Justin, caught on film by Gary Henwood-Fox of Henwood-Fox Photography at Salt Rock.
I have been - internally - debating on how I'd go about typing this post about our little Justin, every day, since his passing; it's not something that I could get away from - he really meant - and still does mean so much to both Chris and myself and I'd be doing him an injustice by not saying goodbye to him in words and photos.
Grief is a funny, little creature in that way; we've been taught that it's a private matter and socially not acceptable to allow our vulnerability to show in times of extreme sadness and loss but at the same time, we are encouraged to open up and share - thus bringing us closer to those who perhaps find themselves in a similar situation. It can be confusing at times but for me to move on, I need to do this; not to necessarily close the chapter that was his life with us but to bookmark it and have something to look back on with love and fond, bittersweet memories. So here goes...
I knew of Justin well before he came to be ours - by 18 months or so - when our first dog, Max, was a puppy Chris would accidentally call him Justin from time-to-time; on enquiring who this 'Justin' was, Chris explained that years previously - when he had lived in Johannesburg - he and an ex from that time had had a Jack Russell cross Whippet who he had been very fond of but sadly had to let him stay in Johannesburg when he moved back to Durban. After Max, we soon added Cleo and Jessie to the pack and before we knew it almost two years had passed; then out the blue, Chris found out that Justin was being put up for adoption and was in need of a loving home. I'll be honest - at the time - the thought of having four dogs, one of which came with some personal history was unnerving, slightly, but as with everything we do as a couple, we do it together. So caution to wind, Justin became ours!
He was 10 years, going on 11 when he arrived at ours - and like a cat that immediately goes to sit on the lap of a person who doesn't particularly like cats, Justin latched onto me. Did it have something to do with me being home more so than most people? Perhaps this created a sense of security for him and - finally - allowed him to relax and not worry about being left alone for hours at a time. I don't know. As much as he loved us both, Chris will even admit that he was my dog, in the weeks that have followed since putting him down, I'd get terribly teary, which has been compounded with guilt by the knowledge that Chris is grieving too and me being all apologetic about that, as if I'm the only one who has lost a much loved member of our family. Chris - being the good man that he is - has firmly said to me that I was Justin's 'Alpha' and truth be told, I had never really thought about it like that and yes, looking back, I was his world. He arrived at our's with me not being really too sure I wanted him around but by the time he left, he left with me not wanting him to go, with me wanting him to stay with us just that bit longer. I wasn't ready to say goodbye; am I ready to say goodbye?
There have been so many sweet words of condolences from our friends and some family members, from those whom had the chance to meet and get to know him and others from those further afield whom only knew him through photos and us talking about him. Things like, 'they become part of the family', 'he's in a better place and not in pain', etc. were said, which is undeniably true and pre this life changing moment happening to us, I would've most likely have said the exact same things to someone in our situation; until it dawned on me that for those us who will never have children (well, we never know....) that our pet's do become our children. They have need's that must be met, whether it be protection and being kept safe and warm; ensuring they're health and wellness are looked after and that they're made to feel secure emotionally and part of the pack., made to feel wanted. Yes, I know one doesn't have to worry about things like school fees and such but it takes time and active participation to know when they aren't feeling well, because it's not like they can say, 'Dad, I have a sore tummy, I may need to go see the Vet'. If that makes sense? One has to be in tune with these little individuals that communicate on a whole other level. It breaks my heart when I hear of people who only see their pet's as possessions and not as the individuals that they are, with their own personalities and emotional needs.
I try to be as open and honest about things like my suffering from terrible bouts of insomnia and one of the things I'll miss most is having Juzzie joining me in the kitchen - in those early hours of the morning - as I sit at the kitchen counter, checking emails, typing a blog, working on photos, essentially enjoying those sweet few hours before the sun starts to rise - wherever I was in the house, he wasn't far behind. I often refer to him as my gatekeeper and that he was - those quiet times - whilst the rest of the house was sound asleep was his time to keep me company, watching patiently over me. Every morning would invariably start with him pawing my side of the bed, kindly asking in his own sweet way for a sneaky cuddle under the duvet; then as I'd be making a cup of early morning coffee in the kitchen, I knew he was on his way to find me with the pitter-patter of his paws as he made his way down the passage. It made for some sweet photos too. He never needed any encouragement, he was always ready for a love and some affection. He deserved it so much in my - obviously biased - opinion.
Oh my Juzzie, such precious moments caught on film, during the early hours of one morning.
It took me a quite a few days to go through the archives of our photos - there are literally 1000's of our hounds, some out of focus, some not perfect but each one taken a snapshot of a particular period in time - which was for me simultaneously sad, cathartic, bittersweet and, at times, even funny looking for photos to share, I found these two that made me smile - typical Juzzie.
