The scArlet letter

Anorexia, a word I have come to hate. Why hate? Because the word alone brings with is discomfort, confusion, questions and often misinformation. The disorder itself is a death trap, literally. It destroys the victim, their families, creates distances between friends and dishonesty, doubt and brokenness spread like a disease. It is a word that usually doesn’t cross my lips and the only time I talk about it is when I blog.

Imagine my surprise when my 12 year old daughter asked me if someone we know “has anorexia?” In utter disbelief my first reaction was, “where did you hear that word”? I could feel my heart racing and a cold shiver run up my spine. She said very innocently that her best friend (from gymnastics) mentioned it. Now I don’t know where her friend would have heard the word, but she is first year high school and I think it is something her mom would say is general talk. I then asked my daughter what does she know of that word? She said that it is when someone doesn’t eat and gets very skinny. I told her that yes, it is correct but there is more to it than what most people make of it. I know that my daughter need to be aware of these disorders (and others) but I truly believe that 12 is too young to expose her mind to such knowledge. There will be a time and place for it, and I will surely correct her if her friends provide her with non-factual information.

The person she was referring too when she asked the question is a lovely young lady and ex-rhythmic gymnast who has now turned her passion for this beautiful sport into a small business as she makes gorgeous leotards. I met her for the first time last year March when my daughter trailed to compete overseas. She attended the event as one of the gymnasts needed alterations to a leotard she made. I didn’t know at the time who she was, but it was clear that she was not healthy and you can also see why most people would jump to the assumption of her suffering from ‘anorexia’. An extremely skinny rhythmic gymnast in a highly competitive sport = you must have an eating disorder.

I contacted her early December of last year to ask if she is available to make my daughter’s leotard. She was and I was thrilled with her design and colours. So we started the process. Several months had gone and I didn’t hear from her. I took it that she must be a very busy young lady so I will leave it just a little while longer before I contact her. Soon after, my one friend who is also waiting on a leotard from her contacted me and I found out that she is actually very sick. No, not due to an eating disorder, but because she has gastrointestinal problems yet to be diagnosed. She had been sick for over 2 years and her health deteriorates each day. She eats 5000+ calories a day, yet still looses weight. In her own words she describes how the doctors have told her she is dying and there is nothing they can do to help her, except send her for more tests. It is absolutely dreadful and my heart breaks for her. I have seen a recent photo of her on Instagram and I cried.

To place a label on someone before knowing the truth is to dehumanise them. I feel like it could be associated with having a scarlet letter stitched permanently unto your skin. We forget that the person carrying a mental and/or physical disorder is still a person. They are separate from their illness. The disorder should not define them. We would rather whisper behind our hands, these days behind a phone screen, before offering assistance or help.

20170508_164242

 

Procrastibaking – when there’s a pile of laundry to iron but you bake instead

18011097_10154307433191697_7656927131827148106_n.png

My sister tagged me in a post on Facebook to which I could only giggle as it is so very true. I have always enjoyed baking but only truly found my passion for it over the past few years. I think it came about when I started baking to fundraise for my daughter’s gymnastics competitions back in 2011. We had additional costs that year as we were travelling up to Auckland from Cambridge once a week for extensive training. I started out by baking one of the best biscuits I had ever tasted called Death by Chocolate biscuits. It is not an easy biscuit to bake compare to the ones I bake now, but they are devilish good. Rich, sweet, decadent and literally melt in the mouth.

Soon afterwards my husband bought me my first Nigella Lawson cookbook. I have made several of her desserts and baked goods but what I love the most about her books is the way she writes them. You might as well be having a one-on-one conversation with her. It’s personal, funny, witty, just like her.

Baking cakes only started in 2013 when I worked for a company where sharing your baking was considered the best thing since slice bread. At first I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes (the seasoned company bakers) so I didn’t bake anything for the first few months. It was only when we moved to our new premises in April 2014 and we lost more than 1/2 of our workforce that I brought my baking in. I baked traditional and fail proof cakes, muffins and biscuits at first. It was through the encouragement of my work mates that I started experimenting with flavours and cake combinations. Whatever I baked I took with to work. I baked for individual employees, whether it was to celebrate their birthday or send them off as a farewell. I felt great joy when I could share these baked goods with them. My most memorable cake was the Hummingbird Cake which I baked for the sales manager’s farewell. It was rustic and full of flavour and oh so pretty.

FB_IMG_1493190763828

Today I still mainly bake to share. I bake to give as gifts, to show love and empathy when friends loose a loved one, for my husband to share at work (expecially when the ladies ask for anything sweet with chocolate). One of those cakes was a traditional Black Forest Cherry Gateau. I baked it for my husband’s birthday so naturally he took it into work for everyone to share.

