On Incomplete Sentences

I asked my dad once “how do you know? You know? How do you know you love someone? How do you know you want to marry them?” (Back then, I thought marriage was the only avenue to love… I’ve grown up a lot since then). I’ve been thinking about it a lot again and I’ve been working my way towards writing this for a while, but then life got in the way, I got stuck…and then the right sentence dropped itself into my head while I was in the shower this evening.




It’s this: The phrase “I love you” is an incomplete sentence.

The first time I ever said those three words to someone (obviously, outside of my family), I was told I needed my head read. He was probably right. The second time I said it to someone, their reception was a little warmer (thank goodness, or else I’d have been put right off the whole idea and probably wouldn’t be where I am today. This stuff burns people, and I wish we were all more cognisant of that).

This needs context
The thing is, “I love you”, on it’s own, is a threadbare and rather short sentence. Without any context, it stands alone like some sort of white elephant that nobody wants to talk about. It’s the context of that sentence that gives it meaning, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about recently.

It has to have a purpose
A dear friend of mine packed up her family and headed to new shores this year. I’ll miss them all so very much, but they went in pursuit of certain dreams and to create something they wanted to. They did it, with purpose. Their “I love you” directed at their life together created the context for moving forward, moving closer to something they wanted, together. So that’s my point – “I love you” has to have a purpose. And it has to be a good purpose. It is not some throwaway line you can halfheartedly chuck around and hope it maybe fixes a fight. That phrase needs a purpose, and it should be one that serves everyone who says it, and everyone it is said to.

It’s a simple phrase
The phrase, in itself, is a simple one. Broken down, it’s three short words that are imbued with a sense action. Love, really, is that simple too. Yes, love can be messy and chaotic and really difficult sometimes, but when it comes down to the nugget of it, it’s simple – you either love someone or you don’t. You’re either on their team or you’re not. Being on someone’s team doesn’t mean you live in this hallucinogenic bubble that’s all kittens and purring, but that you’re in it for the long haul. You can disagree, banter, bicker, whatever, but – when the chips are down (and life forces those chips down, trust me), you’re on their team.

What my dad said
Which leads me directly to what my dad told me in response to my question. I’m paraphrasing but, in short, he said: “It’s when someone can make you so mad, fight with you or you misunderstand each other but, when you wake up in the morning, they smell like freshly mown grass to you. They make you think of honey and sweet things, and they make the world okay because you know they’ve got you, and you’ve got them.”

Tupperware Party

But first. 

If you’ve been following, this is the final instalment of not only our tandem, collaborative blogging series, but it is also the final page in  a short story I’ve been interrogating out of my brain. You can read parts one and two, and this piece will be the story’s swansong. These two people have played out their story in my head for a while now, but I never really stopped to capture them. Then this project came along and reignited my secret desire to write a story that didn’t involve me, but rather characters formed in my dreams and head space.
I’ve loved every second of this collaborative writing process, and am so grateful to have been a part of it, joined by some of the most insightful and clever writers I’ve ever come across. I’m happy to call them my friends now, as we’ve shared stories (both fiction and non!), top banter and silly rhymes over email.

But, for now, here is my final piece: 


Dear Golden Head,

Do you remember that time we had a massive fight and you left in a huff? No, not that time, nor that time you threw me out into the street after that disagreement. Do you remember what it started out as? It was a conversation without a point.  Of course, I’d caught you on a hypersensitive day, which meant you ended up feeling insulted and less than ideal. Yet, here I was just making the point. I said:

“People say that housewives aren’t up to much. Between lunching with the ladies, cleaning the kitchen and picking up the kids on carpool day, there’s not much to it. But that’s complete trash talk. It’s like saying a CEO doesn’t do much because his office is far bigger than a cubicle, and cubicle workers are more productive. But you don’t know the ins and outs of a housewife’s life and I would deny you any commentary on it if you’re not one. Why? Because in just the same way as you would respect a CEO for doing his gold-wristwatch-pursuit job, you should be respecting housewives too”.