Over the course of the last four and a bit years - since Juzzie's arrival - I, at times, thought that Max, Cleo and Jessie have had a good start to life in the sense that from the day of their respective arrivals, they had myself and Chris to build a solid foundation on - their needs were met from day one. When they need some love, they actively seek it out but for the most part they are content and in a way independent - like, 'We know you're there for us but we're not going to follow you around'. I became used to that way of life in our family, then Juzzie arrived. We don't know that much of Juzzie's life pre us but we've come to understand that for a period of time, whilst his previous owner was away overseas, he spent a few months in temporary accommodation, coupled with the fact that he was rescued from the SPCA as a puppy - this may have contributed to his anxiousness, as if he was waiting to be left again - with us, he had finally found a home that would love and accept him for who he was and have guardian's that would not leave him for extended periods of time and if I am to take one thing away from his last four years with us, is that he lived the remainder of his golden years being adored and having someone to focus all his attention on - in our case, it was me. I - at first - wasn't too sure how to deal with this but he forced me to climb out of myself and give him all the love he so rightly deserved and in return, he gave me his all. I often say to Chris that I wasn't a terribly emotional person - sensitive, yes but emotional, no - that statement is not true today.
As I was going through our photos, another thing I realised that I'll miss dearly - yet cherish all at the same time - were all the cuddle and snuggle time's that were had - truth be told all our hounds, except for Ruby (she's a Labrador and too big for couches!) love cuddling - he liked nothing more than being wrapped up under a blanket, next to me., whether it was early in the morning, late in the afternoon or in the evening - I think that's why the week's that have followed since his passing have been particularly hard for me, I had unknowingly become just as used to having him around as he had become used to having me there for him. No more pawing my side of the bed in the early hours, no Juzzie being caught having a sneaky nap on - always - my side of the bed, no more turning around and finding him there just looking at me or casually lying in such a way that I was within eyeshot of him. No more him. Period. Whilst we're on the topic of napping, Juzzie enjoyed nothing more than a good nap - towards the end, he did that more and more - especially on the couch or bed - whether we were there or not - cue to either myself or Chris shoo'ing him off - sometimes a photo or two was taken beforehand and sometimes he was allowed to just chill. There were so many to choose from that it was quite hard picking just a small handful!
I don't know if we struck it lucky with our hounds or if it's the way we raised them from puppyhood but there was no animosity nor pangs of jealousy on his arrival; in fact, it was just the opposite - it's like he had finally arrived home - if he wasn't at my side, whether I'd be in the kitchen cooking, giving the house a clean or reading, he would most likely be found chilling with the other hounds, if they were lucky, he'd spend some time giving each one a good clean by licking their faces and their ears - sounds gross, I know but the love they all shared was tangible and my original concerns regarding how he'd fit into the pack, that I had prior to his arrival, dissipated on seeing those sweet moments between each one of them. The girl's seem to be adjusting just fine without him, our dearest Max has been battling a bit. We've chatted to our Vet and he has assured us that this adjustment period will be tough for him as the dynamic of the pack has changed and he's just not too sure of his place and where he fits in. So we've had to be patient and understanding of this, again, it just goes to show that animals are so more than what we think they are - that they indeed do have feelings and emotions and need just as much care as any child would need.
The Johannesburg weather made it necessary for all to wear jerseys - patiently awaiting a treat from Chris.
Whenever he wanted a cuddle, he would not-so-subletly let me know his intentions - he'd sit patiently waiting for me to notice him, then when I did, the game was on - there was no way that I could ever say no!
The camera loved him. Chris loved him. I loved him.
I'm so glad that Chris convinced me that we needed to adopt him, apart from being 10 years old at the time that he arrived at our's - not many people would take that responsibility on, be it the emotional or the financial implications that an older animal comes with in regards to medical and Vet costs, etc. - I knew Chris loved him from way back; looking back now, I don't think I could've lived with myself knowing that I had denied them both the reunion they so rightly deserved - even though Juzzie latched onto me more so than Chris, but Chris didn't mind - I think he's grateful for that, that I was there for him these last few years.
Chris and Juzzie - our first Christmas in Johannesburg 2013.
I had started the grieving process for Justin well before he actually died, which in itself was an odd experience - usually one has the privilege to grieve the person or animal they have lost post their death but that wasn't the case with Juzzie.
After watching from the front row, so to speak, his health get progressively worse over his last few months with us, we knew we had two options - and knowing he had been on the strongest dose of pain meds possible - on one hand, we could've kept him over-medicated and watched what made him the special little soul that he was slowly and painfully wither away, or we could've been the best guardian's possible and make the hardest decision we've ever had to make together and let him go. We chose the latter. We chose the best for him and how we wanted to remember his presence over our own seemingly selfish want of wanting to keep him around - if I could've, I would've kept him for forever. I really would have...
But I digress.