IMG_20161021_090157

I bake because I learn something new every time. I bake because I can’t think of anything more satisfying to do. I bake because nothing smells more divine than the aroma of freshly baked cookies. I bake because I owe it to myself to enjoy food.

Day 114 24 April – youthfulness

It’s the second week of the school holidays and my son is the unfortunate one to have to be at the shop with me ALL DAY LONG. It is terribly boring, and I can only imagine torturous, for a 10 year old boy.

IMG_20170424_181633_709.jpg

Things he did today to keep himself occupied:

  1. Go into PaperPlus to see if the magnetic putty is still there
  2. Play on his IPod for 10 minutes before hunger sets in
  3. Eats a yogurt and chips
  4. Makes his first visit to the entertaining ‘Bubble Man’
  5. Takes a run around the shopping centre
  6. Plays on the desktop for approximately an hour, with additional sound effects
  7. Realises it is lunch time so I heat up the macaroni & cheese with chicken nibbles
  8. Returns to the desktop
  9. Second visit to the ‘Bubble Man’ to which he gets his toe stepped on and rips his nail
  10. Sits still for a short time as his toe is too sore for him to walk on. I clean it off and place something cold on it too sooth the pain
  11. Returns to the desktop
  12. Goes for visit number three to the ‘Bubble Man’ who must wonder where this child’s parents are?!
  13. Takes another run (sore toe and all) around the centre
  14. Tummy grumbling again so eats biltong and has a juice for afternoon tea
  15. Give him $ to buy us each an ice cream
  16. Plays on the desktop until I close up at 5:30pm
  17. Walk to the toilets with him and on my return find him playing in the toddler section of a make-shift playground.
  18. Go home!!

Day 83 24 March – gratitude

IMG_20170324_182440_036.jpg

Today I received a card from my friend who left New Zealand a short while ago to finish her travels before she heads home. It was such a lovely surprise and it made me feel such gratitude towards our friendship.

I was reminded again, through this small gesture, of how important it is to be surrounded by people who add value to your life, who will walk an extra mile with you and who still thinks of you even though you are apart. I am truly grateful to have met some amazing people throughout my 36 years on earth. But I have also learned that unfortunately not everyone has good intentions. We need to cut ties with those who munipulates, distracts, adds negativity and do not have our best interests at heart. It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do and I had often kept ‘friends’ around out of guilt and not wanting to hurt their feelings or be portrayed as the bad one.

I remember how I had a huge friendship group while in primary school. Honestly, we could have formed our own gang. I was never bullied, never exchanged bad words to anyone or felt that I didn’t get along with any of the children in my year group. After primary school the majority of us moved to the same highschool while others went to a technology focused highschool. It was interesting seeing how these friendships from primary school soon withered as we formed new friendships. All of my newly formed friends were students from other primary schools. I still had contact with the boys who attended the technology school and we got together on a regular basis, whether it was to go to the movies, each others birthday parties or to the drive-in.

I went to university a year after highschool and attended one of its local campuses. All of my friends had since moved on from highschool, most going to universities in the larger cities and others started working. A small handful travelled overseas and had since settled in places such as the UK, Italy, Brazil. My university friends had become my family. We have been through so much together: engagements, weddings, stork teas, our children’s births, birthdays. And today it’s them who I treasure.

I think with age comes a sense a responsibility towards yourself.

 

Day 53 22 February – monarch

The kids’ school has a few Swamp Milkweed plants to encourage monarch butterflies to lay their eggs there so that the monarch caterpillars has something to eat and a place to live before creating their chrysalis. The children not only get an opportunity to see each stage of a butterfly’s life cycle, but they learn to respect and take care of creatures much smaller and fragile than themselves.

img_20170223_062705_555

Today there was a great buzz around the swamp plants as 2 monarch butterflies were dancing around from leave to stem, finding a place to lay eggs. I decided to take photos of the butterflies but was in for a real treat when after following one particular butterfly around, we literally saw her lay an egg, 1 single egg, a tiny white speck on the bright green leave. I was more excited about this than the children around me. I felt a bit awkward for the butterfly as her privacy was rudely interrupted by gawking humans. But she flew off, leaving her egg to soon develop into a small, stripy caterpillar.

img_20170223_062745_822

It was then when one of my daughter’s class friends pointed out to something moving underneath one of the leaves. At first I couldn’t clearly make out what she was pointing too, until I saw the wriggly body of a caterpillar. It was so small yet strikingly characteristic of a monarch caterpillar. It was happily munching away on the food source the swamp plant is providing.

img_20170222_194620_295

I was in awe of this. From speck, to caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. Creation is amazing. Life is exciting.

What if there is someone

  
way out there,

  
looking down on our world right now.

  
And to them, we are the speck.