Finding ways to reconnect- back to school

This is a copy of my article published in the city pages magazine (Kuwait)

Hope you enjoy reading 🙂

It’s back to school, back to routine and perhaps back to spending less time with loved ones than we’d like to. The summer vacation is coming to a close, so this means a new year, new challenges for both parents and children, spouses and families.

Let’s explore how we can create routines that provide us with optimal value, optimal quality time and minimal stress so that this new school year is one that we can look forward to as we focus on work and academics, but continue to cement the bonds we might have ignited during the summer.

If we were to be quite honest with ourselves we would all agree that much of our “free” time gets spent on our screens, whether they are our television sets, computers, iPads or mobile phones. These sophisticated devices, while meant to assist in organising ourselves, have fallen short in terms of taking us further away from our real relationships, away from meaningful face to face communication and it has also sunken us further into procrastination, and time lost.

Our lives have also become over active and busy, since busying ourselves seems to be a trend and a must in order to fit into today’s societal norms. There is a growing need to ensure our kids are kept busying themselves in school, extra sports and other extra curricular activities so that they do not miss out on life. They are rushed from one activity to another while we simultaneously rush around doing doing doing, racing here and there, squeezing in a million errands that need to be done.

Thankfully many people have realised that this busy- ness and over activity is actually taking us away from those we love the most. Much has been written on how we can create a balance within this chaos. Here are some tips that we can consider introspecting and applying in the hope of finding peace, calm and quality time amidst the hustle and bustle of school, homework, extra curricular activities, social and business commitments.

Here are 3 ways we can enhance, deepen and value the time we make and spend with our kids and families.

  1. Ensure restful sleep for both adults and children

When we are overworked and over stimulated our sleep is one of the first needs that take a beating. When we are sleep deprived our physical stamina and moods are compromised and this leaves us feeling groggy, miserable and unable to be our optimal best for ourselves and our families.

A good sleep routine entails sleeping at around the same time each evening and waking up at an early hour, ideally many have promoted the best sleep time between 10pm and 6am, which gives you a reasonable 8 hours of rest, and allows for your body to heal, and recuperate.

2. Unplug your racing mind from all the clutter

Many therapists agree that an important factor in staying focussed on family relationships, especially after a hard and busy day at work and school, is that one needs to mentally leave work at work.

This means that we need to prioritise our times and concertedly make time each day to refocus, gather our energies and direct them away from our work days and towards the home. We can do this through visualisations, imagery and physically closing work doors, school books or bags or the like with the intention of leaving them where they are and not carrying them home with you.

In doing so, we will be able to better connect with our kids, sincerely, and fully show interest in their lives and wellbeing and they will be able to feel completely connected to you, heard and understood. Being fully present and in the moment for a few minutes may prove to be more beneficial than partially present for a longer period of time and the rewards of this will be long lasting and deeply felt.

3. Unplug your gadgets, and plug into your communications

A rule during mealtimes or another preferable time that would greatly enhance the bonding between parents and kids, and families in general is that all electronics be turned off and placed away for a specific duration of time.

This means no texting, no downloading, no answering of phones, no facebooking and tweeting or responding to “important” emails. This is another way to enhance family ties and to fully focus on each other. No distractions, no preoccupations and no drifting into various realms of cyberspace. Just pure, real, heart to heart conversations, fun times and good laughs.

Imagine having a hectic day at work, knowing that coming home means switching off, relaxing, taking time out and recuperating. Knowing that when a school day has been a tough one there’s something to look forward to after that, knowing that the days chaos needn’t be dragged along with us the entire day. There are always good times, family support and hearty meals awaiting you at the end of a crazy day.

Wishing you all a fun filled, laughter ridden, consistently calm new school year, muddled in with some soul food and family bonding that will keep the year exciting, challenging and still rewarding.