We're taught that there are five stages when it comes to grieving, if I can recall them correctly; denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance - I may have the order muddled, but oh well. I couldn't deny that Juzzie was ill and our Vet had confirmed that there was nothing that could be done, apart from keeping the pain at bay with pain killers - which worked for the first few months. We decided that we weren't going to renew his pain meds script - that once finished, we would say our goodbye to him - that's when the bargaining with Chris started. Every day, and I do sincerely mean every day, I'd say to Chris, 'Are we doing the right thing? Could we not prolong his life with us?' That's when I realised how terribly selfish that would be, the last thing he needed was to be in constant pain - so that stage too did pass. Anger, I don't think I have been angry; though, as much as this kills me to admit - closer to his last days with us, I found myself getting terribly annoyed with him. I suppose - in retrospect - it was my way of distancing myself from what was to happen, that when I should've been showering him with even more love, I was internalising this annoyance towards him. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of cuddles, snuggles and our usual routine, but as always, my coping mechanism is to keep things at arm's length. As I type this do I only now realise that perhaps I was angry, not angry with him - that I could never be - but angry in the sense that there was nothing we could do to protect him. To save him. The last month has seen me being very quiet blog-wise, I haven't wanted to share, or speak of anything really - but as always, I needed to do this and by that I mean putting my thoughts down in words and hopefully by doing so this fog will lift. So yes, I may be slightly depressed, or should I say deflated? I am going with deflated. I have every right to be, don't I?
One Sunday morning, in Salt Rock, the three of us joined an awesome photographer for a special photo shoot and Juzzie was the star and shine he did - thought I'd share a few photo's from that sweet day on the beach and in the park with all of you reading this post. What a fabulous, bittersweet but most of all loving way to remember our dearest Justin - for a dog that was in terrible pain, one would never think that from the photos below.
The day before we said our very tearful goodbye - Chris had to go to Ladysmith on business and he took Juzzie along for the drive, so that they could spend some time together - just the two of them. On The Day, I took Juzzie for one last walk, our last walk together, just us two. I had imagined talking to him and asking what it felt to have lived a long, happy life but alas, we just walked in silence. We had gone for 100's of walks together but that one was tough for sure, me trying to stop the tears as we walked the streets of our suburb, with Juzzie stoically by my side - as he had always been, as one of my walking companions. It was as if he knew what was coming - though he didn't really know what was to come, but still... He was such a pleasure to walk with, I am glad that I had the chance to be his handler in that regard for the last four years. I have yet to go for another walk, with and without the hounds - Chris has been bravely doing it on his own, it's too fresh. Perhaps I should?
Chris had offered to take Justin to the Vet on his own, I told him that I was going to be there and that was non-negotiable. I had to be there, I needed to be there. I needed to be the last face and voice he heard - forget what one saw in Marley & Me - there was no prolonged period to say goodbye, it was all over within a short moment. Years of dedication, love and responsibility gone in the blink of an eye. Do I have any regrets in co-adopting an older dog that needed a home? Not for a second. Do I wish that we had had just a bit more time with him. Always. Will I feel better about all of this in time? Yes, this I know. Will I still love the rest of our hounds unashamedly? Definitely, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I shall never forget you, Justin. You're always in my heart - now and forever.
Until next time,
We tearfully said goodbye to Juzzie today...
Justin - caught on camera this past Sunday - by Gary, of Gary Henwood-Fox Photography.
The last couple of years have seen me attempting - and it's a decision I had to make consciously - to really be there for people. Sadly, I'm not talking about the ever-increasing number of homeless, begging people who seem to be swarming every intersection and stop street at the moment - even though my heart goes out to those poor souls, there's not much I (as one person) or we (as a couple) can do to make their lives better, apart from making donations to The Salvation Army in the hopes that at least a few people will benefit from our small donations.
I have come to realise that I can't be there for people that I don't know, especially if I'm not able to make myself available to the dear, sweet souls I interact with on a fairly regular basis.
Unlike Chris, who happens to be blessed with this ability to give of his time - be it an ear to listen, business advice - you name it; he will always try his best to be there and be present. Unfortunately, there have been times when a few people have taken advantage of this and Chris has had to learn when and when not to be there for others - it's sort of ironic in that sense - Chris having to learn to be more selective in his giving nature, whilst I'm having to learn to be more giving of myself. It's like we're simultaneously working - though, as individuals - towards that oh-so-fine middle ground between learning when to say no and when to say yes. We obviously aren't at the same place, yet, but it's comforting to know that I am not alone in having to realign my inner self and that my loving hubby (side note: I can't believe we've been married 6 months already!) are on the same - in an alternate universe sort of way - journey. It would be very easy for me to romanticise it and say that we have brought these qualities out in each other, who knows, perhaps we have. It's certainly not as easy as flipping a switch on and off. It takes effort and understanding - from the both of us - especially when one has their foot on the accelerator pedal and the other has their foot pushing as hard as possible on the brakes!
But I digress, back to the subject at hand.
I am more guarded; I have always had to be - thinking of it now - perhaps it has something to do with my tumultuous family life growing up (which I can't change and which I really wouldn't want to truth be told - it's a part of me, it defines me) I think it's given me a better, whole-view of situations - without my past, I wouldn't have everything I have now - in the form of Chris, our dogs, our life together - but there is certainly an element of me keeping people at arm's length; not sharing my time, not letting people see the best of who I can be. Why it took me over 30 years to realise that I am indeed able to contribute, have my voice heard - without fear - and be of meaningful service to my - albeit - very small social circle but baby steps, right?
