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.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Exam Tips for Parents

Exam time is a stressful time for both kids and their parents.  However, in many instances parents unwittingly increase the stress for themselves and their children.  This can negatively impact their child's exam results.
Remember your child is not the same person you are.  They might have some of your genes, but they are their own person.  They might learn differently to you.  What worked for you might not work for them.  Don't force your exam anxieties and experiences on them.
Children react to the pressure you put on them in different ways.
Some knuckle down and start working as they take what you said on board and just want to please you.  Others are quite stubborn, get rebellious and refuse to study.  Then there are those who freak out, have mental breakdowns and might even commit suicide.  Exam time and getting kids to study and achieve success is truly more stressful for all concerned than when they were toddlers and teething.
As Principal of a small school, I see what your children go through during exam time and what influence your actions have on their exam performance.
1.  Time Management
This is crucial for you and your child.  Do not create more stress by making dentist appointments at 12 when the exam is a 3 hour one starting at 9.  Your child will arrive at the exam stressed and will not be able to think clearly.  There is a great chance they will have given up before starting the exam.  Do not give a long list of chores which infringes on their study time.  This creates more stress and can result in no studying and no chores being done.  Do not decide to take your holiday during exam time and leave your child staying with friends or unsupervised (if they are old enough) while you go off on a jolly somewhere.  Your child needs you there even if it doesn't seem like it at the time.  They need your support.
2. Stable Environment
As difficult as it may be, try and keep domestic upheavals to a minimum during exam time.  Family squabbles, separated or divorced parents fighting with each other, parents using their children as pawns in their battles...please just stop it and push it aside during the exams.  Your child needs a clear mind and does not need to be fretting about what might be happening at home.  You might think your personal problems and issues have no effect on your child but you are wrong.  It preys on their mind and distracts them.  You are an adult.  Keep it together fr a few weeks and don't drag your child into your mess and make them choose sides.
3.  School Equipment
If your child needs a maths set and a scientific calculator for their exam, buy them what they need.  If you don't have the money, make a plan.  Maybe don't buy cigarettes and rather buy your child a calculator.  This is not the time to refuse and say you bought a calculator last year and are not prepared to buy another.  If your child comes to an exam unprepared without the correct equipment, they feel defeated before they even start.  Don't put them at a disadvantage.  Make a plan.
4.  Balance Interfering vs Supporting
You want your child to do well in the exams.  Chances are, even if they say they don't care, they also want to do well.  You can support them by helping them sort revision notes and design a study timetable.  However, there is a thin line between interfering and supporting.  Ask if they would like your help.  The trick is not to force your help on them.
5.  Avoid Bribery and Corruption
My experience is that bribery and corruption just don't work.  Your child is not a dog trained to perform tricks for a reward.  Bribery often goes hand-in-hand with unrealistic expectations.  Instead of achieving success, you are more likely to end up with a child who has a defeatist attitude and just gives up before they even start.  Your child needs to develop self-motivation, not only working for a potential reward.  What message are your promises of bribes giving your child?
6. Well-stocked Fridge
Studying is a hungry job.  Thinking, memorising, note-taking, problem-solving all use energy.  Energy requires frequent snacks.  Make sure your fridge is well-stocked during exam time.  Make sure study timetables have sufficient snack breaks factored in.  Don't let your child go for more than an hour and a half without a break of some kind.  After an hour and a half nothing more is being absorbed by that brain, believe me.  A short 5-10 minute break is all your child needs to regain focus.  Stock the fridge and the grocery cupboards.
7.  Exercise
Factor in some exercise time or energetic activity.  This helps achieve balance and satisfies those endorphins.  Maybe you can have a family activity time worked into the schedule.  Something fun.
8.  Love and Support
Make sure that your child knows and understands that you will love them whatever the outcome of their exams happens to be.  Support their particular learning style and don't force your own on them.  Discuss expectations, yours and theirs, making sure they are realistic.  Avoid issuing threats.  Threats just create more stress.  Some children study best after dinner, others study best at 4.30am!  You need to adapt to fit in with your child at this time.  The exams are all about them, not you.  You do not have something to prove.
Cindy Vine is a teacher and author of Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback format.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Technology cannot find you Love

