Get a Life.
Because that’s what you gotta do when you move to another country. Get a new life. Even though the country was just next door and you ate its imported peanut butter and weetbix cereal, and you holidayed on its beaches frequently, living there is quite another thing.
One of the biggest changes has been Heath working in a job without me. That sounds weird, but our history entails a lot of working together. I’ll keep this brief. When we met, he was working in the jewellery retail trade. I had completed a travel course, a stint in an administrative shipping job, but after hating the desk-job prospect, had begun running my own small clothing business.
Bible School, one wedding, baby #1 and two years later, Heath left formal trade and together we grew our clothing business from 2 people to 20 in a small factory, and supplying several large retail stores. Entrepreneurs…they can’t help themselves.
Baby #2 came, and we sold the clothing business and bought a Thai restaurant, which we ran for 10 years, and its offshoots were a steakhouse restaurant, a take-away, and babies 3 & 4. This restaurant survived dire economic constraints where there was literally no basic commodities available. Somehow, with grace and strategic relationships, we survived.
We also ran the Children’s Ministry at our church for 8 years, comprising almost 1000 children from babies to 12 year olds and 250 leaders per Sunday, with no subsidy. And a great deal of Zimbabwean parents had left their families to try and find work overseas. So running a restaurant without food and a Children’s Ministry without money or parents makes us verrrry resourceful people.
Encompassed in the ministry was a parenting course we taught together, a ‘bump to baby’ course I developed for pregnant couples, and the leadership training programs we also did together. After selling the restaurants, we ran the church coffee shop together and Heath began working in property development, before we made the decision to emigrate to South Africa. That’s a LOT of togethers.
With the ownership of our own house, we had an asset we could use to make emigration a consideration, and our primary concern was the education and future of our children. So we sold our house and all our worldly goods, and here we are. Not owning a home or our own businesses, or working together to “make a plan” like we have done a bajillion times before. Absolutely terrifying, but great for faith and surrender.
We decided not to continue with hospitality as a career in South Africa, because it is extremely demanding and low-paying. What we now have to do is actually buy food for our children to eat at home, rather than ordering wholesale, bulk food through the restaurant supply chain. Things like eggs (Joshua has two daily in a health smoothie, I use a dozen if I do scrambled eggs for breakfast), meat (a cow, 10 fish and 6 chickens per week), milk (cereal is served in baths here, not bowls) and other staples now cost us real money. Geez, I need to get a job people! Heath doesn’t own the business anymore, and these children expect to be clothed and fed. I mean, really!
So, seriously, I have been considering getting a job, and it entails mostly crying about it. Because I know what I do in a day running this household- and please understand, I don’t say this pridefully- but I don’t know where I’ll find the time to “do” a job. Well, another job. I do have the luxury of having some time during the day to have 20 minutes devotion time, and 45 minutes of exercise, but the rest of the day I don’t really sit down. So I have had several conversations with Heath where I wail at him through snot and tears, saying, but I don’t know-w-w how-ww-www I can do anything more in a daa-aayyy. When will I go to the loo-oo-oo or sleee-eep? More snot/tears. We have considered my studying to get a degree, because I have been reading a book (please note that books can be read in five-minute increments between school collection trips) called Mindset, and I can do this because I have a growth mindset, and I can study by putting aside 10 hours a week. Cue tears and snot again, and a wailing, but we’ll eat cereal every nii-iiiii-iiiggghht and wear pyjamas all daa-ayyy because I won’t have time to do coo-ooooo-ooking or lau-nnn-ndry.
And with the expenses outweighing the earnings, there has been an urgency, not to mention since losing our investment, which I wrote about here. So I put the word out that I was looking, and then someone asked me for a C.V. Hilarious, really. Curriculum vitae, meaning “courses of life.” I have not had a C.V. ever, as we’ve always been owners. So putting down on paper something that people would understand as resourcefulness and capability was challenging. The opportunity to be a Virtual Assistant (totally my vibe, as it would be for someone involved in families) didn’t come through, as they needed someone bi-lingual, and by that, they mean Afrikaans, which I don’t speak fluently; not Teenagese, which I do speak fluently. Then I applied to be an administrator at a small private school (I can file like a ninja- I have baby books with each milestone recorded, and every letter/card/scribble from each child I have borne has the date on the back, and it is stored neatly) so that would have been perfect, but nothing yet.
In frustration (and through some more snot/tears), I packed away all my non-income-generating painting of pebbles, which I loved doing, and I even deleted the FB page that I had created. (When sane again, I undeleted it, as it was a lot of work to set up. View pointless pebbles here.) I also decided that if I couldn’t EARN money, then I should do all I could to SAVE money. The garden. Dudes come in to trim the grass and charge a fortune. If you want someone to sort out the beds, you’d better be dealing in diamonds. I know how to garden (hey, I didn’t put that on my C.V.) so I decided I would be The Gardener. No money outflowing to exorbitant weedhacking men! By now, however, our grass was mid-shin height, so a day was set aside and I prepared the attack. The lawn-mowing went well, but it was harder than I had expected, probably because it was so thick. Nearing the end, a disturbing phenomenon occurred. It seemed our neighbour was trying to land a helicopter in our garden. I looked around, but there was nothing. This happened twice, each time I switched the mower off. Then, I finally realised it was the sound of the blood thumping through my own head. When I bent down to empty the grass catching thing, it sounded just like a helicopter about to land next to me. The blood was probably discovering pathways in my head previously unused, hence the swoosh swoosh sound that I was experiencing. I was concerned about who would pick up the kids from school if my head did explode, but it didn’t, the lawn got cut, and I even googled how to thread the weedhacker thing and got
that done too. I have managed to maintain the garden since without any further helicopter incidents, although the grass is needing cutting again, so I’m hoping Joshua can get to it on one of his I-don’t-have-any-exams days. That helicopter is scary, man.