I suppose in order to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, I indeed have to walk through the tunnel!
In order to grow - in my opinion - you have to put yourself into situations that force you to climb out of your comfort zone, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.
The last three weeks I have spent Monday through to Thursday evening's staying at Aunty Helen's place whilst her son is overseas with his daughter, visiting her maternal family. She politely asked a few months back if I'd mind staying over at hers; I said yes, the thought of her staying alone wasn't really an option but it's something I always do; I agree to - fill in the blank - and when it comes to showing up, I start questioning whether I can or cannot do it and sometimes I bail. This time I didn't, I couldn't. There was no way I could break my word to Aunty Helen - especially after the emotional and traumatic months the first half of this year have brought with it.
It only then dawned on me - two weeks into me staying over at Aunty Helen's - how used to a certain routine both Chris and myself had become accustomed to. Evenings spent with me making dinner and us debriefing each other on our day's news, etc. Little did I know how much we would actually miss each other whilst I was away - even though we saw each other during the day! How I worried if he was eating properly and just general stuff like, 'should I have agreed to stay over? Did I make the right decision?'.
Then last week Friday evening - whilst I was making supper - Chris arrived home with a bouquet of flowers; a huge smile on his face and when he told me how much he loved me and how glad he was that I was home for the weekend. I knew then, with that small gesture of flowers, that my small gesture of agreeing to stay over at Aunty Helen's place meant just as much to her as Chris' flowers meant to me.
The penny dropped! It indeed is the small gestures that count the most.
I may not always get it right but I am certainly heading in the correct direction and that's the important lesson I have learnt from these past three weeks; it will certainly act as a reminder the next time I am considering bailing out on whatever situation I may find myself in that requires me having to climb out of my comfort zone - that I actually can do it. That I indeed can be present and show up for those whom I love and respect.
The bouquet that inspired this blog, in full bloom!
Until next time,
This week's #tbt takes us back to August 2012; we had just recently adopted Justin. He had lived, up until joining us, in Johannesburg - so we thought what better way to welcome him into the pack than with a trip to the beach!
Until next time,
Jessie; aka Jessica Jane, Jessica Pain or Jess-Jess is the last of our Jack Russell's and no matter how old she turns with each passing year, she's 4 1/2 now - she will forever be my baby girl. This is how she came to be ours.
This photo pretty much sums up her character!
Jessie is the third and last Jack Russell to join our pack. We weren't officially looking for a third dog but after seeing an advert on Gumtree describing a litter of Jack Russell's that were looking for a home - I decided to go have a look - we had Max and Cleo for about six months by then. There was something about the ad that had alarm bells ringing; the main thing that concerned me was the age of the litter, it seemed the dog breeder (well, we can debate whether they were dog breeders or farmers....) was trying to sell off the litter well before they were ready to leave their pack. My intuition was right - I arrived at this suburban home, that had makeshift cages with various breeds of dogs separated from each other. The hair on the back of my neck started to stand up. As the woman took me to see where this Jack Russell litter was; at all of 4 1/2 weeks old - Jessie was the only puppy left. In my opinion that was still a good two weeks before any of the puppies should've been taken away from their mother. I saw this lonesome pup and knew we had to rescue the little mite. It was late on a Friday afternoon, the seller wanted more than I was happy to pay but after leaving and calling Chris to fill him in on the situation - we decided to buy (perhaps rescue is a better word to use) her - he met up with me shortly afterwards so we could go together to collect our Jessie.
As mentioned, it was late on a Friday afternoon so I phoned our family vet and booked her in for a check-up that following Monday but after having spent most of that evening taking countless ticks off her - yes, it sounds gross but it needed to be done - I rescheduled the appointment to that Saturday morning. She desperately needed a check-up and tick dip; how small and helpless she was. I recall how I used to carry her around in a bag; she went shopping with me, she ran errands with me - I forget now how many times people stopped to say hello to my newest baby; not that she minded though, she's always loved being the centre of attention.
As is with Cleo, she is fiercely independent - only showing up when the familiar sounds of breakfast or dinner being prepared emanates from the scullery. Jessie's one 'party trick' is to stand on her hind legs when waiting for a treat, she does it so well that who could resist giving her a doggy biscuit in return? We tease and call her Sid, as in the sloth from the Ice Age movie franchise.
Is it Sid the sloth? No! It's Jessie!
Just as with Max and Cleo before her, Jessie went through the same training; trips in the car to get her used to the sensation of driving - apart from the odd vomit here and there - we managed to get through that ordeal. Whilst I walked Cleo (later adding Justin too); Chris walked Max and Jess-Jess - she has ended up being quite the enthusiastic walker - always ready to traipse as far as we will allow.
We also said goodbye to living in a gated community with her arrival and moved into our first freestanding home, which was a blessing in itself as we desperately needed the space and we haven't looked back since. I suppose, in a way, we are good parents to our animals in that sense. I always hear stories of people who need to re-home their pets because they plan to move into homes that can't accommodate them - which seems a bit selfish in my opinion - why invest your money, time and love into your pets if you're not prepared to take their every need into consideration when looking at places to live or when you're 'following your dreams'? Who would wilfully choose to cast their pet(s) aside when one's situation changes? I'm of the opinion that having a pet is not a right, it is a privilege and with any privilege comes it's accompanying responsibilities.
