Monday, March 31, 2014


Marlene at her 50th Anniversary party

There is a place off of Richard’s Boulevard called the Union Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter that feeds men and women every night after a church service.  I met Marlene Vance there when she and her husband, Tom were leading worship and Mario and I were volunteering .

“What are we singing tonight?” I asked Marlene, trying to strike up conversation.

Marlene looked at me and smiled, “We’ll see.”  Instead of winking at me, she closed both eyes, like a double wink.  I liked her immediately.

It turned out that “We’ll see” meant that Tom and Marlene took requests from the men who came in off the streets.  Tom had a hymnal and the hungry men and women knew that anything they wanted to request from the hymnal we would sing.  Marlene could play anything on the piano – it turned out she had taught herself years before.

Today I visited her as she lay in a hospital bed next to her own baby grand piano.  The setting was her living room, a warm place she had called home for years.  I had been gone all weekend and came home last night to find out that Marlene had suffered a massive stroke, after an operation she had last Friday.

“She can hear everything you say,” Corlis (Marlene’s daughter-in-law)  told me as soon as I arrived. 

“Okay,” I said. 

“Just talk to her, just enjoy your time with her.” 

“Okay, I will.”

I walked toward her, and there she was, asleep or very close to it. 

“Marlene?”  I came over and stroked her head like she was my daughter, in bed with a fever.  “It’s me, Janet…”

She inhaled deeply and that’s when I started talking.  I shared so much; I talked for a very long time and I felt her listening.  When I finished telling her all of the things I had to say, I asked if she wanted me to sing.  

Since she didn’t object, I did.  As I did, I remembered….

We had moved from a small town in the mountains called Arnold to the urban jungle of Sacramento.  In Arnold we had a close-knit community and the first church home we ever knew.  We came to Sacramento Vineyard almost by accident and were baptized into a great family, a family that had many standout leaders.  Marlene and her husband, Tom, were part of the leadership.  

We are still (for the most part) part of that big church family.  Many of the members of our church have moved on and our church is no longer called Sacramento Vineyard.  Still, its members are like any family that has grown up and carried on with life, often times going separate ways.   At least that’s the way I like to tell it.

Tom and Marlene Vance became to Mario and me what they were for much of the church already – a spiritual Father and Mother.   They weren't the kind of people that dispensed advice or clever wisdom every time we got near them.   Instead, they were the couple that had an open home and even wider open hearts.

It may be why their house was open to visitors coming to say goodbye today.  They don’t know how much longer she will be here; I’m sure she’s ready to go to heaven.  Part of me thinks Marlene would go if we all just stopped visiting.

I was conflicted today as I saw her.  So much of the visit I told her what she meant to me.  I thanked her for being who she is; thanked her for living her faith in front of me.  It made me remember a conversation we had when we both attended a funeral for a mutual friend’s mother.

“You’d never get this many people at my funeral,” she smiled at me.  We had been serving food to the people who were there.

“Give me a break, Marlene,” I said.  “We’ll have to rent Arco Arena for your funeral.”

I don’t remember why we were talking like that; I just remember our conversation being light hearted and fun.  Today I wondered as I was there why it would matter…

I think it would have mattered to Marlene, which is why I went to see her today.  She is the kind of woman who values friendships and made special time for it – drinking  tea from china cups.  She loved private conversations with people one-on-one, making you feel like you were the only person in the world as you sat with her.  BUT she loved parties and being part of a big group as well.  She remembers everyone’s name and their kids’ names.  She would always ask me how Vince was doing; how Alicia and the girls were.  She made an effort to visit us each time we came back from South Africa and made it clear that she missed us; that we were missed. 

Today as I thanked her for she is to me, I started to cry.  It was important that I tell her because she is worth it.  She is the only woman – besides my own mother – that I ever professed wanting to be like.  Life in this world is easier to live because she is here.