When technology works it's awesome.  However, when it doesn't do what you want it to it's a pain in the nether regions and I hate it and curse its invention.
What Technology can't do, is find you love.  Whatever the internet dating sites' ads may say.  Because people lie.
Many years ago I belonged to an internet dating site.  Yes, I confess.  Living in a new country, I thought it would be the best way to meet people and make friends.  The men were generally on the site for one thing and one thing only.  And, it was not to make friends.  I soon realised that internet dating was for men too cheap to pay for prostitutes.  They figured, get online and get the sex for free.  I used a lot of these internet dating adventures in my book C U @ 8.  Basically, people lie in their profiles and what they are looking for.  The person you meet rarely matches the person in the profile.  At times it was hilarious and at other times a little frightening.  People are just too trusting.
Now I see the younger folk on Tinder.  Similar to internet dating, still reliant on Technology.  Just a swipe and you can meet your match.  Hmmmm.  After having my daughter shove her phone in my face so that I can see self-absorbed adonises with six-packs post their selfies all over Tinder, I have not changed my mind about Technology.  If the guy really looked as good as he does in his selfie, he would have women tripping over each other to get to him.  He is either lying or on Tinder for one thing....Free Sex.  He has no intention of finding love.
Yep, I'm a cynic.
But this brings me onto another site I am trying to delete off my computer, one that I never signed up for.  One that sends invites to my friends on my email list.  One that fills up my Spam folder with messages from people who supposedly like me, viewed my non-existent profile, or replied to the messages I never sent.  This site is a sham and doesn't seem to let me unsubscribe.  Not that I ever subscribed in the first place.  This is when I seriously hate Technology that allows people to steal my information and set up fake profiles.  This is when Technology seriously sucks.
There are the few random people who feel they found the love of their life on the internet.  These stories are always pasted all over the gossip magazines.  I remain unconvinced.
Catfish is a TV series made about the lies people tell online.  You can be whoever you want to be online and tell the other person what it is you think they want to hear.  How do you know the truth from the lies?
Really, nothing beats meeting someone the old-fashioned way, without the help of Technology.  At least then you know what you are getting.  That the 36 year old six foot four hunk isn't really a married arthritic 70 year old that's 5 foot 4 and wears size 4 shoes.  (You know what they say about a man's feet!)  I say, delete all that crap and go out there and talk to people in the flesh.  If you're a fake, you'll encourage fakes.  Or flakes!  There are creeps and stalkers out there, men and women.  We have to be a lot more careful and a lot less trusting than we are.
There is more to falling in love than a hot pic, well-written profile and a computer-generated algorhythm saying you are a match!
Cindy Vine lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, C U @ 8 and Hush Baby.  You can buy her books on Amazon or find out more on her website http:cindyvine.com.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Last One Standing, my thoughts on Christmas

My earliest memories of Christmas are of pretending to be asleep and watching my Mom, Aunts and Granny fill the Christmas stocking at the end of my bed in Gordon's Bay.
Christmas was always family time filled with love, laughter, noise and good food.
Family came from all over, there were people everywhere.  Christmas was the day people put aside differences and were a united loving family.
As I grew up and became a teenager, I became a part of a blended family.  Christmases were not always on Christmas Day, but it was still devoted to quality family time, catching up with each other, enjoying each other's company.  There would still be a big group sharing lunch on Christmas Day itself, and you would always eat way too much, but love being a part of a big, loving family.
When we had Christmases overseas, we opened our home to others, although I remember a Christmas in Goa and another in New York, where it was just myself and my son Tony and daughter Siobhan.  It was awful not having Kerri with us, as if a vital part of our family was missing.  In Goa, we joined together with other holidaymakers.  In New York, we went to a Mafia Family Italian Restaurant, got way too much food and had it wrapped up and gave it to a homeless man sitting in his wheelchair on the street.
Memories.
That's all Christmas is now.
Memories of what it used to be, a time focused around family.
Now I feel like the last one standing.
The rest of my family spend Christmas with their new families.
Tony and Kerri are working overseas and not home for Christmas.
It's just Siobhan, my mother and myself trying to make Christmas feel like family time, just the three of us, alienated from the world.
I feel sad.
Christmas has now become a time of sadness, a time of anxiety, a time of loneliness.
The last couple of days my eyes start to well with tears every time I think about Christmas.
Whereas in the past I looked forward to this day with excitement, now I can't wait for it to pass.  It has become an agony for my soul.
People say but Christmas is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Historically it has been proven he wasn't born on Christmas Day.  Christmas is and always will be a day to celebrate being a part of a family.  Well, that's what it means to me anyway.
I feel like I am no longer a part of a family.  I understand that things change over time and the family breaks apart and forms new families and have new family traditions.  It just hurts that I am not part of that.
For me family was everything.
Now it is nothing.
As everybody celebrates with their new families, I am the last one standing.  The last one to remember when being a part of a large family celebrating Christrmas was everything.
So I'll make the traditional Christmas meal, way too much food as now we only feed three.
I'll shed my tears for the times gone by.  Treasure my memories of the shouts of excitement as the children dug into their Christmas stockings, the anticipation as we all gathered around the tree and handed out gifts to each other.  I am grateful that I have those memories of family Christmases.  The times when I used to agonise over what would be the best. most original gift to buy someone.  Because in those days, you bought gifts for every family member, no matter the cost.
I'll wish all a Merry Christmas as that is the expected thing to do.
But this what I have now isn't Christmas.  Christmas is about family.
And as the last one standing I'll cherish my memories of family Christmases, love, laughter, joy and togetherness.
Cindy Vine lives in Cape Town, South Africa.  She is the author of Not Telling, C U @ 8, Defective, Hush Baby and The Case of Billy B.  You can buy her books on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback format.