But back to Jessie.
We were so good with Max and Cleo with regards to having them fixed; both were sorted around their respective 12 week's mark. When it came to Jessie, we were like, 'we really need to take her to the vet' but being third in the pack, we thought we had this all under control. Until I arrived home from work to discover that she was on heat. Ah, the joy! So we did what any parents to dogs would do and bundled her into the car and off to our vet we went. It was only the next day - when we collected her - that he informed us that she had given him quite the scare on the operating table, as he had battled to stop the bleeding but fortunately she pulled through and has been a relatively fit little Jack Russell ever since - bar the odd bee sting, for which we have doggy antihistamines.
According to one of my books on Jack Russell Terrier's; there are certain breed standards that need to be confirmed before they can be legally registered as a Jack Russell Terrier (which is important if you're planning on breeding). We weren't interested in registering them - as they are our pets - not a source of income. Temperament wise they are meant to be bold, fearless, friendly and confident - Max, Cleo and Jessie all conform to this standard but physically all three of them would be disqualified on the following three points: Max is less than 50% white, a Jack Russell's coat must always be more white than tan and /or black (this harks back to their hunting background with the breed needing to be visible and not confused for foxes); Cleo has a major underbite - an automatic disqualification owing to a genetic fault; last but not least, Jessie would be disqualified because of her almost albino-like skin pigment, as can be seen with her pink nose. Saying that we wouldn't swop these three Jack Russell's for the world, they truly are an amazing breed and I can't imagine what life would be like without these three little characters running around.
So now you've officially met Justin, Max, Cleo and Jessie - almost done introducing all of our hounds.
Until next time,
Ah, where do I start with my Cleo - or Cleopatra as she's affectionately called - the idea of adding another dog to the family was borne out of giving Max a friend to play and socialise with.
So when he was about 6 months old, we heard through a friend that puppies from a Jack Russell litter were looking for homes - we had already decided by then that we wanted a little girl - so when the pups were ready, Chris went off to select our new addition. He phoned shortly after to say that the whole litter was black and white in colour - except for one little mite that was white and tan. We agreed to take her as she had the same colouring as Max. Little did I know how cute she was going to be...
Having had Max for a few months by then, we felt relatively comfortable adding Cleo to the family - if anything it prolonged the sweet puppy smell and puppy breath stage for a bit longer. We followed the same steps as we did with Max, i.e. taking her for walks (but this time we both had a walking partner to guide and train), having her fixed and also going for drives in the car - I did end up with puppy vomit on my lap from time-to-time but she grew out of it, shew!
When we took her for her first set of injections at our then family vet in Hillcrest, he very politely informed us that even though she was very cute she'd never win any beauty contests We were like, 'hey?'. He went on to inform us that she had a serious underbite (at that stage it was completely invisible to the eye) and we'd have to monitor the situation in case it caused any difficulty for her with regards to eating food. We dodged a bullet there as she has never had any issues eating (or should I say guzzling?) her food. In fact she's the only dog I have ever heard burp, with alarming regularity might I add, mid-meal and then carry on eating as if nothing had happened.
Showing off her underbite!
She may not be a looker but she sure has a personality!
Cleo and Max have been firm friends from day one - bless them - if anything she is more independent than him in the sense that she likes to chill on her own - probably getting up to mischief - when she wants it, she actively seeks out a cuddle as opposed to Max (and later Justin too) who is constantly underfoot. Luckily no major chewing incidents either, well except for her chewing Dyl's ID book when he and Andy puppy / house sat for us when we were on holiday in the UK but apart from that no problems whatsoever!
Nothing better than a cuddle!
Muddy face and paws!
She loves nothing more than going for a walk, I remember once we were walking along the promenade and she caught her paw pad on something and was bleeding but she stoically carried on until I saw the blood - then she was carried the rest of the way - she's such a little trooper who is as fit as can be.. If there is one thing more than a walk that she loves, it's having her tummy and back scratched, with one leg shaking all the time as she is being scratched!
She is also often found leading the pack, as they charge to the front door when Chris arrives home from work; or if there is any noise of some sort from outside - she's the first to go look-see and investigate - my brave little girl.
I do love her so much, underbite and all!
Until next time,
Ruby, just saying hello and keeping me company early this morning - love you, Ruby!
Last year for Chris' Birthday, I made a Red Velvet Cake for his office. I didn't stress too much, as it was only him, his PA and Admin Manager I had to worry about.
Last week friday, over drinks with Nush at the very chilled Unity Bar, Chris asked if I could make something for our office this year to celebrate his Birthday - I was sipping on my second Mojito and didn't give it a second thought before saying yes - it only dawned on me the next day that I had to cater for 12 people, so no pressure right? After hauling a few trusty baking books out of my recipe book bookcase the other night - I started pondering what to bake., I thought about a cake but for that number, I'd have to bake two - which isn't hard but not particularly exciting and I generally only bake cakes for home or when we're going to family (makes it easier to say, 'it doesn't look perfect but at least its homemade and it will taste delicious!).