But you couldn’t respect it, because you said I was “worth more” or, what was it again? -Oh, that’s right! You said “I’d be wasted in this world”. I’ve been insulted a million times over (half of that million by you) but that one insulted way more than just me. Sometimes you don’t think before you speak but, heck, that’s how we ended up here in the first place.

You stormed out, like always, so desperate to run away from me.

Like I was a terrible reminder of the things you were afraid to be.

Let’s fast forward to where we are now. My bright eyes you used to compliment me on, have been replaced by this sagging face I see reflected in the mirror that they installed in my too-small bedroom.

Your attempts at athleticism have left you creaking in places where your body used to sing.

The kids have all but moved on to creating their own lives but, sometimes they come to fetch me for lunch. It’s never dinner though, because old people aren’t meant to be out at night. Like I suddenly turn invisible at 6pm and become a ghost.

Perhaps they think I “need my rest” or something, because I’m clearly staying up every night, rocking out to trance tunes in my room. Catching up reruns of “Wheel of Fortune” really isn’t as exciting as reading a bedtime story to my grandson but, this is where time has led me.

To the life of routine and having meals served to me. At least I don’t have to cook anymore.

And as for you, over there, watching me with one eye while you nap in front of the television. Are you napping? Must i get someone to check your pulse? You’ve been drooling since the news ended. Are you dead? I’ll call someone to check you.

You can’t be dead. You still haven’t finished disagreeing with me.

You’re not dead. You’re just fast asleep and probably dreaming about all the aeroplane trips you didn’t take because I made you come home all those years ago.

I did it for a good reason you know. It was time and, really, am I all that awful to be around that you tried to avoid me, even in our dotage?

It’s almost lights out time, so I’m going to grab my book and head to my little partitioned room. Oh you want to come too? For what – a Tupperware Party?

I still find it funny how you and I were so deadset against conforming to anything, yet complained bitterly about how we should just ‘learn to coast like everyone else’.

And yet, despite our best attempts, here we are.

Slodged into a routine we do not set for ourselves, because “it’s for our own good”.

At 82, I imagined I’d be well-versed in knowing what was good for me.

But still, here I am, letting you in again to fight with me one more time.


This post is part of a collaborative blogging process we like to call Tandemonium. Each week, 9 writers craft a piece in accordance with a specific title that’s secretly distributed to us. This is the final piece in this series. Without sight of each other’s work beforehand, everyone hits publish at 2pm, every Wednesday. You can catch up with the other participating writers here:

Father’s Day.

Dear Dadadadad,


It’s almost Father’s Day. A funny day, where we’d have tempted you with soap on a rope, socks and silly mugs. The last Father’s Day-like moment I had with you was the day you met your first grandchild up close (she was born on Father’s Day that year), and I gave you beanies to keep your head warm. Your hair was thinning. No, let’s be honest. It was falling out. That big, tough bush of hair that I seem to have inherited was withering away a little as your sickness progressed, and you’d texted me to say your head was cold. I tried to fix it.

A few weeks later, I’d get those beanies back. I held them against my cheek and I could still smell your hair, even though I’d just walked into our house to be with mum, because you’d just left the planet. I stuffed them into my bag, and kept them. I didn’t wash them for a year. I’d just hold them every now and then.

But then Winter came around again and I looked at them. I realised, you’d want me to wear them. I think of you when I hear this song, and it rings in my head each time I put those beanies on. You wouldn’t want me to be cold, you’d want me to be warm, in Winter.

Which is why I’m not going to be without you today. I’m not going to feel your absence, but, rather, celebrate the idea that – somehow – you’re still here.

You used to say our genes are our legacy. That our DNA is what is our afterlife, and that the little pieces of you that live on beyond your body are what continues you. I  agree with you on that front, for a lot of reasons.But, Dad, it’s not just that. It’s more. Sometimes, life brings you back to me and it’s not DNA.


