Saturday, May 19, 2018

When will School Shootings stop?

With all the hype of the Royal Wedding, it seems the latest school shooting might hide in the shadows behind photos of the royal couple.  10 People dead and the 22nd school shooting in the US in 2018!  Definitely not a statistic to feel proud of.
It's uncanny that the day The Freedom Club was released on Amazon, is the same day there's another school shooting.
Having started a school for children who struggle to cope in mainstream education, I heard many terrible stories about bullying on a daily basis.  In my over 30 years in education teaching in schools all around the world, I have heard many stories about bullying.  It seems to be an ongoing problem, despite schools saying they have zero tolerance for bullies.
My own children have been bullied.  I can vividly remember the day one of my children came home crying her heart out.  Freddie Mercury had just died and a boy in her class told her that she gave Freddie Mercury AIDS.  She was devastated, fully believing that because of her, he would never sing again!  Children can be cruel, very cruel.  They say what they want without thinking about the consequences.  Words hurt.
Teen suicides and school shootings are an alarming trend.
After the Las Vegas shooting on 1 October 2017, even though it wasn't a school shooting, I got the idea for The Freedom Club.  My thinking was, what if some high school students get tired of being victims of bullying and do something about it?
Now I am not saying that all school shootings happen because of bullying. 
Some school shooters have histories of mental instability.  For others it might be attention seeking or out of anger.  But the one thing all school shootings have in common, is that those left behind are completely traumatized.
After the Parklands school shooting there was a lot of publicity, marches, protests, walk-outs, debates.  Students were unanimous in wanting change.  They wanted to feel safe at school.  That's not a ridiculous request if you think of it.  Children go to school to get an education, not to be shot at.
But so far, nothing important has happened.  There's been no big change in legislation.  There's been a ludicrous suggestion that teachers should be armed to stop school shootings.
Many years ago, just before Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, there was a lot of rioting, protest action and the burning down of schools.  Apartheid had not yet been dismantled.  I can remember, together with the other members of staff, being taught how to use an RN Rifle so that we could defend the school in case the protestors came to burn it down.  Thank goodness the protestors never came and we never had to defend the school.  However, I can remember feeling uncomfortable that we were expected to use a gun on the school premises if the situation called for it.  I had become a teacher to make learning fun, not to be a gun carrying educator.
The Freedom Club tells the stories of the children.  Stories that all those who have been bullied can identify with.
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common.  Every one of us has a story.”
Every high school has the bullies, the freaks, and the weird kids that make you feel uneasy.  Rourke High has more than their fair share.  A few months before the end of their senior year, a group of seemingly mismatched kids get together to form The Freedom Club, hoping that they can support the victims of bullying, before they graduate.  As they uncover secrets and lies they plot revenge - and discover love, friendship and truths about themselves, building up to a shocking climax that will leave you reeling.
Do you ever really know the person next to you?

(Click on this link to get your copy!) 


Cindy Vine is an author and teacher living and working in Norway.  She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.
All her books are available on Amazon.com in both Ebook and Paperback formats.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Things I learned being a Mother

I was 21 when I had my first baby, turning 22 the very next day.  No matter how many books or articles you read on the subject, nothing prepares you for it.  From that first cry, you are thrown into the deep end and there is no other option but to swim.
As a single mother I learned how to be resourceful and always have a Plan B or Plan C to fall back on, because very rarely did Plan A work out.
Carrying a little life inside you for 9 months creates a bond that is unbreakable.  The love you feel for that child will always be there, even in dark times when they turn against you and say the meanest things ever, you will always be ready to forgive because you are their Mom.
When they achieve success, you watch from the sidelines and it feels as if your heart might burst from pride.  You share in their disappointments and heartaches and it feels like your heart may break.
No matter where in the world they may be, they are resident in your heart and will never face eviction.
Mother's Day memories of little feet tiptoeing around the house, plates and pans banging in the kitchen before being served breakfast in bed.  Those memories I'll forever hold dear now that I am alone and my nest is empty.  The handmade cards, smiling happy faces, family times dominate my memory bank.
A mother will sometimes have to make difficult choices, will take risks, leave her comfort zone if there's a chance it will benefit her children.  They won't always know why you did what you did and made a certain choice.  You have to remember that only you knew the big picture, and the small piece they have is seen from their perspective.
The family squabbles and laughter will ensure the house is never quiet, until they have grown up and left the nest and the silence will echo through the empty rooms.
Being a mother isn't always easy, the responsibility of shaping young lives is huge, and doing it all by yourself is even harder.  But boy is it worth it!  The little grubby hand in yours, the head against your chest, the voice saying, "I love you Momsy," all make the most precious memories to cherish for the rest of your life.
My children gave me the Gift of Love and made me who I am today.  A mother first and everything else second.
To my children, I am so proud of every single one of you.  We might hardly ever see each other, all of us in different countries, but we'll always be a family and you'll always be loved.
Thanks for the memories!
Cindy Vine is a South African living and working in Norway.  She is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, Not Telling and CU@8.  All of her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle format.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Romance Scam Alert!