I started thinking of the different things that Chris likes to eat. Both sweet and savoury - peanut butter / choc-chip and potato / cheese came to mind. So why not a dozen each of muffins?
Confirmed with Chris, decision made.
I await the taste verdicts from Chris later - it was my first attempt at trying these recipes - brave I know, but that's how I like to roll!
All ready for the office! Sweet and savoury.
Transporting made easy with this cupcake / muffin holder.
It is not only myself (14 April) and Chris (10 April) celebrating our Birthday's this month - my Aunt Bern and Chris' sister Julia both turned their respective one year older during the first week of April (Happy Birthday, again!) and my Mom and Aunty Helen celebrate theirs during the last week.
Chris' folks celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary later this week too - what an achievement - in a world where marriage is so disposable, it's heart warming to see couples who have taken their vows seriously and have made it work, through the good times and the bad. Congratulations! Love to the both of you.
I just love April, it's an in-between season month for us here on the east coast, summer is fading (well for those who are lucky like us to live in Kwa-Zulu Natal, we really only have two seasons - hot summer and mild winter) into the distance and autumn, bringing it's slightly cooler mornings and evenings in, is slowly indicating the onset of impending winter and all that that brings with it. I know spring is a magical time too, plants budding, everything coming to life again but it's autumn that captures my imagination - the leaves falling (bringing different hues of yellow and orange with it), things slowing hunkering down for the cooler months ahead. It's almost like the earth is saying; 'Listen here, it's been a super busy spring and summer - now it's time to start relaxing and in a short while I shall be napping - do not disturb until spring!'.
In a way, the various seasons can be compared to one's life too - spring representing birth and youth, summer easily the prime of your life, with autumn being mid-life and, ultimately, winter with old-age and death. I came to this realisation in the last two days and without the help of Chris by my side I don't know how I would've coped, well I'm still coping truth be told but baby steps.
Someone very special to me, a father-figure really, took ill - not unexpectedly - but totally unrelated to his illness that he was battling, on Chris' Birthday (of all days, right?) and instead of spending the afternoon with Chris (we had already visited the folk's house earlier that morning when the news broke) he encouraged me to go to the hospital to be with the two people who I fondly see as family (and I know the feeling is wholly reciprocated) and I am glad he did, I already knew by then that I wouldn't have had another chance to say goodbye, which I did with a kiss on his forehead as he lay there in the hospital bed - totally unaware of how much he was loved and respected - and the great sense of loss that has followed since his passing.
Rest in peace, Uncle Lenn - You will always have a special place in my heart.
Until next time,
After spending 2 nights in the kennels whilst the tree fellers were sorting the trees out, Juzzie spending some quality time with me - in the last few months we have both noticed that he has suddenly become an old little man
I know it’s been almost 10 weeks since I last posted a blog or have done a general update on my site but for the first 5 weeks or so that was totally out of my control - as we waited for Telkom to set up our telephone line and ADSL. The next 5 weeks was totally my fault because as soon as they had connected us - I ripped out the line… but wait, before you shout at me and ask why did I do that - let me explain myself.
The lady whom we bought the house from (and her late husband) had, in all their wisdom, decided that almost every room - including the garage downstairs and our outbuilding at the top of the property needed to have a telephone connection. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it was because her husband was suffering from Alzheimer’s and they felt the need to have a phone in every room - in case he forgot where he was? Not sure that would have helped though but still…
So in my haste to clear the excess cords - and going against Chris’ wish to let him help me (I thought, I can do this…) well I was wrong - by the time I had cut all the cords, boom - no telephone connection, so some more money and another Telkom call out and another few weeks later and tah-dah, we’re up and running. Moral of the story? If you have someone like Chris in your life, accept their offered help and never forget, ‘haste makes waste’!
Truth be told though, I haven’t really been forthcoming with anything I felt needed to be said on my blog - the huge gap in waiting for our ADSL didn’t help much but I have felt the last few months have been taxing on my mental well-being. We had just unpacked our rental in Gordon Road, then packed it up again. I was so sick towards the end of the last year and then we moved into a smaller than what we’re accustomed to home - so figuring out what to keep, donate and store has been an ongoing process - I in fact made our first donation to the SPCA yesterday.
I also had visions of painting every room and unpacking as we go but I am slowly starting to realise that it can’t all be done in one go (nor on your own) and that these things will take time - patience, a virtue I am trying to adopt - the tree fellers have just finished removing 3 1/2 trees, one of which put the one side of our house in complete darkness for most of the day, and clearing the gutters - it’s such a pleasure not having to switch a light on to see whats going on inside the house during the middle of the day. I wasn’t too happy about removing trees but it had to be done, next on the agenda is to start my veggie patch where the massive Mango Tree had been. Trees removed, tick box.
Our former kitchen that will eventually become our scullery, laundry and pantry is almost all stripped out - just need a plumber to come in and connect our new sink and sort connections out for our washing machine and dishwasher - so we are getting there. Slowly but methodically.
