Thursday 31 January 2013

When did I become a woman in her 40's?

June 2011 was when I turned 40 but no one mentioned it until last week

I went to the opticians, I don't need glasses, apparently my eye sight is very good for a woman in her 40's. That afternoon I went to get my eye brows waxed and the beautician said my skin was very good for a woman in her 40's. At least she didn't ask if I wanted my upper lip waxing.

I was mortified, I'm in my 40's, the only way is down now. I've had grey hair on my head since my mid 20's, but down below? Arrrggghh when did that happen? The middle aged spread has spread out of control and I've now worked out a plan to stop it spreading further. I wear factor 50 suncream daily, mind you it's hot here, so stared to rub it on the back of my hands after washing them throughout the day, to reduce the scrawny skin

I don't have bingo wings yet? But have started to wave with my arm by myside in case the time comes when I slap people in the face as they walk past.

I stand in front of the mirror and see my Mum. Not my Mum as she was in her 40's but my Mum as she is now at nearly 70. Mind you if I reach my 70's and look as fab as she does now I will be happy, but I don't want to look like her now.

I never noticed my 30's, I was a young Mum with kids and prior to having them I was never skinny, I've had this set of boobs since I was 15 and despite 3 kids they are pretty much the same size, just shaped differently, with a fair amount escaping around the sides and they do need alot more support than they used to.

I sleep for max 6hrs a night and remember my gran telling me that she used to get 8 hrs nightly but by the time she was in her 70's 4hrs was enough for her.

s there anything left for me to look forward to? I have gum disease, it's hereditary, so good bye teeth. Also gall bladder, thyroid, diabeties, heart disease, but no varicose veins, which I suppose I should be greatful for?

So what next? Nothing I tell you, I'll carry on plodding along married to a fabulous man who at 55 is aging gracefully, as men do (bastard) reminding how greatful he should be to be married to a much younger women (his midlife crisis) whilst deciding on what to do for mine.

Can't afford a sports car......can't keep up with hubby as it is, without the hassle of finding a toy boy, don't fancy a tattoo. *opens the gin*

Friday 25 January 2013

They call my son a 'Salty'

Well it's been 2 years since we arrived from the UK to South Africa. Don't get me wrong I absolutly LOVE South Africa and wouldn't change living here for the world.

It's not SA that's caused the problems, it's the lack of support from a company my Husband has been employed with for 27 years. I've read many experiences from other 'trailing spouse' expats around the world and they've all experienced similar things, commonly that of isolation, lonliness, depression. That has been what's helped me and is moving me forward.

So a lot of thinking has been done over the past few weeks, alot of reflection and moving on, but not forgiveness.

I've moved on in many ways, measured by my achievements, not only was it a difficult process to close down the UK side of things, tenants, bank accounts, change of address, organising shipping etc, it was a million times more difficult to open up SA alone, in a foreign country, not knowing how anything works, where to go, what to do? Do we need TV licences? Is there car tax? what about MOT's etc?

You see I'm British born and raisied and I only know the British way of doing things.....or do I?

I think I've arrived now, understand how things work, have renewed policies, had daily dramas such as emergency ER trips and just got on with normal life, shopping, dental check ups, school runs.

But yesterday I realised I'm actually in 'no mans land' Last week I asked if cheque books were still in use in the UK, many understood and knew that I'd been out of the UK for 2 years and answered, but a few were quite scathing in their reply, almost taking the piss 'ooohhh don't you know?'

I also had to ask about family allowance (I gave mine up when we left). I no longer know or care about the exchange rate, we are paid in local currency and as long as the UK tenants rent covers our actual outgoings it's not a problem.