Then I sang to her.  The song I chose was one we used to sing at the Union Gospel Mission together.  It’s called “Just As I Am” – a wonderful admission that can’t approach God thinking we are perfect or good enough.  In fact, the only reason we can come to Him is because of Jesus, the one who is perfect for us.  It is an old fashioned hymn that brings me to a humble place immediately.  It is filled with the substance of what I had to talk about with Marlene – where she is going and where I’ll be meeting her one day.

There I was, with one of my spiritual mentors, telling her that I would see her there and we would be together again. 

I said goodbye, but as I did, I said “I’ll see you there.”  

Tonight, as I type this, I encourage you to know where you will go after you die.  I have no doubt I will see Marlene again.  I'd invite you to get to that humble place and come - just as you are- to God.  THEN get to church... regardless of what you think of it, it is God's plan for building us up.  

Just think, you could meet a Tom and Marlene there.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The kind of selfie I like...

This month has been the month of no-makeup selfies on twitter and facebook, helping to raise over 8,000,000 British pounds (roughly 13,000,000 dollars) for Cancer Research UK.  I’ve seen my stunning girlfriends show themselves barefaced,  scrubbed clean to send a message: beauty is not just skin deep.

At a glance, the cause is noble.  What could be more noble than funding cancer research?  In reality, the group it profits has benefitted from an idea-gone-viral and raised much more money for research than they ever imagined they would.  WHY?  Truth is, we like to post pictures of ourselves on facebook and twitter.  It's even better when we can say “This isn’t just for me, it’s for a good cause. 

Cancer Research UK is a well-organized, well-presented network that, by its own definition, is “A number of bodies that work together to ensure that we make the best use of the funds we receive and continue to carry out world-class research.”  They fund research positions and projects in many labs, universities, hospitals and institutions in the UK.  
Laura Lippman's #nomakeupselfie on twitter, March 5
Laura Lippman, a 55-year-old novelist, began the trend on March 5, sharing a scrub-faced pic of  herself to show  solidarity with  Kim Novak, who was beaten by the press and viewers after her  Oscars appearance at the beginning of the March.  Lippman challenged readers to share bare-faced photographs of themselves after reading an article the following day about Novak's "shocking" appearance at the Oscars.
"I looked at her photo and thought, 'Well, damned if you do, damned if you don't' … all I could think was, God love you, Kim Novak. We criticise women for aging. We criticize women for not aging. We criticize women's bodies. We criticise women for bad plastic surgery,"
Twitter lit up with empathy, and slapped a hashtag #cancerawareness on it, spurring many to donate to cancer research.  Because it was an easy paypal charity to contribute to, women dared one another to post a #nomakeupselfie with a 5L (five pound) contribution to Cancer Research UK. 

After noticing the trend, the charity that was benifitting sent out a tweet saying: “We’re loving your #cancerawareness #nomakeupselfie pics! The campaign isn’t ours but every £ helps #beatcancersooner.”

While we can get cynical and jaded and say that the selfies do nothing to spread cancer awareness, the truth is, every little bit helps.  We also see that our outward appearance, however shocking to us (Am I that old?  I look like my mother!  No Way!! Am I ever posting that…) is a vulnerable thing.  It is a very vulnerable, scary thing to have cancer.  Your outward beauty is drained and you have to rely on people’s kindness as they walk alongside of you and take care of you.

In truth, most women photo-shop, duck face and/or position the camera for the best angle to produce the best selfie. 
And it’s never the first selfie we post.... 
Today I post this with a dare. 

I dare you to not only post a selfie, but to find a Cancer charity you believe in and donate to them.  After some research and a good deal of word of mouth, I have chosen ICAN (International Cancer Advocacy Network) a Phoenix based charity that my sister-in-law, Shirley worked for and that I believe in.  Their website actually shows where contributions are used.  Check it out here.


And so, to jump on this bandwagon, here is my selfie, with a confession: This is scary for me to post.  