Have I told you about the Shmoo? I have, I know, but I don’t think I’ve told you this part.

You see, the Shmoo and I have been together now for what seems like a lifetime and feels like just a day. He puts up with me, he takes care of me (most especially when I don’t want to be) and he listens when I gabble off twelve million ideas of how I’d like to save the world but will never actually fulfil. He is tolerant (an essential strength), patient, kind and supportive without question.

But, Dad, I gave him uphill when we first started taking an interest in each other. I was all walls, spikes and boundaries. I was needy and aloof all at the same time and I did a lot to deter him. He took the “deter” as just an abbreviation for “determination”.

Slowly, he worked away at my walls. He didn’t push them over and ignore them, he just sat on the other side of them and talked to me through a little hole he’d chipped away at for a while.

And then, well, you know how I went to Cape Town for a bit and he took me to dinner and seemed weird, and the next night he came over with cake and Post-It Note.

And that’s how he started loving me, and I, him.

One afternoon, while we were sitting on the steps of my house as your first grandchild pranced around the garden, looking for fairies and we were talking (we’re always talking. it’s like we have a continuing conversation that started on MSN messenger some near five years ago and hasn’t even quite got to the point of the debate yet. We’re still talking about the weather, if one were to compare our continuing conversation to the millions of conversations that start across the globe every day).

I can’t quite remember who mentioned fireflies. It could’ve been C, it could’ve been the Shmoo, it could have been me. But, just as it was mentioned, he instantly quipped:

I wish I was a glow worm, a glow worm’s never glum. ‘Cos how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum!

I remember looking at him, startled. Somewhere, I think, you looked at the scene and cackled. That was the rhyme you would send me when I had a bad day at work, or I needed a cheer up. Once, you printed it out for me and stuck it on my desk when I was studying at home and feeling bleak about some heartbreak. You’d email it to me when I was crabby, and when I just wanted to be left alone. Somewhere, in the swathes of papers I have kept from my life, is that printout.


There is no way on the planet he could’ve known that, and yes, perhaps it was some funny coincidence. Things like that just happen. But, Dadadad, that was the day I knew I could lean. So I leant. I’ve been leaning for a long time now.

As time went on, and the Shmoo became a more permanent, rather than transitory, fixture of our every day life, so C began to rely on him. He became the third parent and, in that first year, he really got put through his paces. As we started living life as a trio, so life changed. So life threw family emergencies, loss and tears at us. But we were strong. So strong, that we could combat so much more. C began to lean on him too.

We live in a little townhouse now, together. Each morning, I wake the two of them up with their respective tea and coffee, and start the day. They then zoot off to school and work, and, every day, as I wave them goodbye, I grin.

They are a little club, you see. Where boring old mom is responsible for providing the snacks but… “really, mom, go do something else, we’re fine”. They go on adventures together. They laugh and talk and are silly together.

As time’s moved on, I’m not the only one C confides in. She feels safe to be herself, express her emotions and communicate her ideas with him. When they are skylarking around the house, and I hear her squeak with giggles, I think of “sweetiessssss!” and laugh to myself. When it’s the end of the day and she snuggles her head into his shoulder and we talk about our days, I think of sitting next to you on the couch.

And there, Dadadadad, I find you in our days. I found you as I leant, as C leant, and as we built this life together. I find you in my every day, and not just my DNA.

Thank you, for teaching me that rhyme. For every time you sent it to me, and for every time you stuck it in front of my face. Thank you, Dadadad, for it’s that rhyme that led me home.

Happy Father’s Day. I hope there’s whiskey and very loud music. But, most of all, I hope you see the glow-worm.

Little City.

