Saturday, August 25, 2012

Around here ...

Around here we have been savoring time with Granny come visiting from across the seas ... African treats and news from home. Stories on the couch and vanilla cake. A little wonder around the Botannical Garden to see the Monet garden and some painting inspiration for me - lunch in Manhattan with Clint.

Summer is drawing to a close and the first leaves are starting to fall ... but we have one last week left before the start of a new school year and we are heading up to Cape Cod today ... I cannot wait for the feel of sand between my toes and a little time to recharge and regroup. I feel like this year has taken so much out of me and I am really needing time to read and ponder and walk quietly for a while.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This is a difficult post to write. Wanting to keep things light and positive but sometimes things are a bit deeper and more complicated than happy can be. Do we just gloss over those depths or do we let them be seen ... we all have them, go through them, just in different ways. Well here is mine. One of them. Although I think they're all tied up in each other so that if I could unravel all the threads they would be stemming from the same ball to start with.

It all began with the new car. A gleaming shining Acura. By all accounts a lovely car and one I have often looked at when we've driven past. Thinking 'not us' but lovely all the same. Clean, grown up, able to seat 7 people all neatly in a row. Well rows plural. But still - a great family car. SUV - which I always swore I would not could not ... no not that. Really it should be a VW for me - an old one like the yellow one my great-aunt used to drive and which was really not reliable at all but oh, it had such character. A new one would be good too. Pink or green or red, with a daisy in the front. A fun car, not too serious. Or a mini cooper, my other love - in dark blue with silver stripes. Or red. Or a jeep - battered and well driven over many roads. Life lived. A car where feet could be bare and there would be trickles of beach sand and a sarong or too tossed in the back - sketchbooks and camera and a coffee cup or two. Beaded angel and a feather hanging from the windscreen. Windows open and music on load. CD's all on the seat. Never tidy. A car for driving driving and not knowing where the road would take me. Sunsets and cacti and exploring. 

So yes, I know the car symboizes a kind of mid life crisis - sort of - more the choices made and the life lived, or not lived as the case might be. Because the new car is all about the mom-drives-kids-and-friends-to-playdates and great for family outings but it's solid and big and really no fun at all. There is not one patch of wildness or rebellion in this car. It is as predictable and safe as you would want a family car to be. And yet. The jeep or the mini or the Beetle - well they could still have a streak, quiet but there - the one that just leaves in the middle of a dinner party and throws shoes in the flower beds on the way to the road. The one that always has a bag ready in the trunk for the adventure suddenly calling. And yes, I guess I am feeling a little adrift in so many ways right now - it's been quite a roller coaster of a year and no matter how much I tried to change things up, find a new direction - even put down roots which would be new for me - it's just not gone anywhere. Spectacularly so. No subtlety about the universe telling me this year that i am not going anywhere. Literally and figuratively. And it is eating me up inside. Trying to understand what to do next - where to go. Why I have to stay.

And much as I want a home and we have been trying for six years to buy here in the States, mostly in New York, here is the deepest problem for me ... my heart is somewhere else, always. No matter how much I try to distract it. Really my heart is back in South Africa .. somewhere in the Eastern Cape where i studied and found my freedom. Somewhere between the town with church steeples and so many memories, through the valleys lined with aloes and red dust, through to the sea with the sand and the open skies. My life for three beautiful years and the place I really started growing up. Growing into me. I had good friends there and people to look up to ... I was painting and surrounded by new ideas, art, creativity. There are people from my old life who stayed and put down roots in that place in Africa and they are connected to each other and to the place I once loved, have grown businesses and are making beautiful work. I wanted to travel and there were so many reasons why I had to leave, both Grahamstown and South Africa ... and yes, I got to live in different places I had never imagined, and I got to try new things and discover a little more of the world. But deep inside I am still the girl with the torn denim shorts and indian shirt wearing big steel capped hiking boots and leather bracelets, dreaming of sculptures and going swimming in the sea. Watching art movies in the old theater with the velvet curtains on a Friday night before going drinking and long intense talks over glasses of red wine. I look at photos and see those people now, older but still so familiar and it's as if the years have fallen away and I am right back there, with all my unmade choices in front of me. How different life would have been if ... could have been if ... 

And yet I am grateful for what I have too ... it's just that it no longer feels altogether right, any of it. And i'm not sure what needs changing and what needs to stay the same. Or how to find out. Or what to do about it.

And I guess what I am really battling with on so many levels is who I have become and where I am going. It has hit me only very recently that I feel like i have been living someone else's life ... a little bit of what someone else wanted for me and with me, and a little of what I thought I wanted and could be, should be. And actually I don't want to drive an Acura and have a normal house in the suburbs. Actually I want to be back at home with crooked walls and a corrugated iron roof where when it rains it feels like the rain will break through right into the living room. Where the roads get dusty and you can drive for miles without seeing another car. Where family can gather on my back verandah and the children are used to running around outside without their shoes on. 

So where do i go from here ? I am thinking and thinking and finding that I don't really want to talk very much at all. I am wondering how to find that balance between my life now and the life I want to live. I think about Georgia O'Keefe and her amazing balance - how as much as i love her paintings, most of all what inspires me is how she spent time in New York and being married but she also had time alone in the desert-like beauty of New Mexico. Which for me would be the Eastern Cape or somewhere towards the Karoo. Dusty town where I can see the stars at night. And i remember how to paint. And the words flow. Where I don't have to make conversation or brush my hair too often. Where I can have a bench in the garden to sit with a glass of wine while the sun sets quietly. Dust on my feet, paint on my hands. A far cry from car pools and playdates and a backyard the size of a postage stamp. But how does that tie in with motherhood and good schools and wanting the best for them. Which would be what exactly ? Every culture would have a different definition of what would be best. Every family too i guess.