Cancer research is important.  SO is cancer awareness...  Eight million pounds?  That's nothing to sniff at. Shoot, it's what DeMarcus Ware makes in a year...(BUT that's a whole other blog.)

Friday, March 21, 2014


Thank you to Dylan Does for this image
It used to be easy to recognize a scam.  They would come in the email, from a Nigerian princess who had been somehow disconnected with her family fortune.  Or else they would be selling a gel made of “snail gel slime” that was proven to noticeably reduce the signs of aging.

Now scams are different – they seek information more frequently than they do money.  They come to us as programs, designed to collect data about what makes us click – like – or share.  Facebook is full of them. 

The absolute JOY of facebook is that you can have quick contact to see how everyone’s doing.  Now and then, there’s a great pic of a nephew with a trophy or a tree in the front yard.  Those are private pics that you are seeing and may or may not have permission to share. 

A MEME is an internet idea or picture that spreads quickly through sharing.  The word MEME  literally means ‘non-organic imitation’, and is usually a picture or video that has been made and then re-made and then circulated because of a charming popularity.  Most modern internet memes come from a host (or a generator).  They have a huge range: most are humor-centered (my favorite is the  Numa Numa Dance).  Then there are political memes (Michelle Bachman’ Queen of Rage; Obama’s Jedi mind tricks), angry memes (alltheragefaces) and animal  shock-value ones (shocking images of animals in cages, being starved, etc…)  In a few cases, a meme can start with bored and useless viral clicking (“click this to see what happens!”). 

They’re brilliant marketing strategies, but they’re still junk mail, chain letters, and scams.  Here’s how to spot them and how to react (or not react). 

1.  My Daughter is the Most Amazing Survivor and We are Best Friends!!   Share if you love your daughter.
I love my daughter ( I love all of my kids).  I love her so much that I want her to know that I can pick up the phone and call her to tell her I love her.   The little picture with flowers and hearts is  designed for one purpose: to be shared and to count how many times it is shared. 

When you SHARE A MEME – remember that it probably doesn’t come from a reliable news or entertainment source.   You might want to check out the site before you share it.  While there, check out the ads on that page. 

Most of the time, memes are generated with the intention of compiling statistics, a computer program whose job is to count how many times this silly little something goes around your viral world. 

2.  LIKE if you want this free car, iphone or salon makeover

The Facebook “like” button is a powerful thing.  It captures data (information) each time  you click the button on the page.

“Liking” you Uncle’s party pics with your Aunt’s side of the family is not the same as “liking” a stereo company to win a free giveaway!  The free giveaway used to be known in the USA.  My father used to smirk and say “How much is free?”

Free tablets, a gift card, the chance of winning a super-smart - fancy phones… with only one condition. You have to give the "company" your information – or say they have access to facebook data.   Sometimes they tell you (once you’re already in) that you should download something if you want to qualify.

Beware these scams, especially when they ask for contact information.   Entering your phone number often leads to phishing or unknown charges that might appear on your phone bill.

Some companies do give away free stuff through Facebook, but when they do it's usually on their  official Facebook page.  Most of the time they will steer you toward a website that tells more about the company, contact information, a list of rules for contestants, etc.   Scammers like to make their websites look like the real company, but the FCC forbids them to use the real company’s logo. 

Nothing is free.  There, I said it – now you know.

3.  This boy with cancer want to see if this can circulate the globe – click share to make his dream come true!

There is most likely some truth in the story, but if you want to know the whole truth, do a google search.  Back out of facebook  for a second and google the kids’ name. 

Usually (if it’s real) the child (or person) has a website.  Even so, beware.  This scam is one of the oldest in the book and people fall for it (sadly) because they have hearts of compassion. 

4.  These animals are abused and mistreated.  SHARE if you have a heart – DELETE if you are cold hearted and agree with them.

I have enough guilt trips in my life without having to log on to facebook to be slapped with them.  I am always amazed by people who share these.  Good people who obviously care for animals, but without thinking that these animals are being exploited twice. 