Most people are familiar with the TV Show Catfish, and how the hosts expose young people pretending to be something they are not and fooling some gullible person online.  People fall in love with someone who seems to be the only person in the world who understands them.  All they have is a photo or two, and a range of excuses why they can't actually meet, can't video chat, can't talk on the phone.  We see the show, know how it's done, so why do we continue to fall for these scams?
We have all been warned about the scams involving a Nigerian prince, Ghanaian politician, an heir to a fortune, all needing your help in getting the money out of their country.  People attracted to the prospect of making easy money by helping someone, find themselves with their bank accounts emptied.
The scary thing, is that some of these romance scammers are targeting elderly women, and conning them out of their life savings.  And they are repeatedly getting away with it.
You might be wondering, how does someone fall for one of these scams?  What you have to remember, is that the people they are targeting are not as technology and internet savvy as we are.  They get a message on their Facebook or Linkedin, (that one of their children probably set up for them) and they open it and have no reason not to believe the sender isn't genuine.  Picture this, a lonely widow/divorcee over the age of 70, living alone with lots of time on her hands, gets a message from a man telling her he`s attracted to her smile.  Nobody comments on her smile anymore, and she's flattered.  Right there and then she's hooked and takes the bait.  What follows is an online romance that will end in tears.
The Nigerian scammers, in particular, use a tried and tested formula.
1.  They set up a fake profile on Linkedin or Facebook, use an alias, and have a stock of photos of a real person they have stolen off the internet.  To make themselves more appealing, they will have a desirable career or profession.
2.  They trawl through Facebook and Linkedin looking for potential targets, older women who were professionals in their day, who look like they might have money in the bank.
3.  They send the woman a private message with a flattering comment.  If she replies, they follow up with more flattering prose, much of it copied and pasted off greeting card websites.  The woman can't believe her good fortune, someone is finally paying her attention again.  They send her a stolen
photo, and she is pleasantly surprised that such a good looking man is interested in her.  Photos of men in US Military uniform is quite common, but if they are not targeting someone in the US, then they tend to use the photos of Joe Cross.  Joe Cross is a health food guru in Australia.  Unfortunately, his photos have been stolen off his website and social media pages, and are being sent out to unsuspecting victims.
4.  Once the woman is hooked, they will tell her to rather do voice chats on Whatsapp.  This is better than email, they will say, and also so they can hear her beautiful voice.  Of course, this means that when they start asking for money, there will be no written trace of it.
5.  They will explain that they can't do video chats or skype because their phone doesn't have that capability.  They can't phone as they are based overseas and that would be too expensive.
6.  They will call the woman several times a day, and every night to build up that love connection and to prove that they really care.  Eventually, that poor old woman is just waiting for their phone calls.
7.  They will spin the woman a story about how it's their child's birthday and they can't afford to buy a present because all their money is tied up in a big project they are working on.  The woman will be cunningly manipulated to send money so that they can buy their child a phone for their birthday.  But they are not planning on using the money to buy a phone and there isn't a child.  This first request for money is the taster.  If the woman falls for it, then they know that they have landed themselves a winner.  If she doesn't, they dump her and move on to the next victim.
8.  They will keep on with the daily phone calls on Whatsapp, supposedly sharing intimate details of their lives while encouraging the woman to do the same.  They will tell the woman about a big project they are working on in a foreign country, like a bridge they are building, and how as soon as they have finished the project, they will come to the woman's country and marry her.  They will start referring to her as Wife.
9.  Unfortunately, they have to put the wedding on hold as they aren't able to finish the bridge as they have run out of money.  But when the bridge is finished, they will get a huge payout.  If the woman can just lend them some money to finish the bridge, they will repay it with interest when they get their payout.
10. They can't give the woman their bank account details in a message or email as they are scared of getting hacked.  So their instructions are simple.  When the woman arrives at her bank branch, she has to call her 'husband' on Whatsapp.  He then gives further instructions over the phone, including amount, bank details and account number.  He then instructs the woman to destroy the deposit slip.  By this stage, the woman is so under his spell that she no longer questions anything.  The amounts needed to complete the bridge get more and more, as does the frequency of the requests for more money.  When the money dries up, the romance is over.
The reason why I use 'they' is that this is very rarely a scammer operating on his own.  It's generally a whole syndicate of scammers working together.  The syndicate have this scam down pat.  They know just who to target and leave virtually no paper trail to follow.  You can't trace their phone number because the Whatsapp number they use is a foreign one and is not the same as the local number they are obviously operating on.  Their email address links to a fake IP address.  These guys are very clever.  Everything they do is so that they won't be found.
If you suspect you might be a victm of this romance scam, or know of someone who is, then the best bet is to report it to the police as soon as possible.  If the language in the initial emails is overly flowery, copy and paste it into Google search and if it copied from a greetng card site it will come up.  Definitely investigate further if the language used in the emails alternates between poor English with spelling and grammar mistakes and overly flowery language.  The photo they sent, you can upload into tineye.com and it will tell you where else that photo has been used on the internet.
So if a man randomly contacts you on social media, telling you how beautiful you are and he's in love with your smile, be warned.  If he's a Portuguese or Italian living in London but building a bridge in Jakarta be very afraid.  If he says his name is Gibson Wayne, or he uses a photo of Joe Cross like the one on this post, start running!
Cindy Vine is a South African currently living and working in Norway.  She is the author of the novels Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Just an average Saturday in Norway