In early 2007, I wrote an essay. Yes, over the years, I have written many essays. But, this one, stuck with me, because – at the time, I was living alone, in the depths of a horrible heartbreak, and I was steeling myself towards the idea that I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. No, really, I’d accepted it as what I was meant to do. What I would do to cope with accepting that weird void, was write. I’d write and enter strange competitions (which I never won) or I’d write just for me (most of which is littered across this blog, pieces of paper, journals and diaries I keep in my house). Thanks to this newoldfriend, I read this essay again today, as I look back on the woman who wrote it seven years ago, at about 3am when she couldn’t sleep, would watch her kid sleep and the words just tumbled right out. This essay’s purpose, for me, I now realise was my own inner self hoping, still, that I wouldn’t end up alone, but desperately aware that that may just be the reality of it all anyway. Perhaps the strangest part of this essay, is that it came true. Funny-haired, 3am Cath didn’t know it then, but she was writing her future. Anyway, I thought I’d let it see the light of the Internet today. Here it is.

Little City – Cath Jenkin. 

This used to be a much younger girl’s city – this city inside my head.

On the left, off Main Street, lived Regret. He spent his days on a toilet seat and was flushed daily. Just past him lived Guilt. Guilt was a useless emotion. He did what other useless emotions do, and he left.

Off right on Main, lived Anger. But right beside her, lived Sorrow. They shared a garden where nothing ever grew. Their houses were built with solid stone, eroded by time and tears. The houses’ foundations extended right onto Motivation’s plot and anchored all the Bad Deed’s families’ houses to the ground.

Up the hill that every citizen climbs to survey the beauty of their town, lived Happiness, Peace and Love. Happiness was nomadic – passing through, sticking around and then moving right on. Peace grew flowers and tried to start a vegetable patch but Anger’s fires spread right up the hill and singed her cabbages.

There was one house, where many had been welcomed and had resided. But they never stuck around for too long. They never stayed long enough to re-decorate, hang up a curtain or even throw around some new paint. The door always stayed open though. That was Love’s house. But, one day, Love slammed her door shut, ran out the house and towards Sorrow for consolation, while she warmed herself on Anger’s flames.


This is an older girl’s city now  – this city inside my head.

Everything continues as it was but Naïveté is leaving town. Exhibitionism is still there but is taking some time out to rehearse her new, quite difficult show. Vanity still washes her windows every morning and Self-Preservation has decided to take a vow of silence because she doesn’t feel like talking to anyone at all.

There was a day, not so long ago, when Happiness looked across the way and saw a visitor at Love’s door. Happiness told him that Love had gone away but she knew in her heart that Love would return some time – she just wasn’t sure when. He asked where Love had gone, and Happiness showed him the way down to Sorrow. He bravely went to Sorrow – none had done so before – and Sorrow thanked him for the smile but Love had been and gone away. She pointed him on to Anger.

Anger fumed when she saw the visitor and spat hot fire at his face. But he wiped it off, washed it away and asked for the way to find Love. Love had been and gone and left anyway.

He wandered around the town, helped Naïveté  pack her bags and let Exhibitionism give him a little show.

When he finally needed to rest, after a long day of being helpful, he returned to the path that led up the hill to the house where Love lived.

He knocked again, but no answer came. Love was still away. But he elected not to scurry off, because he needed to see her so he chose to stay. He opened the door – it had remained unlocked although closed. He walked in, seated himself on Love’s couch of perfect blue. He waited.

Love knew not where to hide or go, so she tried to find Peace. The answers always lay with Peace, you see. Peace told Love of her visitor and, in shock, Love ran away.

But night did fall, as night does on every day, and Love had to return home, for darkness is when Anger reigns, and nobody’s safe outside when Anger reigns.

And when Love, scared as hell, opened the door to her perfect home, she fell to the floor in surprise.

For there, on her perfect couch of blue, sat You.

Dear Daughter, on 2014.