Want to bring awareness?  Go to a reputable site, like World Wildlife Fund, and share a page from their website.  If someone else shares this, it is now something that has been well-researched and has truth in it. 
The sensational  and deceptive pictures that are used by the people who are trying to count your clicks are nothing more than exploitation.

Know this and move on.

Here’s 3 rules of thumb when you’re sharing on twitter, facebook, google plus, etc.

  • ·         SHARE only reputable sites – you’ll know them by their advertisements.
  • ·         DON’T click  – if you like a picture or video, find it  on the web, and then share it. 
  • ·         SHARE responsibly!!  Every photo you share (if you haven’t taken it) has to have some kind of photo credit.  Make sure you share what you have permission to share!

That’s my two cents, anyway.
Oh, and share this blog.  ;)

Monday, March 17, 2014


Cristoforo Colombo is credited for accidentally running into North America and therefore “discovering it” – a fact we were taught to memorize as: Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.  

The truth (that none of my teachers ever bothered to explain to me) was that the Noords (the Norsemen) were here first, including an Irish monk (addicted to seafaring) named Brendan who purposefully plotted a course west and landed in theNorth America in the sixth century. 

Brendan and his crew were out to find a “paradise for the saints” – someplace less friggin cold and wet than Ireland.  That’s us, that’s the USA. 

We Irish have a way of doing things and then not being recognized for doing it.  Maybe it’s all of that partying we're famous for - the jubilation that accompanies our celebration may actually invite history thieves to distract from the fact that we’ve done it.  

Today (St. Patrick’s Day) has turned into three things:  1.a day to sell beer; 2. A day to wear green; and 3. A day to tell our version of what this holiday is all about (this trait is called the gift of gab – an Irish idiom).


St. Patrick's day celebrates a man who lived as a missionary to Ireland in the late part of the fifth century. Patrick grew up a rebellious Welsh youth, captured by pirates and forced into slavery.  After running away several times, he one day realized that the greatest truth in this life was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Patrick gave his life (in full) to the work of the Catholic church, becoming a priest.  He ended up moving back to Ireland and working as a missionary. 

The way I remember the work of Patrick was how he simplified great Biblical mysteries for pagans.  For instance, to teach the incredible truth of a triune God (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) he used a shamrock to illustrate a three-in-one principle. 

The shamrock is a symbol of the holiday, one that has been lost in Irish-ism, rather than what St. Patrick wanted to teach - the truth of God is everywhere… He’s left us clues to enlighten us. 

Today everyone is Irish – not just because it’s a holiday, but it is widely believed that the Irish are lucky and when they’re not lucky, they’re fun.  

Chicago dyed their river green, Boston will erupt in parades and singing, New York’s empire state building will light up green tonight… and on and on and on. 

My father used to say he didn’t need to wear green on this day.  “My blood runs green every day of the year.”

I grew up a Ryan – I’m Irish to the heart.

Happy St. Patrick’s.  May you remember the God who loves us and keeps us in the palm of His hand.  The three in one God who does not fail.  Ever.  

Friday, March 14, 2014


Her avatar was an anime girl with purple hair and heavy black mascara framing blue eyes.  Her name was Pixie Darkness, she said.  Her comment on my blog made me curious to why she even read me.  She wasn’t the kind of reader I usually attracted.

“I like to think of myself as a writer,” I said just two days earlier at a Christmas party.  The man who asked me what I did was wearing a reindeer sweater and eating a piece of fudge.  He raised his eyebrows at my answer.

“What have you written?” he tried not to show his teeth, probably caked with fudge.

“I just finished my second novel,” I said, knowing I would have to explain that none of my work has been published in any medium he would have seen. 


“I’m not published yet.”  I said, defeated and blushing.

“Yet,” he laughed, pointing his fudge at me.  “So you’re an aspiring author.”

“I guess.”

“I have a friend,” he continued, chewing on the soft fudge longer than necessary.  “Who just published a book.  Self published, as it were.  Would you do that?”

