Monday, May 7, 2012


Northriding in the Morning

From time to time, people ask me what my day is like.  I thought this “day in the life” would interest some of you... it is thoughts on a random day: written about this day, Monday, May 7, 2012. 

Before I begin, may I say that last night we had very good, new friends over for dinner and we talked until 10:30, then they left and we cleaned up and went to bed.  This will explain why I was still in bed at...

8:00 a.m. – “Honey, get up, I have to go.” It’s Mario’s voice, and I hear it in my dream before I hear it in my bed. 

“I’m up,” I said.  Figment of Mario’s imagination: thinking I’m sleeping when actually I am wide awake, lying on my tummy with drool coming out of my mouth. 

“Raine called and asked if you were meeting this morning...” Why is he still talking?  I haven’t even had coffee, and how am I supposed to process this?  Oh, yeah.  He has to leave for a meeting. 

I get up out of bed, realizing that he is still talking to me, and as I dress for gym, I realize that he is relaying important information.

“I’ll call Raine right now,” I say, finishing up in the bathroom. 

“Yeah, and what about Lorraine?” Mario asks, leaving with his own gym bag.  He realizes he hasn’t kissed me and comes back, smiling and gorgeous, as if he’s been up for hours.  I’m so loved and blessed....

What about Lorraine??

8:30 a.m. – Raine, my friend who I have been trying to schedule time with,  has decided to come over at 9:00, and I have now had two cups of coffee and I feel normal. 

Lorraine, our lady who helps us (I do not call her “my maid” which connotes a full-time housekeeper) is coming in the back sliding glass door.  She has been gone for a week, visiting her family in Zimbabwe and Zuzu and Peaches, our miniature pinschers, bark at her like she’s an intruder.

“Hi Lorraine!” I say, “Welcome home!”

“Hi Janet,” she says.  Something is wrong. 

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, I am well.”

The charade lasts for about ten minutes when, as we are catching up and chatting, I remark that she is a very lucky woman since she was able to bring her 5-year-old son, Thembani home with her.  Inside of this discussion, she breaks down in tears. 
Lorraine and Thembani

“I had to,” she weeps, “he was starving there.”  As she explained the situation to me, I could tell it was a dilemma that is not easily remedied: Thembani stays in Zimbabwe with Lorraine’s other children, Sithembekhosi (a girl, 13) and Sithandekile (girl, 9) who are able to cook for themselves, especially the eldest.  Since the community supervision of children is very common in African cultures, it is left to the Granny to cook for the younger ones, unless they are supervised by someone else.  

Lorraine’s granny reported to her that Thembani is often shepherding with his uncles.  She found him very thin, and recognized the signs of malnutrition.  It caused great concern, especially since Lorraine sends money every month for food. 

“He is so thin now,” she wept, as I listened, “you can see his bones.”

She told me her resolution to the problem: that he would stay with them for a month while she fattened him up (I sent a pecan pie and custard home with her, along with her normal lunch) and then hire someone to make sure his needs are met.  The system of child care throughout Africa is a great concern and dilemma. 
I gave her special vitamins for rebuilding children’s bones during a time of malnutrition and said that I would pray, promising that we would help as much as we could. 

She thanked me, but I could tell her heart was breaking....

8:50 a.m. – A call from my friend, Bessie, who stays in Diepsloot, the township north of us.

“Janet, are you busy?” she sounded panicked. 

“No, what’s the matter?”

“I have been delivering a baby this morning, and the woman has struggled and struggled and now the afterbirth is not presenting...”

“Where are you?”

“I’m on my street,” she is panting, and I can hear a baby crying on the other end.  “The ambulance is not coming.  They have been called out and they are still not here...”

“I’ll be right there,” I said, knowing that I am expecting Raine any second.  Raine prays for Diepsloot and maybe the idea of going in will please her. 

As I hang up the phone, I realize I know nothing about delivering babies, afterbirth or getting in the path of EMS workers.  I called my doctor friend, Rebecca. 



“Are you busy?”

“I’m at the clinic.” She pretty much volunteers all over Northern Joburg.  She is supposed to be paid, but sometimes clinics budgets go toward things like medicine or paper... She’s awesome, and I love her.

“Guess what? Bessie just called me....” and I explain the whole thing.

“She needs to get to the nearest clinic and she needs an I.V. as soon as possible.”

Raine is at the front gate and I let her in. 

“Thanks, bye.”

“Bye.”  We don’t care that much about pleasantries.

I tell Raine the situation and she says she’d love to go into Diepsloot.

 We get in my car and we drive to Bessie’s house.  On the way there, Raine and I talk about very deep things, and I thank God for her as she is talking.  For such a young lady, she has her feet planted firmly on the ground, and as she speaks, I remember how hard life is sometimes for young ladies.  I appreciate the time we have on the way to Diepsloot.