But I'm still getting confused. I arranged to meet Hubby in Cafe Nero, he was there on time at Mugg and Bean and he didn't even cotton on that I'd mixed the two coffee chains up. I asked the kids to SKY + a programme for me and all hell broke out....'sky + ha ha ha ha ha don't you mean DSTV'? (annoying little brats) I popped out to Morrisons to do the food shop and hubby said 'that was quick' I'd actually been to Pick n Pay. On my last trip to the UK I sat at the fuel station for almost 5 minutes before I remembered I had to fill my own car, pack my own bags in the supermarkets and actually have to reverse out of a car park space without assistance.

There's lots about SA I don't like and could do without, mainly people's inabilities to make firm arrangements and answer queries within any sort of time scale, but I don't miss dirty public toilets, the over crowding, rudeness and agression that I so often witnessed in the UK...but I do miss the snow.

So why do they call my son a 'Salty?'

He has one foot in each Contienent and his Balls are dangling in the sea.

Monday 21 January 2013

Expat Life

I've done a blog post swop, wht's that I hear you ask? Well I write an article for The Expat Hub and they write one for my blog.

After 2 years, I'm still struggling with the points below, but acceptance is coming as I meet more expats and openly discuss my feelings.

Settling in can be hard

Moving abroad and away from friends and family is never an easy decision to make. Everyone moves for their own reasons whether it is because a partner has landed a new job, or simply that you want to retire to sunnier climes. Depending on your circumstances there is a good chance that you will encounter some problems along the way. We take a look at some of the most common problems suffered by expats and how to overcome them.


By far the most common problem reported by expats wherever they are. Moving away from your loved ones and in some cases living in a nation with a completely different language can lead expats to feel isolated and alone. It’s a well known fact that many expats remain hidden inside their homes for the first few months after their move, this is because they find it difficult to socialise and mix with their new neighbours.

The best way to overcome loneliness is to push yourself to try and get involved in the local community, after all what are you going to achieve by hiding indoors all day? Check the local press for clubs and meetings to join. Do volunteer work at a charity or school, anything to get you out and mixing with the world.

The internet is also a great way of making contact with the outside world. You could join our Expathub forum and interact with other expats in similar situations. A problem shared and all that. A good trick that expats use is the fact that when you move abroad nobody really knows you! It’s the perfect opportunity to reinvent your-self.

Cultural differences

The issue of cultural differences when moving overseas is often a problem for expats. Some nations are home to a completely different way of life compared to what you’re used to so it definitely pays to do some research on your destination before you move. By knowing about the culture of your new home you can prepare yourself for the differences and be aware of what will be expected of you if you run into problems.

If you’re even contemplating about leaving your homeland for pastures new then you must be fairly adventurous already. The old saying ‘when in Roma, do as the Romans do’ is just as relevant today as when it was first said centuries ago.

Relationship problems

For any move overseas to be successful everyone involved needs to want it “as much as each other”. While there are very few cases where all parties are pulling in the same direction at the same speed and with the same strength, there needs to be a general consensus that the move overseas is in the best interests of all concerned.

Sadly many expat relationships break up after a fairly short period of time in their new country because one is unhappy or doesn’t share their partner’s enthusiasm. Don’t use a move abroad as a new chance to patch up a relationship, chances are that it will make things worse and you could end up being stranded in a foreign country. Overall if you’re going to emigrate make sure both sides of a partnership want it the same amount.

This article was provided by The Expat Hub the number one stop for expatriates looking for advice, support and information.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Breast feeding

Lets get this straight, it's very easy to mis read a tweet, it's also very easy to assume the writers intention and meaning of a tweet.

Today I've been reading lots of posts about 'why I have the right to breast feed?' they've been all over twitter and facebook.

I've read a few, but the whole topic is neither here nor there to me because my children are teenagers. I have 3. 1st was bottle fed, 2nd a mix of both and 3rd breastfed till he was 6 months old.

I didn't breast feed in public because I didn't fancy sitting in the toilets to do so. I didn't breast feed in the cafe or any other public place becasue I didn't feel comfortable, NOT because anyone made me feel uncomfortable. I also didn't breast feed in my own home in front of parents and grand parents a) because the men folk are of old school and rightly or wrongly it made them feel uncomfortable b) there was pressure on me to ensure that they'd had enough.