No chance in hell, I wanted to say.  I would have actually said it out loud three weeks ago, but now I was coming up to another holiday where my family and friends would ask me at gatherings if I’d heard anything. I would have to tell them again that I had three more rejections from well-known publishing houses - good, honest publishing houses whose stamp graced many book bindings on my shelf at home.  Their rejection letters were so well written that my agent was encouraged, telling me we were getting close. 

“I’ve thought of that,” I said half-heartedly.

I looked around the room for Mario, who was laughing with Dave, our dear friend.  “Get over here!”  I tried to send him an invisible mind-telegram through the room, but the invisible atoms got lost somewhere between us.

“You know, I read a book this year,” Mr. Fudge was continuing.  “It was called… oh what was it called?”

“What genre was it?”

“No, no… it was called ahhh….”

I waited, then my friend Terry mercifully swooped between us and said “We’re going to start the gift exchange soon!”

“Oh!” I beamed a thank you at her and she winked at me, understanding my plight. 

“I remember!  A Wrinkle in Time!”

“A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle?” I asked.  Mr. Fudge must have gotten the title wrong.
“Yes!” It was impossible to consider him silly; he was so happy he remembered the title and was glowing, waiting for me to congratulate him.  The book had been published in 1962, the same year I was born, but was considered a classic for young adults.

“That’s a good one!” I said, trying to stay humble. 

“You’ve read it?” he asked me, feeling like he’d found a friend.

I wanted to say “Yeah, in the eighth grade!” but the truth was, I’ve never read a Wrinkle in Time.  I should have confessed I never did, maybe even asked him if he enjoyed it…but I was genuinely trying to escape from him.

 I wasn’t really enjoying the conversation with him, I didn’t know if it was because he was boring me or if it was because he was eating fudge and I couldn’t have any.  If I were deliberately honest, I would have to admit that I don’t like talking about my writing too much because I thought I would have been published by now. 

I did everything I was supposed to do: I wrote on schedule, I got edited by a reputable editor.  My editor, beta readers and my agent all love my first novel.  I am attached to the characters, but I wish they would be born.  I’ve been pregnant with this book for a year and a half and now I have another one on the way.

“Do you have a website?” Mr Fudge was following me in to the room where we always did the gift exchange.

“I have a blog,” I smiled. I didn’t mind talking about my blog.

“Can I google you?” he asked me, laughing at himself.

“I’m Brazen Princess,” I answered.  “Brazen Princess dot com, that’s me.”


He was about to ask me something when Mario pulled me over to a chair and rescued me. 

“Why are you pulling me?” I whispered.  “And why didn’t you pull me fifteen minutes earlier?”

“I was talking to that guy earlier.  He’s so boring!”

“Yeah, well.  All the more reason to come over and pull me away.”

We drew numbers and commenced the gift exchange.

It was only today that I noticed the comment on a short story I wrote from my anime girl named Pixie Darkness.  She must have stumbled upon my blog by accident and just started reading.  Here’s what she said:

“You write so well!  You held me captivated from start to finish!  This is just like me and my daughter!”
I smiled.

I love hearing that I write well -- it’s like telling a runner that they have good form.  But I love to hear  from strangers, especially.

This morning at Safeway, I was grabbing stocking stuffers in a hurry before the crowds began.  It was nine a.m. and my hair had not been combed and I wore no makeup.  I felt sorry for the tellers who had to look at me. 

“Hey, Hi!” I heard from behind me.  I turned around to see Mr. Fudge, dressed sharply as if he were headed off to work.  He held a coffee cup in his hand, just purchased from the in-store Starbucks.

“Hi,” I was surprised to see him, and a little embarrassed.

“I read your blog, I just wanted to let you know.”

A wave of gratitude came over me.  “Thank you.”

“You write very well.  Your story was just like me and my daughter, I commented something to that effect, I don’t know if you saw it…”

“Are you Pixie Darkness?”  I smiled, amused.