When I went to sleep last night it was snowing.  When I woke this morning it was still snowing.  Needing to do some shopping, I decided to wait for the snow to stop, before trudging down to the local supermarket.
With my backpack filled to the brim with school supplies for our house-building exercise with Grade 1, a pack of toilet rolls under my arm and my old lady shopping cart bursting at the seams with groceries and baking goodies for a school bake sale, I headed back home. 
How I cursed as I slipped and slid and dragged the objecting shopping cart through the dirty snow on the road.  Fresh snow and car tyres are an evil mix.  Pure white snow turns into filthy brown sludge.  It's a bit like walking in a caramel slushy.  Only it's not as sweet and you're not at the movies.
If I was an inventor, I would design 4 x 4 off road wheels for old lady shopping carts.
Light snow started falling as I arrived at the start of my road.  The snow on my road was white and fresh, unsullied by car tyres.  As I dragged my shopping cart up the incline, I heard the snow crunch under my supposedly non-slip boots.  My shopping cart was like dragging a dead body up the hill.  (Not that I know what dragging a dead body is like, but I have watched enough Homeland to have an idea.)  Why oh why did I buy the frozen fruit smoothie packs, the container of ice-cream, the cans of apple cider?  How was I going to get all of this up the stairs to my attic apartment?
I stopped to catch my breath, looked back at the grey lake covered in sheets of ice and small mounds of snow.  And then it hit me!
I am truly blessed.
I am heading to a warm apartment with all the creature comforts.  I have unlimited water.  I earn enough to buy whatever groceries I want at the shop.  I have children who love me.  I am safe.  I am not hiding from snipers or running from bombs raining down.  I have access to good medical care.  I have friends.  When there is so much hardship in the world, how dare I sulk over dragging a shopping cart through the snow.
Cindy Vine is the author of Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Here's why you should thank Shithole countries in Africa, Mr Trump!