I asked today on twitter

'Suzanne J S ‏@chickenruby

What are all these pro active breast feeding posts?????? What are they 'in response' to? Really have to search hard to find negative comments'

Because I don't see tweets or status updates on facebook from people who say Breast feeding isn't natural, or it should be done discretely, but then I am selective about who I follow and having teenagers I don't tend to follow too many people with babies anyway.

But it appears my comments upset a few, for which I apologise for their inability to read a tweet and/or ask me to elaborate. I made a mistake as I did add:

'I always see these breast feeding tweets, blogs etc and often think they're unnecessary'

but in my defenence it was in reply to the person who told me about an Australian on TV who said that Breast feeding in public was OK as long as it was done discretely.

What followed was not an onslaught of my twitter account but a couple of responses and then a blog about people being judgemental about individuals rights. I can't see where I was judgemental, I agree online support is great for those who need it, but I also think and feel sorry for people who want to and can't breast feed for whatever reasons, yet are exposed to 'breast is best' slogans and I know when I chose to bottle feed my first son, I was made to feel as if I wasn't going to be a good mum and was actually told by people who were 'well meaning', inc the midwife, that bonding for me would be difficult.

Fortunatly this was 21 years ago this May and I'm pleased to say my son and I have a fantastic relationship even if he does live 6000 miles away.

My 2nd child I didn't feel I had the choice, he is 18 on Wednesday. I was constantly asked by the midwife, friends, family etc what my feeding plans were right from the minute I announced my pregnancy. I didn't enjoy breast feeding, I saw it as something I HAD to do and I had mastitis and gave up.

With my 3rd child, 14 in April, there were no 'feeding questions' no insensitive midwives, everyone sort of left me alone as they assumed I knew what I was doing and by leaving me alone I breast fed, quietly, still in my living room or bedroom as I planned trips out around feeding times, the other kids were in school, there was no stress, I was older and I enjoyed it.

I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Sunday 13 January 2013

When did your child fully understand sex?

Last night my youngest was giggling his head off over a picture he had found of 2 giraffes mating, he'd been online googling stuff. He'd also been in the (almost) 18yo's room and had already told on him for putting semi naked pictures of girls on his bedroom wall, he thought it may upset any visitors, especially girls. Hubby was more concerned about the marks left from the blue tack.

My youngest is 13, youngest of 4 boys, so the magic (lies) about father christmas and the tooth fairy were over a long time ago, around the same age that he started to learn and use swear words taught to him by his older brothers and his Mother (me) as after raising 4 boys all different in their needs and personalities got too much.

For a good few years he's been giggling if me and hubby kiss (even a peck on the cheek) pretended not to be watching something on the TV if it was 'rude' made inappropriate comments to his brothers when they've had girlfriends and was probably 9 the last time I could walk into the bathroom room without him covering his bits and yelling at me to 'get out'.

But I think now at 13 (14 in April) he has finally 'got it' and understands it all. There is a processing time that has been evident before, a giggle, followed by '(insert name) stop talking about it' Discretley walking out the room when sex scenes are on the telly. He knocks on the bedroom door and yells 'are you decent?' and actully waits before charging in.

Last night we were all sitting outside, a modern family, each on our own tabs when he suggested I have another baby to keep me company when he leaves home, he then looked up and said 'but that would mean you'd have to have sex' I told him that people can have sex without making babies and he asked how? Hubby took over the conversation at this point and told him about contraception for both men and women and how condoms also prevent sexual diseases. There was no silliness from either party, just a straight forward conversation, but as he left Hubby said to him, 'any further questions just ask, don't go googling it'

What made me realise that it had finally dawned on him, was the trip to Kruger Park in September when we came across the Hippos 'doing it'

How old was your child when they understood what it was all about? Not just the facts? Can you remember how old you were? I can't. I was always saying the wrong thing, even asked a boy once when I was 14 if 'he'd have it off with me at the Disco' I of course meant 'get off with me'

Friday 11 January 2013

Climbing Kilimanjaro to support Adults with disabilities in South Africa

Right it's official. I'M GOING TO CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO. In October for charity and to raise awareness for Adults with disabilities in South Africa.

