diff-abled.

Of course, I can't finish this project alone. Ideally, I'd like to get input from as many people with as many differences as possible. Perspective is so important, and at the moment, the only perspective that I have is my own. If you'd like me to write a story about you, please leave a comment or drop me an email so that I can chat to you about your experiences as a child who was different.

I'd like to show children all over the world that although we're different, we're still just kids, and we don't want to be isolated and bullied, we don't want to be misunderstood... We just want to have friends.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

As Easy as Riding a Bicycle...

"It's as easy as riding a bicycle!"

This is a phrase that I never did fully understand until very recently. I'm twenty three years old, live with my boyfriend in a little cottage that we responsibly pay rent for, ourselves, every month. I've paid off my car, pay insurance for it like a good grown-up, and even have a little retirement fund going. And yet, until yesterday, I couldn't ride a bicycle. When people said that phrase, I'd just think: "But riding a bicycle is DIFFICULT, not easy!"

I've been trying to figure out why I never did learn to ride when I was younger. At first, I thought it was because we lived in a place where learning to cycle was not made easy. When I was given my first bicycle, we lived up a very long, narrow dirt road, that was not exactly the safest environment for a young girl to learn to balance on top of a thin thing with only two points of wobbly contact with the ground. So, I went around in circles on a stoep, with my training wheels ON, and after going in circles for a while, I got bored, and stopped. I didn't start again.

I think that while I was in primary school, some of my friends tried their best to teach me how to ride... But I don't remember much about that. I suppose I wiped it from my memory, or didn't see it as particularly important at the time.

While in high school, my best friend also tried very hard to teach me how to ride her bicycle. She held onto the seat and pushed me along the length of her garden, but I wasn't too enamoured of the idea of cycling, and her garden was rather small and grassy, so I didn't particularly like the idea of falling or crashing into the wall at the other end... Eventually, she gave up on me, and quite frankly, I was relieved.
So, what changed? Why did I manage to learn how to cycle yesterday?

1) First of all, I kept at it. It didn't all happen yesterday. It took quite a few days. On day one, I rolled backwards and forwards on the bike, not even able to push off properly on one pedal before chickening out and putting my feet back on the ground. I was nervous, which I've always been. But I kept going, kept trying, and the next day I went outside and did it some more. Francois (that boyfriend that I mentioned earlier, the one I live with) pushed me just the right amount, giving me little snippets of advice and suggesting that I give myself more space, pointing out that hills are useful, all of those small, useful things. And with some time (less than I expected!) I was actually pushing down on the right pedal, and then the left, and then the right again. Actual cycling! So that was number one. Perseverance.

2) You won't persevere unless you have motivation. My whole life, I've never felt motivated to learn how to ride a bicycle. When Francois and I decided that we wanted to do something fun together, we thought a bit about lengthy hikes (days and days in the mountains), but that didn't really seem to stick as a great idea. When Francois suggested cycling in the mountains, however, that sounded more reasonable and MUCH more exciting. Speed! Greater distance! Who wouldn't want to cycle in the mountains, right? Right? Well, with that exciting goal in mind, we started shopping around for a bicycle, and I was just as excited about it as Francois was. Despite my lacking skills in the cycling arena, I was giddy over the new toy that we were looking for. The motivation for cycling had finally arrived, and I actually WANTED to do it. There we go. Now I know how to ride my bike.

Anyway, this all brings me back to that opening phrase: "It's as easy as riding a bicycle!"

Now I understand what that means. It means (to me, anyway) that it'll be a little tricky and unusual at first, even scary, but with the right amount of motivation, perseverance and practice, it'll feel natural and easy in no time... And that you'll never forget how to do it. Right? Well, I think that's what it means.

P.S. I think that it generally looks like I'm pretty good at life. Being a grown-up and doing responsible things and all of that junk. Actually, I'm pretty bad at it. Hopefully learning how to ride my bicycle with more skill will give me some good analogies for life and how to improve at all of those terrifying new things that people expect me to know how to do. Wish me luck!