I have told Bessie to call me when the ambulance gets arrives, but she must have forgotten, because as soon as we pull up to her street, the ambulance is exiting the rocky road that leads to Bessie’s house. 

“Hmmm...” I say, and Raine laughs.  We thank God he found the place, but delayed response time is a common occurrence with the township calls.  It is one of the saddest realities of working with the poor in any country: emergency response into poor areas. 

I park my car and we walk to Bessie’s house, greeting her neighbors as we do.  I find out from a group of ladies sitting on their porch that the baby and mother were delivered to Coronation hospital, and that both are well.  I am relieved. 

“Do you know where Sis Bessie is?”

One of them motions toward her house.  Raine and I walk toward her house, and we greet her. 

“Ay!” she says, as soon as she sees me.  “The ambulance has just left.” She is washing out the towels that she brought to deliver the baby.  

“We just saw him leave,” I said, “Do you know Raine?”

Bessie is dressed in a beautiful wrap and has her head tied like a proper South African mama.  She doesn’t look bad, like she’s been up since two a.m. delivering a baby. 

“Come in,” she motions toward us. 

Bessie and Raine
“Thank you,” we say, and we enter.  Bessie talks about everything from chairs she needs for her table to her coin operated washing machines that are new and waiting for a business place to set up her laundry.  Raine sparkles, and takes it all in. 

We pray for her, and chat for awhile, but Raine has to work soon, and we are too late to transport the mama of the new baby to a clinic.  God had a better plan.

“Do you want to greet the baby’s auntie?” Bessie says, as we are leaving.  I say yes, and we wind down an alleyway toward the place where the baby was delivered. 

“Congratulations!!” I say, as we meet the Auntie who is mopping up her place.  She is surprised to see our faces (I have never met her before today) and as Bessie explains why we are here, her face softens and she thanks us, looking exhausted. 

We leave, spending little more than an hour  in Diepsloot, but an important visit, showing my sister Bessie that she is a valuable voice in my life. 

Raine and I have pleasant conversation as we drive home again.  Still the deep, deep things of God. 
When we arrive home, I have another coffee, Raine has grape juice, and we pray together.  We say goodbye, and I decide to work out.

12:30 p.m.
I start to jog to Mistry’s, an unfinished wood furniture place about 2k’s from my house, with Zuzu and Peaches, who love our jogs together.

Before you get impressed, let me say I make it to the 1K mark and begin to walk.  My dogs are ashamed of me, and look up.  “Is that it?” I see in their eyes. 

At Mistry’s I buy two bottles of furniture finish, and take it home to refinish two items of wood furniture that desperately need it.  The ladies at Mistry’s like my dogs, and ask about the breed, which I say, has become my favorite of all breeds. 

“What are they called?”

“These are miniature pinschers,” I say, but quickly add that they are mixed breeds, one from the SPCA, one from our mechanic. 

“Do they like people?” the lady behind the counter asks. 

“Yes, they do.” I say. “But they are very territorial.  If they think someone is threatening me they will bark. 

They were originally bred to hunt vermin, but sometimes they get in trouble with snakes.”

“SNAKES?” all three ladies have the same response.  “Where do you live?”

“Just here in Northriding,” I say, but quickly add that most of the snakes are non-poisonous.

“Doesn’t matter to us,” they say, smiling at each other.  “A snake is a snake!”

1:30 – I arrive home, and make a chicken salad and eat it while our dogs pant and act as if they’ve run a marathon, instead of run 1K and walked 3.

I eat and relax.  Mario arrives home and tells me about the elder’s meeting.  I listen, knowing that the minutes will probably be on the email by now. 

“Did anything happen here?” he asks.

First coat
2:30 –  I refinish both pieces of furniture, which require more sanding than I thought.  Bessie calls to tell me that she has heard nothing about the condition of the woman in the hospital.  Raine sms’s that Lauren and she are going to pray for my eyes (for restored vision).  Bright sms’s to ask for Bessie’s number.  Mario gets into deep study. 

As Lorraine irons I ask if I can share about her and Thembani.  She says yes, then asks to have their picture taken together.  As I do, I can see that Thembani has grown thin.  It makes me sad. 

I ask Lorraine to take a picture of me, and before I’m ready, she shoots it, while I am typing. 

5:oo – I decide to write about my day.  I put thoughts on paper without editing.  In writer’s circles these are called “Warm-ups”.  I call it a blog.  A snippet of my life, one that is recorded for looking back on.
I put black beans on the stove to cook and complain to Mario that the picture that Lorraine took of me makes me look fat.

“Babe!” he says, trying to encourage me.  “At least we’re not as fat as we used to be.”

Hmmmm.   Exactly the kind of thing I want to hear.