My (step) daughter is in residential care in the UK, the money she receives for her care every year equates to the same amoun of government assistance available for the 140 residents at Kungwini Welfare Organisation in Pretoria.

I've been volunteering with them since July 2011 helping out in the workshop, making 2km of bunting to decorate their Christmas Market, their biggest fundraiser of the year, making bags (I'd never used a sewing machine before) and selling them to family and friends in the UK and using the funds to buy essential items such as toiletries and equipment for the workshop. Sometimes I jsut sit and chat with the residents, or turn up with a batch of cakes. But I want to to do more.

I've been suffering with Derpression as an expat, struggling to find my way. KWO has provided me with a place to go, a value and self worth to my life and i've met some amzing people and such a laugh with the staff. I want to do more. I'm currently fullfilling an order of bags for friends here in South Africa and trying my hand at making children's toys to sell on their behalf.

But before I sign up to the trip in October and pay the R20,000 (£1,500) I need to find out a little more about fundraising, training and sponsorship for equipment. I can't afford to pay the fee and purchase all my own gear. And I want to ensure that I can maximise the monies raised.

So many of you work with PR companies, review products on your blog and I never understand how you do this, do you contact them? if so how? or do they contact you?

I get around 250 hits on my blog a day via a handful of plugs on twitter. With my last post on Supporting Adults with disabilities in South Africa, receiving over 1000 hits.

So who can help me? Guide me in the right direction? Need to get this up and running ASAP so I can book the climb

Thursday 10 January 2013

The benefits of being an expat

So you all know I'm depressed

You all know I'm not a big fan of other expats

In fact if you've ever been THAT bored and read my entire blog as I know a few have, there's not much left to say about me really.

I've decided to take a positive approach to living as an expat in South Africa and give you my favourite things to do. Things I couldn't do prior to be an expat.

Combating the heat
Spend the day in my swim costume so inbetween cleaning, cooking etc I can just walk outside, jump in the pool and instantly cool down.

Lie ins
After hubby leaves for work at 7am, taking the children with him to school. I go back to bed with a mug of tea and catch up with all my programmes. I never did this in the UK, with 5 kids I was either tidying up after them all or dashing out the door to work. I can't work here.

I can't work so I have too much free time. I am now the owner of all things to make all things and I am doing so.

Keeping the house tidy
Well there's no maid here, but the house is huge and with many rooms, so I can start a hobby and walk off and leave it, not having to clear the table so we can all eat dinner.

Taxi service
Fingers crossed but as from February I will no longer be running 'mums taxi' as eldest is taking his test. The benefit of living in SOuth Africa is that anyone in the house can drive the car on the insurance with NO extra cost involved, something that was too expensive to do for the older two kids in the UK.