So, jobless, I decided to draft a ditty of a CV to make myself feel better, and to dismiss all the formalities and stuffiness of job-hunting that don’t really consider the fullness of who we are. Be warned: this is not classical poetry- a lot more rhymes with “poo” than “indigo.”
My name is Lea Stewart,
I am forty years old
No new-graduate insecurities,
my experience is gold.
My feet are stable; steady,
no new roads I need to find
I’m able to look ahead
not distracted with what lies behind.
Many lessons have been learned
through successes and through trials
I’ve overcome, withstood the storms
of triumphs and denials.
I have a faith, I have a grace,
from One that’s higher than I
Everything I do is in His strength,
He’s my what and when and why.
I’m married to one husband,
so I am devoted, loyal and true
Even though he’s quite a sexy beast,
and so easy to pursue.
I know how to balance time for us
and all the demands of life
We make time alone a priority-
here is one happy wife.
That time alone was quite productive-
four gorgeous, precious boys
Thus I can withstand extremely high levels
of toilet humour and noise.
My pain threshold is also high,
childbirth will do that for you
Self sacrifice? Unselfishness?
To me, they’re nothing new.
With so many people in our home,
on structure and planning I thrive,
If someone tries their last-minute plans,
they’re lucky if they survive.
Spontaneity is perhaps not my strength,
please give me plans in advance
I love my lists, and thinking ahead,
I try to leave nothing to chance.
Organisation, you see, is one of my strengths,
I love to bring order to mess
And there’s quite a lot of that in this house,
drives me crazy I must confess.
But rather than scream or threaten or cry,
I endeavour to train them up
In righteousness, character, and integrity;
and please rinse that dirty cup!
I have planned over 57 birthday parties,
some were celebrated thoroughly
Others passed by without much ado,
Heath’s 40th counts as three.
Event planning, table decor, music, catering…
sleepovers, dress-ups or theme
I can pull it all together, and even deal
with the 3 year olds who scream.
Treasure hunts and fancy iced cakes,
home videos can tell of it all
I think we’re good at making memories,
so the kids can enjoy the recall.
Planning meal times, an event in itself,
is actually quite a feat
Making sure that there is going to be enough
for these hungry men to eat
Each recipe I find is doubled or tripled
for the amounts I have to make
I try to keep things healthy,
but they can sure moan for biccies and cake.
I’m the expert at negotiation,
I’ll compromise where need be,
Thus Wednesdays are a dessert day,
and cupcakes or pavlova there’ll be.
Leftovers? I’ve never seen such a thing,
I don’t know what they are
Lunchboxes and snacking take care of them,
I’m forever restocking the jar.
I am a tutor, mentor, encourager, manager
in all things pertaining to school,
I don’t homeschool them, no, we tried that once-
with four it wasn’t cool.
Homework is overwhelming at the best of times,
how the heck to get through it all?
From Afrikaans orals and algebra maths
to how the Roman empire did fall.
I teach them to study and how to make notes,
and I also have to calm them down
When they rant and rave ‘bout the pointless project
on trade unions of Cape Town.
Diplomacy and human relations
are something in which I excel
In meeting with teachers after emails from them-
of incidents they do tell
Of behavioural issues, and disobedience,
whose child is this anyway?
How can they do this, what the heck’s going on?
I never raised them this way!
So the teachers and I, we calmly brainstorm
and think of ways in which to get through
To the child who believes that school is for soccer
and saying howzit to your bru.
On a medical note, I am very well versed
in ailments common to most,
I know natural remedies for everything
from colds to persistent sore throats.
I have also dealt with spine-tingling injuries
from 2 year olds + swings + eyes
To 18 year olds doing somersaults wrong
and cracking nose bones his demise.
Foot fungus? I’ve got it. Eye infection, no prob.
I’m an efficient, capable nurse
And for sleep problems or worry or faith shaking times,
I know the right scripture and verse
Besides counsellor and advisor, sometimes prayer warrior I’ll be
there are times that is all I can do
I know to surrender those hardest of things
to God, for he’ll always be true.
Excellent communication skills,
can be mediator or judge
Encouraging ‘please’s, ‘thank you’s and ‘sorry’s
when they need a little nudge
Daily instructions given to each
about chores and responsibilities
I can even get through using sign language
when the headphones are in the ears!
I am a great driver doing miles each day
I don’t get easily distracted
Despite the loud music and in-car dabbing
and “Fight Song”gracefully re-enacted.
Tooth fairy, Santa, and yes, the Easter Bunny
are all seasonal jobs that I do
A more versatile and capable candidate
Would be hard to find, it’s true.
Gardener(!) maid, cleaner, launderer,
instructor of things to be heeded,
Seamstress, decorator, co-ordinator, shopper
of things I just sussed that they needed.
Can work without sleep, or go without food
Skillsets that adapt and keep growing
Why anyone wouldn’t hire me when you look at this
I’m sure you’ll agree, is mind blowing.
Dedicated to moms without ‘real jobs’
I see you, and I really do know
Sometimes your days are made of nothing else
But pee, poop and someone’s sore toe.
But He gives grace for this, and in all that you do
May you find purpose and meaning
That you feel His joy and experience His peace
in the mundaneness of car trips and cleaning.
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.