Dear Daughter,

And so we’re leaving this year behind. This is the year where you grasped knowledge by its feet and pulled. You learnt, and expanded and tingled at the promise of the things you were reading, learning and enquiring. You tugged at knowledge strings and they relented, bringing wave upon wave of things to learn your way.

You learnt to ask why, and have a reasonable expectation of the type of answer you would accept. There’s no more fooling you with a “because I said so” or “because I don’t know”. Now you’re pushing towards answers, that fulfill your need to learn, and your need to assimilate information. You’re leaning towards understanding things on your own terms.

You’ve learnt to break down concepts into segments that you can hold in your hand. That’s something that only came to me faaaaaar later in life, and I like to think you’ve realised that nothing is unmanageable, so long as you focus.


I’ve tried not to be a tiger mom but, sometimes, I see the merit in it. Gulp. If I had my way, darling, I’d have you still doing water play in the sand pit and examining bugs. But the world and your brain are far beyond my wants now. It’s all about you as you grow, and are excited by the opportunities it brings you.

Keep reading. You’re in a love affair with reading. Long may this love reign. Long may this mutually beneficial relationship feed you. It is mutually beneficial – the words were created to be read, and you are fulfilling their creation by reading. Through it, you’re fulfilling your own needs to enjoy and experience and love and cuddle up with a book. Keep cuddling up with those words – it will steel you more than you ever know, as you navigate life.

You’re no longer a small child. You are a soul that’s reaching out into the world, to tickle its feet and coax it into playing with you. Whilst my heart feels weak just contemplating it, I hope that I’ve given you a strong grounding, and that, as you play, you will stand up for yourself, and enjoy the experiences that life gives you. Grab those experiences, baby, and come tell me all about them. Despite what you will say at some point in your life towards me (probably), you will always have a place with me. Whatever happens, your mama has your back. And I have no fear in kicking anything that does not make you smile that smile. You know the one 😛

I’m so bouncingly proud of you. Your smile is the trampoline of my life.



Funny thing, life.

Three years ago today, I went out to dinner. I laughed so much, discovered a mind that shared many of my common interests (including Weird Al and required phone fiddling timeperiods during dinner) and didn’t care that pasta shouldn’t be eaten the first time you share a table together.

The next morning, I got on a plane and went to Cape Town for a week. That week changed me, reminded me and is the place I go back to in my head when I need quiet and a semblance of calm thought. It showed me friends I didn’t know I had and places in my head that were actually home beyond my own.

That dinner and that week was the nascent beginning for my new life. An absolutely unexpected surprise. A 360 kickflip that led me here. To this life. The one I live today, right now and right here.

a ridiculously appropriate post-it.

All I am is grateful.

finally, I write.

Dear Blog,

Feeling neglected much? Sorry. And that will be the last apology from me.

I’m tired. The good tired. You know the type where you’re busy doing good that you lose your head and learn a lot? Yep, that’s me right now. I have some thoughts on this…

I’ve not been very open about a few things. So, here I go.

I’ve learnt how to focus, finally. And that focus has rested on two things – doing what I love and loving who I love. I’ve learnt that I’m not invincible or infinite. I’ve learnt that it is totally okay for me to say no to the things that do not ignite my heart. I’ve learnt to say yes to the things that do. In many respects, I realised that I needed to burn out to ignite the true flame of me.

So, here I am, realising and remembering, over and over again, what I really always wanted to do and be. The greatest part of it? Is knowing that I’m not alone in it.

I’m in the process of changing career focus, lifestyle and perspectives. In many, many ways, this is the life I know my mom and dad wanted for me but they were too overwhelmed by my often blinding determined character to say it out loud. They knew they needed to let me lead myself to this path, and they trusted that I would be supported along the way. That trust, that determined character I inherited and that passion…that is why I will always be infinitely grateful that they were, and are, my parents. I know, somewhere, in my DNA, there lives within me their hope and guiding light and…even moreso…their blind determination to do the right thing for the family they created and nurtured.  You’ll spot me soon in unexpected places and it’s interesting and exhilarating how it seems to be rolling out.