Monday 7 January 2013

I am depressed

From the moment you are born your identity is changing, from self imposed identity from your parents, their beliefs, place of birth, how they raise they, through to school, social groups, peers, incidents both positive and negative. What career path you take, who you marry, having children, death, and divorce. It’s all about identity which in turn provides self worth.
As a former psychology student I know all about identity. I’ve written assignments on it after studying for hours. Yet I’ve still managed to lose mine and with it I have become depressed. I wasn’t depressed when I had my children, or when I moved, or married or divorced, I saw all that as a new chapter in my life. Throughout life my identity has changed from being someone’s child, student, mother, and wife. I’ll never stop being someone’s child or someone’s mother, but I know that relationship will change. One day my parents won’t be alive anymore, one day my children will leave home, I may go into old age alone and not be someone’s wife anymore and I’ve always been aware that this will happen but I would by then have other things that make me, me.
Employment, study, where I live, friends, they’d still be there, maybe different from what I started out with, but in essence the same things brought around by gradual changes to my life, some internal (the desire to learn more) some external (moving, changing jobs) But now those things have been taken from me and I’m a little bit lost.
Maybe that sounds a little harsh ‘Taken from me’ I chose to support my husband, uproot my family, leave my parents and adult children and friends behind in the UK while we restarted a new life in South Africa. But I didn’t choose to lose everything, employment, friends, and relationships with family. I naively thought it would all come with me, different but still there. It’s the law here that prevents me from working, continuing with my degree. I never realised how hard it was to make friends when you don’t have a work place or a school play ground to hang round in. That’s how I’d always done things, I’d progressed from one thing to another, losing people along the way and gaining new friends as I moved on either through work or the children’s school or my own education. Some of the acquaintances I had in the UK have now become firm friends; others have drifted by the way side. They never realised how much I needed their support, clung onto contact with them. Because they’d all been a part of whom I was and without them, without employment and education I had nothing. I lost my identity.
At this point I hear you sigh ‘melodramatic, got an easy life, sun, pool, no need to work, what on earth has she got to complain about?’ Some days I can’t physically get out of bed, Hubby takes the kids to school and at 1.30pm I drag myself out of bed, half dress to collect the kids from school, other days I’m manic, up at 3.30am housework, cooking, baking, shopping, coffee, volunteer work, getting things done, staying up till midnight, crying with tiredness, sewing, reading, writing letters, blogging, tweeting. At the moment I’m going through the ‘eating everything in the house’ stage. I’ve put on 6 kilos, that’s nearly a stone in weight. I’m still going to the gym daily and swimming, but the length of time I spend in the pool is less and less, it’s more about routine than keeping fit. I have lists, that all I seem to do is rewrite, reorder whilst drinking coke and eating sweets. I’ve been on anti depressants, I’ve told people what’s going on, but I’ve never described how I feel. I fell lost, empty, lonely and sad.
The medication helps me deal with these issues but it doesn’t take away those feelings. Lots of people including hubby say ‘go home, return to the UK’ I don’t want to, I don’t give a stuff if you think it’s because I don’t want to be a failure, It’s because I want to and know that I will succeed, that we will succeed, that this move will have been worth it for all of us, not just hubbies career or the children’s education but for the life experience we have gained from being here, the opportunities that have arisen. I know that by talking openly about depression will help me, will help others and maybe my experiences can one day be used to a greater good.
Right now I just sound ungrateful, miserable, depressing. I’m lucky, to have these opportunities, to have my health, that my children are healthy and achieving both here and back in the UK, but the reality is I’m none of the above by choice. I am depressed, bare with me.
It took me 39 years to be who I was, to form an identity. So far it’s been 2 years of grieving for what I’ve lost, who I’ve become, because the problem is after two years I just haven’t become anyone else yet. It takes time to create a new identity, I need a few more experiences, meet new people, develop existing friendships and find a purpose to my life other than that of a daughter, wife and mother.

Saturday 5 January 2013

2013 Groovy Mums

Well Kate over on her #Groovymum blog is getting the year off to a flying start. She seems to have a plan for the year rather than a list of resolutions that we know we'll all break anyway. I've a vague idea of what I'm doing for 2013, but currently I don't have any firm plans. However I do have an order of things to do and I'm hoping by writing them down, I'll think of a few ways to implement them. 1. STOP SMOKING OK you've heard this before. I actually stopped smoking in September 2012 and stupidly (nicotine addicted) had the occassional one in November and I'm now a full time smoker. Back to the Doctors on Friday for a repeat prescription for Champix and THIS time I will take the full course. 2. WORK I can't work here....FULL STOP....But I can and have been volunteering with a shoebox project (taking over assistant coordinator role this year) and with @kwo_org supporting adults with disabilities. But there is so much more I could and will be doing so I'm writing this list to motivate me. Tweet more on their behalf, make an effort to find out what is going on Set up Blog for Kungwini Welfare Organisation (any offers?) Put together lesson plans for Sex Education, Basic Lifeskills Make and market more bags, childrens toys, plant holders and kitchen utensil holders and accessories Fix two days a week to visit and stick to it, treat it like a job 3. SEWING See above and MAKE THE BLOODY CURTAINS 4. TIDY/SORT Sort out the family photos, the childrens keep sake boxes, wardrobes, toys, take all unwanted items to KWO 5.MAKE THINGS See 2&3 I had a Dremel for Christmas I want to make some photo frames 6. CLIMB KILIMANJARO Feel free to join in if you ahve any plans and what you're intending to do for 2013 and check back with Kate and on my blog to find out how we are all getting along.