Donald Trump has always been known to open his mouth to change feet.  The words pour forth from his Parson's Nose lips before he engages his brain.  My Granny always told me to think before you speak.  This is sound advice that Trump should take.  Referring to African countries as 'Shithole Countries' belies him being a stable genius.  Voicing his ignorance shows that he is not very smart at all.  He has no idea of the achievements that have come from the African continent over the years.  Achievements that show the resilience, creativity and indomitable spirit of a people who rise up and make a difference despite where they have come from and the odds against them.  It doesn't matter which country you come from in Africa, in some respects as Nelson Mandela so succinctly said, "All Africa is one." 
Even though America has far more financial resources available than the Shithole African countries Trump so despises, there are certain inventions and discoveries that America, with all the resources at its disposal, was not able to make.  These remarkable feats have made life better for Americans and are helping to make America Great Again.  Mr Trump, you should be honoured that people from Shithole Countries in Africa want to immigrate to your country.
Here are some discoveries and inventions that came from countries in Africa.
1.  The world's first successful heart transplant was performed in South Africa.
2.  The CAT Scan was invented and developed in South Africa.
3.   Scientists in South Africa developed the technology to extract oil from coal.
4.  The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by a South African.
5.  The special glue used to hold together the landing craft in the first moon landing was invented by a South African.
6.  Those 20 ton concrete blocks used in harbours all around the world to protect harbour walls and break up wave action were invented by a South African.
7.  The special spray you put on car engines to help them start easier in cold weather, and to ease squeaky door hinges was invented by a South African.
8.  The Retinal Cryoprobe, a new form of cataract surgery, was developed by a South African.
9.  The Smartlock Safety Syringe which prevents contamination was invented by a South African.
10.  Ancient Egyptians invented and developed so many things that make our lives easier today - Mathematics, Medicine and Surgery, Architecture and Engineering.
11.  Historians reckon that the first speech and language used by early man emerged in Africa.
12.  Mining of minerals and metallurgy originated in Africa.
13.  There is evidence to suggest that Africans sailed to South America and Asia hundreds of years before the Europeans.
14.  The oldest art objects in the world were discovered in Africa.  Africa isn't known as the Cradle of Humankind for nothing!
15.  Coffee as a stimulant, originated in Ethiopia where it grows wild..
16.  Picasso was inspired by African Art.
17.  The mineral used in rechargeable batteries in mobile phones comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
18.  Nando's flame-grilled chicken, loved the world over, originated in South Africa.  There's even a branch in Washington DC, Mr Trump, should you decide to eat something other than a cheeseburger.
19.  The concept of Ubunthu - a shared humanity, originated in Africa and was used by Nelson Mandela to help heal a country after apartheid.
20.  Freeplay foetal heart rate monitor which is power free was invented by a South African.
21.  Jazz is based on African rhythms and melodies.
22.  Shea butter used in creams and lip balm was developed in Africa.
23.  The first ever penis transplant was performed in South Africa.
24.  A Nigerian created a device that can detect explosives and cancer cells.
25.  Two Ghanaian women developed an app which is fitted on waste bins to direct the public on proper waste disposal.
26.  A group of Ghanaian scientists and IT professionals developed an Artificial Intelligence Healthcare System.
27.  In Kenya they are making electricity grids that provide power for a whole village.
28.  A Ugandan engineer has designed a biomedical smart jacket which can diagnose pneumonia 3 times faster than a doctor.
29.  A man in Cameroon invented the Cardio Pad, a handheld medical computer tablet which reads a patient's heart function and then sends the results to the heart specialist in the big city via a mobile phone connection.
30.  The founder of Paypal was a South African.
I could go on and on Mr Trump.  Personnel carriers that can drive over landmines, shark shields to protect scuba divers, a military attack helicopter than can make a 360 degree loop, radar system used by professional golfers and the whole concept of prepaid mobile phones - these all came out of Africa.  So the next time you open your mouth to change feet, take a minute first to think about what you are saying and the implications it might have on others.
Cindy Vine is the author of Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Why follow the beaten path?