“Well, I used my niece’s twitter account to comment, I couldn’t do it myself.”  He looked embarrassed telling me this, and took a sip of coffee.  His vulnerability endeared me to him and I laughed.


“So that was me.”

“Thanks for commenting.”

We just smiled at each other for a second, and then I said:  “You know, I never read a Wrinkle in Time.  I heard it was good but I never read it.”

“Oh, it’s good.  I read it aloud with that same niece.  That’s what we do; we read aloud whatever she has for school.  I like to help her out because she lives with me and my wife.  She needs help with homework.”

“Good for you,” I was genuinely impressed.  I loved helping kids with their homework, too.

“Well, I better go!” He said, starting to walk toward the door.   “Don’t give up! Keep writing!”

By the time I got home, I realized he was right.  So I did.  

This is what I wrote.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Today's blogging statistics - I better post!!

The truth about blogging is that is an expression of oneself.  What’s true for one blogger is not necessarily true for another.  Before you take in anyone’s advice on “How to Blog” remember that. 

With that disclaimer firmly in place, here are things I wish I knew when I started:

1.  KNOW your audience.

The word BLOG is short for web-log – you are logging online.  There is a place to track stats on your blog – for blogger (google’s ultra-easy start up) it is on the dashboard under “stats.”  Once you determine who is reading you and where your audience is coming from, you have opportunity to speak personally  to them. 

2.  RESPECT your audience.

People who are reading your blog are (for the most part) busy.  They check in with you while they are in doctor’s waiting rooms, gymnastic practice, now and then on their computers checking facebook.   Most are looking to be inspired, motivated, or challenged. 

Don’t whine, complain or pontificate.  Your audience is busy and will move on (and not read you) if you do.

3. KNOW your funnels (your blog’s entry sites).

Every blog has readers coming in from different places.  Most of the readers of Brazen Princess use a computer with a Firefox web browser.  They usually check in mid-day in the RSA and then evenings in the USA. 

I generally attract readers from facebook and twitter, but now and then see entry points coming from Russia and the Ukraine.  Go figure.

I am the first four hits when you Google Brazen Princess; Yahoo hits me three times first; Bing also.   There is a racehorse with the name of Brazen Princess and also some porn site (sorry!).
Funnels bring the masses – know which ones are hitting you and where.

4.  WRITE what you know.

I wouldn’t dare to tackle the issues that NPR or Rush Limbaugh do within my blog posts.  For one reason only: I don’t track either one of those stations (and think of them as propagandist entertainment, rather than news) and I don’t consider myself a NEWS blog. 

When I do blog about news, it is the stuff that touches my life and affects what God has called me to do.  Even then, I am no expert and realize I am only one voice – a voice gifted to tell stories that ennoble the poor and distract the rich.  I deal in words that bring beauty and comfort, not headlines or opinion.

Know thyself.  Then write.

5.  READ

Read your readers’ blogs.  Read stuff that people send you in email.  Some of it is badly written; some of it may offend you.  I actually love reading webstuff…but books are my mainstay. 

If I could advise a blogger just starting out, I’d tell them to READ like they have just one day left on earth.  Then I’d tell them to READ like they had  a thousand years to finish their must-read reading lists. 


You’ll write better.
my favorite stats -
after a five word challenge -
one story for each of  my granddaughters 

6.  KNOW your most popular posts.

I know which posts have gotten the most hits; I know which ones my readers keep returning to.  It's all on the stats page.  I love it when people read the blog, because it is a part of me!

I’ve heard discouraged authors say that they “only blog” – Like it’s common and unusually easy to do.   Writers in Newspapers used to say this, including Mark Twain.  Musicians playing grunge music in garage bands said this, including Kurt Cobain.  Many, many people on the forefront of a movement say things like this… 

Granted, we don’t get paid, but we get read, if we do it right.