Thursday 3 January 2013

I'm not taking your crap anymore

Firstly there are the long term friends that let you down Then there are the ones that say they need your friendship and do all the running, only to make you feel like a twat. Then there's just the plain rude. This morning I sent a SMS to a woman who I'd met through our husbands playing golf together, to be honest I complained to my hubby that I really didn't think I'd have much in common with a woman her age, but we worked in the same field of special needs so I rang and we met for coffee. She explained she couldn't stay long as she had to prepare food for a funeral of the teacher at the school she worked at. I offered to help and said I could bake cakes, which I did and met her with them at the main gate early the following morning. A few days later I sent an SMS to ask if all went OK, she replied yes and said she'd return the trays. This was several months ago and not a word since. The SMS reads I understand you're busy and not interested in the occassional coffee and chat. I get that message clearly, but I would appreciate the return of my trays. Please drop them off at (address). Regards Suzanne I know she's still in the country as the Husbands played golf together late Nov. I'll let you know how I get on with this one......and as for the Lady who Golfs, whose children attended the same school in the UK, who gave me her UK number in June in case I was still there when she arrived, then ignored my SMS when I returned to the South Africa, when I tried to rearrange a coffee that I had cancelled due to my fathers heart attack, then crossed the road in front of my car on the golf course and deliberatly looked away......well she was way too far up her own arse anyway, but no need to be so fucking rude. I received a reply to my SMS this afternoon, to explain how her car was broken into and how the trays were stolen, she meant to replace them but forgot, should she buy 3 new trays or give me the money? I replied 'forget it'

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Life without Pain

In September 2012 I had day surgery on my neck to have the nerves burnt off that have been giving me so much pain for the past 15 years after an assualt at work.

Living in constant pain has drained me, restricted my activites and actually prevented me from doing certain things.

I've suffered deliberating headaches and migraines and have been hospitialised on too many occassions when the migraines have mimicked menegitius. Migraines also knocked me out for 3-4 days twice a month. Visual disturbances, vomiting, sensitive to light and touch and the inability to operate above an immediate need.

I'm now in my third month of being pain free, not one migraine, even after a return trip to the UK, spending 12 hours sitting in a confined space, 3 weeks of lugging suitcases, sleeping on sofas and pull out beds.

The operation wasn't easy. I was in theatre under a general anaesthetic, had the most severe head pain imaginable then spent a week in bed unable to lift my head off the pillow.

I still can't use a tin opener or write for any length of time without severe cramps and pain in my wrists and fingers and working above my head is difficult(hanging out the washing) but I can sit in a car for 2 days and drive to Cape Town and back. I can sit in the cinema for 90 minutes to watch a movie without coming out in tears from the pain of sitting still. I can scramble over rocks without the fear of causing more damage if I fell, haul myself up using ropes on a ship.

Over Christmas I've experienced continious pain in my wrists and a niggle in my left shoulder, so I guess I made need to go back sooner rather than later for the next stage. Thanks to medical aid that wouldn't pay for the whole treatment in one go. I'm really not looking forward to going throat again, but compared to how I was for the past 15 years, it's a small price to pay, even if they can't cure the chronic pain, being migraine free is amazing.