My whole life has been spent off the beaten path.  It was never intentional.  Never something planned.  It's always just happened spontaneously.  I am on the path following everybody else, and then VWOOMAH!  Everybody has disappeared and I trudge through the thick undergrowth, fighting branches with spiky thorns, to try and find the well-used path again.  The problem is that when I find it, my Dorothy Slippers fly me off somewhere else again.  It is an ongoing battle I'll never win.  There is a part of me that wants to conform, wants to do what everybody else does.  But when an idea presents itself that sounds good at the time, logic has no place in this mind.
Take today for example.  I needed to buy quite a bit of groceries as I have some recipes planned for tomorrow that I want to try out.  Usually, I only buy what I can carry in my backpack which is quite limiting when you have big things planned.  But today my backpack was already full of wool I had bought to knit myself a sweater during the long cold evenings.  When I arrived at the supermarket, I decided to be smart and only take a wheelie basket, as you can't fit that much in it.
I should have realised that it is Cindy we are dealing with here.
Soon my wheelie basket was so full that I couldn't force another item into it, and had to carry the bag of flour in my hands while pushing the overflowing basket, having to stop periodically to try and pick up items that fell out.  This proved to be quite difficult, as I had to keep holding the handle of the wheelie basket so that it didn't fall down and knock groceries off the shelf, with one hand, and carry the bag of flour with the other.  I tried my best not to look frazzled.
With all this going on, I forgot to look at my shopping list I had spent a large part of the morning drawing up.
At the checkout, I was pleased that my groceries only filled 4 large shopping bags.  My triumphant smile as I packed them soon turned to despair as I tried to lift them.  It felt like I had gone to a quarry and bought rocks.  What the hell did I buy?  I staggered to the escalator, wondering how the hell I was going to walk the length of the Mall carrying 4 large bags filled with rocks.  As I approached the first escalator, I realised that I no longer had any feeling in my fingers and that I was about to drop my groceries.  Glancing down, I noticed my fingers had changed colour and were either as white as the snow outside, or as purple as an alcoholic's nose.  It was at that point I realised that conforming was not going to work.
I turned around and staggered back to the supermarket, paid a deposit for the shopping trolley, and blissfully packed my grocery bags and very full backpack into it.  Flexing my fingers, I managed to get some of the feeling back.
Where I stay, the taxi rank is at the train station, about 100m from the shopping mall.  As I exited the Mall and began to push my laden shopping trolley through the snow, I became aware of strange looks from the locals walking past me.  It was true that nobody else was pushing a shopping trolley outside, and I did seem to be the only one, but at the time I didn't realise that I was leaving the beaten path again.  Until my shopping trolley got stuck in the snow!
No matter what I did, I couldn't make it budge.  Luckily, a kind Dad with his two young children pushed it from behind while I pulled it from the front.  He first spoke to me in Norwegian, but when I explained that I hadn't yet mastered the language, he explained in English that nobody ever takes a trolley out of the Mall and this was the first time he had ever seen anybody attempt it.
Maybe I have started a new trend.
Cindy Vine currently lives in Norway and is the author of Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.  All her books are available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 - The Year of...?

In the Chinese Horoscope, 2018 is the Year of the Brown Dog.  I'm not sure what that means for me.  As I think about the year ahead, I have absolutely no idea what lays ahead.  I have no plans, no agenda, no secret dreams.  2018 is like one giant blank canvas.  I have not drawn pencil outlines of New Year's resolutions.  In fact, I haven't even taken the blank canvas out of the cupboard.
Prepare to be surprised.
Believe you me, nobody will be more more surprised than me.
I am tired of setting goals that I know I'll never keep.  So for me, 2018 is going to be the Year of Winging It.
Whatever comes up and feels right, I'll do.  If I can't be bothered then I won't.  I'm not going to be actively seeking and definitely not going to be planning.
There is a certain comfort in not being restricted by the boundaries of a plan for the year.  I don't have to conform to fit in.  I can build my box as materials land on my doorstep.  The choice of the amount of box openings and the direction they open, does not have to be made in advance.  In fact, I might not even put my life in a box in 2018.  The sky really is the limit and it's rejuvenating.
Cindy Vine is the author of Not Telling, Defective and Hush Baby.  All her books are available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle format.