7.  BLOG a lot.

Once you know your audience and once you get in a groove, write.  Blog, even if you're busy.  I'm a fast writer, and as a result I get comments on my blog about typos now and then... but I'm glad to get them.  

Comments are wonderful.  It shows you've been there and appreciate what you've read.

So…please leave a comment and tell me what you think.  If you haven’t done it yet, please like my facebook page (Brazen Princess) or follow me on twitter (@brazenprincess).  Little things are happening that cause big changes.

Blessings and love,


Monday, March 3, 2014


When I enter into conversation with  people who have have spent any time at all in South Africa, I light up.  I also figure out quickly how much time they’ve spent there (If they stopped over for a trip, if they’ve spent a vacation in Cape Town or if they’ve lived there).  I always get a little proud, knowing that we have lived there for six years and were able to see the incredible truth of the most complicated, incredible country on this earth.  SO much like my own homeland…and yet so different.

We’ve just returned from a two week trip back – almost one year to the day that we moved away after living there for six years.  We took two friends with us for a dual purpose trip – one purpose was to be there for  Hennie Keyter’s book launch (I had the honor of ghost-writing  his long-awaited memoirs); the second purpose was to deliver three amazing cajons to three different  local churches there.  Three churches that are similar in mission (to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ, baptize and make disciples) yet so different in location and expression. 

Our time there was too fast, and it made me remember sharply how it used to be quite the opposite.   We used to say the same thing about our visits back to the USA when we lived in the RSA.  As we used to do when we made our visits home, we speed visited with everyone (many times stacking meetings on top of other meetings.) Everyone seemed to understand that our time was limited, but it was very hard to deeply share our hearts and catch up in comparatively brief times together.

I must admit, everyone had a very favorable reaction to my weight loss.  They all seemed to equate it to my happiness to be back home.  I guess it is, in some ways.  When I said goodbye, I was nearly 80 kg’s (176 lbs) – I am now 58.5 kgs (129 lbs) - all is due to my fairly recent sobriety and weight management program.

Our team that accompanied us: Seth, an eighteen year old aficionado on the cajon; and Colleen, a prayer warrior, were amazing.  They took to South Africa like a bird takes to the sky.  They were receptive to the massive spirit of hospitality and grace that our friends gave constantly.  I was so happy they were with us!

Now I am back - home in my office - watching squirrels store nuts in the tree just outside my window.  The rain has just stopped falling, leaving a grey backdrop to contrast the fresh green leaves of the mature trees that thrive on our street. 

I miss the heat of the day and the wide open doors that allow flies to inhabit the same space as people.  I miss the dongas in the dirt roads, the cries of Hadadas outside picture windows, the bright orange sun and the endless sky.  I miss (more than ever) my South Africa.

I can almost hear my South African friends, reading this and rolling their eyes: “That Janet, she thinks she’s South African!”  They love a good ribbing and were always quick to remind me that I was American living in my adopted homeland.

The truth is, part of me will always be South African – I have the seal of permanent residency to prove it!  In my passport, a banner page has a seal of South African permanent residency – a seal we worked hard to get.  When we received it I cried and hugged the man who placed it in my passport.  He awkwardly acquiesced, as Mario packed up the documents and left the building, frustrated that the whole process had taken so long.  Both of us were overwhelmed with emotion.  

Such were the emotions that South Africa inspired in our hearts.  It was never lukewarm; always hot or cold.  It was the land of the open heaven or the driest Spiritual place.  It was the place where we luxuriated in supreme joy; it was the place where we had the loneliest despair.  It was the place where we were surrounded in genuine hospitality and family; it was the place where we longed for our family “back home.”

It was the land of contradictions and when we went back we remembered how it was in our hearts.
I’ve spilled my blood there.  I’ve lived and ached there and rejoiced there.   In leaving it, we left our best friends, our church and our idyllic landscape behind. 

Nkosi sikelel iAfrika, you are the most incredible, wonderful land that has stolen our hearts. 

Our home, Mario and I say, is in heaven.  No other home is really home.

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