Being honest about my limitations, my expectations and my flaws has been liberating. I’m not afraid to say no anymore, and I’m excited to say yes…to the right things.

So, yes, I’m busy…busy creating the life I always wanted but didn’t know I desired. Suddenly, in a variety of ways, that life has presented itself to me. So, I’m taking it, grabbing it and loving it. To the point of utter exhaustion. To the place where my focus is so sharpened I can see nothing other than the path I know I need to travel along. I need to do that now, and I’ve never been more sure of it in my life.

It’s meant I’ve lost people along the way. It’s okay – the people who are meant to be with me on this journey already are. They’re the people who see the holistic me. They’re aware that I am not just one segment but an entire whole. They accept me as such and celebrate that notion with me. It is with those people that I feel unafraid, untempered and real. Some of them live very far away from me, and some of them live in my house. Some of them even live in my road, round the corner or in my heart every day. It is those people I focus my energy on. It is those people who accept my nature, my family and my commitment to what I need to do. It is those very same people whose courage has inspired me to change. To develop and to try to do the very thing that makes my heart happy. It is their courage I lean on, and their love I listen to. They believed in the dream long before I did, and they keep on believing long after I have fallen over with exhaustion.

Through this, I’ve learnt that it is okay to put your put family first, always. In fact, it’s not just okay…it’s an essential. I am finally, finally able to, and I’m overwhelmingly excited that I can. I could not do this without my unexpected love and my ridiculously wise child. The creation and magnificent transition we’ve taken into familydom has been, and is, my ultimate touchstone. I am, every day, grateful. I am, every day, incredibly blessed.

I am, every day, me. Finally. 

the changing definition.

And, here we are. On the very cusp of change.

The very facet of life by which I have defined myself changes within the next twenty-four hours.

And change…this change is good.

The selfish ways of my life are ending. The one where I focus entirely and only on two things, now become three.

Today, I sleep for the last time in a home I have created and forged and cobbled together alone, with the cheerleading and pom-pom shaking of my daughter.

When I became a single parent, she was still in diapers. Nowadays, she’s choosing curtains and reading books at night.

From tomorrow, there won’t just be me to investigate things that go bump in the night. From tomorrow, there will be two people to dry tears, read stories and run bubble baths.

I’ve done this on my own for more than five years…I feel like I’m graduating.

As I walk towards the greatest of our life changes, I am grateful for the strength that has guided me through it. I am thankful for the love that this life change has created. I am fall-upon-my-knees grateful for the daughter I’ve been blessed with. It is this experience that has moulded me.

I’m overwhelmed that, from tomorrow, two become three.

Change. Beginnings. Strength.

Dear Daughter of Mine,

Well, you’ve done it. You’ve taken the first step into the big, wide world. You’re flung, headfirst, into big school. And how you’ve grown. I am sure you will soar. Just remember, whenever your wings feel weak, I am here to hold them up, and an army of family of friends are here to love you and support you, right the way through. We’ve got your back, your front, your middle and your heart.

Don’t change. I know life is throwing change at us right now. So. Much. Change. It’s good change. We keep swimming, keep moving, keep making every day beautiful. Good change. We morph from two to three. Love multiplies.

I know school is sometimes scary, sometimes fun and sometimes…hard. I have to confess, I loved the first two years of it. After that, I loathed it. I hope it is different for you. My loathing for it had more to do with the people in it, than it did the learning aspect. Don’t be afraid to learn. Don’t be afraid to express. Don’t be afraid to show the world the gigantic beauty that lives within you.

And I know this song is one that you know the words to…well, no, you know the parody version pretty well :P…but, this is for you today…

I made you, I grew you within my belly, and I raise you, every day. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to be scared of. Mama loves you…

…don’t hide yourself in regret…just love yourself and you’re set…