Do I mind that the house is half painted, some boxes are still packed and that most of our art is still bubble wrapped and scattered around - I did at first but now I don’t mind so much. It’s slowly starting to feel like home. Durban is starting to feel like home again too. Chris has been hard at work with the business and I’d prefer that that is where most of our energy needs to be focused on or else there’d be no home! Some days are better than others but we are finding our rhythm and going for it.
In the ensuing Telkom limbo, I started yoga again - which is helping both body and soul. I am certainly feeling more calm and relaxed, sometimes sore too!
We also treated both sets of folks to a new Weber over the Easter Weekend - yes, that meant two consecutive braai’s on as many days but we didn’t mind as the weather was perfect in both Pietermaritzburg and Durban - plus it felt nice treating four special people in our lives.
So in a flurry of creativity, I posted a few blogs, some recipes, media and vintage finds - I know to be a blogger one has to constantly be posting but sometimes things happen that are out of your control and if your internet connection is down at home, it’s ok (I know I could’ve gone to a cafe or such and used the free wifi on offer - but the thought of sitting there with my laptop and sipping coffee whilst surfing the web has just never appealed to me).
So some weeks and months you may hear from me more so than others - I need to realise there is no pressure to put something out for you to read - but persevere I shall or else I will slip into my reclusive little comfort zone (which is always beckoning me with open arms).
I am off to the beachfront later to treat myself to a walk along the promenade - from Ushaka to Blue Lagoon and back - a nice 11km or so and then to meet up with my dearest Nush for drinks this afternoon.
Until next time,
Max or 'Maxi-Moo' as he is affectionately called officially joined our family on 14 April 2011 - my 27th Birthday. It was around a month before the second set of operations to sort out my clavicle were to take place and we thought a Jack Russell would be the perfect start to our family and also to help me focus on something during my convalescence following. We had met him about a month before he was ready to leave the litter and it was love at first sight.
Meeting Max for the first time.
At that stage we were living in a small complex in Pietermaritzburg and Chris was away on business - I knew Max's arrival was imminent but had no idea the official date would be my birthday, we had everything a puppy could want on hand - as any expectant first-time parents would have, well in our case puppy parents - early that morning Chris phoned to wish me and to tell me that there was a package at the gate. So off I marched to find Tandy (our friend whom we bought Max from) at the gate with this little bundle awaiting me - I won't lie, I was terrified, Chris wasn't home - could I look after this puppy on my own?
I must have 1000's of photos of him - He is the sweetest little soul
Our next door neighbour had this unruly little mutt that we tried to socialise Max with but he would just bully our little one so I guarded him fiercely - you would never say that I was his primary caregiver in those early months as is witness to how he follows Chris around - we call him Chris' second shadow. Heaven forbid he pops in at home for half an hour then leaves again, as Maxi-Moo will just sit at the door, anxiously awaiting Chris' return
We had a small fence put in to keep the neighbours dog out
Up until Max's arrival the only pet I had ever known was our family dog, Duke, a Weimaraner - he was a German hunting dog - so I had always been sceptical of small dogs, which really was a misperception on my part. I can't imagine life now without a Jack Russell, if anything I like to think of both myself and Chris as being able to give advice on how to raise them - Max is the first of three that we own and I have bought many a book on them. Even carting one from London all the way home on our last overseas trip.
He will always be my first baby
Those first few months were a learning curve, especially after I had come out of hospital with my arm in a sling and crutches to aid with my walking but we managed. He spent most of his days on the bed with me - I suppose looking back he was spoilt, but he was and is still such a well-behaved dog. We took him for walks straight away to get him used to a collar and lead - something we followed up with Cleo and Jessie too - and made sure he would ride along in the car from the get go to make sure he became used to the sensation of driving - in an attempt to avoid him getting car sick. It worked a treat - he loves nothing more than going for a drive with Chris, even if it's to the local shop just around the corner from us. We also made sure that we had him fixed so that he could never father any puppies, after researching we found out that in the long run it's beneficial to their health and lifespan - obviously not for those who plan to breed with their animals.
I still laugh when I recall his first experience with a swimming pool - I was at my good friend Michelle's place and Max was running around her massive yard with her two dogs and two children in tow - he ran straight across the lawn into the pool without even realising it - it was the funniest thing watching this little Jack Russell at break-neck-speed come to a dead halt as he hit the water! I suppose I shouldn't laugh but at the very least I was being a responsible parent as I was keeping a watchful eye on things.
I can't believe he is 5 years old already, the years seem to be flying by. The first year or two after Max and the others arrived, I'd get terribly down thinking that we only had a finite amount of time with them but those feelings have dissipated, not only with time but as I have come to realise that it is about savouring the moments and cherishing the memories - if I had to put a finger on one regret, it would be that we never gave him a child to be a best friend to - as he thrives on attention and he would've made the best 'get-up-to-mischief-partner' - but I can't look at it like that, it just wasn't meant to be.