So where to go from here ? I am wide open to any suggestions. Am hoping the universe sends me some. I am trying to write it all out and through and to find my way through with words. Not here on the blog. Just quietly, on my own. Word for word, stumbling along trying to put it all down. In my dreams I am back there in the heat of Africa with my choices still unmade. 

What would I choose differently. How would it work out? What if I had never left? What if i had not walked away. Where would I be then. Who would i be ?

Maybe I would be more myself - without an aching heart.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

On buying a home ... one day ...

For the past 5 years we have been trying to buy a house in New York. To find a home actually. Put down roots, feel more grounded, part of a community. A way to have our toes in the dirt and let them expand and stretch out. A safe place to return to. Home. A place to finally unpack and put out our treasures and paint the walls and finally buy forever furniture. The pieces we would keep. Not the cheap (and lovely, but not forever) pieces we have made do with over the years thinking - one day, some day, when we have our own place ....

We almost bought three houses in our first few years here - countless hours spent traipsing through houses we couldn't afford and not loving the ones we could. And then finally one, and another, and then a third - putting in offers and then something big came out of the inspection, or we realized it wasn't right for us ... and then with the third attempt we found out that really people without Greencards should not try to buy houses in the US. All those streets paved with gold ... not so shiny sometimes. No offence meant.

And so we waited. So patiently. We saved, we cleared the slate. We renewed our rental lease - again - and we enrolled Hayden in school. I had always dreamt of him being in the same town for all of his school life. I moved around when i was little, pre-school and then three different school districts. I wanted for my two that they could go from preschool to big school and all the way through, with the same friends - growing together. I had visions of us knowing parents and being part of the community too. Knowing where they would be hanging out. I wanted that familiarity for them. The security. By the time Hayden started big school, he had already been to 4 daycare and preschools - not at all how I wanted it to be. 

And so we kept waiting. Through the months which turned into years, of the greencard application. We kept saying ... one day ... when ... soon we'll be able to. And then we got them, in February. And we were so excited to finally be legitimate here. A little less foreign. A little less of an outsider. We started house hunting immediately. The first house we saw was a perfect family home in a great school area and well within our budget. We couldn't believe our luck. We had a wedding in South Africa but when we got back, we were ready to take the plunge and start this all again. And then came Texas and all the months of uncertainty and wondering what to do. Another move. Another change. Starting all over. But it would mean a house. Roots. And so we said yes and I found a house in Katy and it was beautiful. Light and space and perfect for our family. I made a scrapbook of ideas for furniture and rooms and what to do where. I know - totally overboard. Bordering on a little crazy. But i was that excited. And then that fell through and we had to walk away from that house.

We took a few days to catch our breaths. Well we still are actually. It's been quite a roller coaster. And there are far worse things to deal with. We know that. We tell ourselves all the time. But for us this is pretty big. It's the security for our family that we don't have. I have visions of being 60 and still house hunting. With no budget. 

We knew we were staying so over a month ago, we started again here. Contacted our realtor again. Started from scratch. The beautiful house we had found back in March had just sold. A week before. We tried new areas. We kept an open mind. Smaller. Cheaper. More expensive. Further out. Closer in. No long list of styles of houses. Just a home that would fit four of us with our assorted bags of things. And then we found it - an old and gracious home with great bones and some work needed. I was a little skeptical but it would make a beautiful home. At first i dug my heels in - there was a little light and white one I wanted more, but it was teeny tiny and with two kids ... well ... No. So this one it was. We put in an offer. I started decorating in my head. That's always where I go wrong, but i cannot help it. It's part of imagining a new life in a new home. I solved problems in my head - how could the couch go. What color over there and should it be wallpaper or paint and would we take out that built-in to open up the space. How would we finish off the kitchen. 

And then the news today that they had had another offer, one we cannot compete with. And in spite of all my reservations and doubts and wondering if we should not just buy a camper van and take a year off to drive around the States (i can but dream!) .... my heart sank. A lot.

And so we put it all on hold. Another year. Another spring. Put away the hope and excitement for another year. Breathe out. Keep sitting on our old lumpy couch because we cannot buy a new one yet, we have to wait for some day, one day. Put up with floral carpets and scruffy walls. It could be so much worse. We have so much to be grateful for. And i am trying. Really i am. 

The problem with waiting so many years is that it's become an obsession. I have put so much time and energy into searching for a home and i am left feeling oh so tired and disillusioned and wondering what the point of all of this is. Why keep trying. It's easy to get bitter and resentful here, and to start wondering why on earth we came, if it's this hard to get ourselves established. That maybe we should leave. I know. I know. It's usually not the solution. But it's my instinctive reaction always.

We had a home in England. Why did we rock the boat.

Today my mood matches the weather outside. On the cloudy side of rain. No energy for a storm but definitely cloudy.

I am going to stop watching my home decorating shows and dreaming over pages of magazines for a little bit. The goal post has been moving just a little bit every time - we keep thinking, just this one more thing and then we'll be there and then it all shifts a few inches and we can't quite make it. 

Time to put it all away for a bit and concentrate on the other gaping holes in my life ... like what to do when i grow up. Such a big one. Would have just been a little easier to do it from the comfort of my own home.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Summer is road trips and picnic lunches
Music playing and windows wound down
Morning coffee in the early haze of a baking hot day
Bare feet in the sand
Light slanting across the floor
Ice cream dripping over little hands
Strawberries warm from the sun
Piles of wet towels and sand trailing down the passage
Good books and naptimes
Lazy days.
The colors blue and white and bleached wood
A pile of sea shells dropped into a bowl
Dreams of travels and bag-packing adventures
snoozing in a hammock in the backyard.

Here's hoping you are savoring the warmth (and looking forward to it if you're living way South of the Equator).