Expat life- make it or break it

About 10 years ago, I was still a teen. A group of Canadian volunteers came to South Africa on an exchange programme where they were placed in various NGO’s for a year where they could make a difference, absorb a new culture and experience the adventure.

There were some who engulfed themselves in the rich African culture- they braided their hair, had sleep overs in African homes, tried out the notorious taxi services, danced to the African beat. They would have certainly enjoyed a good meal of pap and marogo, or maybe a braai with some perfectly spiced boerewors and chakalaka. And when their year had ended they were heartbroken, enriched, enlightened and more developed than a year before. They loved their expereinces thoroughly.

On the other hand there was this one lady that I recall. She was painful, in agony, depressed and miserable. She drained those around her with her complaints and negativity. “Back home things are like this”, “back home this is better”, “back home the public transport is effecient”, “back home…back home …..back home”. She could not wait for the time to come for her to get back home. I actually think she left before  her contract was up.

The differences between the above types of peeple are that those who enjoyed the adventure CHOSE to enjoy it. They chose to be POSITIVE. They CHOSE to make the BEST out of every situation they encountered and took it all in their stride. While the later CHOSE to be miserable, she CHOSE to look for the flaws and cracks in every situation. She CHOSE to leave one foot in Canada and the other one dragging to South Africa. If both your feet are in the same place, how can you be comfortable?

All these interns experienced similar things, the same culture and country but their outlooks were vastly different. And yet, hearing the two stories you may be certain they were sent to completely different areas. The incredible difference is the choice each made in how they would perceive to experience what they would.

Watching these interns as the year unfolded turned out to be one of the greatest lessons I would learn, a lesson that would teach me how to survive being an expat, where you become an unknown, you dive into something completely foreign. Its culture, its people, its rules and regulations, its norms and values. All very contrasting, some really frustrating, some extremely challenging from what feels normal and right to you.

I made the choice to make it work, to seek out its advantages, its pleasantries, its uniqueness and rise above the very challenges that would test me, break me and push my boundaries.

Now the expat life is not all rosy, as people back home assume. They assume you travel, spend, socialise, and live a life far beyond theirs. One of the greatest challenges is being away from family, especially in times of grief such as death, illness, etc. The other challenge is that in your home town you have established networks, a reptation and a name that poeple may know you and your capabilities by, whereas the expat needs to start from scratch to build up a reputation, and sometimes force themselves to get out there and unnaturally meet people, to form relationships.

However all these challenges are steps towards your own personal growth, pushing your own comfort zones, and seeing how much you can achieve without all the cushions padding you. It is an incredible feeling of achievement and sweetness.

You can choose to make your expat experience work for you for the duration you choose to be one. Find the fun, the adventure and the positive aspects because they are there if you allow yourself to find it. You may have to scratch beneath the surface but doing this is well worth it.


My first blog post

Hello world

Since this is my first post, and I’m still rather new at this I’m wondering what to say and where to start.

Think I’ll dedicate this first post to a dear friend, coached me along and planted the seed that I needed to blog.

Why on earth is my blog name White amber? Well I recently relised the immense value and healing properties of Amber. Amber is a gem stone, brilliant for teething babies and toddlers as it works as a pain reliever, it has been used on babies with slight touches of jaundice at birth and is apparently great for people who have low blood and anemia.

To my surprise, Amber is highly valued in the middle east and is used as prayer beads, called Misbah’s. It seems like it could be a sign of prestige and honour.  The colour and size of the beads determines its value.

While strolling around the Kuwait city streets we came across an antique shop, filled with really antique-y stuff, these and other precious stones. The owner, a cute old man, very passionate about his hobby showed us around and then called his friend to show us his misbah. WOW!!!! it was HUGE, orange- yellow in colour, and gold plated. Each bead was the size of an apricot…I could not imagine the cost and decided not to know.

After becoming even more intrigued and really wanting one for my Little girl we decided to indulge and got her one to wear around her neck. She loves wearing it and I enjoy knowing that discomfort from teething will now be relieved naturally…