I always say to parents that bringing a pet into a family is one of the best things they can do for their children as it not only teaches them how to look after and respect animals but in a bittersweet way it also teaches them the circle of life - birth, life and then ultimately death.
On a more positive note, Max has been a relatively healthy little dog - in the last few months he has been diagnosed with a bacterial skin infection, for which he is being medicated but apart from that all is well on that front so I feel blessed in that sense.
He has the most intense and thoughtful gaze.
People think we're crazy when they find out we have three Jack Russells - we've heard tales of holes being dug around gardens, escape attempts and furniture being chewed to bits. That is not the case with Max and Cleo and Jessie - yes they get excited, well the whole pack does truth be told, when we arrive home but I'd be very worried if they didn't - but I guess it all comes down to what you put in, you get out with constant, fair training and rewards.
Weimaraners will always have a special place in my heart, having grown up with one in my younger years, but Max has shown me just how special the Jack Russell breed is and his presence during a difficult time in my life has cemented that fact. Love you so much, my Maxi-Moo.
Until next time,
Spending the day in a snowy Drakensberg a few years back
I recall a good friend of both Chris and myself (who I see once a year, when she takes her leave and comes back to South Africa - my dear friend, I do miss you so) saying to me a few years back that her mother had questioned her about what I do on a day-to-day basis to validate my existence - I vaguely remember telling her something along the lines of that I look after Chris, the hounds and make sure that everything is running smoothly around the house. Which is completely and undeniably true.
I also remember feeling slightly annoyed by that statement / question - that somehow working a regular 9 - 5 job in some way 'validates one's existence'. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't annoyed with my friend nor her mother - whom I adore just as much as I do my friend - it's a question / statement that, fortunately, doesn't get asked or stated anymore as the years have gone by but it is annoying nonetheless. Why do we - or any couple for that matter - have to explain the inner workings of our relationship? Or to justify it? Luckily those close to us have come to realise that both Chris and I support each other wholeheartedly - just not in the conventional (whatever that may mean?) way.
It's not as if I haven't worked before, if anything I am a good worker. I remember when I was working and studying to become a high school educator, I was studying full-time through UNISA and working a 3/4 teaching timetable, 5 days a week - the last year, before I became disillusioned (and finally chose to leave the field) I was in charge of the Grade 8 English department. Essentially I was doing all the prep work for the entire grade. It was exhausting.
Donating all the supplies that we managed to accumulate from the various regions that Chris was GM of in Johannesburg to aid the owners of the dog kennel that the hounds regularly stayed at when they took in over 30 abused Greyhounds on behalf of the SPCA last year.
Then I did a complete u-turn and found myself managing the front office of an Architect firm - I had never answered a phone for a living prior to this - but I excelled and was, by the time I left a few years later, in charge of the front office, assisted in the creditors and admin department and was the PA to both the partners of the firm.
Then I was involved in the accident that put me out of commission for a year. When you can't use one of your arms - it limits what you can do. So Chris and I managed on one salary and we made it work. I was traumatised by the accident and went for counselling - we then added Max, Cleo and shortly after that Jessie to the family. So in short, by the time I was physically able to work we had a pack of dogs that needed constant attention - I still maintain to this day that our Jack Russell's are so chilled because they weren't left alone during their formative years.
At Wimpy on the Durban Promenade, many moons ago!
Before we started our company, Chris worked for a big corporation that required him to move from region to region, as and when they needed him, so with me not working it made it easier to follow his rise up the ranks - which I totally supported - we wouldn't be here today if he had not taken those opportunities and ran with them.
Late 2014 I found myself being offered a position as a PA to a tax practitioner - by this stage I hadn't worked for at least 2 years - thoughts of 'Can I actually do this?' ran circles around my mind but I gave it a go and enjoyed it, there were days that I was like 'I can't do this!', 'I'm exhausted!' but one gets on with it. Then we started the company and because of Chris' previous employment contract, we weren't allowed to operate within a certain radius of where he was previously employed - so we headed back to the East Coast - I handed in my resignation to a very sad ex-boss but I did it because Chris needed me, I could have easily stayed on in our home in Johannesburg with the hounds whilst Chris sorted business out down here but it has never worked like that with the two of us. We're in it together.
A couple of months later, my ex-boss contacted me and asked if I would be willing to return back to Johannesburg and work for him again, with him giving me a certain amount of leverage to negotiate a deal that suited me too - I toyed with the idea, I turned him down, he approached me again and I have sort of left it there. As exciting as it would be be, my place is here - with my partner in life and best friend, Chris. Some may see it as me halting myself to put Chris first and to a certain degree that may be true but I believe that Chris wouldn't be where he is now without my support and encouragement driving him - I wonder if he would agree with that statement? He probably would. I am not saying it has been plain sailing all the way, I'm a wilful Aries but so is Chris!
At an award evening in Cape Town, where we met Ryk Neethling.
It is so easy to question a relationship or partnership that doesn't quite fit the mould - where outwardly it appears as if one is giving more than the other - you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that all is not what it appears and that sometimes in order for one partner to give, the other needs to sacrifice.
Until next time,